Wassily Kandinsky Blog

Kandinsky paintings, facts and figures


Feb 28 2012 09:08PM | by Staff Editor

The great Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky once said that “art causes vibrations in the soul”. What a beautiful description of an expressive form universally acknowledged around the world. Indeed, art does cause vibrations – global vibrations in an instant in today’s highly digitised and connected world – and this will continue to progress as long as man and technology develop together. But just a mere 80 or so years ago, art was harmonising and influencing people and regions far beyond where it was produced as well. Kandinsky paintings, for example, were a central figure and influence in two of America’s greatest art museums. Kandinsky is cited by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum officials as central to the museum’s creation – both spiritually and aesthetically (some may argue this is one of the same – just cut us some slack!). According to Guggenheim curator Tracey Bashkoff, his works are a core and the essence of the collection, while also helping to inspire the actual physical creation of the building. As the story goes, Solomon R. Guggenheim began collecting Kandinsky oil paintings in 1929, on the advice of friend and artist Hilla Rebay, who was a big fan of the Russian abstractionist.... Read more

Portraits Of An Artist


Jan 10 2012 05:28PM | by Staff Editor

In a previous post we examined the relationship between Russian Expressionist and Abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky and German Expressionist Gabrielle Münter, focusing on the influence that Kandinsky had upon her art and development of her technique. This time we’re going to take a look at how they viewed each other through their artwork, based on portraits that they created of one another between 1905 and 1906. Kandinsky’s 1905 painting of Münter is the first that we’ll examine. The oil on canvas work was created early in his career and (relatively) early in their relationship. It is important to remember that Kandinsky had only enrolled in art school in Munich in 1896 at the age of 30 and that prior to that he had no formal training as an artist. That being said, most accounts indicate that Kandinsky, brain box that he was, found art school to be a bit of a doddle and in addition to developing his technical abilities, he began to emerge as an art theorist as well. By the the start of the 20th Century he was experimenting with Fauvism and Pointillism and he created one of his most celebrated works, The Blue Rider in 1903. His... Read more

Kandinsky Prize Ceremony


Dec 27 2011 01:46PM | by Staff Editor

Back in October we brought you details of some of the contenders that were in the running for this year’s Kandinsky Prize for Russian contemporary art. Well the winners of each of the prize’s three categories were announced at a ceremony at the Garage exhibition centre in Moscow back on December 16th and we’ve got the details of who was walking away happy at the end of the night. This years awards were presented by British director Peter Greenaway whose films are renowned for the clear influence that Renaissance, Baroque and early Flemish painting has upon them. Greenaway delivered the now traditional guest lecture, exploring the role of painting in modern art, and as a cinematographer he admitted that he had an, “enormous respect for painting and painters,” going on to say, “painters always lead the way, they are our eyes, they train us to see, they have created the visible man-made world.” He went on to argue that most modern day cinema is, as he termed it, “a second-hand medium”, since much of it is based on existing literary texts, and said that unlike paintings most of it was designed to be enjoyed passively in the dark and didn’t... Read more

Kandinsky’s Unusual Route To Art School


Dec 25 2011 09:28PM | by Staff Editor

Wassily Kandinsky was a man of many talents and ‘artist’ was just one of he roles that he played during the course of his life, albeit the most significant one and the reason that we’re writing about him today. Unlike so many other famous painters who were emerging at the time, the Abstract Expressionist didn’t grow up in an artistic environment, nor did he attend an art school or Academy in his teens, and there are no Kandinsky oil paintings that emerged when he was in his twenties. In fact Kandinsky was somewhat of a late bloomer artistically speaking, and it wasn’t until he was 30 years of age that he formally began to study painting, training in life drawing, sketching and anatomy. Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866, the son of a successful Russian tea merchant. He grew up in a musical household, learning to play the piano and the cello, and it’s possible that he was unwittingly developing his artistic talents as he played. Much of the analysis of his compositions and colour selections concludes that his work is ‘synaesthetic’, meaning that he was able to convey sense of integration between colours and sounds. Kandinsky later spoke... Read more

Kandinsky and the Sound of White


Nov 30 2011 06:18PM | by Staff Editor

Russian father of Abstract painting Wassily Kandinsky produced many artworks worthy of being deemed “masterpiece” – the man, after all, is credited with creating the first purely abstract painting. A key aspect of his work Kandinsky often noted was the process itself which brought him to the final product – rigorous studying, experimentation and reflecting on the spiritual were his key tenets. The same analysis can be applied to his career and the stages of his paintings, with important oil paintings at various stages of his life serving as signposts to the artist’s progression and development. One such work, the 1908 colour-charged Expressionist composition Weisser Klang (White Sound), is one such valuable example. It sold recently for USD $8,930,500 at the November Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and Modern Art, providing us with a timely opportunity to examine the Kandinsky painting. Firstly, a bit of background. The painting is generally considered to be an illustration of German symbolist poet Stefan George’s Weisser Gesang (White Song), which reads: “If I could envision the white dream for her.../It would seem to me in the castle that bitter rays permeated/And pale blossom-trees only embraced/So the dream could run away with two children’s early daydreams.”... Read more

Kandinsky and Münter- love and art


Nov 20 2011 11:47AM | by Staff Editor

There are plenty of famous couples producing beautiful babies and equally beautiful oil paintings throughout history. Well, perhaps not babies, but definitely love and art! There’s Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Dali and his wife, muse and business partner, Gala; Camille Pissarro and his wife, Julie Vellay, who was often cited as a source of inspiration and pillar of support; and finally, Renoir and his wife Aline Victorine Charigot, who was used constantly as a model in oil paintings such as Dance in the Country (Aline Charigot and Paul Lhote), 1883. One couple not often mentioned was Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter. While their affair was short, the result of it would not only impact both artists significantly, but also art styles and movements in Germany, Europe and the world. The Kandinsky effect on Munter’s art can be seen in a letter the artist sent to her friend, Reinhold Heller, published in the book Gabriele Münter: The Years of Expressionism 1903-1920: “At first I experienced great difficulty with my brushwork- I mean with what the French call la touche de pinceau. So Kandinsky taught me how to achieve the effects that I wanted with a palette knife.” Munter complained that... Read more

Russian market and Kandinsky paintings booming


Oct 30 2011 10:56AM | by Staff Editor

The recent resurgence in global financial markets and the subsequent impact in the art industry at international art fairs such as the Frieze and the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris have been well documented by this blog. The money is now spreading its way around, with the latest cash wave from Russia threatening to wipe out Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions. In fact, the growth has been labelled “huge” by commentators and out of correlation with the overall economy: according to Sotheby’s, sales of Russian art have grown from USD$6 million in 2000 to USD $50 million in the first half of 2011. What’s behind this boom? Well, a certain penchant and nostalgia by Russians for Russian artwork is partly fuelling it, with Kandinsky paintings once again commanding a high price. But Kandinsky is not alone. Displaying their well known nationalism, other painters such as Nikolai Roerich are also proving popular. Roerich was in many ways a Russian polymath: he was a painter, philosopher, mystic, scientist (paradoxical, we know), writer and outspoken public intellectual. He created thousands of oil paintings and is probably most well known as the founder of the Roerich Pact, an international pact for the protection of... Read more

Kandinsky, Der Blaue Reiter and a whole lot of jazz


Oct 18 2011 09:44AM | by Staff Editor

Just like the French and German armies before them, the forces of Der Blaue Reiter ride forth into the Russian heartland headed straight for Moscow. These forces are, however, relatively benign physically but look instead to capture the hearts and minds of the Russian public, particularly those who dare venture into the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. From now until January 15 the museum, for the first time in Russian history, will hold an exhibition to showcase the landmark modern art movement Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). What are the characteristics of oil paintings from The Blue Rider movement? Firstly, artists such as Kandinsky, Marc and Klee all used abstract forms and bright, vivid colours in their paintings. The group was founded in 1911 by mostly German and Russian artists led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Other notable Russians were Marianne von Werekin, Alexei von Jawlensky and Natalia Goncharova. The Blue Rider members were interested in the symbolic, emotional and spiritual powers of colour, and believed colour and abstract forms, much like primitivism, were the most efficient means of moving western art towards total Abstract Expressionism. To help achieve their goals the group published the famous The... Read more

Kandinsky prize finalists go on display for 2011


Oct 02 2011 11:57AM | by Staff Editor

The Russian – and indeed greater – art world is awash with excitement after the long list for this year’s Kandinsky prize were revealed in the last week of September. The Kandinsky Prize, for those wondering just what in Kandinsky’s name it is, was established in 2007, the first year awards were given out. It is, of course, named after the noted Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, with the nice financiers from Deutsche Bank AG providing the dosh, while the folks from Art Chronika Culture Foundation provide the artistic infrastructure. The aim of the Kandinsky Award is to aid the development of Russian contemporary art, and they put their money where their mouth is. Four awards are given annually, with The Young Artist Category awarded to an artist under 30. The winner of that award receives a three month stay in Villa Romana to hone their artistic skills. The second category is the New Media Project, whose winner earns 10,000 euros, while Artist of the Year wins 40,000 euros. The final prize is the Audience’s Prize, where the winning artist is awarded 5,000 euros. This year’s list of finalists will be whittled down in October, with the winners announced in December... Read more

Oil painting like Kandinsky – Painting with White Border


Sep 18 2011 06:49PM | by Staff Editor

Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky is known as the father of modern Abstract Art. The first man to push traditional age-old boundaries, he is credited with literally introducing a new artistic style to humanity. It goes without saying, then, that understanding his process to creating his abstract oil paintings is equally important. How did he go about creating his famed Kandinsky artwork? To answer such an important question, one only has to examine a new exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum from October 21, 2011, to January 15, 2012. The exhibition is entitled Kandinsky’s Painting with White Border and was put together by two distinguished names in the art world: Tracey Bashkoff, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Elsa Smithgall, Curator, of the Phillips Collection. The pair and their research teams focused on Kandinsky’s working method through a chronological display of twelve watercolours and drawings and one key sketch, all used to prepare the artist for his final work, Painting with White Border. Thankfully for the team, Kandinsky was one painter who wrote extensively about his creative process. In an essay dated May 1913, he noted that he completed the sketch “immediately” upon his return... Read more

Kandinsky paintings and 100 years of abstract art


Sep 04 2011 09:30PM | by Staff Editor

Experts and academics love to argue among themselves. Any bone of contention they can pick, they’ll pick it. The reason? Being right about something just helps to prove how smart they are, and probably helps to justify their PhD and their tenure – if they are so lucky to have one. The same theory broadly applies to the Abstract Art movement, Kandinsky paintings and its exact birthday – exactly what year, if we can find one, did the Abstract Art movement start? Why, it was 100 years ago this year that it did, in 1911, young Skywalker. Plenty of academic debate surrounds the birth year of the Abstract Art movement. The debate is certainly worthwhile – the Abstract Art movement is by no means dead or ended, although pioneers such as Kandinsky have passed on. This is evidenced by the ongoing evolution of the movement, and the popularity the older works enjoy, such as the ongoing exhibitions of Kandinsky paintings. One such exhibition is being held at the Australian National University’s Drill Hall Gallery, entitled “Abstraction”. Curator Terence Maloon recently told an Australian newspaper that 1911 was the most accurate guess. “The abstract movement was a revolution that happened on... Read more

Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (The Blue Rider Almanac), 1912


Aug 22 2011 09:49AM | by Staff Editor

In our previous post we examined the Kandinsky founded movement, The Blue Rider. Ever the academic and thinker, Kandinsky was also instrumental in founding, editing and publishing The Blue Rider Almanac, the bible of the movement. First conceived in June 1911, the Der Blaue Reiter Almanach was only published later in early 1912, by Piper, Munich, in an edition of 1100 copies. On May 11 the first copy was received by Franz Marc. What were the details behind this fascinating publication? The first volume of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach was edited by Kandinsky and Marc. Industrialist and art collector Bernhard Koehler financed the project, which features more than 140 reproduction images of artworks and 14 major articles. The major works included Marc’s essay, Spiritual Treasures, illustrated with children’s drawings, Chinese paintings, Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Mandolin at the Piano and German woodcuts; an article by French critic Roger Allard on Cubism; Arnold Schoenberg’s article The Relationship to the Text and his song, Herzgewächse; Thomas de Hartmann’s essay Anarchy in Music; an article about Alexander Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire; Macke’s essay Masks; an article by Erwin von Busse on Robert Delaunay, illustrated with a print of his The Window... Read more

Kandinsky and the Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group


Jul 24 2011 09:57PM | by Staff Editor

One outstanding feature Kandinsky possessed was his determination to represent, organise and spread elements of the Expressionist movement. He was, broadly speaking, the Pissarro of the group: a painter capable of organising highly individualistic artists under a common banner and cause. As noted in the previous blog post, this first group he founded was the Neue Künstlervereinigung München. However, he left a short time later in 1911 to found The Blue Rider group with fellow Russian emigrants and German artists. Although promising at the start, the movement would only last three years and end in 1914, mostly as a result of World War I. Among The Blue Rider’s most prominent members were artists such as Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, August Macke, Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter, Lyonel Feininger, Albert Bloch and Paul Klee. The group was founded in response to an exhibition’s refusal to display the Kandinsky painting Last Judgement; as such the group lacked a central artistic manifesto, except that all members shared a commitment to the promotion of modern art. Wide speculation also exists as to the exact reasons of the group’s name: many scholars believed it was named after the 1903 Kandinsky painting, Der Blaue Reiter,... Read more

Kandinsky and the Neue Künstlervereinigung München


Jul 11 2011 11:57AM | by Staff Editor

Russian painter and co-founder of Expressionism Wassily Kandinsky once said: “there is no must in art, because art is free.” But, apparently, there is a must for artistic organisations and hierarchy, it would seem. Kandinsky was famous for pushing the boundaries, pushing his philosophies and pushing new movements. The first movement the Russian artist established was the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM), literally the Munich New Artist's Association in 1909. It predated another more famous group he would form later (Der Blaue Reiter), although NKVM would retain the distinction of being the first German modernist secession regarded as the forbearer for 20th century Modern Art. The NKVM was proposed by Kandinksy and founded with five other artists: Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexander Kanoldt and Adolf Erbslöh. Each painter had different backgrounds, but all shared the common purpose to advocate a new form of art free of traditional constraints. To do this they held three “cycling” exhibitions based from 1909-1910, 1910-1911 and 1911-1912. Known as “cycles”, the first cycle showed the original group of artists, the second included the original members and other avant-garde artists such as Picasso and Braque, while the third cycle actually excluded most of... Read more

Kandinsky, his interior life and the abstract artist


May 24 2011 11:01AM | by Staff Editor

“Kandinsky calls abstract the content that painting must express, that’s to say this invisible life that we are. In such a way that the Kandinskian equation, to which we have alluded to, can be written in reality as follows: Interior = interiority = invisible = life = pathos = abstract” - noted Kandinsky scholar Michel Henry To understand Russian Expressionist painter Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings one has, to a degree, to understand the inner machinations of the man. Kandinsky believed art and his perception of colours and the visual was influenced by all his senses as a whole; the senses combined with the intellect and the spiritual, producing a unique and highly subjective synthesis from which the creative juices would flow. This wasn’t just some airy-fairy notion the artist concocted while on midnight benders with absinthe – the noted lawyer and academic (prior to painting) published several essays and four books, including the influential Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Point and Line to Plane and Kandinsky and Complete Writings on Art. Kandinsky’ Concerning the Spiritual in Art, first published in 1911, provides the most illuminating look into his mind and the influence of, as the title suggest, the spiritual and art.... Read more

Important Kandinsky Painting on Display


May 03 2011 09:44AM | by Staff Editor

Wassily Kandinsky is best known for his abstract paintings. The paintings he generated late in his life show large blocks of color, geometric forms and intersecting lines. Some seem musical, and contain scales and notes. Others contain no recognizable shapes of any sort. These profoundly influential paintings by Kandinsky made him quite famous during his lifetime, and yet more famous after his death. But Kandinsky wasn't always an abstract painter. In fact, early Kandinsky paintings show a delicate, soft sensibility that may be missing from later works. One famous painting by Kandinsky, "Battle," stands at the crossroads between the two styles of painting. This image is now on display at the National Gallery in Prague. Early paintings by Kandinsky such as Autumn in Bavaria contain bright blocks of color. Contrasting colors are placed side by side, without an attempt at blending. These early landscapes do approach abstraction with this coloring, but they remain true to the original image the painter is looking at. Trees are represented as trees. Houses still look like houses. This is immediately recognizable as a road lined with foliage, painted in the middle of the day. In the early 1910s, Kandinsky first heard the atonal musical... Read more

Wassily Kandinsky Hoax


Apr 26 2011 01:59PM | by Staff Editor

In late 2010, a fan of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky was approached by a group of Italian men who claimed to have an unknown Kandinsky painting for sale. As proof of their claim, the men provided documentation showing that the painting had hung on the walls of museums in Germany and Russia. The potential buyer was excited. How often are you able to buy a lost Kandinsky painting? But something about the transaction had him suspicious. Perhaps the buyers were too eager, or perhaps the conversations seemed strange or unprofessional. We do know that he, eventually, called the authorities to investigate. As it turns out, the entire production was a hoax. This was not a Wassily Kandinsky painting. It was a painting from 2008, painted in the style of Wassily Kandinsky. This is not as far-fetched as it might seem on first glance. Kandinsky paintings have a definite and discernable style. In paintings such as In Blue, geometric forms dominate. Primary colors dominate. Very little blending occurs between colors. Brushstrokes are flat and difficult to discern. While painting in this manner takes considerable skill and was truly revolutionary during the life of Wassily Kandinsky, it is a style that a... Read more

Kandinsky Artwork Inspires Artists with Autism


Apr 10 2011 06:20PM | by Staff Editor

The Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is dedicated to art. The hospital is decorated with artwork created by children from neighboring schools. More than 1,500 pieces of art from 8,000 students are displayed at the hospital. One participating school, Lincoln Development Center, works with students who have physical or mental impairments. Many students have autism spectrum disorder. Teachers at Lincoln Development Center used paintings by Kandinsky to reach these students, with surprising and inspiring results. Autism spectrum disorder can result in deficits in communication, social skills and imagination. Many people with autism find it difficult to communicate with others, as they cannot interpret facial expressions and other non-verbal skills. Children with autism can benefit from art therapy as it allows them to express themselves non-verbally. Researchers also suggest that people with autism often respond enthusiastically and dramatically to colors. Using art by Kandinsky to reach this audience seems appropriate. Paintings by Kandinsky, particularly works from later periods, contain no human figures at all. There are no facial expressions to read. Consider Color Studies with its blocks of primary colors and geometric forms or Farbstudie Quadrate with its swirling masses of colors. People who respond to color would... Read more