Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Russian abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the founding fathers of abstract painting. Spending many years of his life in Germany, Kandinsky became a vital figure in the development of German expressionism.
Kandinsky was born in Moscow on Dec. 4, 1866, and spent his early childhood in Odessa. His parents played the piano and the zither and Kandinsky himself learned to play the piano and cello from an early age. Music later turned out to be a major influence in his paintings, as is often reflected in their titles; Improvisations, Impressions, and Compositions. In 1886, he enrolled at the University of Moscow and after completing his studies in law, became a lecturer there.
Yellow, Red, Blue, 1925 by Wassily Kandinsky
After a visit in 1895 to an exhibition of French impressionist paintings in Moscow, Kandinsky decided to become a painter and moved to Munich, Germany.
Between 1900 and 1910 Kandinsky traveled widely, including visits to Paris where he encountered Paul Gauguin, the neoimpressionists, and fauvism (a style with aggressive use of brilliant colors). He began developing his ideas concerning the power of pure color and nonrepresentational painting. In 1909 Kandinsky helped found the New Artists' Association in Munich.
Farbstudie Quadrate (colour study) by Wassiliy Kandinsky
Kandinsky painted his first abstract watercolor in 1910 and began formulating his important theoretical study, 'Concerning the Spiritual in Art', publishing it originally in German in 1912. In this work he examined the psychological effects of color and made comparisons between painting and music. Together with the German painter Franz Marc, Kandinsky became a leader in the influential Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) movement, an expressionist group.
With the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky left Germany to return to Russia, where he taught and organized numerous artistic activities. He went back to Germany in 1921 and became one of the principal teachers at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, remaining with the school until it was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Kandinsky then moved to Paris, where he stayed until his death on Dec. 13, 1944.
A significant change took place in Kandinsky's work during the 1920s. His style evolved into geometric forms--points, bundles of lines, circles, and triangles. During the last decade of his life, Kandinsky blended the free, intuitive image of his earlier years with the geometric forms of his later, Bauhaus period.