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.

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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.

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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

The Good Accident – An Academy Award-Winner’s Thoughts on her Favourite Artist Kandinsky

Helen Mirren on Vasily Kandinsky

Filmed by Lost & Found Films. Produced by MoMA

Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 1. 1914. Oil on canvas. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 2. 1914. Oil on canvas. Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund (by exchange). Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 3. 1914. Oil on canvas. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 4. 1914. Oil on canvas. Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund (by exchange). All works in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

© 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

//www.moma.org/videos/embed/154/923

Abstract Painting Meets 3D Design and Printing To Recreate Kandinsky Masterpiece “Composition VIII”

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.

Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky

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.

Composition VIII
Composition VIII

“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.”

UMake_CompositionVIII_modelPainting

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.

by Te Edawards

Source: 3D Print

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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

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9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Artist Wassily Kandinsky

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.

Wassily Kandinsky's 'Circles in a Circle, 1923' is displayed at the 'Bauhaus Art as Life' exhibition at The Barbican on May 2, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘Circles in a Circle, 1923’ is displayed at the ‘Bauhaus Art as Life’ exhibition at The Barbican on May 2, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

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.

Kandsinky, (1866-1944), Studie für improvisation 8, painted in 1909 in Murnau, oil on cardboard laid down on canvas, 38 5/8 x 27 ½ in. (98 x 70 cm.)
Kandsinky, (1866-1944), Studie für improvisation 8, painted in 1909 in Murnau, oil on cardboard laid down on canvas, 38 5/8 x 27 ½ in. (98 x 70 cm.)

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Kandinsky: The Sounds of Music in Abstract Art

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.

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

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.

Wassily Kandinsky, Lyrical (plate 9) from ‘Sounds’, 1911, Woodcut from an illustrated book with fifty-six, woodcuts, 14.8 x 21.7 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Wassily Kandinsky, Lyrical (plate 9) from ‘Sounds’, 1911, Woodcut from an illustrated book with fifty-six, woodcuts, 14.8 x 21.7 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

“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.

Notes

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
5 Wassily 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