Kandinsky’s choice of bright colours, hues and shapes gave identity to the abstract art movement.
Have you ever looked at a painting and not been sure of what it looked like? Chances are you are looking at a piece of abstract art. In this form of art, artists pay attention to colours, shapes and lines. They use these elements to express their feelings instead of painting objects, people or places that look real.
The abstract art movement began around 1910. Wassily Kandinsky is considered a founding father of this style of painting. He was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1886 and grew up in the Russian town of Odessa. When he was young, he studied drawing and music. He learned to play the piano and the cello. These early experiences with music played a big part in his paintings, in his later years.
At first, Wassily studied law and became a teacher at the Moscow University. When he was 30 years old, he decided he wanted to be an artist and moved to Munich, Germany. He went to art school and started by painting landscapes. He was influenced by the artwork of impressionist painters like Claude Monet and also by many music composers.
In Germany, Kandinsky and an artist friend, Franz Marc, founded a group called The Blue Rider ( Blaue Reiter in German). The group believed that art should explore spiritual ideas and published a magazine that explained their ideas. Kandinsky wrote a book about spirituality and art. One of his famous paintings is also called ‘The Blue Rider’.
Kandinsky’s paintings became gradually more and more abstract. He was interested in painting the feelings created by colours and shapes instead of how objects really looked. Colour was important to him and he felt that colours expressed emotions just like music did. He arranged certain colours next to each other on his paintings, much like a composer arranges notes to produce beautiful music. Many of his paintings were named like pieces of music. He called them Compositions and Improvisations. Some of his paintings were created after he listened to a piece of music. He called them Impressions.
Kandinsky began to teach art in Germany at a well-known school called the Bauhaus (pronounced Bow-House). Here, he sometimes conducted free painting classes where he and his friends taught and also created their own paintings. He lived in Germany until the rise of the Nazi movement. The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was a failed artist and hated many forms of art, especially abstract art. The Nazis closed down the Bauhaus. They seized 57 of Kandinsky’s paintings, in 1937. The paintings were displayed in an exhibition with other paintings that Hitler disliked and called “degenerate art”. They were later destroyed.
Kandinsky left Germany and moved to France, at this time. He lived in France until the end of his life in 1944. During his life as an artist, Kandinsky wrote three books explaining his ideas about art. These ideas have influenced many artists and are as important as his paintings.
You can see Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings up close on Olga’s Kandinsky Gallery: