Wassily Kandinsky: 1866-1944

Wassily Kandinsky-WWI

Born on December 4, 1866 in Moscow Russia, Wassily Kandinsky was a painter, printmaker, stage designer, art theorist, and a central artist in the development of 20th century abstract art.

Kandinsky studied economics, ethnography and law in Moscow from 1886 – 1893 and wrote a dissertation on the legality of labourer’s wages. In 1896, Kandinsky decided to become an artist and traveled to Munich, Germany  where he studied at the art school of Anton Ažbe. In 1900 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich under Franz von Stuck.

In Munich, the early 1900′s was a centre for Jugendstil (Art Nouveau), and Kandinsky’s art grew out of this movement as well as Russian art. His early works included figure studies, scenes with knights and riders, romantic fairytale subjects and other  Russian scenes. He worked with tempera and gouache on black backgrounds and later used printmaking techniques including etching and drypoint. Also at this time, Kandinsky began creating small oil sketches using a palette knife on canvas board.

Between 1903 and 1909 he and his companion Gabriele Münter traveled to the Netherlands, Tunisia, Italy, France and throughout Germany.  While in France, Kandinsky stayed in Sèvres, outside Paris, where paintings by Gauguin, les Nabis, Matisse and other Fauvists were exhibiting. He was influenced by these artists and his colours became more vibrant.

Between 1904 and 1908 Kandinsky participated in art exhibitions in Moscow and St Petersburg, the Berlin Secession, and the Salon d’Automne in Paris. He was a co-founder of the Neue künstlervereinigung münchen (Munich New Artist’s Association) in 1909, and exhibited with them at the Moderne Galerie Thannhauser in Munich. Kandinsky had developed a distinctive style of painting and his shift from representational painting towards abstraction, focusing on the synthesis of colour line and form began.

Kandinsky was forced to leave Munich after the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and he and Münter stayed for several months in Switzerland. At the end of 1914 he went back to Russia and in December 1915 he traveled to Stockholm, to meet Münter.  He returned to Russia in 1916 where he met Nina von Andreyevskaya, whom he married in February 1917.

Between 1915 and 1919, Kandinsky produced numerous drawings and watercolours, as well as prints and paintings on glass. At times he returned to a more representational style painting realistic landscapes, views of Moscow, figure paintings, and fairytale scenes. However, his work also included completely abstract ink drawings, and geometric shapes became more prevalent.

Between 1918 and 1921, Kandinsky’s activities as a teacher, writer, administrator and organizer occupied much of his time. He played an active role in Narkompros, where he was director of the theatre and film sections and was an editor of a journal for the publication “IZO”.  He was also head of a studio at Moscow Svomas art school. Kandinsky still found time to produce large, canvases and many watercolours and drawings.

Kandinsky returned to Germany in 1921 and accepted an offer of professorship at the Bauhaus in Weimar. He became master of the wall painting workshop and taught a course on the theory of form. The faculty, which included Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer, developed theoretical courses, led workshops and instruction in crafts and sought to reunite all artistic disciplines.

At the Bauhaus, Kandinsky created about three hundred oils and several hundred watercolours. From the beginning, he had systematically recorded his paintings and, after 1922, he catalogued the watercolours as well. He also produced many drawings which often related to his teaching theories.

During the Bauhaus period, Kandinsky used circles, squares, triangles, zigzags, checker-boards and arrows as components of his abstract works. The shapes became just as meaningful as the abstract images of towers, horses, boats and rowers had been in his art in earlier years.

In 1933, the Kandinsky and his wife moved to Paris after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus school.  During this time,  his art included biomorphic forms, the incorporation of sand with pigment, and a new delicacy and brightness in his colour harmonies. He preferred pastels to the primary colours he had used in the 1920s, and he favoured images derived from biology, zoology and embryology.

Between 1934 and 1944 Kandinsky created 144 oil paintings, about 250 watercolours, and several hundred drawings. His work during this time revealed his personal response to prevailing artistic fashions – the free, organic shapes of Surrealism and the geometric abstraction of Art concret and Abstraction–Création on the other.

Kandinsky became a French citizen shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. He continued working during the period of German occupation and died on December 13, 1944 at Neuilly-sur-Seine.

For a more in-depth biography, visit the source links below. The  MoMA site has an extensive biography including information about his writings.

Sources: Pintura (images), MoMA, Wikipedia,

Related books from Amazon: Wassily Kandinsky

paintings: art paintings, portrait paintings and oil painting

Otto Dix: 1891-1969

Born on December 2, 1891, in Untermhaus, Germany, Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix was a painter, printmaker and watercolourist. He is widely considered one of the most influential artists of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s.

From 1905-1914, Dixx trained as a decorative wall painter in Gera and Dresden. Starting in 1909, he taught himself easel painting focusing on portraits and landscapes. Dixx’s first paintings were in a veristic style, but after encountering works by Van Gogh and Futurism, he incorporated these into an Expressionistic style.

From 1914-1918, Dixx served in the German army where he made countless sketches of war scenes in both realistic and  Cubo-Futurist manners. The experience of war, became a dominant motif of his work until the 1930s later saying that “War is something so animal-like: hunger, lice, slime, these crazy sounds … War was something horrible, but nonetheless something powerful … Under no circumstances could I miss it! It is necessary to see people in this unchained condition in order to know something about man.”

Following the War,  Dix studied at the Dresden Akademie der Bildenden Künste and in 1919, was a founding member of the Dresdner Seccession, a group of radical Expressionist and Dada artists and writers. Dix depicted  gruesome scenes of war and revolution, and depictions of legless, drastically disfigured war cripples. In 1920, he exhibited at the 1st International Dada Fair in Berlin. “Dix employed a mixed-media technique that fused painting and collage using found objects. In his printmaking he echoed the motifs of his paintings, resulting in five portfolios of engravings and one of woodcuts by 1922.”

In 1920 Dix returned to working in a veristic style. He drew nudes at the Akademie and painted portraits of friends and working-class models. His works also included socially critical motifs, scenes of brothels,  and a large triptych entitled The Trench.

Dix received critical and commercial success after his shift to a revised form of realism. He had his first solo exhibition in 1923 at the Galerie I. B. Neumann in Berlin. In 1925 Dix was one of the leading painters of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), an art movement that arose in Germany as an outgrowth of, and in opposition to expressionism.

While Dix was gaining recognition, his work was also coming under attack. “The Trench”, which was purchased by for the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne was perceived “anti-military” and the museum returned the painting. As well, Dix was accused of pornography after exhibiting his “Girl Before Mirror, of an aging prostitute.  He was acquitted butright-winged political organizations continued to link him with left-wing plots to undermine German morality.

Dix moved to Düsseldorf in 1922 and married Martha Koch.  Themes in his work were less political and he created a series of watercolours that depicted violent and/or morbid erotic subject matter. Dix also became favoured as a portrait painter of Germany’s theatrical and literary groups and their patrons.

Dix moved to Berlin in 1925 to be a part of the city’s art scene and to organize a series of exhibitions in Berlin, Munich and Dresden. He gained a professorship at the Dresden Akademie in 1926. In 1931, he was named as a member of the Preussische Akademie der Künste.

“While continuing to paint portraits and nudes, Dix injected an increasingly pessimistic and allegorical content into his work during the early 1930s. Nudes emerged as witches or personifications of melancholy”

After the Nazi election in 1933, Dix  was stripped of his teaching position  and all honours on the grounds that his paintings included morally offensive works that were “likely to adversely affect the military will of the German people”. He was forbidden to exhibit, and his work was confiscated from German museums to feature in various exhibitions of entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art).

Seeking seclusion, Dix moved first in 1934 to Randegger Castle near Singen and then in 1936 to Hemmenhofen, a small town on Lake Constance.  “Participating in the ‘inner emigration’ of numerous German artists and intellectuals, supported by a small number of patrons, Dix employed a polemically significant Old Master technique, such as was also often advocated for Nazi art, emulating German Renaissance painters. He also changed his art’s most frequent content to the relatively neutral one of landscape, but landscape markedly bereft of human presence and in rejection of contemporary events.”

Dix was drafted into the German territorial army in 1945.  He was captured by French troops, served as prisoner of war at Colmar after which he returned to Hemmenhofen. His work focused on  portraits and self-portraits, Christian motifs,  landscapes, and  printmaking. “In politically divided Germany, he was unusual in his ability to negotiate between the West and East German regimes, making annual visits to Dresden, appointed to the academies of both West and East Berlin, and the recipient of major awards in both the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic.”

In his later years, Dix continued to work . In the 1950′s and 60′s he traveled a great deal, constantly exhibiting his work. In 1967, after traveling to Greece, he suffered a stroke which paralyzed his left hand.  Otto Dix died in Singen, Germany, on July 25, 1969.

Sources: MoMA, OttoDix.org

Otto Dix: Related Books From Amazon

paintings: art paintings, portrait paintings and oil painting