Kandinsky and Mussorgsky: What happens when artists inspire each other

It couldn’t come more full cirlce: Kandinsky created his only stage production based on Mussorgsky’s piano cycle, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” inspired by a photo exhibition. Kandinsky’s stage designs are now on exhibit.

The Great Gate of Kyiv This year, the art world is celebrating the 150th birthday of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky – an appropriate occasion for bringing the original designs of his stage production “Pictures at an Exhibition” to Dessau, where the work premiered in 1928. The paintings were based on the piano cycle with the same title by composer Modest Mussorgsky.

“Pictures at an Exhibition” were originally a cycle of works for piano written by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. For artist Wassily Kandinsky, the cycle served as a basis for his first and only theater project, which was premiered in the German city of Dessau in 1928.

The stage designs for the production are now being exhibited, in honor of the painter’s 150th birthday, in Kandinsky’s former residence in Dessau.

Wassily Kandinsky was out to create a synthetic “Gesamtkunstwerk.” For him, that meant that sounds took on hues that listeners could see before their eyes as they listened to the music. It was intended to be a Gesamtkustwerk of sound, color and motion.

“Worldwide, only two series remain from the stage designs – one in Centre Pompidou in Paris and the other in a theater studies collection at the University of Cologne,” said Harald Wetzel, organizer of the exhibition at the Dessau Masters’ Houses. Included in the exhibition are images from the Cologne collection.


The home of a Bauhaus artist

Wassily Kandinsky lived and worked in Dessau from 1925 to 1932 as a master with the Bauhaus school of art and design. Those were his most productive years. Over 500 painters and watercolors were created in his studio in the masters’ settlement.

The so-called masters’ houses were designed for the Bauhaus teachers – by none other than architect and Bauhaus director Walter Gropius himself. In 1926, the artistic movement relocated from Weimar to Dessau and spent just a year and a half erecting a college building and the masters’ houses.

A foundation for the Dessau Masters’ Houses takes care of preserving the four houses, a unique architectural ensemble of great historical value. They have since been restored to their original design and color.

The rooms in Kandinsky’s former home usually stand empty – except for the color accents. The artist preferred color on the ceilings, doors and walls, including light green, white, crimson, black and ocher. They are the same colors that Kandinsky integrated into his stage designs, which – along with the geometrical forms – are typical for Bauhaus.

The Hut of Baba Yaga The daily "Anhalter Anzeiger" wrote about the premiere, "A mysterious construction is standing in front of us, a pointer is turning around, colors are flashing up: green and yellow - the lights at the sides are flashing up again: an incredible tension is enticing, and at the same time, torturing the viewer - it's that old secret that, in our imagination, is surrounding witches and magicians."
The Hut of Baba Yaga The daily “Anhalter Anzeiger” wrote about the premiere, “A mysterious construction is standing in front of us, a pointer is turning around, colors are flashing up: green and yellow – the lights at the sides are flashing up again: an incredible tension is enticing, and at the same time, torturing the viewer – it’s that old secret that, in our imagination, is surrounding witches and magicians.”

Musical geometry on stage

In the spring of 1874, composer Modest Mussorgsky saw a retrospective of befriended painter and architect Viktor Hartmann. Included were pictures that Hartmann had taken on a journey to Europe, such as the Great Gate of Kyiv, an Italian palace, and the catacombs of Paris.

Mussorgsky composed “Pictures at an Exhibition” in memory of Hartmann, who had died the previous year. It’s not entirely clear which of Hartmann’s pictures had inspired Mussorgsky the most.

Wassily Kandinsky, however, was fascinated by the music and began to express his impressions in his artwork. “Kandinsky’s task was to turn the music into paintings,” said Harald Wetzel.

For the stage production of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” various geometrical elements were supposed to be pushed onto the stage or pulled off of it. “The exhibited pictures give just a limited impression of the stage production,” explained Wetzel. “The individual elements were constantly in motion.”

While the orchestra played, images came into being on stage – in sync with the music.

Dessau remained the only cite where Kandinsky’s work was performed, although a performance in the US had originally been planned. It wasn’t until the a 1983 festival in Berlin that the work was reconstructed by students from the Berlin University of the Arts, based on a script and the stage designs from the collection at the University of Cologne.

Since then, many versions of Kandinsky’s production have been staged, including multimedia variations with video, which are presented now and then in concert halls and museums from New York to Hong Kong.

Kandinsky’s original stage designs are on display in Dessau through May 22, 2016.

Source: DW

From Kandinsky to Pollock. The Art of the Guggenheim Collections

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.

Source: Firenze Made In Tuscany


Kandinsky’s back home – The “Kandinsky Gallery” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

A pioneer of abstract art and eminent aesthetic theorist, Vasily Kandinsky (b. 1866, Moscow; d. 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) broke new ground in painting during the first decades of the twentieth century. His seminal treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art), published in Munich in December 1911, lays out his program for developing an art independent from observations of the external world. In this and other texts, as well as his work, Kandinsky advanced abstraction’s potential to be free from nature, a quality of music that he admired. The development of a new subject matter based solely on the artist’s “inner necessity” would occupy him for the rest of his life.


This presentation of select works from the Guggenheim collection traces Kandinsky’s aesthetic evolution: his early beginnings in Munich at the start of the century, the return to his native Moscow with the outbreak of World War I, his interwar years in Germany as a teacher at the Bauhaus, and his final chapter in Paris.

Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 (second version) (Improvisation 28 [zweite Fassung]), 1912. Oil on canvas, 111.4 x 162.1 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.239. © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 (second version) (Improvisation 28 [zweite Fassung]), 1912. Oil on canvas, 111.4 x 162.1 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.239. © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris


Study says: Mice Prefer Kandinsky to Mondrian

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (detail) (via Wikimedia)
Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (detail) (via Wikimedia)

A recent study shows that mice can indeed have preferences to paintings, given the proper morphine reinforcement.

In a paper called “Preference for and Discrimination of Paintings by Mice” by Shigeru Watanabe, published on June 6 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, the Japanese psychology professor pitted Renoir against Picasso and Kandinsky against Mondrian for critical rodent affection.

As his abstract explains:

In general mice did not display a painting preference except for two mice: one preferred Renoir to Picasso, and the other preferred Kandinsky to Mondrian. Thereafter, I examined discrimination of paintings with new mice. When exposure to paintings of one artist was associated with an injection of morphine (3.0 mg/kg), mice displayed conditioned preference for those paintings, showing discrimination of paintings by Renoir from those by Picasso, and paintings by Kandinsky from those by Mondrian after the conditioning. They also exhibited generalization of the preference to novel paintings of the artists. After conditioning with morphine for a set of paintings consisting of two artists, mice showed discrimination between two sets of paintings also from the two artists but not in association with morphine. These results suggest that mice can discriminate not only between an artist’s style but also among paintings of the same artist.

Shigeru Watanabe (via Keio University)
Shigeru Watanabe (via Keio University)

Watanabe previously did a study with pigeons where they learned to discriminate between slides of paintings by Monet and Picasso, and he also worked with pigeons to get them to discriminate between “good” and “bad” art by schoolchildren. And in yet another study, he looked at the  preference for paintings by Java sparrows and “found that six of seven birds preferred cubist paintings to impressionist paintings.”

Why bother with this rather whimsical research? Well, the idea that art and the appreciation of aesthetics is a human thing is one that Watanabe is confronting with these studies, where the cognition that something is beautiful or ugly, or “good” or “bad” with art can reflect sensory experiences in other species, as well as show that the experience of art is tied to the experience of pleasure.

While the mice got morphine and the birds got food for their either spending more time with a painting or choosing it with the tap of a button (for the judging pigeons), humans get this in a less food-based way. However, rodents are even more interesting being that they’re not considered as visual as birds, and in the end they mostly didn’t really seem to care if they were with Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” Kandinsky’s “Mondo Blue,” Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror,” or Renoir’s “Rowers at Argenteuil” (all paintings used in the study, you can see them all here). A sample result: “Analysis of individual mice revealed only one mouse out of 20 mice displayed some preference for Kandinsky during 6 days of the test (t(5) = 2.53, P = 0.053), suggesting the rare possibility of picture preference in mice.”

Given that some art just needs the right audience, maybe the mice would be more open to something sculptural or installation-based for their tactile little feet? Here’s hoping Watanabe continues his intriguing studies to make art critics of the animal world.

by Allison Meier

source: Hyperallergic



Vegginsky – How Kandinsky makes salad taste better

Wassily Kandinsky's 'Painting #201' and the salad it inspired. Photograph: Courtesy of the journal Flavour Courtesy Journal Flavour
Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘Painting #201’ and the salad it inspired. Photograph: Courtesy of the journal Flavour Courtesy Journal Flavour

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.

Pablo Picasso's 'Portrait of Dora Maar' recreated in salad by James Balm. Photograph: Flavour
Pablo Picasso’s ‘Portrait of Dora Maar’ recreated in salad by James Balm. Photograph: Flavour

“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.”

Edgar Degas's 'Danseuse en Robe Rose' recreated in salad by Alanna Orpen. Photograph: Picasa/Flavour
Edgar Degas’s ‘Danseuse en Robe Rose’ recreated in salad by Alanna Orpen. Photograph: Picasa/Flavour

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.

by Nicola Davis

Source: The Guardian



This is what happens when Kandinsky plays Cities Skylines

Wait until the end of the video, quite impressive and surprising!