WASSILY KANDINSKY (1866-1944)
Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian avant-garde artist and one of the principle exponents of expressionism. He concentrated on working in the realm of abstraction from 1911 to 1922 when he joined the Bauhaus school of art and design. He was especially interested in exploring the properties of colour, line and composition, basing his work on theories espoused by Goethe as well as Rudolf Steiner’s theosophy, among others.
In 1912 he published his book ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’, which over-turned the established ideas about art, and became the first theoretical foundation of what came to be known as abstractionism. Kandinsky believed that the creative process incorporated “self-expression and self-development of spirit”. In the text he distinguished between the “purely physical effect” of colour, which he deemed superficial, and the deeper “psychological effect”, which was not open to the “average man”. He also explored the relationships between colour and the other senses, especially sound, taste and touch.
While working at the Bauhaus in Weimar, he developed many of his controversial ideas, beginning with an analytical study of the separate elements in a picture, emphasizing point and line. He also experimented further with colour and various colour harmonies. He saw the circle as a ‘sensual symbol of perfect form’. “Composition VIII”, painted in 1923 is the culmination of his work during this period. Later he lectured and exhibited with Klee.
His late Parisian works were filled with Egyptian images and symbolism. The Nazis declared Kandinsky’s paintings to be “degenerate”.
In his final period of painting Kandinsky worked with a soft palette of colours. The forms featured on the foreground of his paintings appeared to be floating in space over the surface of the canvas.
Kandinsky on his abstract art: "Abstract art places a new world, which on the surface has nothing to do with "reality," next to the "real" world. Deeper down, it is subject to the common laws of the "cosmic world." And so a "new world of art" is juxtaposed to the "world of nature." This "world of art" is just as real, just as concrete. For this reason I prefer to call so-called "abstract art" "concrete art."
’Gentle Ascent, 1934
Kandinsky on colour: “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one or another purposefully, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Kandinsky never doubted his ‘inner world’, the world of images where the abstraction was not an end in itself, and the language of forms arose from the will to vitality.
The Color Compendium, Augustine Hope and Margaret Walch, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990