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Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944)
by Scholes, Robert

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Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)

Born in Moscow in 1866, Kandinsky spent his early childhood in Odessa. His parents played the piano and the zither and Kandinsky himself learned the piano and cello at an early age. The influence of music in his paintings cannot be overstated, down to the names of his paintings Improvisations, Impressions, and Compositions. In 1886, he enrolled at the University of Moscow, chose to study law and economics, and after passing his examinations, lectured at the Moscow Faculty of Law. He enjoyed success not only as a teacher but also wrote extensively on spirituality, a subject that remained of great interest and ultimately exerted substantial influence in his work. In 1895 Kandinsky attended a French Impressionist exhibition where he saw Monet'sHaystacks at Giverny. He stated, “It was from the catalog I learned this was a haystack. I was upset I had not recognized it. I also thought the painter had no right to paint in such an imprecise fashion. Dimly I was aware too that the object did not appear in the picture...” Soon thereafter, at the age of thirty, Kandinsky left Moscow and went to Munich to study life-drawing, sketching and anatomy, regarded then as basic for an artistic education.

Now considered to be one of the founders of abstract art, his work was exhibited throughout Europe from 1903 onwards, and often caused controversy among the public, the art critics, and his contemporaries. An active participant in several of the most influential and controversial art movements of the 20th century, among them the Blue Rider which he founded along with Franz Marc and the Bauhaus which also attracted Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956). In 1914 Michael Sadleir (1888-1957, also spelled "Sadler"), who had connections to the Leeds Art Club, which Orage had helped to found, brought a post-impressionist show to Leeds, that included some work by Kandinsky that aroused the ire of the local press. Sadleir went on to translate Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art (which appeared as The Art of Spiritual Harmony, published by Constable in London in 1914). This is another link in the many connections between spiritualism and modernism, and between the city of Leeds, A. E. Orage, and the modernist movement in the arts.

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