As he has been for many of us, he’s been a big inspiration for me. I know how much we read, study and tend to know there’s still a lot left to know, but I learned A LOT from and about him studying for my thesis. He was not only a painter but a philosopher.
I do not want to fill my post with things you probably know about him, but the things excited me and you might not know.
Kandinsky had strong spiritual tendencies which resulted in his efforts for abstraction in Art. He was so curious and eager about Buddhism and Theosophical theories, two systems of belief which were popular among artists and scholars then alongside others like ancient Iranian and Indian beliefs and known Hermeticism. He read and studied many of them. As you might know Theosophy Society was a bridge to introduce spiritual system of belief of East to West. Many artists then including Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian were involved with such ideas like improvisation in Art under special spiritual states and clairvoyance as what is common in Zen Art. According to Maurice Tuchman’s essay, one of the most important books that inspired Kandinsky a lot was Thought-Forms by Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater illustrated by John Varley. This book was one of Theosophical Society books which emphasized on how our thoughts and feelings affect our aura¹ and inverse, like an interaction. Varley’s illustrations were total abstract images showing forms of colors as representatives of aura in different moods. It was after studying these beliefs that Kandinsky Wrote his book On the Spiritual in Art (1911).
Among all different parts of the spirituality and occultism² Kandinsky was more involved with synesthesia, the overlapping of different senses, like hearing colours and visual music. We can see it was not so common to visualize sounds with colors, although the harmony and some sort of interaction between sound and image, music and painting was not mentioned by Kandinsky for the first time, but he was the first to develop the idea. Considering all this I think to myself, now a days it might seem ordinary to us, although still so creative and exciting, to visualize music by colored lights, like early Pink Floyd live concerts in 70’s. Now it seems something normal to consider blue light with a bass sound or any other forms of light in different colors with different sounds of music, like it’s become our fundamental brain function. But it was not like this among modern Artists in early 20th century.
Apart all Kandinsky did for Art, and he meant it as he cared about it so much to reach to the “pure Art”, he was not the one who invented Abstract painting. And beside all his efforts to confirm his name as the first abstract painter, he was not. The first abstract painting was created by Swedish Hilma Af Klint in 1905, while Kandinsky’s first abstract painting belongs to 1911. And abstraction in art³ was not invented by any artist, though some of them like Kandinsky and Frantisek Kupka were the pioneers, it was an overall result of 19th century Europe art and culture.
To be the first abstract painter or not, to be the first having great ideas of modern Art or not, he cared about pure soul and pure Art, he cared about the “Truth” beyond human’s life… and he devoted a lot for it all…
For Wassily Kandinsky, the wise man in Modern Art
¹ The energy that encloses our body and turned to different colors in different states of the soul, it’s one of the main beliefs in Buddhism and ancient Iranian spiritual beliefs.
² Dualism, Synesthesia, Sacred Geometry, Vibration (idea of aura, and Leadbeater and Besant’s book was focused on this) and Cosmic Imagery
³ By abstraction in Art, I mean American and European art, as abstraction was not something new in Oriental and eastern painting.