Wassily Kandinsky: Fine art prints for the soul
From the Blaue Reiter and Bauhaus to biomorphic, geometric prints, Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian revolutionary in quest of a more musical modern art.
Born in 1866, Kandinsky (much like his contemporary and fellow law student Matisse) didn’t even pick up a brush until the age of 30. Then, on an ethnographical expedition into the Vologda Oblast in north west Russia, he wandered amongst brightly shimmering houses and churches, discovering and recording the region’s colourful folk art, an encounter that would change the course of the young lawyer’s life. Promptly moving to Munich, Kandinsky signed up at the Academy and discovered impressionism at a Monet exhibition, where, transfixed by the French artist’s golden haystacks, Kandinsky discovered a spiritual kind of art, colour independent from form.
Wassily Kandinsky’s fine art print Houses at Murnau is an early example of Kandinsky’s preoccupation with colour and abstract forms.
Kandinsky, however, wasn’t content just to excel at the Academy, and so he also began to theorise about his art. Discovering fauvism as well as theosophy, which sees creation in the form of geometric progression, Kandinsky’s work became increasingly centred around colour and form. And in 1903 he showed The Blue Rider, a painting that through unnatural shapes encourages participation from its viewer in the creation of its image. The painting, alongside Kandinsky’s theories on art, was so influential that it lent its name to the movement he co-founded with Franz Marc and marked a turning point towards more abstract images.
Tending towards abstract, Kandinsky’s paintings of the Blue Rider period remove foreground and background in favour of one plane of coloured forms.
Inspired by music, having learned to play both piano and cello from the age of five, and having discovered a certain spirituality in art through the dissociation of colour, Kandinsky occupied himself with making art that would connect with people’s souls. And so, his ever more abstract paintings became improvisations and compositions, drawing on musical terms for his spontaneous creations and painted symphonies. For the Russian abstract artist, yellow was like middle C, black the closing dénouement of a melody and colour combinations would appear to him via chords he heard while painting.
The making of modern, abstract art, Kandinsky’s improvisations were the lyrical results of synaesthesia and the unconscious.
Following the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Kandinsky returned to Moscow, where he helped devise the Soviet Union’s take on art and culture. As the avant-garde fell out of favour, however, Kandinsky left the USSR to take up a position at the Bauhaus, where he taught art theory until 1933. During this time, straight lines and curves, as well as an upward rising energy, became more important in his works, with superimposed, interlinked straight and sinuous lines providing a counterbalance to abstract forms, shapes, colours and tones.
Falling under the influence of Paul Klee, Kandinsky’s colleague at the Bauhaus, paintings of the Bauhaus period reveal the upward energy of the artist’s “internal necessity” to create.
Moving with the Bauhaus from Weimar to Dessau to Berlin, Kandinsky finally escaped to Paris in 1933. His first three Compositions were displayed as part of the Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich and then destroyed. But despite France being occupied by the Nazis in 1940, Kandinsky remained there until his death in 1944. Less geometric in style, his French paintings, from Graceful Ascent (1934) to Actions Variées (1941) embrace organic shapes and gradations of colour to create an apocalyptic symphony of death and rebirth.
You can see all of the Wassily Kandinsky poster collection here.
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