Monday, June 17, 2013

Artist of the Week Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter, whose exploration of the possibilities of abstraction make him one of the most important innovators in modern art. Both as an artist and as a theorist Wassily Kandinsky played a pivotal role in the development of abstract art. Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866, and spent his early childhood in Odessa. His parents played the piano and the zither and Kandinsky himself learned the piano and cello at an early age. The influence of music in his paintings cannot be overstated, down to the names of his paintings: "Improvisations", "Impressions", and "Compositions". Wassily Kandinsky once said "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul".

The concept that color and musical harmony are linked has a long history, intriguing scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton. Wassily Kandinsky used color in a highly theoretical way associating tone with timbre (the sound's character), hue with pitch, and saturation with the volume of sound. Wassily Kandinsky even claimed that when he saw color he heard music. In 1886, he enrolled at the University of Moscow, chose to study law and economics, and after passing his examinations, lectured at the Moscow Faculty of Law. Wassily Kandinsky enjoyed success not only as a teacher but also wrote extensively on spirituality, a subject that remained of great interest and ultimately exerted substantial influence in his work. His early paintings were executed in a naturalistic style, but in 1909, after a trip to Paris during which he was highly impressed by the works of the Fauves and Post-Impressionists, his paintings became more highly colored and loosely organized.

Wassily Kandinski abstract painting by the Russian artist "Yellow Red and Blue Composition"In 1895 Wassily Kandinsky attended a French Impressionist exhibition where he saw Monet's "Haystacks at Giverny". Wassily Kandinsky stated, "It was from the catalog I learned this was a haystack. I was upset I had not recognized it. I also thought the painter had no right to paint in such an imprecise fashion. Dimly I was aware too that the object did not appear in the picture..." Soon thereafter, at the age of thirty, Kandinsky left Moscow and went to Munich to study life-drawing, sketching and anatomy, regarded then as basic for an artistic education.

Ironically, Kandinsky's work moved in a direction that was of much greater abstraction than that which was pioneered by the Impressionists. It was not long before his talent surpassed the constraints of art school and he began exploring his own ideas of painting - "I applied streaks and blobs of colors onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could.." In 1901 in Munich together with Rolf Niczky, Waldemar Hecker, Gustav Freytag and Wilhelm Hüggen, Wassily Kandinsky founded "Phalanx", an association for avant-garde artists. During the next four years the association organized twelve exhibitions of its members. It was in the "Phalanx School" that Kandinsky met Gabriele Münter, an art student, who was to become his pupil, intimate companion, and critic until 1914.

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