Vassily Kandinsky: Artist Portrait

Wassily Kandinsky

Born 1866. Died 1944.

Works by Wassily Kandinsky at Sotheby's

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Wassily Kandinsky Biography

Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky is often credited with painting one of the first purely abstract modern works. Kandinsky’s colourful, dynamic works are informed by a uniquely spiritual interpretation of art making. His book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1910) is regarded as one the most influential art theories of the 20th century.

Born in Moscow in 1866, he was raised in Odessa and studied at Grekov Odessa Art School before attending law school. After a successful law career, Kandinsky moved to Munich in 1896, at the age of 30, where he studied returned to painting.

More so than many artists of the time, Kandinsky was influenced by music and spiritual philosophy. Kandinsky read and espoused theosophy, a theory that posits creation as a geometrical progression starting with a single point and continuing through a series of circles, triangles and squares. Perhaps the most important painting of the early 1900s, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), 1903, shows a mysterious cloaked figure on horseback riding through a hilly terrain as strange deep blue shadows are cast on the ground. During these years Kandinsky began to emerge as an important art theorist.

As his interest in theosophy grew, with its emphasis on the spiritual nature of geometric forms, his works became more abstract and in 1910 he published his seminal Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which advocated for abstract art as a means of achieving the spiritual. The book had far reaching international impact.

Though Kandinsky went back to Moscow in 1914, he returned to Germany in 1920, where he taught at the Bauhaus from 1922 to the Nazi closure of the school in 1933 whereupon he moved to France, which would remain his home until his death.

Kandinsky’s paintings and drawings are included in museum collections around the world, notably the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, as well as the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses, the average compound annual return for Kandinsky resold at auction between 2003 and 2017 was 5.9%,and 90.1% of 101 such works increased in value

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Artist Image: © The Estate of Vassily Kandinsky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018
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