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Wassily Kandinsky

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To gain a historical perspective of abstract art it is necessary to first look at the painters that have had a profound effect on the medium.  Artist Wassily Kandinsky is one that has to be included in any discussion on the history of Abstract art.  He is considered to be one of the originators of modern abstract painting.  It can be argued that in order to truly understand and study the principals behind abstract painting, you must include the theories and paintings of Wassily Kandinsky.
 
Born in Russia in 1866, Kandinsky is often credited with painting what could be considered the first pure abstract painting.  However, there was much thought and artistic theory applied long before the first abstract was ever created.
 
Throughout this period of development, he focused on his personal experiences in art and developed an intense art theory which was based in the devotion of the inner beauty, the inner necessity, or the deep spiritual desire and the fervor of the spirit. The inner necessity became the central aspect of his abstract works.
 
Growing up and living in Moscow, he traversed multiple sources. He was fascinated with color, something that as a child seemed unusual. This fascination evolved into a fascination with color and symbolism. He would later in life relate the use of color to the way music is created. He said ‘Color is the keyboard, the eyes are they harmonies, and the soul is the piano with many strings.” He went on to say that the artist’s hands can cause a vibration in the soul.
 
The invocation of music also had an important effect on the birth of abstract art.  Music is abstract in nature. It expresses the inner feelings of the human soul as opposed to an exterior worldview. For this reason, he often used music as a metaphor as he spoke about his paintings.  For his more spontaneous work, he would equate them to an improvisation. The more complex the work, he would call them compositions.
 
Kandinsky had an early love of art and color, and he did not begin studying art until the age of 30, when he enrolled in a Munich art school.  It was during this time that he started to develop into an art theorist. As he continued though his maturation process, his paintings in the early 1900s were comprised of large swathes of color that maintained a recognizable shape.  
 
In 1911, he published “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” which draws a comparison between spiritual humanity and a triangle, or pyramid.  He put forth that an artist has the mission, through the use of their talent to lead others to the top.  He believed color, although it had a physical effect on the eye, there was a much deeper reaction to that color or the inner resonance, when color actually reaches the soul.
 
The artist also has an inner necessity which he defined as the unlimited freedom the artist has by right. However, he went on to say this becomes abusive, and even criminal if is not founded in necessity.  The abstract art must be born out of the artists need and maintain its mystic or enigmatic ways, making the painting have a spiritual breath to it.
 
The art theory of Kandinsky and its impact on abstract art can be still recognized to day. Many modern abstract painters use his writings and theories as a cornerstone for their work, making him one of the most important art theorists and abstract painters to impact the medium.
 


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