In February we looked at the life and work of Wasilly Kandinsky, Russian painter and Art Theorist.
Kandinsky is generally credited as the pioneer of abstract art.
Born in Moscow in 1866 of middle class parents who, as was the norm then, spoke French as well as Russian. His Grandmother also taught him German. He was taught Art and Music at Grammar School and played Cello. He had sympathies with the disadvantaged and studied Law at University writing his Ph.D on 'The Legality of Labourers' Wages'. He had done a lot of drawing and painting whilst at University and left the Law to become art director of a printing works.
Kandinsky had a condition known as Synesthesia, in which one sense, say hearing, is simultaneously perceived by another. In Kandinsky's case, colour. So we can see how this naturally led him to paint in an abstract style.
In 1896 he was moved to pursue a career in art having been struck by the colour in Monet's 'Haystacks' which he saw at an Exhibition and, soon after, hearing Wagner's opera 'Lohengrin' which he felt pushed the boundaries of music. He went to Munich where he thought there was more opportunity for him to paint in a more abstract way as he wished.
In 1901 he was part of a Group of Artists known as The Phalanx Group where he met Gabrielle Munter, another artist, and they were partners for a long time. Kandinsky began varying his painting style with different media and techniques. He and Gabrielle began to travel in Europe but in 1908 he was exhausted and verging on a nervous breakdown. They returned to Bavaria and Kandinsky continued to paint whilst he recovered - his work becoming more abstract.
Kandinsky exhibited twice in Munich with a fellow artist, Franz Marc but when they tried to enter together for a third time, the Exhibition Committee said they must "submit works which were comprehensible". This didn't suit either of them and they decided to set up their own exhibition under the title "The Blue Rider". Between 1911 and 1912, they held two exhibitions and published an Almanac. Artists invited to exhibit with this group included Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Cezanne, Rousseau, Robert Delauney, Matisse, Picasso and Schoenberg.
In addition to painting, Kandinsky was an art theorist; his influence on the history of Western art stems perhaps more from his theoretical works than from his paintings. The Blue Rider Almanac contained his writings and his treatise "On the Spiritual in Art". These writings were both a defence and promotion of abstract art and an affirmation that all forms of art were equally capable of reaching a level of spirituality. He believed that colour could be used in a painting as something autonomous, apart from the visual description of an object or other form. These ideas had an almost-immediate international impact, particularly in the English-speaking world.
He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I. His relationship with Gabrielle broke and they went their separate ways. Following the Russian Revolution, Kandinsky "became an insider in the cultural administration of Anatoly Lunacharsky and helped establish the Museum of the Culture of Painting. However, by then "his spiritual outlook... was foreign to the argumentative materialism of Soviet society".
It was not all bad news, in 1916, a woman telephoned to talk to him about his work. She was not an artist - just a fan I suppose we would say these days. Her name was Nina Andreevskya. He fell in love with her voice and they were married a year later. Once again, opportunities beckoned in Germany and he went back with Nina.
In 1922 he was invited to teach at the Bauhaus School which he accepted - now able to return to painting as he wished. His work began to move towards a more geometric style. However, with the rise of the Nazi's and their objection to what was considered 'degenerate' art, the Bauhaus closed and Kandinsky had to leave Germany again. This time he and Nina went to Paris where he remained throughout the second World War and for the rest of his life, living on the outskirts of the City by the Seine and dying in 1944.
During his working life, Kandinsky made a series of numbered paintings titled 'Improvisation'. Likewise, he made another numbered series titled 'Composition'. As time went by these moved more and more into the Abstract. These paintings have no meaning - they are a synthesis of his inner thoughts and feelings. They are about colour and what shapes colours meant to him.
Art Appreciation meets on the third Monday of the month from 2p.m. until 4p.m. at the Town Hall.
Our members present on a topic which interests them and they are diverse.
In March we are looking at The Art of the Violin then - two presentations in April one on Mosaics, the other on Gaugin. In May we are planning to return to Penlee House in Penzance to visit another exhibition of Newlyn School Artists.
Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.