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Vasily Kandinsky’s eminence as one of the primary motivators of the Abstract art movement in the early 20th century solidifies him as one of history’s important artistic figures. His images are timeless and thought-provoking, and Kandinsky was one of the few pioneers in the realm of abstract emotions. Kandinsky viewed Abstract art as the ideal visual mode to express this notion of the universality of human emotion, and he wished his art to contribute to a betterment of world society. His impact on modern art and his continuing influence to this day only justify what a colossus Vasily Kandinsky was in the art community worldwide.
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was born in Moscow on December 16th, 1866, with the bulk of his childhood being spent in Odessa, which, at the time, was a thriving cosmopolitan city populated by a wide range of ethnic groups.
From an early age, Kandinsky exhibited signs of a profound sensitivity to sounds, words and colors and his father encouraged these traits by enrolling him in private drawing classes, as well as music lessons.
In 1886, he entered the University of Moscow to study Law, Ethnography, and Economics and went on to teach law after completing his degree in 1892. This life unsuited him, however, and despite his success at teaching Law, Vasily Kandinsky quit his post and traveled to Munich to attend art school, where he studied under Franz von Stuck at the Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1900, he began developing connections to the avant-garde artists in Munich, and in 1901, Kandinsky and three other artists founded the group “Phalanx,” which was an artist’s association opposed to the conservative views of art institutions. This group expanded further to incorporate an art school, in which Kandinsky taught, and an exhibitions team.
Vasily Kandinsky traveled throughout Europe and North Africa from 1903 to 1909, and familiarized himself with the growing Expressionist movements, which were becoming more public at the time, and began to develop his signature style.
In 1903, Vasily Kandinsky painted his first masterpiece, indicative of this transitive phase of his life, Der Blaue Reiter. This piece, in concert with the rest of the Der Blaue Reiter movement of 1911-1914, was fundamental to Expressionism and focused on rejecting the values of the traditional hegemony of the artistic institutions at the time, as well as a direct result of the rejection of Kandinsky’s painting Last Judgment from an exhibition.
Along with the many other pieces, all thematically about the color blue and horses and riders (sometimes blue horses, blue riders on horses, etc.), Kandinsky’s piece is a somber and beautiful pastoral image of a blue-jacketed rider astride a quickly-moving horse. For Vasily Kandinsky, blue signified the color of spirituality with the darker the blue signifying a greater awakening of the human desire for the eternal. Kandinsky, as well as his group mates, all wished to express spiritual truths in their art, and they believed in the promotion of modern art, the connection between visual art and music (which would later become integral to Kandinsky’s works), the spiritual and symbolic associations of color, on which they based the Blue Rider movement, and a spontaneous, intuitive approach to painting.
Before the outbreak of WWI, Kandinsky composed Composition VII in 1913, which shows the artist at a moment of pure brilliance: his rejection of traditional pictorial representation with a collage of chaotic, swirling colors replacing it. In this piece, we see the intention of a man who believes in the power of evoking emotions visually in the way that music can do aurally. Of course, even the title Composition references this, and truly, it is almost as if Vasily Kandinsky has painted a piece of music in action.
Going on to contrast himself utterly, Composition VIII, which Kandinsky created in 1923, is a complete departure from the beautiful chaos of his previous Composition, and instead focuses on geometric, orderly shapes and encapsulates a purely rational outlook. Painted while he taught at the Bauhaus, which goes far in explaining the creative origins of the piece, we can see how Kandinsky fused aspects of prominent movements at the time, as well as the Bauhaus’ philosophy to create this original and almost mathematic work. Instead of an emphasis on colour, this painting emphasises Form itself, which structures and focuses the piece to a razor edge of controlled style and precision.
Continuing the cycle and progression of Kandinsky’s work, Composition X (1939) stands in succession of the previous two Compositions, achieving a balance and harmony between the others. In this Composition, we see Kandinsky merging his previous themes: chaos and rationality; color and form, into a beautiful synthesis. The imposing black background of the piece is littered with light, colorful shapes that almost jump off the canvas, and evokes an almost cosmic feel, with the shapes being potential replacements for matter and being themselves.
Kandinsky’s role in purveying and generating his art played a very prominent role in the philosophical foundations for the progression of Modernism, in particular, Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollock, for instance, was interested in Kandinsky and his theories on the expressive possibilities in art, which contributed greatly to Pollock’s career. By making the foundations for Expressionism, Kandinsky set the stage for entire movements and revolutions within the art culture of the day, with effects resonating to this day. Musart, as much as anyone, recognizes the talent and genius of Kandinsky and will continue to promote and disseminate his works.