Childhood & Early Life
Wassily Kandinsky was born on December 16, 1866 to Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky in Moscow. His father was employed as a tea merchant.
At the age of five, he faced family crises as his parents separated. He moved to Odessa to live with his aunt. He attained his formal education from a grammar school.
It was during the initial years that he learned the art of playing the piano and cello. He even studied drawing as a coach. These early experiences of color and music played a pivotal role in his life and infused in him the belief that each color had a mysterious life of its own.
Completing his preliminary education, he enrolled himself at the University of Moscow in 1886 to study law. He graduated from the university with an honors degree.
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In 1889, he travelled to Vologda province to study their traditional criminal jurisprudence and religion. His experience at the Vologda along with his study of folk art inspired much of his former works.
In 1892, he took up the position at the Moscow Faculty of Law. However, the same did not continue for long as two events changed the course of his life forever – watching an exhibition of French Impressionists in Moscow and hearing Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre.
In 1896, he gave up on law and travelled to Munich to make a career out of art. He enrolled at the Munich Academy of Arts. However, much of what he learned was self-directed.
At the beginning of the 19th century, he emerged as a theorist and a painter. Though his earlier works were based on conventional themes and art forms, much of his later work portrayed intense relationship between music and color.
Unlike other painters of the era, his usage of colors on the canvas was extremely different. His palette of colors was used to express emotion rather than provide just a description of nature or subject matter.
From 1906 to 1908, he travelled to Europe engaging himself in paintings and exploring various exhibitions. It was during this time that he came out with his famous work, ‘The Blue Mountain’ which explicitly described a scenic view of nature through colors.
His early paintings did not feature the presence of any human figure. Most of them were colourful representations of scenic views excepting for ‘Sunday Old Russia’ which demonstrates colourful representation of peasants and nobles
In 1909, he founded the Munich New Artist’s Association and served as its president. However, his radical thoughts did not go down well with the other conventional artists and led to the disbanding of the group in 1911.
The dissolution of Munich New Artist’s Association led to the formation of a new group, the Blue Rider, this time with like-minded artists. The group hosted two exhibits and even released a yearly calendar. However, with the outbreak of World War I, he moved back to Russia.
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Meanwhile, he released the treatise, ‘On the Spiritual in Art’ in the Blue Rider Calendar in which he promoted abstract art and the autonomous use of colors rather than them being employed to provide visual description of objects and other forms.
Upon returning to Russia, he was engrossed in the cultural politics of Russia and collaborated with art education and museum reform from 1918 until 1921. Indulging less on canvas, he devoted much of his time imparting artistic knowledge through a program based on form and colour analysis
He founded the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow. However, not long before, his radical ideas and expressionistic view of art was rejected by the radical members of the Institute as too distinctive and conventional.
In 1921, architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus of Weimar, invited him to visit Germany which he duly did. The following year, he conducted painting classes for beginners as well as trained professionals, teaching them his color theory with new elements of form psychology.
In 1926, he published his second theoretical book, ‘Point and Line to Plane’ which gave a detailed account of his development of forms study. The work paid emphasis on geometrical forms, such as triangle, circle, half-circle, straight line, curves and planes.
His works underwent yet another series of change in the following years as he further experimented with color. The works of this era highlighted individual geometric elements which paved way to cold colors.
‘Composition VIII’ released in 1923 is one of the foremost works of the Weimar period. Two years later, he released yet another significant work, ’Yellow-Red-Blue’ wherein he described a stage of ‘cold romanticism’.
He left for Berlin in 1932 following a Nazi smear campaign. He stayed there until July 1933 after which he moved to Paris. In Paris, he stayed in a small apartment creating his work in a living room studio. Most of his works of this time used original colour compositions, occasionally mixing sand with paint to give rustic granular texture.
Between 1936 and 1939, he painted two last major compositions - ‘Composition IX’ and ‘Composition X’. While the former has an impression of an embryo in the womb with highly powerful and contrasted diagonals, the latter employs small squares of colours and coloured bands.
In July 1937, he along with other artists was featured in the ‘Degenerate Art Exhibition’ in Munich. Though the exhibition was widely attended, 57 of his works were confiscated by the Nazis.