Painter, art theorist, teacher, litterateur. Wassily Kandinsky pioneered abstract painting in the early 20th century.
Vasily Kandinsky was born to a wealthy family. In 1871 his family moved to Odessa.
There Kandinsky attended gymnasium, and at the same time he studied music and painting. After finishing gymnasium he left his lessons of painting and returned with his family to Moscow. In 1885 he entered the faculty of law in Moscow University (the political economy and statistics department).
In 1889 Kandinsky took part in expedition to Vologda province, where he became interested in folk art and painting. In 1893 he was conferred academic rank of associate professor, and he began to deliver lectures; he also wrote dissertation Legality of Labor Salary. Three years later the University of Dorpat in Tartu invited Kandinsky to work as a Professor of Jurisprudence, but he declined the offer, and decided to devote all his time to art.
In 1896 Kandinsky moved to Munich, where he attended prestigious private school of Slovenian painter Anton Ažbe. Kandinsky studied the main principles of composition, lines and forms. However these classes became uninteresting for him soon; and in 1900 Kandinsky entered Munich Academy of Arts, studied at the painting class by Franz von Stuck.
Since 1900 Kandinsky participated in the exhibitions of Moscow Association of Artists (MTKh). In 1901 he founded the art society Phalanx (existed till 1904); Kandinsky organized school under the society, where he taught painting. At the first exhibition of Phalanx, Kandinsky showed his works for the first time, but they did not find a broad response among art circles. Since 1902 he regularly took part in the exhibitions of Berlin Secession, since 1904 — Paris Autumn Salon.
The first album of etchings by Kandinsky Poems without words was published in 1904, in 1909 — the second one Xylographs.
In 1910 Kandinsky founded Munich New Artists’ Association; in 1911 he together with his friend and painter Franz Marc organized almanac and founded the group Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), which members were Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianna Verevkina, Paul Klee, David Burlyuk and others.
In 1911 Kandinsky created watercolor Self-characteristics — his first abstract work, which opened a new page in art history.
In 1910–1911 Kandinsky exposed his 54 works at the Salon of V. A. Izdebsky. In 1911 and 1912 he took part in the exhibitions of the art group Bubnovy Valet (“Jack of Diamonds”) in Munich (1911 — the gallery Thannhauser, 1912 — the gallery Goltz).
At the same time Kandinsky took a great interest in literary creation. He published his art critical articles Letters from Munich in the magazines Mir Iskusstva (“World of Art”; 1902) and Apollon (Apollo; 1909).
In 1910 he wrote the treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art (published in 1912), where he formulated his ideas on non-figurative painting, psychological impact of pure colors, and connection between painting and music. Later he published the memoirs Rückblicke (“Looking Back”, in Russian translation — “Stairs”; 1913) and poetry collection Sounds (1913), designed by 55 black-and-white and colored lithographs.
In 1913 the famous treatise by Kandinsky Painting as Pure Art and album 25 reproductions of paintings 1900–1917 was published in Berlin. In the same year Kandinsky painted a theatre composition The Yellow Sound, where he combined painting with text (in artist’s lifetime the production was not realized).
From the beginning of the First World War, Kandinsky had to leave Germany during one day as he was Russian national. He moved to Russia and settled in Moscow. That was a quiet period of creative artist’s life; all his time he dedicated to public activities.
In 1918 Kandinsky participated in organization of historical and cultural monuments conservation, foundation of Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (RAKhN) and Museum of painting culture.
In 1918–1921 Kandinsky was a member of board at the Department of Fine Arts of Narkompros (National commissariat of education), teacher at Moscow State Free Art Studios and at the Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops (VKhUTEMAS), where he developed special academic curriculum based on analysis of color and form, according to ideas from his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
In 1919–1921 Kandinsky headed Moscow Museum of painting culture. He was also chairman of the All-Russian buying committee; being member of the committee, he took part in organization of 22 provincial museums. He also headed a reproduction workshop.
In 1920 he was elected honored professor of Moscow University, but he did not deliver any lecture. In 1921 Kandinsky was elected vice-president of Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (RAKhN). He headed section of monumental art in the Institute of Art Culture (Inkhuk).
In 1921 Kandinsky had to leave Russia and immigrated to Germany. In the same year he took part in the First exhibition of Russian art in Germany.
From 1922 till 1932 Kandinsky taught at the Higher School of Construction and Art Designing Bauhaus. At the same time he designed and performed a series of monumental works (sketches of pictorial panels for foyer of the Independent exhibition, 1922; ceramic design for music hall at the International exhibition in Berlin, 1931). He also worked as a scene-designer and stage director for the production of the suite by M. P. Musorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition at the Theatre Dessau (1928). In 1924–1925 Kandinsky together with A. G. Jawlensky, L. Feininger and P. Klee joined the group Die Blaue Vier (“The Blue Four”). In 1926 Kandinsky published the book Point and Line to Plane, which was translated into many languages.
In 1930 the first personal exhibition of Kandinsky was held in the gallery Zak in Paris, in 1931 — the personal exhibition in the Galerie de France.
In 1920s Kandinsky was worldwide recognized as one of the leaders of abstract art. His personal exhibitions and exhibitions of the group Die Blaue Vier were held in many museums and art galleries of Europe and USA.
When Nazis closed the Bauhaus School in 1932, Kandinsky moved to Berlin, and in 1933 — to France, to Neuilly-sur-Seine suburb of Paris.
During 11 years of Paris life, Kandinsky created 144 paintings, about 250 watercolors and gouaches, and many drawings.
In June of 1935 Kandinsky organized an exhibition of his works New paintings, watercolors and drawings in the gallery Cahiers d’Art. From 1936 till 1944 he exposed his works in the gallery Jeanne Bucher.
Works by Vasily Kandinsky are in many museum collections both in Russia and abroad: the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Kirov Regional Art Museum named after V. M. and A. M. Vasnetsovs, Yaransk District Museum of Local History, the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan (Tashkent), the State Gallery Lenbachhaus (Munich), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Pompidou Center (Paris) and others, and in private collections.
In June 2017, at the Sotheby's auction, the record for Kandinsky's works was broken twice in 22 minutes: "Murnau - a landscape with a green house" was purchased for $ 26.7 million, and "A painting with white lines" owned by the Tretyakov Gallery until 1974, was sold for $42 million.