16 December 1866; Moscow, Russian Federation
13 December 1944; Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
1896 - 1944
The creator of the first modern abstract paintings, Wassily Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. In his youth, he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, and was later hired as a professor of Roman law at the University of Dorpat in Estonia. He was 30 years old when he began his studies in painting, focusing on life drawing, sketching, and anatomy, at the University of Munich.
He was not immediately accepted into the school as an art student, and so in the meantime he began learning art by himself, gaining artistic insight from Monet’s Haystacks and Richard Wagner’s composition Lohengrin. He was also influenced by the teachings of anthroposophy, as such, his abstract works were a creation of his intense philosophical beliefs, based on his own personal experiences with art. The devotion to inner beauty remained a central theme in his art.
In 1914, after the beginning of World War I, Kandinsky returned to Moscow, where he did not find much inspiration in the art world. In 1921, he returned to Munich, where he taught at the Bauhaus school of architecture, until it was closed by the Nazis in 1933. He was an active art theorist, publishing a number of books on art theory, and developing a complex and deeply emotional theory about the ability of colors and shapes to represent sound and evince human emotion. He eventually traveled to the United States to lecture on the topic.
After the Bauhaus was closed, Kandinsky moved to Paris, where he was mostly isolated from the other Impressionist or Cubist painters. He later became a French citizen, and lived the rest of his days there. His legacy lives on in the newly created Kandinsky Award, which rewards a promising young Russian artist a 55,000 euro prize, and attempts to elevate the status of contemporary Russian art.