The new exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, from 19th March
Starting in March and running until July 2016, the new exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, From Kandinsky to Pollock. The Art of the Guggenheim Collections, brings over 100 masterpieces of European and American art from the 1920s and the 1960s to Florence in a narrative that reconstructs the relationship and ties between the two sides of the Atlantic through the lives of two leading American collectors, Peggy and Solomon Guggenheim.
Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, the exhibition – the result of a cooperative venture involving the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York – will offer a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the crucial works of European masters of modern art such asMarcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray and European masters of so-called Art Informel, or “Unformed Art”, such as Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, Jean Dubuffet and Lucio Fontana, with large paintings and sculptures by some of the most influential personalities on the American art scene in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Jackson Pollock, Marc Rothko, Wilhelm de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly.
This exceptional exhibition also celebrates the Guggenheims’ very special tie with the city, because it was precisely in Palazzo Strozzi’s Strozzina undercroft that Peggy Guggenheim, who had only recently arrived in Europe, decided in February 1949 to show the collection that was later to find a permanent home in Venice.
The large paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs on display at Palazzo Strozzi on loan from the Guggenheim collections in New York and Venice and from other leading international museums, paint a vast fresco of the extraordinarily heady season of 20th century art in which Peggy and Solomon Guggenheim played such a key role. They also tell the fast-paced story of the birth of the Neo-Avant-Garde movements after World War II in a tight and uninterrupted interplay between European and American artists.
At the age of 30, Moscow native Wassily Kandinsky had a comfortable career teaching law and economics, and he gave it all up to enroll in art school in Munich.
But things didn’t go exactly to plan. Kandinsky failed on his first attempt to gain admission to school, so he began his study of art on his own time. The year before he left Moscow, the budding artist saw an exhibit of paintings by Monet, and he was stunned by the power of the impressionistic style of the series “Haystacks,” as he noted:
“I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed — with surprise and confusion — that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendor.”
When Kandinsky returned to Moscow following the outbreak of World War I, his early impressionist style hardened into a more avant-garde, geometric pictorial vocabulary. The paintings — once filled with compositional elements taken from nature and resembling clouds, the sun, mountains, and references to the landscape painting tradition — devolved to geometric and basic biomemetic keys which heralded a new vision of what art could become.
Works like Kandinsky’s “Composition” series became lynchpins of abstract painting and inspired generations of painters to follow suit in their search for new forms of expression.
“The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions,” Kandinsky said of the metamorphosis of his style. “It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.”
And now three former Autodesk employees who worked on AutoCAD for mobile have looked to the past to create new software which brings 3D printing to bear on the future of design and artistic expression.
“We chose ‘Composition VIII’… since the original idea behind this series of compositions was to experiment with the medium of painting,” says Eviathar Meyer, the co-founder and CEO of UMake. “Our take was to do the same sort of experimentation, but interpreting it within the medium of 3D design and printing. We wanted to showcase a piece that uses geometric shapes to be seen as an architectural plan from one angle, and as modern artwork from another.”
Meyer says the process of making the piece wasdivided among different tools and methods. The team started by sketching the geometric shapes and lines using their app, UMake.
“It’s just easier to trace over and sketch these shapes on a tablet and stylus, rather than tracing it over with a mouse on desktop software. After we finished the sketch in 2D, we started to create surfaces from the geometry,” Meyer says. “It was fun playing with that and imagining how a city could be created from a 2D piece of art.”
Once the original sketches were complete, the result was exported to the IGES file format and refined with Rhino 5. The 3D design for printing was fleshed out by filling any gaps and sharpening details, and then the files were taken to TechFactoryPlus for output on a Witbox 3D printer.
“We debated whether to use PLA or wood materials, because I really loved the wood texture, but eventually we decided to go with white PLA so it would better represent a blank white canvas,” Meyer said. “It took us around six hours to print this model, and the quality of the Witbox was pretty incredible – it worked perfectly on the first try.”
Meyer says his nascent company is launching a private-beta this week, and he adds that the software will support iPad 3rd generation or iPad Mini 2 and up when running iOS 8. He says the purpose of the beta program is to test the user experience for UMake to see how improvements can be made to enable more people to make 3D designs easily and intuitively on their tablets.
Would you be interested in 3D software like UMake for your tablet? Let us know if you plan to sign up for the UMake beta process in the Painting Meets 3D Design and Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below of the production process for turning the 2D painting into a 3D sculpture.
Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was a man whose abstract art made history in the 20th century and whose name continues to stump English speakers long after his death. The beloved painter and printmaker — celebrated with a Google Doodle today — would be blowing the candles out on his 148th year were he still alive today.
In honor of Vah-SEEL-ee Kahn-DIN-skee’s big day, we’re collecting together some of the more interesting facts from his storied life and career. From his birth in Moscow, back when the Russian Empire was still in existence, to his death in France at the age of 77, here are the 9 things you might not have know about dear Vasya.
1. Kandinsky began seriously pursuing art when he was 30 years old. Which makes him somewhat of a late bloomer. In fact, he had previously been studying law and economics, but he opted to abandon the fields (and a professorship in jurisprudence at the University of Dorpat) in favor of studying painting in Germany.
2. He was an “average” student. Though his appearance, marked by pince-nez glasses and sharp suits, gave the impression of a formidable teacher, he was mostly an average art student. He studied for two years under Anton Ažbe, then for one year alone, before finally being accepted into the Munich Academy, showing a proclivity toward color theory. He received his diploma in his mid-thirties and enjoyed a few years of mid-level success as a professional artist thereafter.
3. He believed art and music went hand in hand. This famous quote sums up his penchant to equate painting with composing music: “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.”
4. He gushed over Monet’s “Haystacks” just like the rest of us. Monet’s lily pads and haystacks have converted more than a few admirers into artists. For Kandinsky, the sight of the Impressionist’s harvest landscape was simply revelatory:
“That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour.”
5. He is credited with being the first artist to create a purely abstract work. It was an untitled watercolor, now in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. According to most historians, by the time he painted Composition VIII in 1923, all representational elements had been removed from his work. Francis Picabia and Piet Mondrian were exploring similar patterns in “pure abstraction” during this period as well.
6. Kandinsky allegedly had synesthesia. Synesthesia is defined as “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” In essence, he would see colors when listening to music, which makes sense — given he also credits Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” as a reason for leaving law behind and chasing art.
7. He didn’t just love painting, he saw it as a form of worship. In Kandinsky’s book Concerning the Spiritual In Art (1910), the artist declared that “colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” He felt that the use of color was not merely a means of representing objects and forms, but rather a method of reaching a level of spirituality.
“All means [in painting] are sacred when they are dictated by inner necessity,” he wrote. “All means are reprehensible when they do not spring from the fountain of inner necessity… The artist must be blind to “recognized” and “unrecognized” form, deaf to the teachings and desires of his time. His open eyes must be directed to his inner life and his ears must be constantly attuned to the voice of inner necessity.”
8. His art was confiscated by the Nazis before he died. While he was a Bauhaus professor, three of his first “Compositions” were seized by Nazis and put on display in the now infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in 1937. They were then destroyed.
9. His art now sells for millions and millions of dollars. His 1909 painting “Studie fur Improvisation 8” sold for $23 million at Christie’s in 2012.
The old adage that we eat with our eyes appears to be correct, according to research that suggests diners rate an artistically arranged meal as more tasty – and are prepared to pay more for it.
The team at Oxford University tested the idea by gauging the reactions of diners to food presented in different ways.
Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s “Painting Number 201” Franco-Columbian chef and one of the authors of the study, Charles Michel, designed a salad resembling the abstract artwork to explore how the presentation of food affects the dining experience.
“A number of chefs now are realising that they are being judged by how their foods photograph – be it in the fancy cookbooks [or], more often than not, when diners instagram their friends,” explains Professor Charles Spence, experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford and a co-author of the study.
Thirty men and 30 women were each presented with one of three salads containing identical ingredients, arranged either to resemble the Kandinsky painting, a regular tossed salad, or a “neat” formation where each component was spaced away from the others. Seated alone at a table mimicking a restaurant setting, and unaware that other versions of the salad were on offer, each participant was given two questionnaires asking them to rate various aspects of the dish on a 10-point scale, before and after tucking into the salad.
After polishing off a portion, participants also rated the Kandinsky-esque salad higher for “tastiness”, despite it receiving similar ratings to the other salads for the four basic components of taste: salty, bitter, sweet and sour.
But teasing apart exactly which aspect of the salads’ presentation affected how much participants were willing to pay for a dish, and their perception of its “tastiness”, is a tricky business. The authors suggest that the perceived effort involved in preparing the plate and its aesthetic appeal could be among the factors influencing participants.
“Here we know that expectations were raised [with the Kandinsky-eque salad] – that led to the willingness to spend more and to an increased experience during consumption,” says Dr Kathrin Ohla from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, who was not involved in the study. “But we don’t know exactly what led to this raise of expectation.”
Published in the journal Flavour, the authors believe the study adds to a growing body of evidence that the appearance and presentation of food can affect the dining experience. “[But] this is one of the very few studies that really used a full meal and in particular the only one that used a truly artful arrangement,” says Ohla.
Kandinsky pushed the barriers with his art. Through criticism and rejection, his perseverance paid off to become a master in his field. As he fought off this strong criticism in his early stages as an artist, Kandinsky created various harmonious places for himself and other artists to release their creativity; a safe haven of sorts in abstract art. This included the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Artists’ Association) of which Kandinsky was a founding member and became its president in 1909. However, his association with this group was short-lived after the rejection of his painting Last Judgement. This then resulted in the creation of the group The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) with fellow artists Paul Klee, August Macke, Gabriele Münter, and Alexej von Jawlensky.
The Blue Rider group was much less strict and less traditional than the New Artists’ Association. The artistic values of the Blue Rider group were not expressed in a manifesto but it was generally assumed that the common goal was to express spiritual truths through the medium of art, specifically modern art. Their beliefs were founded more on the spiritual side; on a correlation between visual art and music, of a connection between the spiritual and symbolic associations of colour, the synthesis of the arts and a more natural instinctive approach to painting.
The years between 1911 and 1914 became known as The Blue Rider period with music playing an important role in the development of abstract art specifically with regards to painting for rhythm, a merging of the two art forms. The correlation between physical art and the non-material art of music is expressed through the rhythmic non-linear forms which are reminiscent of this Blue Rider period and have now come to represent the German Expressionist movement in all its glory. In the Art of Spiritual Harmony and with regards to form, Kandinsky makes reference to a piano stating “the artist is the hand which, by touching the various keys, (form), affects the human soul to respond to certain vibrations.”1
At a simpler level, Kandinsky’s awareness of this intricate link between these two art forms impelled him to name some of his works of art titles which would typically be reserved for musical pieces. His various composition pieces (Composition, Composition IV etc.) are a direct example of this as well as Musical Overture. Violet Wedge (Study), The Lyrical and Impression III (Concert). This however is just what Kandinsky shares with us about the painting, in turn allowing us to be aware of the impact of music on his art. Without these titles, the correlation might have been much more difficult to establish.
This correlation between art and music can also be described as somewhat of a personal experience as Kandinsky himself remarked that “the relationships in art are not necessarily ones of outward form but are founded on inner sympathy of meaning2.” Everything is relative, what one sound or image may bring to mind in one person will not necessarily be the same as for another as they will evoke something quite different for each individual, drawing from each person’s personal experiences, memories and associations. However it may also be noted that “presumably the lines and colours have the same effect as harmony and rhythm in music have on the truly musical.3” Those who have more experience or knowledge of music and art can truly appreciate the subtlety of Kandinsky’s work and the manner in which he combines his external influences, reminiscent of the Blue Rider movement.
“Kandinsky is painting music. That is to say, he has broken down the barrier between music and painting, and has isolated the pure emotion which, for want of a better name, we call the artistic emotion.”4
Kandinsky was not only an artist but a theorist; his writings in The Blue Rider Almanac as well as The Art of Spiritual Harmony, also known as On the Spiritual in Art, have brought meaning, value and understanding to his artistic decisions. It is in these writings that he divulges more of the meaning of his paintings, a justification of sorts and specifically refers to music and its effect on his work. Throughout his life, Kandinsky had an “unswerving movement towards a synthesis of the arts”5, making his own artwork an example.
In this modern word, a synthesis of the arts has become more and more common and accepted without realisation. In a way, people are surrounded by more art and different art forms than ever before however it is most commonly jumping from screen to screen. Sometimes you may just need to step back, immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of art, and witness the “the effect of music [which] is too subtle for words6” for yourself.
1 W. Kandinsky, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Cosimo Inc., New York, 1914, p. 25 2 W. Kandinsky, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Cosimo Inc., New York, 1914, p. XV 3 M. T. H Sadler in W. Kandinsky, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Cosimo Inc., New York, 1914, p. XIX 4 M. T. H Sadler in W. Kandinsky, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Cosimo Inc., New York, 1914, p. XIX 5Wassily Kandinsky, Parkstone Press, New York, 2015, p. 18 6 M. T. H Sadler in W. Kandinsky, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Cosimo Inc., New York, 1914, p. XIX