Living Life, The Artist Way

Nicolas Seddeler, Dimitri Kardovski and Wassily Kandinsky at the Anton Azbé painting school in Munich (c. 1897) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Painting studies

In Munich, Kandinsky took lessons at the prestigious private school of Slovenian painter Anton Ažbe. 

Dimitri Kardovski between a man in a smock and Kandinsky at Anton Azbé's painting school in Munich (c. 1897) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

He began to show works in exhibitions such as that of the Society of Moscow Artists in 1900.

That same year, he accepted a place to study under Franz von Stuck at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, where he rubbed shoulders with Alexander von Salzmann and Ernst Stern.

Houses by the riverside in Munich (c. 1900) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

After a year, Kandinsky quit his academic studies to paint outdoors in Munich and the surrounding area.

Poster for the first "Phalanx" exhibition. (1901) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

In May 1901, he joined a number of other artists in Schwabing, the bohemian quarter, to found the Phalanx artists' association, which organized 12 exhibitions up until 1904.

Wassily Kandinsky and his students at the Phalanx School in Munich (1902) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

As well as showing their own works, the association (of which Kandinsky became president in the fall) also showed works by young artists exhibited in Munich, such as Claude Monet and Alfred Kubin. 


In 1902, Phalanx opened a painting school. There, Kandinsky taught painting and drawing. 

Relationship with Gabriele Münter

The school was open to women, and Gabriele Münter became his student. 

Wassily Kandinsky and his students at the Phalanx School before the "work on the motif" in Kochel Wassily Kandinsky and his students at the Phalanx School before the "work on the motif" in Kochel (1902) by Münter, GabrieleCentre Pompidou

The two first met during Kandinsky's first summer class in Kochel, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. 

Landschaft (Oberpfalz) (Landscape (High Palatinat)) (c. 1903) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The following summer, Kandinsky took his class to the Palatinate and made his relationship with Gabriele Münter official, and the two of them visited southern Germany together.

Wassily Kandinsky on a bicycle on a countryside path in Kochel (c. 1902) by Münter, GabrieleCentre Pompidou

He began to show works in Paris and Berlin. The couple's relationship became public in 1904 when they began an itinerant life that took them to places including Holland, Tunisia, Italy, and France, specifically Paris. 

Home of Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter in Murnau (c. 1909) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Upon their return to Munich in June 1908 to settle there once again, they started to look for a nice place to paint.   

Murnau, a source of inspiration

At the end of the summer of 1908, Münter and Kandinsky spent a few weeks in Murnau, a small Bavarian village that they discovered on the shores of lake Staffel. He settled there with Gabriele Münter. 

Murnau, Landschaft mit Turm (Murnau, Landscape with Tower) (1908) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The house purchased by Gabrielle Münter in Murnau in 1909 became a place of life, conversation, and creativity. 

Portrait of Alexei Jawlensky (1925) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Marianne Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky visited regularly.

Herbst in Bayern (Autumn in Bavaria) (1908) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

 Kandinsky and Münter loved the surrounding countryside, the colors of the picturesque houses, and the religious glass paintings made by Bavarian country folk, and they each developed their own style of painting.

Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky (c. 1915) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

NKVM then Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider)

At the beginning of the same year, encouraged by their earlier collaboration at Murnau, the four painters and some other Munich artists founded the Neue Künstlervereinigung München or Munich New Artist's Association (NKVM), which would later see dancer Alexandre Sakharoff, Henri Le Fauconnier, and others join. 

Portrait of Franz Marc Portrait of Franz Marc (c.1905) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky became president of the association and promoted it by organizing ambitious exhibitions that were violently attacked by critics, to such an extent that a young Munich painter felt compelled to take up his pen to fight back. 

The young man in question was Franz Marc, who contacted the group in 1910 and who met Kandinsky on New Year's Eve of that year. This was the start of one of the most fruitful friendships of the avant-garde movement. 

Impression III (Concert) (1911) by Wassily KandinskyStädtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau

On January 1, 1911, Kandinsky and Marc attended a Schönberg concert together. 

Kandinsky wrote to the composer to tell him how he, as an artist, felt so strongly the same. 

Wassily Kandinsky and Arnold Schönberg in a garden in Pörtschach Wassily Kandinsky and Arnold Schönberg in a garden in Pörtschach (1927) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

This was the beginning of a rich exchange of letters and Kandinsky made his work known in Russia. 

Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (1912) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Blue Rider was created on June 19, 1911, the day when Kandinsky revealed his new project to his friend Franz Marc. 

The editorial project, the Blue Rider Almanac, would become a shared project.  

Study for the Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Catalogue (1912) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Before the publication of this manifesto on the synthesis of the arts on May 10, 1912, the editors organized two eponymous group exhibitions in Munich which suggested a collective approach, which was retrospectively disputed by Kandinsky. 

 For him, no association or group of artists called Blue Rider had ever existed. It was the editorial project and its publication that was at the heart of their business. 

Paul Klee in Guéthary Paul Klee in Guéthary (1929) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky then met Paul Klee, officially divorced his wife Ania, and painted what he considered to be his first non-objective piece, Bild mit Kreis

Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky (c. 1915) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

World War One and Leaving for Russia

Kandinsky would regularly stay at Murnau with Münter, even though their relationship broke down in 1914. When war was declared, they took refuge in Switzerland.

Wassily Kandinsky's apartment building in Moscow on the corner of Dolguy Street and Trety Neopalimovsky Street (1978) by Makroff, OlgaCentre Pompidou

As a Russian national, Kandinsky was forced to return to Moscow, where he lived in a building he had constructed in 1913. 

He reunited with Gabriele Münter at the end of 1915 in Sweden, a neutral country, where both were invited to exhibit their art.

Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky (c. 1915) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky returned to Russia on March 16, 1916 after this three month break when he started producing art again, something he had not done since before the war broke out. His return to Russia signified the couple's permanent separation. 

Nina and Wassily Kandinsky in the dining room of their apartment in Moscow (c. 1915) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky's engagement in Russia at the end of WWI

In Moscow, Kandinsky was greatly affected by war and bankruptcy. In February 1917, he married Nina Andreevskaya according to Russian Orthodox rites. 

Portrait of Nina von Andreevsky, aged 24 (1917) by ApolloCentre Pompidou

She was 30 years younger than him, and they had met the year before.

Akhtyrka. Main Entrance of the Datcha (1917) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The October Revolution and the seizing of power by the Bolsheviks caught them by surprise during their honeymoon in Finland. All of Kandinsky's property was seized and so he left for the Okhtyrka countryside.

Wassily Kandinsky and the group from NARKOMPROS Wassily Kandinsky and the group from NARKOMPROS (1921) by GalartCentre Pompidou

In 1918, Vladimir Tatlin, leader of the  Fine Arts Department (ISO) within the NKP (Narkompros), invited him to join up.

Wassily Kandinsky and the group from Narkompros, the commissariat for folk culture Wassily Kandinsky and the group from Narkompros, the commissariat for folk culture (1921) by GalartCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky became a member of the ISO and took on responsibilities in education and administration to reform the country.  

Bauhaus in Dessau teacher's card belonging to Wassily Kandinsky Bauhaus in Dessau teacher's card belonging to Wassily Kandinsky (c. 1926) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Return to Germany, Bauhaus Professor

Kandinsky clashed both artistically and politically with Alexander Rodchenko in defense of the freedom of artistic creation. Not being a member of the Bolshevik party, he found himself increasingly isolated and harsh living conditions pushed him to leave Russia with Nina.  

Nina Kandinsky's ID photo (c. 1921) by KadeweCentre Pompidou

By obtaining a temporary visa for an official mission, the Kandinskys found themselves back in Berlin by the end of December 1921. 

Wassily Kandinsky, J.J.P.Oud and Walter Gropius in Weimar Wassily Kandinsky, J.J.P.Oud and Walter Gropius in Weimar (1923) by BoknerCentre Pompidou

In 1922, on invitation by his director, the architect Walter Gropius, he rejoined the experimental Bauhaus school in Weimar as a teacher until the permanent closure of the school in 1933. 

Wassily Kandinsky on the terrace of the teacher's house he occupied in Dessau (1932) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Rise of Nazism and departure for Paris

From Weimar to Dessau and then Berlin, the Bauhaus school lived through the political turbulence in Germany at the time. 

The Kandinskys' house in Dessau (1932) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

In 1932, while the Nazis were winning local elections, Dessau city council decided to close the school.

Exhibition of work by students of Bauhaus in Dessau (c. 1926) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

It moved to Berlin and lived on as a school of architecture and private institution. 

The Bauhaus garden under snow (c. 1930) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

In 1933, just after Hitler came to power, Bauhaus was inspected by the Berlin police and the SA, who sealed off the building. 

Bauhaus garden and teacher's house in Dessau (c. 1930) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

The end of the school was unanimously voted for by the teachers, and it closed for good. 

Développement en brun (Development in brown) (1933) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Neuilly sur Seine

In the fall of 1933, Kandinsky participated in the Association artistique les surindépendants exhibition, in Paris, as an honored guest of the surrealists. 

Apartment building at 135 boulevard de la Seine in Neuilly-sur-Seine (1938) by Breitenbach, JosephCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky and Nina returned to Berlin to prepare for their move to Paris, where they would move into a sixth floor apartment in a new building in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Wassily Kandinsky in his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine in front of "Dominant Curve" (1938) by Lipnitzki, BernardCentre Pompidou

After setting up his workshop in three rooms in Neuilly, in February 1934, Kandinsky resumed the all-encompassing activity of painting. exhibiting in Paris and Europe, and publishing a number of theoretical texts in defense of abstract art. 

André Breton and Wassily Kandinsky on the balcony of the apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine (c. 1934) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

In Paris, the abstract and the surrealists compete with each other. Kandinsky distanced himself from the founder of the surrealist movement, André Breton. Despite Breton's support, which invited him to exhibit with the Surrealists at the Salon des Surindépendants, Kandinsky chose his side and frequented Miró, the Delaunays and Arp. 

Wassily Kandinsky in his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine in front of "Development in Brown," 1933 (1938) by Lipnitzki, BernardCentre Pompidou

In 1939, before World War Two broke out, Kandinsky signed his final large-format painting Composition X, and gained French citizenship alongside Nina.

Wassily Kandinsky's studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine (c. 1944) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky's death

From the summer of 1942, the situation worsened. 

A Floating Figure (1942) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

 Kandinsky could no longer get hold of primed canvases, since they could not be found in Paris. He began to paint flat on makeshift supports of wood or cardboard. 

Tempered Momentum (1944) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

His palette darkened and his compositions became more meticulous and structured. 

Accord réciproque (Reciprocal Accords) (1942) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

It was only towards the end of his life, in his final watercolor pieces, that he rediscovered the lightness he had lost, with the exception of his final large canvas created at the beginning of 1942, Reciprocal Accords.

Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky in the Bauhaus park in Dessau (c. 1926) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

In spring 1943, the west of Paris was heavily bombed. Kandinsky was also very affected by the death of Paul Klee, followed by the death of Sophie Taueber-Arp. In 1944, he took part in a number of important collective exhibitions.

Wassily Kandinsky's studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine after the painter's death (c. 1950) by Spoerri, VeraCentre Pompidou

He fell ill in the spring but continued to work until the summer, when Paris was liberated. The final exhibition organized during his lifetime was from November 7 to December 15 by the L’Esquisse gallery.

Kandinsky on his deathbed (1944) by Klein, RosaCentre Pompidou

On December 13, Vassily Kandinsky, 78 years old, died of a stroke at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

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