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Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), a Russian-born artist, pioneered abstract art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Emphasizing the synthesis of the visual and the auditory, Kandinsky had a unique perspective on the function and form of art.
Kandinsky perceived sounds as colors, which was a driving force in the development of his unique artistic style. He believed the purpose of art was to convey the artist’s inner vision, and this required a transcendence of the objective, physical world.
Colour is a means of exerting direct influence on the soul.
There is no must in art because art is free.
The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.
Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 and did not seriously pursue art until the age of 30. Before this, he had studied economics, law, and ethnography at the University of Moscow and had become a law professor upon graduating. During his time at university, he revisited his childhood interest in art and specifically the symbolism of color.
While viewing a Monet exhibit in Moscow, he experienced a sort of epiphany. He found that Monet’s use of color impacted him significantly, and even took on an almost mythic power. Around the same time, he attended an opera performance which had a similarly powerful impact and triggered an experience in which he began to see musical notes as colors and visual images.
Kandinsky soon enrolled in a Munich art school to study with a Slovenian Realist named Anton Azbe, whose specialty was drawing figures. Here, he worked alongside Alexej von Jawlensky, a future Expressionist, who introduced him to the city’s avant-garde society.
Over time, the artist’s works began to become more abstract in style. He de-emphasized traditional boundaries such as line and form. Instead, Kandinsky focused on the communication of emotion through the juxtaposition of color. Kandinsky finished an untitled watercolor painting in 1910 that is considered his first truly abstract painting.
Since then, Kandinsky’s impact on abstract art has been substantial. His artistic output in terms of both quality and volume is matched by few artists of any generation. As a fellow artist Diego Rivera has stated, “Kandinsky’s art is not a reflection of life, it is life itself”.
Composition VII, 1913
Kandinsky’s career is said to have peaked between the years 1910 and 1914. His piece, Composition VII, is cited as the pinnacle of his artistic achievement during this time. Though he painted the final version in only three days, Kandinsky made more studies for this composition than any other. Composition VII, with it’s swirling colors and shapes, is one of the most complex pieces he ever painted and alludes to the apocalyptic themes of Deluge, Last Judgement, Resurrection, and Paradise.
On White II, 1923
On White II is considered a milestone piece for 20th century Modern Art. It portrays various geometric forms and a magnificent color scheme that is said to represent the opportunities of life and how these can be taken away by death. The white is said to also express peace, while the black may represent nothingness.