Kandinsky, Vassily Vassilievich

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(18661944), artist.

In 1889, after studying at Moscow University in law and economics, Vassily Vasilievich Kandinsky participated in an expedition to the Vologda province in the north of Russia, sponsored by the Imperial Society for Natural Sciences, Ethnography, and Anthropology. The folk art, music, and rituals of the far north were influences that prompted his later decision to abandon his law profession for art at the age of thirty.

In 1897 Kandinsky moved to Munich to study at the private art school of Anton Abè, where he met Alexei von Jawlensky and Marianne Werefkin. After finishing his studies in the Munich Academy in 1901, Kandinsky joined the Expressionist association, Phalanx, where he met Gabrielle Münther, a student at the Phalanx school. Although Kandinsky maintained Munich as his principle place of residence, he exhibited in Moscow at the Moscow Association of Artists, at the Izdebsky Salon in Odessa, and with the Neue Künstlerveriningung in Munich, all the while maintaining and strengthening the contacts between Russian artists and their German counterparts.

By 1911 Kandinsky was the leading representative of the Russian avant-garde, participating in the Jack of Diamonds show and organizing the Blaue Reiter group with Franz Marc, inviting David Burliuk and the Hyleans to participate in the exhibition and the Blaue Reiter Almanac. In 1912 he published his theory of art, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, in Munich. After the outbreak of World War I, he returned to Russia and actively participated in Russian cultural life. After the Revolution of 1917, he served in IZO Narkompros (The Visual Arts Section of the People's Commissariat for Enlightenment). From 1918 he taught at the SVOMAS (Free Art Studio), and in 1920 he became director of INKhUK (The Institute of Artist Culture). By 1921 the art establishment began to turn away from abstraction in art toward more realistic representation, and a disillusioned Kandinsky returned to Germany to participate in Bauhaus.

See also: chagall, marc


Bowlt, John E., and Long, Rose-Carol Washton, eds. (1980). The Life of Vasilii Kandinsky in Russian Art: A Study of On the Spiritual in Art. Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners.

Hahl-Koch, Jelena. (1993). Kandinsky. New York: Rizzoli.

Weiss, Peg. (1995). Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Mark Konecny