Guggenheim

As a pioneer of abstraction and a renowned aesthetic theorist, Vasily Kandinsky (b. 1866, Moscow; d. 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) is among the foremost artistic innovators of the early twentieth century. In his endeavor to free painting from its ties to the natural world, Kandinsky discovered a new subject matter based solely on the artist’s “inner necessity” that would remain his lifelong concern.

In Munich in the 1900s and early 1910s, Kandinsky began exploring the expressive possibilities of color and composition, but he was abruptly forced to leave Germany with the outbreak of World War I, in 1914. The artist eventually returned to his native Moscow, and there his pictorial vocabulary started to reflect the utopian experiments of the Russian avant-garde, who emphasized geometric shapes in an effort to establish a universal aesthetic language. Kandinsky subsequently joined the faculty of the Bauhaus, a German school of art and applied design that shared his belief in art’s ability to transform self and society. Compelled to abandon Germany again when the Bauhaus closed under Nazi pressure in 1933, he settled outside Paris, where Surrealism and the natural sciences influenced Kandinsky’s biomorphic imagery.

More so than any other artist, Kandinsky is intertwined with the history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, established in New York in 1937. Industrialist and museum founder Solomon R. Guggenheim began collecting Kandinsky’s work in 1929 and met him at the Dessau Bauhaus the following year. This exhibition draws from the foundation’s extensive holdings to illustrate the full arc of Kandinsky’s seminal career.

Curator: Megan Fontanella

Organized by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Vasily Kandinsky
Black Lines (Schwarze Linien), December 1913 (detail)
Oil on canvas
130.5 × 131.1 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.241
© Vasily Kandinsky, VEGAP, Bilbao 2020

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Kandinsky
Artist

Vasily Kandinsky was born on December 16, 1866, in Moscow. From 1886 through 1892 he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, where he lectured after graduation. In 1896 he declined a teaching position in order to study art in Munich with Anton Azbe from 1897 to 1899 and at the Kunstakademie with Franz von Stuck in 1900. Kandinsky taught in 1901–03 at the art school of the Phalanx, a group he cofounded in Munich. One of his students, Gabriele Münter, would be his companion until 1914. In 1902 Kandinsky exhibited for the first time with the Berlin Secession and produced his first woodcuts. In 1903 and 1904 he began his and Münter’s travels in Italy, the Netherlands, and North Africa and his visits to Russia. He showed at the Salon d’Automne in Paris from 1904.

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Persistent State of Discovery

In this didactic online section you will discover certain people, places, and events that proved influential in the life and practice of Vasily Kandinsky.
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Catalogue Kandinsky
The catalogue Kandinsky constitutes a fascinating journey through the entire arc of the Vasily Kandinsky’s career. With an introductory essay signed by Tracey Bashkoff and the entries by Karole P. B. Vail on a selection of some of his most iconic works, this volume also features excellent reproductions of the pieces included in the exhibition.
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