1908, Munich. At dusk, Wassily Kandinsky, who had returned from sketching, opened the studio door as usual, and was instantly caught by a painting that greeted him. The painting has absolutely no subject or any identifiable imagery, and is composed entirely of bright patches of color. Kandinsky stood there puzzled, staring at the painting, feeling “surrounded by ineffable beauty”. It wasn’t until he got closer that he recognized it—it turned out to be one of his own paintings on the easel sideways.
The next day, Kandinsky tried to achieve the same effect in daylight, but was only half-successful – no matter where it was placed, the object was always recognizable. The beauty that I felt yesterday is gone. This made him suddenly understand: “Objective and identifiable objects have no place in my paintings, and are even harmful to them.” Since then, Kandinsky has embarked on the road of abstract art, which has since become the world’s abstract art one of the pioneers.
2021 marks the 155th anniversary of Kandinsky’s birth. The West Bund Art Museum in Shanghai and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly hold the exhibition “Pioneer of Abstract Art: Kandinsky”, which comprehensively presents the landmark creative career of the 20th century artist. The exhibition brings together the Centre Pompidou’s impressive collection, including hundreds of paintings, manuscripts, prints, and many first-ever masterpieces. As the highlight of the 2021 Sino-French Cultural Spring, this exhibition is not only Kandins’ first major exhibition in China, but also his largest retrospective in Asia so far.
Above: Kandinsky, “Painting with Red Stain”, 1914. Below: Kandinsky, Composition IX, 1936.
30-year-old abandoned law to become art
Kandinsky’s memory of color can be traced back to the age of three. Since then, he has observed colors on a wide variety of objects.
The groom used branches to make toys for Kandinsky, but he noticed that the peeled branches revealed three colors. “The outermost is the yellow-brown of the bark, which I don’t like and wish it was replaced by another; the middle is emerald green, which I particularly like, even in its wilted state, it is still charming The magic of it; the innermost layer is the milky white color of the branch, which gives off a damp smell that makes one want to lick it, but it wilts irretrievably soon, so my interest in white has been from the beginning. Take a hit.” The feeling of each color is clearly engraved in Kandinsky’s memory.
However, the unusual preference for color revealed as a child did not prompt Kandinsky to embark on the path of a professional painter early. He worked hard in the fields of law and political economy and became a university law teacher at the age of 28. The artistic talent that is dormant in the body is waiting to be awakened.
In 1895, when Kandinsky was 29 years old, he was deeply shocked by Monet’s “Haystack” when he visited the “French Art Exhibition”. This painting was completely different from the classical paintings he was familiar with before – the painter could make the painting so blurry, and this blurry painting could give people such a dreamy impression. The painting fascinated Kandinsky, and every detail of it always came to his eyes. “I am very aware of the undoubted power of the palette, which surpasses all my dreams.” The desire for painting art emerged from the depths of Kandinsky’s heart.
What finally pushed Kandinsky on the road of art, there is also a musical work – Wagner’s famous opera “Lohengrin”. Kandinsky sat in the auditorium of the Royal Moscow Opera House, but his thoughts and vision were brought into the twilight. “The deep low tones of the violin and bass showed me all the colors of the moment before the night. Wild, even crazy lines were drawn in front of my eyes.” Kandinsky felt that music and painting can burst out the same energy. This auditory experience gave him the ambition to express the majesty and emotion of Wagner’s operas with his brush.
In 1896, Kandinsky decided to resign as a university professor and went to Munich, Germany to study painting. This year, he is 30 years old.
At the turn of the century in Munich, a large number of international avant-garde artists gathered here, and the anti-academic “Art Nouveau” and “Youth Style” were gaining momentum. Here, Kandinsky successively studied under the realist artist Anton Azbey and the symbolist artist Franz von Stuck, and absorbed different styles and ideas.
In 1904, Kandinsky had the first success of his artistic career. That year, the catalogue of the Salon d’Automne in Paris included 18 of his works, with critics describing his style as “mysterious and ambiguous”. Not long ago, the avant-garde artist club “Philadelphia” and the art school of the same name founded by him were too avant-garde and trendy, and almost no one cared about them, leading to disintegration and closure.
The “phalanx” did not exist for long, but was crucial to Kandinsky’s early artistic development. It was also in this art school that Kandinsky met Gabriel Monte, a young female painter who would accompany him for more than ten years in the future. The two embarked on a long journey across Europe and as far as Tunisia, walking, watching and painting along the way.
On the way, Kandinsky completed many small oil painting landscape sketching studies, all of which were scraped with a palette knife. He also paints colorful scenes from Russian folklore with stippling brushstrokes on a black background, and the hidden heart of abstract painting gradually emerges.
In the summer of 1908, Kandinsky and Monte returned to Munich, where they spent the summer in the picturesque town of Murnau, and did a lot of sketching. Kandinsky’s paintings moved from a relatively figurative to a more abstract state, with the dynamic brushstrokes organized in the outlines of different bright color blocks, smooth and more unrestrained. He also felt more and more that the expression of art should gain a kind of unfettered freedom, and everything should be left to the artist’s control.
Kandinsky’s early work “Song”, 1906.
This radical view of art was in sharp contrast to the conservative artists in the “New Artists Association of Munich” at the time. Kandinsky withdrew angrily, and established the “Blue Rider” (German Der Blaue Reiter, also translated “Blue Rider”) with the painter’s friend Franz Mark, to compete with the New Artists Association.
Originally, the so-called “Blue Rider” was actually the “Blue Rider Almanac” co-edited and published by Kandinsky and Mark. It is a revolutionary visual manifesto that brings together different arts that know no borders and break through academic frameworks. Centered on the yearbook, they united many avant-garde artists, and “Blue Rider” gradually became the name of an art group.
The image of the “Blue Rider” has been brewing in Kandinsky’s mind for many years. As early as 1903, he created a painting “Blue Rider” with impressionistic brushwork, in which a knight wearing a blue cloak, straddling a white horse, quickly crosses a mountain pasture; The knight in the hood and orange cape has a slightly abstract meaning; the 1911 “Impression V: Park” is even more abstract. The complete image of the knight is hard to find, only the misty black lines outline the outline of the knight riding through the countryside During the Bauhaus period, he simply simplified the image of the knight into a geometric abstraction, using a strong cross-diagonal composition, with black lines extending diagonally from the center of the picture to the front, condensing the image of a knight jumping up on a horse.
For Kandinsky, the knight is also a self-projection and a spiritual symbol – the future path of art is still unknown, and he is like a knight who has the courage to explore, break through fear, and overcome difficulties.
”Color is the key, the eye is the hammer, and the soul is the string of the piano. The painter is the hand that plays the piano. Playing a certain key causes the heart to tremble.” In 1910, Kandinsky wrote his theoretical book “On the Spirit of Art” It is written in.
Kandinsky had the ability to synesthesia (perceptual mixing). He could hear the colors very clearly, and even named the painting “structure”, “improvisation” and “lyric” by the method of music titles. In his view, music and painting have a strong connection and can give people a common feeling – auditory stimuli can be converted into visual effects, and vice versa. The colors and markings in the paintings can remind people of a certain timbre, as if the notes in a symphony can bring out certain images in the human mind.
“For Kandinsky, music was a special source of thought, allowing him to conceive a new form and inspiring him throughout his life,” said Angela Lampe, curator of the Centre Pompidou. Kandinsky tried to express people’s spiritual world in an ever-simplified form. This idea collided brilliantly when Kandinsky met the musician Schoenberg.
Schoenberg is a musician, but good at Danqing, and Kandinsky is also a member of the “Blue Knight”. They often correspond, share and discuss art theory.
In the European continent at the beginning of the 20th century, after the First World War and industrialization, Schoenberg’s music’s fragmented and beating melodies, sloppy rhythms, and dissonant chords just rightly expressed the loneliness and survival anxiety derived from war and modernization. Like Kandinsky, he did not intend to describe the real world, but deliberately expressed people’s inner emotions.
Kandinsky drew a lot of inspiration from Schoenberg’s music, trying to create a scale and structure that resembled a symphony orchestra, which later became the famous “Composition” series.
Kandinsky (front row, third from right) with teachers while teaching at the Bauhaus.
Left: Kandinsky, Composition No. 8, 1923. Right: Kandinsky, Above White II, 1923.
Among them, “Constitution No. 7” can be called a musical rhapsody. This is the largest painting in Kandinsky’s work. When I first saw this painting, I felt very confused, but at the same time I could feel Kandinsky’s compositional skills – there are countless overlapping and changing arrangements in the picture, and each shape has its own laws. Each law exerts a strong impact on the whole, making the picture full of rhythm, like a great symphony.
Composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Mozart and Beethoven to Schubert and Chopin, have all been a source of inspiration for Kandinsky. He incorporates music into his paintings and uses colors to show the effect of music shaking the mind. From the composition of the picture to the color blocks of the lines, there seems to be an inner spirit flowing slowly, so his abstract paintings are also called “visible music”. “.
art of dots
After the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky had to leave Germany and return to Moscow. Worse than the past, in addition to artistic loneliness, he also faced political and economic dilemmas: not only did he not receive material support, but he was also attacked by left-wing artists and Western European authorities.
It was not until the summer of 1922 that Kandinsky left Moscow again after receiving an invitation to teach by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus Institute in Weimar, Germany. In this revolutionary school, the cradle of modern design, Kandinsky also opened a new curtain of his artistic career.
In this exhibition, the central part of the exhibition hall is restored to the same proportion according to the mural of the door and courtyard designed by Kandinsky in 1922 for the “Art Exhibition Without Judges” in Berlin. It is also in this group of murals that Kandinsky, who was depressed and depressed, once again expressed his comprehensive understanding of art in free form.
During his teaching at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky combined his artistic creation with artistic theory, using rulers, compasses and other tools to make images appear rigorous geometric. Created in 1925, “Yellow Red Blue” is considered to be the best interpretation of his artistic theory. Bright light and soft colors are added to the geometric structure and shape, making the abstract line painting full of passion and romance, without losing rationality at the same time. .
In 1926, Kandinsky’s theoretical work “Points, Lines and Surfaces” was published, which was also an integration of what he taught at the Bauhaus. In the course, he proposed color and the psychological effects that each element of point, line and surface can produce. For him, painting is to use points, planes, lines, and colors to convey spirit and emotion, and to arouse inner shocks with the audience.
This year is also Kandinsky’s 60th birthday. The first issue of “Bauhaus” magazine was dedicated to Kandinsky as a “gift”; many cities in Europe held solo exhibitions for him, and the Guggenheim in the United States also visited the Bauhaus and acquired a large number of Kandinsky’s works .
Unfortunately, the good times did not last long. In 1933, the Bauhaus was closed by the German Nazis, and Kandinsky’s works were also labeled as “degenerate art”. Once again forced into exile, he moved to France, where he spent the last years of his life in Neuilly-sur-Seine in Paris, leaving behind a rich legacy of abstract art.
The essence of “abstractism” considered by Kandinsky is “not trying to express the external world, but expressing the inner emotions of the human soul in a direct way”, emphasizing that art must be concerned with the spirit rather than the material. His abstract art filters out the noise in real life, presenting a clear and bright mood and atmosphere.
”Kandinsky was one of the greatest artists and art theorists of the 20th century. As the founder of modern abstract art in theory and practice, he opened up a field full of possibilities.” Angela Lampe said. The concept of “abstract painting” created by Kandinsky not only promoted the development of art in the 20th and 21st centuries, but also profoundly influenced the practice and perception of modernism of many artists.
Kandinsky: Born in Moscow, Russia in 1866, artist, art theorist, and pioneer of abstract art. The concept of “abstract painting” created by him promoted the development of art in the 20th century and profoundly influenced the practice of many artists. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, in 1944.