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Wassily Kandinsky

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Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow. He studied law and economics and developed and interest in the Fine Arts as a hobby. After graduation from law school in 1895, he decided not to pusue his law degree and instead studied painting in Munich. Kandinsky's interest in all art forms was nurtured by the artistic environment in Munich where he recalled "everyone painted-or wrote poems, or made music, or took up dancing-in every house one found at least two ateliers under the roof..." He began his studies in the art school of Anton Azbe but transferred to the Munich Akademie in 1900 to study under Franz von Stuck, the president of the Munich Secession. In 1901, he founded Phalanx which became a forum for the arts and crafts movement. Ist eleventh show was devoted entirely to graphic work.

Kandinsky considered his graphic oeuvre, especially his woodcuts, an important part of his artistic activities. He was initially influenced by the woodcut illustrations of William Nicholson and Felix Valloton as well as the tradition of Eastern European popular illustration and Munich's own considerable graphic tradition. Between 1902-04, Kandinsky completed nearly 50 woodcuts. Compositions executed in one medium, such as his color drawings, were often translated into woodcuts. In 1904, he published "Gedichte ohne Worte" (Poems without Words) a portfolio of woodcuts which demonstrated his unique mixture of Jugendstil and Symbolist influences. The simplification of line inherent in the woodcut medium forced the artist to analyze the essential elements of the design. They played a vital role in the development of his style which blended ornament and abstraction.

Betweem 1903-09, Kandinsky exhibited in Paris, Moscow, Berlin, Dresden, Warsaw and Vienna. During this period he moved further and further towards abstraction using color as the main vehicle for commuicating his theory of art which he explained in his famous treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art) published in 1912.

In 1909, he founded the Neue Künstlervereinigung and met Franz Marc with whom he founded Der Blaue Reiter in 1911. In 1913, he published a portflio of woodcuts entitled Klänge (Harmonies). From 1913-16, he began to explore the drypoint medium while living in Switzerland and Sweden.

He lived in Russia from 1916-21 where he played a pivotal role in post-Revolutionary cultural reorganization as a teacher, administator and museum curator. The impact of Constructivism on his own style was apparent upon his return to Germany in 1922 when he joined the Bauhaus with Paul Klee. He developed the basic design course and taught the mural painting workshop. He retained his interest in the psychology of color which was now expressed in pure geometric forms of a wholly abstract nature. The Bauhaus published his famous portfolio Kleine Welten (Small World) which included four drypoints, two woodcuts, two color woodcuts and four color lithographs. In 1925, Otto Ralfs, a wealthy Braunschweig merchant, founded the Kandinsky Society as a companion to the one he had established a year early for Paul Klee. Both artists created a small edition of prints for their members until the early 1930s. When the Bauhaus closed in 1933, he moved to Paris eventually becoming a French citizen in 1939. While in Paris, his print output dwindled to a mere six images. (Paraphrased from The Print in Germany: 1880-1933 by Frances Carey and Antony Griffiths).