Kandinsky, Wassily

(1866-1944)
   painter and writer; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy* called him "the great initiator of abstract painting, whose theoretical work represents the beginning of a new art history" (Selz). Born in Moscow, he received a solid education in music* and jurisprudence. After he completed formal studies in 1893, he began a legal apprenticeship; indeed, until age thirty he never studied art. But in 1896 he terminated his legal career, rejected a professorship, and, relocating to Munich, turned his attention to painting.
   Studying first in a private studio, then at the Kunstakademie under Franz von Stuck, Kandinsky soon formed friendships with Marianne von Werefkin, Paul Klee,* and Alexej von Jawlensky. In 1901 he helped found Phalanx, a group designed "to further common interest by close cooperation." He sponsored eleven exhibitions during Phalanx's three-year history and was also active in the Munchner Sezession and the Berliner Sezession and in the German Artists' Association. His technique began incorporating abstract elements around 1907. "One thing became clear," he later wrote; "objectiveness, the depiction of objects, needed no place in my paintings, and was indeed harmful to them." Late in 1908 he led a group of painters out of the Munchner Sezession; these formed the New Artists' Association. Finally, in 1911 he and Franz Marc es-tablished Der Blaue Reiter (The blue rider), a group identified by the title of a 1903 Kandinsky painting. Focused by Kandinsky's two essays of 1912, Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the spiritual in art) and "Über die Form-frage" (Concerning the question of form), Blaue Reiter was soon the vanguard of Expressionism.*
   War forced Kandinsky back to Russia and ended his most productive period (he painted about one hundred canvases during 1910-1914). In Moscow the Revolution brought appointment to the People's Commissariat for Popular Cul-ture and to a professorship at the Fine Arts Academy. He was named director of the Museum of Pictorial Culture in 1919 and became founder and vice pres-ident of the Academy of Artistic Sciences in 1921. His interest in synthesizing the arts and sciences helped stimulate Constructivism. But growing conservatism and the Bolsheviks' cool response to his color and form prompted his return to Germany before 1922. Walter Gropius* soon invited him to teach mural painting at the Bauhaus.* In 1924 he joined Klee, Jawlensky, and Lyonel Feininger*— all Bauhaus colleagues—in the exhibition group Blaue Vier.
   Kandinsky took German citizenship in 1928. In December 1933 he moved to Paris. His work, reverting to a style freer than that practiced since 1918, again emphasized color. Not until the NSDAP exhibited fourteen of his works in the 1937 show Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) did he begin criticizing the Third Reich. He became a French citizen in 1939.
   REFERENCES:Barron, "Degenerate Art"; Lenman, "Community in Transition"; Ros-kill, Klee; Selz, German Expressionist Painting; Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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