Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky (kăndĬn´skē, Rus. vəsē´lyē kəndyēn´skē), 1866–1944, Russian abstract painter and theorist. Usually regarded as the originator of abstract art, Kandinsky abandoned a legal career for painting at 30 when he moved to Munich. In subsequent trips to Paris he came into contact with the art of Gauguin, neoimpressionism (see postimpressionism), and fauvism. He then developed his ideas concerning the power of pure color and nonrepresentational painting. His first work in this mode was completed in 1910, the year in which he wrote an important theoretical study, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912, tr. 1947 and 1977). In this work he examines the psychological effects of color and his concept of the kinship between music and art.

Kandinsky exhibited with the Brücke group, and with Franz Marc and others he founded the Blaue Reiter group. In 1915 he returned to Moscow, where he taught and directed artistic activities. During the early 1920s his style evolved from riotous bursts of color in his "Improvisations" to more precise, geometrically arranged compositions. In 1921 he returned to Germany and the next year joined the Bauhaus faculty. In 1926 he wrote Point and Line to Plane (tr. 1947), which includes an analysis of geometric forms in art. At the outset of World War II, he went to France, where he spent the rest of his life. In American public collections, Kandinsky is particularly well represented in the Guggenheim Museum, New York City, and California's Pasadena Art Museum.

See his Reminiscences (1913; tr. in Modern Artists on Art, ed. by R. L. Herbert, 1964); biographies by J. Lassaigne (1964) and J. Hahl-Koch (1994); P. Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich: 1896–1914 (1982); V. E. Barnett, Kandinsky: At the Guggenheim (1983); C. V. Poling, Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years, 1915–1933 (1983); Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Staff, Kandinsky in Paris, 1934–1944 (1985); A. and L. Vezin, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider (1992); T. M. Messer, Vasily Kandinsky (1997); U. Becks-Malorny, Wassily Kandinsky, 1866–1944: The Journey to Abstraction (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Wassily Kandinsky: Selected full-text books and articles

Collaborative Form: Studies in the Relations of the Arts By Thomas Jensen Hines Kent State University Press, 1991
Librarian's tip: Chap. Three "On the Spiritual in Art: Der Blaue Reiter"
Staging the Impossible: The Fantastic Mode in Modern Drama By Patrick D. Murphy Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Wassily Kandinsky's Stage Composition Yellow Sound: The Fantastic and the Symbolic Mode of Communication"
The German Expressionists: A Generation in Revolt By Bernard S. Myers Frederick A. Praeger, 1966
Librarian's tip: Chap. 21 "The Blue Rider Artists"
Russia Imagined: Art, Culture and National Identity, 1840-1995 By Robert C. Williams Peter Lang, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Concerning the Western Spiritual in Russian Art: Vasily Kandinsky"
A Concise History of Modern Painting By Herbert Read Frederick A. Praeger, 1959
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Wassily Kandinsky begins on p. 165
The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought By William R. Everdell University of Chicago Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 20 "Vassily Kandinsky: Art with No Object, 1911-1912"
Retreat from Likeness in the Theory of Painting By Frances Bradshaw Blanshard Columbia University Press, 1949
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "The Theory of Abstract Painting"
The Avant-Garde Frontier: Russia Meets the West, 1910-1930 By Gail Harrison Roman; Virginia Hagelstein Marquardt University Press of Florida, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Vkhutemas and the Bauhaus" and "Kandinsky's Teaching Program for His Studio in the State Free Art Studios, Moscow" begins on p. 238
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