- NAME: Wassily Kandinsky
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Painter, Lawyer
- BIRTH DATE: December 16, 1866
- DEATH DATE: December 13, 1944
- EDUCATION: University of Moscow, Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Moscow, Russia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
- Full Name: Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky
- AKA: Wassily Kandinsky
Best Known For
Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky is credited as a leader in avant-garde art as one of the founders of pure abstraction in painting in the early 20th century.
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Born in Moscow in 1866, Wassily Kandinsky took up the study of art in earnest at age 30, moving to Munich to study drawing and painting. A trained musician, Kandinsky approached color with a musician’s sensibility. An obsession with Monet led him to explore his own creative concepts of color on canvas, which were sometimes controversial among his contemporaries and critics, but Kandinsky emerged as a respected leader of the abstract art movement in the early 20th century.
"The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul."
"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."
Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow on December 4, 1866 (December 16 by the Gregorian calendar), to musical parents Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky, a tea merchant. When Kandinsky was about 5 years old, his parents divorced, and he moved to Odessa to live with an aunt, where he learned to play the piano and cello in grammar school, as well as study drawing with a coach. Even as a boy he had an intimate experience with art; the works of his childhood reveal rather specific color combinations, infused by his perception that "each color lives by its mysterious life."
Although he later wrote, "I remember that drawing and a little bit later painting lifted me out of the reality," he followed his family’s wishes to go into law, entering the University of Moscow in 1886. He graduated with honors, but his ethnographic earned him a fieldwork scholarship that entailed a visit to the Vologda province to study their traditional criminal jurisprudence and religion. The folk art there and the spiritual study seemed to stir latent longings. Still, Kandinsky married his cousin, Anna Chimyakina, in 1892 and took up a position on the Moscow Faculty of Law, managing an art-printing works on the side.
But two events effected his abrupt change of career in 1896: seeing an exhibition of French Impressionists in Moscow the previous year, especially Claude Monet's Haystacks at Giverny, which was his first experience of nonrepresentational art; and then hearing Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre. Kandinsky chose to abandon his law career and move to Munich (he had learned German from his maternal grandmother as a child) to devote himself full-time to the study of art.
In Munich, Kandinsky was accepted into a prestigious private painting school, moving on to the Munich Academy of Arts. But much of his study was self-directed. He began with conventional themes and art forms, but all the while he was forming theories derived from devoted spiritual study and informed by an intense relationship between music and color. These theories coalesced through the first decade of the 20th century, leading him toward his ultimate status as the father of abstract art.
Color became more an expression of emotion rather than a faithful description of nature or subject matter. He formed friendships and artist groups with other painters of the time, such as Paul Klee. He frequently exhibited, taught art classes and published his ideas on theories of art.
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