The spiritual life, to which art belongs and of which she is one of the mightiest elements, is a complicated but definite and easily definable movement forwards and upwards. This movement is the movement of experience. It may take different forms, but it holds at bottom to the same inner thought and purpose.
~Wassily Kandinsky, from Concerning the Spiritual in Art
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky lived from 1866 -- 1944. He was of Russian heritage, born in Moscow, and additionally had Asian ancestry on his maternal side. Not only is he a renowned abstract painter, art historians and other related professionals often credit him as the original abstract painting, at least in the west. He was born into a family with moderate to substantial wealth for the era. He was notably a friend and peer of Solomon Guggenheim, who has a museum with his namesake in New York City. There is in fact an entire wing of the Guggenheim Museum dedicated to the work of Kandinsky. Like every great artist, the experiences and interests of his childhood great influenced his choice to become an artist as well as the various stages in his career as an artist. He saw great changes in the world over the course of his lifetime, including the industrialization of the west and two world wars. These events in the greater world, too, influenced his interests, choices, and works. The paper serves as an informative insight into his life, perspective, and works.
The young Kandinsky was interested in a variety of topics. His interests were in science, music, and art. He found solace in the kind of intelligence and skill required for effective manifestations of the creative process. Early on in his life, he considered taking on a career, formally in the arts, yet his interests conflicted with the desires of his family and their intentions for the outcome of his life.
…Wassily's parents saw him in the future as a lawyer. In the year of 1886 he went to Moscow and entered Law Faculty of Moscow University. Graduating with honors, six years later Wassily married his cousin, Anna Chimyakina. In 1893 he became Docent (Associate Professor) of Law Faculty and continued teaching. In 1896 the famous in Derpt University in Tartu…a thirty-year-old Kandinsky was appointed Professor to the Department of Law, but at this particular time he decided to give up a successful career to devote himself completely to painting…two events, which had affected this decision: his visiting an exhibition of the French impressionists in Moscow in 1895 and an emotional shock he experienced from K. Monet's, "Haystacks," and an impression of Rihard Wagner's "Lohengrin" at the Bolshoi Theatre. (WK.net, 2012)
Kandinsky clearly was brilliant. Not only did he make a career in a field in which he had no passion for and moderate interest in, he excelled in that field tremendously. Despite the decisions his family made for him, which they considered to be in his best interests, the presence and influence of art in his mind and heart were permanent.
…he completed his secondary schooling and became an amateur performer on the piano and the cello. He also became an amateur painter, and he later recalled, as a sort of first impulse toward abstraction, an adolescent conviction that each colour had a mysterious life of its own. (Brittanica, 2012)
Psychologists, educators, social scientists, and experts in other various fields contemporarily theorize how the study of music his directly related to success in mathematics, linguistics, analysis, creativity, and visualization, among other forms of intelligence and high order cognitive functions. Kandinsky, then, was in a prime position, for many reasons including the wealth of his family, and many of his early interests, set a prime stage for him to develop not only as an artist and painter, but also to develop as an abstract one. It could also be said that art influenced and imprinted his spirit. Much later in his life, Kandinsky would author a philosophy of art, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Therefore, not only was Kandinky a brilliant man, capable of complex analysis, as well as highly creative and abstract thinker, he was also quite spiritual.
For Kandinsky, painting was above all deeply spiritual ("geistig"). He was highly influenced by the sensorial properties of color and sound, and sought to visualize these properties through increasingly abstract compositions. As a painter, Kandinsky saw himself as a prophetic figure, whose mission was to translate the most profound human emotions into universally comprehensible symbols and visual sensations. He saw music as the most transcendent form of non-objective art, and strove to produce similarly object-free, spiritually rich paintings. During his tenure at the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Kandinsky refined his earlier, romantic philosophies of intuitive painting toward a more reasoned construction of composition through geometrical elements. (The Art Story, 2012)
Kandinsky was more than a famous or talented artist; he was a prolific human being who mastered various forms of expression to communicate his messages, which were ultimately those of fulfilled spirituality and collaboration of the arts & sciences. Even after he became a successful artist, he did not rest on his laurels or cease in his artistic development or creative expansion. Again, his interests and philosophical trajectory led him toward the spiritual. He and his family were never notably religious in anyway, though clearly there is evidence of a spiritual foundation that was either inherent within Kandinsky, or instilled him as part of his upbringing, or a combination of both. As an economist and professor, his heart and spirit were still quite open to art, and he had an experience that is common among a number of artists: he was moved and inspired by the art of other masters to the point where he was motivated to change the course of his life for its remainder. This change was a product of his interests and abilities, which continued to reflect itself and show evidence in his various professional endeavors. He truly was a man found a way to unite and augment his collective interests in a variety of ways successfully. This must be yet another way that Kandinsky stands a part from other artists and other influential figures.
Kandinsky stood a part from other artists and author influential historical figures in various ways. He was a philosopher, painter, professor, economist, and writer, among other things. His talents were supplemented and really able to take form because of his perspective and personal philosophies. This thinking extended into all areas in which he had expertise, including art and teaching the art of painting to others.
There was nothing dogmatic in his teaching. Kandinsky was fully aware of the wide range of possibilities, wider than ever before, that are open to the modern artist. He singled out the most promising lines of future development and sought to convince others by example alone. An incomparable technician, he put all his skill to the service of intuition and intelligence. He never felt himself bound by a rigid discipline, but aimed at extending the field of art to include all orders of knowledge. He cherished the idea of creating a universally valid synthesis of painting and music, of science and philosophy. (WK.org, 2012)
He did not believe in holding fast to a specific technique or philosophy regarding painting. Perhaps this kind of perspective best lends itself to abstract art and abstract painting specifically. Perhaps his difference and revolutionary perspective regarding art practice facilitated his emergence as an abstract painting and his growth into one of the most influential western (and eastern, with his Asian heritage, as well as that Russia is technically in Asia) painters from the pre-modern and modern world. Had Kandinsky lived just a few short years longer, he would have experienced and likely influenced the post…