Wassily Kandinsky

Russian (1866 - 1944)
Wassily Kandinsky Kleine Welten III [Small Worlds III] Dated 1922

Biography

Born 1866
Died 1944
Nationality Russian

A pioneer of modern art, Kandinsky is often regarded as having created the first painting that was purely abstract in form. Initially influenced by Symbolism and Russian folk art, he founded the Expressionist collective Der Blaue Reiter in Munich in 1910, along with a mixture of Russian and German avant-garde artists. His belief that art should express a sense of spirituality through a visual language of form and colour was a critical factor in his move towards abstraction. A theorist as well as a practitioner, Kandinsky was heavily involved in reforms to art teaching and museums in Russia in the wake of the 1917 revolution. He returned to Germany in the 1920’s, to teach design and art theory at the Bauhaus. His work became a significant influence on later styles of art, such as Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.

Glossary terms

  • A style that made an impact in the arts in the 1920s, particularly in Germany. Expressionists abandoned realistic, accurate representations in favour of exaggerations and distortions of line and colour that were intended to carry far greater emotional impact.

  • An influential German school of art and design founded in Dessau in 1919 under the architect Walter Gropius. It was based on workshop training rather than academic studios, and is celebrated for its functional design.

  • A German Expressionist group founded in Munich in 1911 by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Its membership, who shared an interest in expressing a spiritual dimension in painting, featured in an almanac of the same name published in 1912. The group dispersed with the onset of the First World War.

  • The representation of subjects or ideas by use of a device or motif to create underlying meaning. A literary and artistic movement that originated in France and spread through much of Europe in the late 19th century. There was no consistent style but rather an appeal to the idea of the artist as mystic or visionary and the desire to express a world beyond superficial appearances.

  • Art in which there is no attempt to represent anything existing in the world, particularly used of the 20th century onwards. ‘Abstraction’ refers to the process of making images that may in part derive from the visible world but which are reduced to basic formal elements.

  • A printmaking technique using a stone or zinc plate to which the image is applied with a greasy material. After wetting the plate, greasy ink is applied. The ink sticks only to the drawn image and not the wet surface, thus creating a reproduction when applied to paper.