Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky (*4 December 1866 in Moscow; †13 December 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine) was a Russian-German painter, co-founder of the artists' association Der blaue Reiter and teacher at the Bauhaus. He is considered the inventor of abstraction.

Artistic career

Wassily Kandinsky's oeuvre includes works in oil, watercolours, prints and woodcuts. In addition, he wrote writings on art theory, especially on form, colour and abstraction. Kandinsky had a pronounced interest in synaesthesia and was most likely a synaesthete himself. This neurological phenomenon, in which sensory impressions are merged or interchanged, affected persons, for example, primarily smell, taste or hear colours instead of seeing them, is reflected in Kandinsky's theoretical works as well as in his artworks.


Kandinsky moved to Munich in 1896 after completing his studies in law, national economics and statistics in Moscow and studied art there, including in Franz von Stuck's painting class. However, the academic style of art did not satisfy him, so he tried to find his own style in private studies. These early works by Kandinsky already show tendencies towards Expressionism in their strong colours. This intensified when he met the artist Gabriele Münter in 1903 and moved into a house with her in Murnau am Staffelsee. Kandinsky, who had already specialised particularly in landscape painting, was so inspired by the Bavarian mountain landscape that he used increasingly expressive colours in his paintings. Both the colours and the forms were very different from the model and merged with each other. In this way, Kandinsky moved away from the millennia-long function of the picture as an image and towards abstraction. In 1911, together with Franz Marc, he founded the artists' association Der blaue Reiter, which was joined by August Macke and Heinrich Campendonk, among others. Inspired by the Expressionist style of his fellow artists, Kandinsky experimented increasingly with abstraction.


After the outbreak of the First World War, Kandinsky had to leave Germany as a Russian and thus an enemy of the war. He returned to Moscow, where he continued to pursue his large-scale abstract works. He named his abstract paintings, prints and watercolours "Impression", "Improvisation" and "Composition", terms borrowed from music theory. After the October Revolution in 1917, the supply situation for Kandinsky and his family in Moscow became visibly worse, which is why he returned to Germany in 1921. There, Walter Gropius offered him a chair at the State Bauhaus, which he held from 1922 until the forced closure of the Bauhaus by the National Socialists in 1933. The ideas of the Bauhaus also made themselves felt in Kandinsky's abstractions created during this period. Whereas the abstractions had previously testified to an impulsive dissolution of the boundaries of forms and colours, the lines and geometric constructions in his artworks now increased.


Kandinsky came into contact with Rudolph Steiner's theo- and anthroposophical teachings in 1907 and was also concerned with music theory throughout his life. He was particularly enthusiastic about the twelve-tone theory of the composer Arnold Schönberg, which inspired him to create some abstract paintings. He was convinced that all the arts are interrelated and in constant exchange. He held these thoughts in the theoretical writings On the Spiritual in Art. Particularly in Painting and Point and Line to Surface. Contribution to the Analysis of the Elements of Painting. The latter publication forms, as it were, a kind of grammar of abstraction.
After the Nazis closed the Bauhaus in 1933, Kandinsky emigrated with his wife to a suburb of Paris. He died there in 1944.

o. T., 1941, India ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, 47,5 × 31 cm


Studied law, national economics and statistics in Moscow
Marriage with Anja Fedorowna Shemyakina
Move to Munich
Studied art in Munich
Painting class with Franz von Stuck
Member of the Phalanx Exhibition Association
Beginning of relationship with Gabriele Münter; exhibitions at the Salon d'Automne in Paris and at the Berlin Secession.
First stay in Murnau am Staffelsee with Gabriele Münter
Foundation of the New Munich Artists' Association
Acquaintance with Franz Marc; founding of the artists' association Der blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)
Participation in the Armory Show in New York
Separation from Gabriele Münter and return to Moscow
Marriage to Nina Nikolaevna Andreyevskaya
Director of the State Museum of Painting Culture in Moscow
Move to Berlin
Teacher at the State Bauhaus in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin
Founding of the exhibition group The Blue Four (Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger and Jawlensky)
Receives German citizenship
Persecution-related move to Neuilly-sur-Seine
Retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern

Artist groups


Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus was an art school with an international outlook established after World War I under the direction of Walter Gropius. With its innovative approach and unique philosophy, the Bauhaus not only revolutionised the way art was created and perceived, but also had an enormous impact on architecture, design and the overall aesthetics of the 20th century. The Bauhaus is founded by the German architect Walter Gropius, who wants to create a school that combines art, craft and technology. The aim is to train a new generation of artists capable of meeting the needs of modern society. Bauhaus emphasises collaboration between different disciplines and promotes the idea of the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk, inspired by medieval construction huts), where architecture, design and art merge seamlessly. Another important feature of Bauhaus is its emphasis on functionality and minimalist design. This results in a clear, geometric language of form that is still considered typical for the Bauhaus today. The teachers at the Bauhaus are themselves renowned artists and designers, including Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lyonel Feininger. They not only teach theoretical concepts, but also place great emphasis on practical experience. In the institution's workshops, interdisciplinary housing and living concepts are developed, culminating in exhibitions such as that of the model house at the Horn in Weimar. For political reasons, the Bauhaus moves from Weimar to Dessau in 1924 and is finally closed when the National Socialists seize power in 1933.

The Blue Rider

The artists' group "Der Blaue Reiter" (The Blue Rider) is one of the most important art movements of German Expressionism. "Der Blaue Reiter" was founded by the artists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who wished to make a new mark on exhibitions and publications in the field of fine art. Exhibitions of the "Blaue Reiter" not only show works by members of the association, but also exhibit progressive works by international avant-gardists. Even more important than the exhibitions is an almanac that Kandinsky and Marc published in 1912. The almanac bundles essays and manifests from different genres - art, literature, theatre and music - and reflects Kandinsky's utopia of one convergence across all forms of art. In keeping with these views, the artistic programme is characterised by great diversity. Adherents of the group are convinced that every form of art has to come from within an artist. Thus, art is no longer a representation of society, but becomes a way of expressing emotions and inner experiences. With the outbreak of the First World War, the group splintered.

The Blue Four

The artists' group "Die Blaue Vier" (The Blue Four) was an influential association of four outstanding Expressionist artists: Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee and Alexej von Jawlensky. The group was founded in Weimar in 1924. Already before the war, all artists had participated in exhibition activities of the artists' association "Der Blaue Reiter", which is commemorated through its name. The idea for the formation came from Galka Scheyer, a New York-based art dealer of Russian origin. She organised several exhibitions in the USA hoping to establish the artists on the art market and to ensure that they were known in the USA. Through Scheyer's establishment of her own exhibition house in the Hollywood Hills, the "Blue Four" had a direct influence on the Californian art scene. Their works are exhibited in renowned galleries and museums around the world and are now part of important private and institutional art collections.

Classical Modernism

Classical Modernism comprises various art and style movements of the first half of the 20th century. Especially across countries, there is a great heterogeneity of the arts, whereby not all artists and works can be clearly categorised. Classical Modernism includes not only the visual arts but also design, architecture and photography. The tremendous wealth of currents and tendencies in Classical Modernism shows similarities and differences and proves how strong the exchange among artists is beyond national borders and stylistic movements. Alongside the artists of Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, New Objectivity and various other avant-garde movements, painters such as Marc Chagall, Marino Marini, Lovis Corinth, Marcel Duchamp, Egon Schiele, Hannah Höch, Maria Lassnig, Max Ernst, Robert Delaunay and Paul Klee belong to Classical Modernism.

New Secession

November Group

The "Novembergruppe" was founded in Berlin in 1918, shortly after the November Revolution. Until its dissolution in 1933 when the National Socialists seized power, over 170 artists were members of this trend-setting movement. Initiated by Max Pechstein and César Klein, the association brought together artists working in the Expressionist, Futurist and Cubist movements such as Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Alexej von Jawlensky, Willi Baumeister, Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Mueller and Christian Rohlfs. This syncretism also asserts itself in the unification of art, music, architecture, theatre and philosophy that the group advocates. Members asked for a say in matters of art policy, such as the acquisition of art for public collections, art policy and the provision of exhibition space.