Kandinsky, Wassily

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of abstract painting, was born in Moscow on December 4, 1866. When he was 30 he gave up a career in law and went to Germany to study painting.

Around 1908, Kandinsky painted his first important pictures. His dramatic landscapes in violent colors reflected the influence of both modern art and Russian folk art. In 1910 he conceived the idea of a completely abstract work of art—one with no subject. He felt that art should express the inner meaning of things. White might express silence. Orange might suggest the rich sound of church bells.

In 1911, Kandinsky and other painters formed a group called the Blaue Reiter ("Blue Rider"). At this time his art was filled with lively lines and bright colors. When World War I began in 1914, he returned to Russia. But he felt that the Soviet government controlled art too closely, and he went back to Germany in 1921. There he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and design, and his paintings became more ordered and geometrical.

Kandinsky's many writings, such as Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912), influenced the development of modern art.

When the Nazis forced the closing of the Bauhaus in 1933, Kandinsky went to Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. He continued his work there until his death on December 13, 1944.

Reviewed by Harold Spencer
University of Connecticut

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