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"Blue is for cello, green is for violin". Wassily Kandinsky 150

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"Blue is for cello, green is for violin". Wassily Kandinsky 150

16.12.2016



There is no other movement in Russian painting, which would be so demanded for and so highly valued, as the Russian avant-garde. No doubt, top three painters are Kandinsky, Malevich and Chagall. Up to mid-twentieth century, Kandinsky – one of the founders of abstract art - was considered the leading Russian avant-gardist.

Wassily Kandinsky is one of the leading artists of the 20th century, “father” of Russian abstract art. He left for us his paintings and a theory of progressive art, which reflected views of the whole generation, relevant up to the present moment.
He was born in Moscow to a rich merchant family. He graduated from the Faculty of Law of the Moscow State University and became an associate professor, but at 30, he changed his life dramatically he left his job and went to Munich in order to paint.

Later in his book Steps, he described three strong impressions, which made him make this decision. The first one was the impression for Claude Monet’s painting Haystacks in the Sunlight, which he saw at an exhibition in St. Petersburg. Kandinskiy wrote about it: So, I saw a painting for the first time. That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour.

The second impression was about Richard Wagners opera Lohengrin, which appeared to be the materialization of my fairytale Moscow. Violins, deep basses and wind instruments in the first place materialized my impression of evening hours in Moscow, I saw all the colours before my eyes crazy, almost insane lines. I just could not admit that Wagner musically drew my hour. But I realized that art has much more power than I used to think about it and painting can have the same powers, as music.

The third strong impression was about Joseph Thomson's work The Atomic Theory (about discovering cathode rays consist of electrons that are smaller and lighter than atoms): It was like an unexpected destruction of the entire world. Science seemed to be demolished. Its basis seemed to be ignorance, a scientists error.

Up to August 1914, Kandinsky lived in Germany and studied at Anton Ažbe's private school of realistic arts and then at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where his teachers would eventually include symbolist Franz von Stuck. Symbolism is well seen in his early works.

Riding Couple (1906). Munich, City Gallery in Lenbachhaus

Fairytale storylines (Neo-Russian Style) are typical for Kandinskiys paintings of that period, as were they typical for many painters of the beginning of the century. Painters of that period were trying to find new expression methods primitive and exotic.

Kandinskiy started to have numerous exhibitions in Germany and Russia at the Moscow Fellowship of Artists, Fellowship of South-Russian Artists and exhibitions of Jack of Diamonds and others.

Abstract art creates a new world near the real one, which has nothing in general with reality. It obeys the laws of the cosmic world. Near the natural world, a new world of arts a very real world is emerging. I prefer naming so-called abstract art specific art. (W. Kandinsky)
Audiences reaction was not always good at an exhibition in Odessa, paintings by Goncharova, Larionov, Konchalovskiy, Burliuk and Kandinsky were spoiled by ink pencils. The first exhibition of the Jack of Diamonds in Moscow in 1910 the crazy exhibition - was also taken negatively. The entire exhibition, starting from the very name Jack of Diamonds, was highly pretentious, silly and unaesthetic, - wrote Moscow Voice about it. R. Ivanovskiy wrote about Kandinsky, who made four improvisations, in a Moscow newspaper Early Morning: The audience and other artists do, certainly, remember, Kandinskys daring, colourful works, his talented posters. One could recognize a real painter in them. And then, it started… I understood absolutely nothing after even ten minutes near these improvisations. It seems like a persons face in the upper left corner and wait are there legs in the right corner? I watched at the "Improvisation" closely one more time. No. There were no legs or faces. Nothing. Isnt that awful?

Such was the reaction to non-subject expressionism, which replaced modernism and symbolism.


Improvisation 11 (1910). Saint Petersburg, Russian Museum

No Name (First Abstract Water Colour) (1910). Paris, George Pompidou Center


Composition V (1911). Switzerland, private collection

After publishing a couple of articles in 1911 in Munich, his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art was published. The purpose of the new art was to get rid of the material and subjects. The artist was sure that one should picture the spirit of a subject, not a subject itself.

Musicality of Kandinskys paintings do also have a great importance. Speaking about colour, he used such musical terms like counterpoint, accord etc. He compared colour with the sound of musical instruments: vivid lemon yellow is a high-pitched trumpet sound, light blue is flute, blue is violin, dark blue a double bass, orange English horn, violet fagott, green is violin. White is a pause. Music was important for Kandinsky as the most abstract art.

Kandinskys musicality is now actively studied. Modern neurophysiological researchers consider he drew his paintings for those, who have sound associations through seeing.


Fugue (1914). Basel, Ernst Beyeler collection

The painter made the main stress on colour. When drawing sketches, I gave free play to even my oddities. I made strokes with a palette knife on canvas and had almost no thought of houses or trees. Moscow evening hour sounded inside of me, and the great rumbling rock of Munich colour world was before my eyes. My colours seemed to be weak and flat, and the sketch an unsuccessful attempt to copy nature. It was very strange for me to hear I exaggerate natural colours and that I makes my works incomprehensible and my only way to survive is to learn how to refract tones. (Quote by I. Azizyan from Wassily Kandinsky: Polylogue of Arts and Science).

After the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky returned to Russia.


Moscow I (1916). Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery

The painter took part in organizing arts in a new way in the Soviet Union. He was involved in saving monuments, creating the Museum of Artistic Culture and Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences, he was a teacher at the Higher Art and Technical Studios (Vhutemas) and at the Moscow State University, he became a member of Artistic Board of the People's Commissariat for Education (Narkompros). However, unlike Malevich, the second master of Nonobjectivity, Kandinsky gave up Soviet Union fast. In December, 1921, he went to organize a branch of the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences in Berlin and never came back.

In Germany, the artist was a teacher at Bauhaus, and when Nazis, who considered abstract art to be degenerative art, came to power, Kandinsky moved to Paris and lived there till his death in 1944.


Village Church (1908). Munich, City Gallery in Lenbachhaus


All Saints I (1911). Munich, City Gallery in Lenbachhaus

Painting is a rumbling battle of worlds, which is meant to create a new world called a work of art through this battle. Technically, all the works emerge the same as space did through catastrophes, which are like chaotic roars of orchestras, uniting into a symphony at the end. Creating a work is creating a world. (W. Kandinsky, Steps)

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