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Centre Pompidou

" … And so, it has happened. Isn't it awful? I feel like I've been snatched from a dream. I retreated inwards in a time when it seemed impossible for these things to happen."

"My illusion has been taken away from me. Mountains of dead bodies, atrocious suffering of all kinds, the decline of civilization for an unknown amount of time ... ." 

Letter to Herwarth Walden, August 2, 1914.

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

After the declaration of war in 1914, as a Russian, Kandinsky had to leave Germany.

Wassily Kandinsky leaning on his desk at 36 Ainmillerstrasse in Munich (1913) by Münter, GabrieleCentre Pompidou

He awaited the end of the conflict, which he thought would be brief, in Switzerland, and that is also where he wrote the first notes of what would become his second theoretical essay Point and Line to Plane, published in 1926.

Drawing for Point and Line on Plan (1925) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

He returned to Moscow in 1915. It was a difficult year of transition, during which he devoted himself to watercolor and pictures in Chinese ink.

Notebook 30 Untitled (1915) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

This forced return represented a new rupture in his personal life and in his artistic journey. He traveled to Stockholm for a double exhibit, and to meet up with Gabriele Münter, in a neutral country. 

Zoubovsky Square (1915) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

 It was during this journey, which marked the final separation from his companion from Munich, that he produced Picture on a Light Background. 

The war induces a profound crisis in Kandinsky, and this abstract picture featuring forms with deliberately undefined contours was his first oil painting since August 1914.

Bild auf hellem Grund (Paiting with Clear Background) (1916) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

He returned to Moscow in March 1916 and married a very young woman, Nina Andreevskaya, the following year. They had a son who did not survive the hardships of the time. 

Wassily Kandinsky and his son Vsevolod (c. 1919) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

During the October Revolution, Kandinsky's property in Moscow was confiscated and he withdrew to the countryside at Akhtyrka, to live in a "dacha" or wealthy family's summer residence. 

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

At the end of the October Revolution, artists very quickly began to actively participate in the emergence of a new society, like Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stépanova, and others.

Untitled (c. 1920) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The time had come to reform art schools and studios and to create museums across the land, in order to popularize the new art. Kandinsky was occupied with several official functions, in particular the reorganization of museums and educational activities. 

He was appointed as the first Director of the Museum of Pictorial Culture in Moscow and recommended that the chronological order should be replaced by formal categories. 

Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky aged 50 Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky aged 50 (1916) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Among the pictures painted in 1919, In Gray was first conceived with studies in which figurative motifs appeared—mountains, onion-dome churches on rocky peaks, a sun, boats with oarsmen, and other figures—motifs that morph into hieroglyphs in cold tones, suspended or rotating.


These secret and indecipherable hieroglyphic symbols are a distinctive feature of the so-called "dramatic" period which started in Munich before the war, and the picture In Gray was the final act of this period.

Im Grau (In the Grey) (1919) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky's period back in Moscow prolonged the years spent transitioning to abstraction, and from 1920, the artist experienced a decisive turning point towards geometrization of pictorial forms.

This can be attributed to his direct confrontation with the two movements that dominated artistic life in Soviet Russia—Malevich's suprematism and constructivism.

Study for Grüner Rand (1920) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

On White or Red Spot demonstrate this radical change. The eight pictures of 1921 display pure geometric forms—circles, curved triangles, and clean lines—but the ideal of pure abstract art differs from the art and the objective analysis of the constructivists.

Etude pour Schwarzer Fleck (Study for Black Spot) (1921) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky found himself open to violent attacks by the constructivists. However, this enabled him to reinvent himself. His program for the Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhouk) created in May 1920, whose approach was a synthesis of the arts and their effects on the human psyche, met with strong resistance. 

Study for Grüner Rand (1920) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky's aim with this program, which was published as a booklet, was to establish a science that studied all aspects of the different arts as well as how they interact with one another. "In science, one does not try things at random," and intuition is, according to him, a determining factor in understanding these connections. After the rejection of his program, he leaves the institute.

Untitled (c. 1920) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

In 1921, he headed the "physico-psychological" department of the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences. A member of the Communist Party was appointed as the president of this multidisciplinary vocational organization that he had set up. 

Untitled (c. 1920) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The artistic context deteriorated and Kandinsky ended up being very isolated. He left Russia for good at the end of 1921, thanks to an official assignment in Germany which gave him the opportunity to escape his country. 

Photograph of Wassily Kandinsky's passport Photograph of Wassily Kandinsky's passport (1921) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

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