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Five Cool Facts About Wassily Kandinsky

Tuesday, January 16

The Russian painter and graphic artist Kandinsky was one of the great masters of modern art and one of the pioneers of abstract modern painting. Kandinsky explored the relationship between form and color in order to create an experience that engages the viewer by stimulating different senses and perspectives. His work broke new ground in painting during the first decades of the twentieth century.

Seventy-five years after his death, Kandinsky is still influential and his impact can be seen in areas such as design, visual arts, and architecture. A clear indication of his artistic importance is the large number of his works at museums across America. The Guggenheim owns the largest collection of Kandinsky’s works in the world - close to 100 paintings and 60 sketches - and spans his lifetime, from his art school days in Munich, to his Blue Rider period, to his return to Moscow before the Russian Revolution and World War I, and up to the last pieces of art he produced in France before his death. Displayed in chronological order, the viewer can trace the evolution of Kandinsky’s style and simultaneously witness his work in changing the conventions of visual art.

Though many are familiar with Kandinsky’s work, we have selected five interesting facts about his life that you may not know.

#1 - Kandinsky was a lawyer

Despite his inclination towards arts, Wassily joined the University of Moscow in 1886 to study law and economics. He completed his studies in 1892 and was granted a degree equivalent of a doctorate. The following year, Kandinsky became a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Moscow. At the age of 30, he gave up his profession as a lawyer and an educator to pursue studies in the arts and became a painter.

#2 - He had 3 different nationalities

Kandinsky lived in Russia, Germany, and France. He changed his citizenship two times. From being Russian, he became a German citizen and then, after being persecuted by the Nazis, he applied for and gained French citizenship.

#3 - He wrote some of the most influential books on 20th-century art theory

Besides being a painter, Kandinsky was an art theorist, and his influence on the history of painting is perhaps due more to his theoretical works than to the artworks he created. The ideas that he presented in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1910) had an international impact, defending and promoting abstract art. Another influential book written by Kandinsky is Point and Line To Plane (1926), in which he examines geometrical elements from the point of view of their inner effect on the observer.

#4 - His work was considered ‘Degenerate’ by the Nazis

In 1921, Kandinsky started teaching at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany. In 1933, the Nazis forced the Bauhaus to close and the same year Kandinsky immigrated to Paris, where he remained for the last 11 years of his life. The first three paintings of the Compositions series by Kandinsky were confiscated in a Nazi raid. They were among the works put on display in the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich in 1937 and then they were destroyed.

#5 Kandinsky was a founder and leading member of The Blue Rider group.

Kandinsky, together with like-minded artists founded a group called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Involving some of the leading Expressionist artists. The group organized exhibitions and also published an almanac. Der Blaue Reiter lasted from 1911 to 1914, when it was disrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. The Blue Rider is considered the forerunner and pathfinder of modern art in twentieth-century Germany