The Final Years in France

Centre Pompidou

Boulevard de la Seine and the Kandinskys' apartment building in Neuilly-sur-Seine Boulevard de la Seine and the Kandinskys' apartment building in Neuilly-sur-Seine (c. 1940) by ChantalCentre Pompidou

Arrival in Neuilly

Kandinsky spent his final years in France, where he moved with his wife in December 1933. He thought that it would only be for a short time. 

It was Marcel Duchamp that told the couple about an apartment on the 6th floor of a building in Neuilly sur Seine.

Wassily Kandinsky in his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine Wassily Kandinsky in his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine (1938) by Lipnitzki, BernardCentre Pompidou

The Apartment

Kandinsky set up his studio in these three rooms, where he lived for 10 years.

View from the window of the Kandinskys' apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine (1938) by Breitenbach, JosephCentre Pompidou

From there, he had a view of the Seine below and Mont Valérien on the horizon.

Wassily Kandinsky on the balcony of the apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine (c. 1935) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

He later wrote to Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York:

“Paris, with its wonderful lighting (strong and soft), broadened my palette. Other colors appeared, other shapes, radically new, or which I hadn't used in years. Of course, all this happened unconsciously. Another way to "handle the brush" also emerged, and, often, at the end of the day, a new technique." 

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

Many Contacts

Kandinsky knew a whole host of people in Paris. Some of his Russian relatives, including his nephew, philosopher Alexandre Kojève, lived in the capital, and the painter was in contact with numerous artists, such as Fernand Léger, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Piet Mondrian and André Breton.

He, however, prioritized his relationships with his closest friends, Jean and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Alberto Magnelli and Joan Miro. 

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

A Difficult Recognition

For a German citizen of Russian origin, who was, furthermore, an abstract painter, it was difficult to break into the Parisian scene. It was dominated by the Cubist and Surrealist movements and, above all, by the great Picasso. 

Kandinsky remained on the fringes and chose to maintain his own creative voice.

Untitled (1940) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

A Creative Revival

Nevertheless, this period was marked by major artistic evolution. Kandinsky would produce approximately 144 paintings and more than 200 watercolors and gouaches between 1934 and 1944. 

Bleu de ciel (Sky Blue) (1940) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The austerity of the last Bauhaus paintings made way for a surprising playfulness of form, inspired by the natural world, in a light palette of pastel and acidic tones that some commentators deemed to be of oriental origin.



 

A Floating Figure (1942) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The Privations of War

Following the summer of 1942, the situation in France worsened. Kandinsky ran out of prepared canvases, which had become impossible to find in Paris. 

He began to paint flat on makeshift supports made of wood or cardboard. His palette darkened and his composition gained precision and structuring.

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

Last Large Canvas

The last large canvas that Kandinsky finished at the beginning of the year 1942, Reciprocal Accords, was a notable exception from an array of biomorphic and colorful works.

With its cool tones, accentuated by the enamelled effect of Ripolin, it seemed to be the swan song of his Parisian years. 

Kandinsky depicted the way in which the Parisian years influenced his geometric abstraction by giving him a natural, organic inflection.

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

After Kandinsky's death, Nina chose this binary composition to be placed behind the artist's body in his open casket in his studio in accordance with Russian tradition.

Wassily Kandinsky's studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the time of his death Wassily Kandinsky's studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the time of his death (c. 1944) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

End of Life

On August 24, 1944, Paris was liberated. 

Four months later, on December 13, Kandinsky died of a stroke in his home at the age of 78. 

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