Wassily Kandinsky, the Father of Abstract Art

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a Russian artist, professor at the Bauhaus and an introducer of the concept of abstraction in the visual arts. In spite of having Russian origin, he preferred French nationality. Interestingly, his first will was to be a musician. However, he graduated in law and political economy at Moscow University. At 30, delighted with a frame Monet, he left his legal career. In 1900, in Munich, he graduated from the Royal Academy.

He was a professor at Bauhaus, one of the leading and most vital expressions of what is called Modernism in design and architecture in Germany; being the world’s first design school until 1933 when it was closed by the Nazis and his paintings were confiscated. In 1939, he fled to France, where he became a naturalized. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1944.

The main characteristic of abstract painting is the absence of immediate relationship between its forms and colors. An abstract image does not characterize or symbolize anything of the reality around us, not figuratively tells some historical scene, literary, religious or mythological.

Abstract comes from the Latin Abstraho (separate from). An abstract painting is devoid of the representation of visible reality (landscapes, scenes, flowers, characters) .There are basically two classifications for abstract art: Geometric Abstraction – formed by geometric shapes and lines – and Lyrical Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism – composed of spots.

The geometric belongs to the first cutting edge – modern art – and the lyrical occurred in the so-called second avant-garde after World War II, belonging to contemporary art era.

                                            The Blue Rider

The painting, “The Blue Rider” Knight is a character of fairy tales with which Kandinsky had contact in its infancy, is the virtuous battle of good and evil, representing struggle and regeneration. This is a recurrent image figurative phase of artist. In 1912, they published an almanac of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), table name, for the first expressionist group whose shed is more lyrical than dramatic, compared to group Expressionist Die Brucke.

Art scholars commonly consider the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky the initiator of modern abstract painting. In his book On the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky reinforces their countrymen towards art non-figurative art suggesting the “spiritual need” as doctrine.

Every artist, as a creator, has something in itself that requires expression.

– Every artist as a child of his time is impelled to express the spirit of that time.

– Every artist, as an art server, should help the cause of art. From the point of view of spiritual need, no limitation can be imposed.

– The artist can use any way to determine its expression; the inner urge to find an appropriate external form.


Kandinsky apparently designed abstract art already in 1908. In his autobiographical revision, he tells us how once he return to his studio, in a twilight hour, surprisingly spotted on his easel painting a strange but very beautiful image. The portrait had no issue, did not define any identifiable object and was entirely composed of bright color fragments. He further said, “One thing has become clear to me then: there was no need for a place to objectivity and the description of objects in my painting”. Kandinsky realized later that it was one of his own screens turned upside down.

Wassily Kandinsky was related to artists such as Franz Marc, Paul Klee and August Macke. Along with Marc, Kandinsky published the almanac “The Blue Rider”. In 1908, the first time a non-representative picture painted: degraded nuances, geometric shapes and lines without any intention or meaning.

                                            Improvisation 19

Vivid color, formless and the strange, almost linear-figuration of  Improvisation 19″, Wassily Kandinsky, is something very different from the hieratic simplicity and almost geometric drama of suprematist painting. Here we are introduced to a chromatic and tonal richness: a rough arc scarlet colors, yellow, orange, crimson, green and white, dissolving, right and down, a mixture of violets, vibrant purples and blues, pale dark. Much of this lower-central passage is so fast and so lightly scribbled by the brush that white screen light can be seen. The color in this painting is the spectrum, as if by magic, the rainbow had been spread to briefly occupy the rectangle, a fleeting moment of light and energy. Its title seems to suggest that the work was made of light and energy, an atmospheric chaos, the work was done in reaction to an inner impulse as a talented pianist could spontaneously compose a piece of music with a particular mood in the appropriate tone.

This parallel between music and painting charmed Kandinsky as it did many artists, composers and writers in the last years of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. English critic Walter Pater wrote, “All art aspires to the condition of music”. Music is the art more purely abstract, beyond language, purely sensory and able to directly touch the mind of the listener. To move in the direction of abstraction, visual arts were seeking this direct access to the internal spiritual reality of the viewer, seeking to become the outward and visible sign of an invisible truth. Charles Baudelaire, French poet and critic of art in a famous poem, described the correspondences between different sensory phenomena.

Kandinsky believed that painting, like music, should express the “inner life” of the artist, the deepest feelings and intuitions without resorting to the reproduction of natural phenomena.

The city of Munich has become the center of avant-garde of art at that time and when Kandinsky painting “Composition II” (practically lost frame during the 2nd World War, and was considered the most important of his work), the reaction of critics to this work was fervent, this was a work of one crazy or addicted to morphine or hashish.

Kandinsky developed abstract art until the end of his life. Along with Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky was part of the “Sacred Trio “of abstraction, being the most famous.



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