This Russian-born artist can be easily described as one of the pioneers of abstract painting and “non-objective” art. He is famous for describing color as sound and even titling his compositions as if they were works of music rather than paint and canvas.
Born in 1866, he did not begin studying painting until the age of 30, moving to Munich to attend formal art classes. It was there that he made friends with the men who would form the Der Blaue Reiter group, emphasizing a more modern aesthetic and approach to art. World War One interfered with their studies, and Kandinsky’s return to Russia also introduced a more “avant-garde” element into his work. He returned to Germany at the end of the war and began to teach in the famous Bauhaus School. Sadly, the rise of Nazism caused the artist to leave Germany for France, where he remained for the rest of his days.
Abstract Artist Wassily Kandinsky
The Artist’s Work
Kandinsky’s early work is distinctly representative and gives only glimpses of the abstraction to come. It was his time in Germany prior to World War One that began the shift in his style. The creation of “The Blue Rider,” around 1903 is the beginning of his transition into a more modern aesthetic. By 1909, he had emerged fully as an abstract painter with his work done in Murnau and Munich.
The Blue Rider Period, as it is known, ran from 1911 to 1914, when Kandinsky returned to Russia. Even then, his work had caught the eye of the art world and British collectors had started to acquire his work. His return to Russia, which ran from 1914 to 1921 also caused a new direction in his work, though this would not emerge fully until his return to Germany in 1922.
At this time, he signed the Founding Proclamation of the Union of Progressive International Artists and began teaching based on the theory of the Bauhaus school. His emphasis on color also lead to new elements in his work, including an emphasis on geometric forms, monochromatic canvases, and the use of blocks of bold color.
Wassily Kandinsky's Veiled Glow
His move to Paris after 1934 is when he began his Great Synthesis period, a time in which he leaned away from geometric forms and began to introduce biomorphic forms and unique color composition. He described his transition into the abstract saying, “Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”
Kandinsky slowly introducing biomorphic art in Yellow-Red-Blue
Kandinsky tried to express his emotion through colors and abstract forms that were non-objective and went beyond cultural boundaries. He worked to produce the same impact that music has on the mind through his use of form and color. He worked to create, as one expert noted, “object-free, spiritually rich paintings that alluded to sounds and emotions through a unity of sensation.”
Wassily Kandinsky's Unidentified Watercolor
Not all artists understand as clearly, as Kandinsky did, the goals of their work. He wrote about in philosophical tracts, he compared it to music, and he worked with other artists striving to add progressive elements to their work. He influenced Cezanne and Monet and was a friend to fellow abstract painters like Paul Klee and Arnold Shoenberg.
His work follows a distinct line of evolution, and as he moved away from object-oriented art to emotional work, his influence and popularity grew. Today, his pieces are known for their emotional intelligence and inspirational style. His style is seen in the work of graffiti and street artists who also express themselves through line, color, and form, and which proves that his theories were true and that it takes a poet’s soul to create abstract work.