“Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings." - Wassily Kandinsky

16 December 1866, the Russian painter and art theorist Vassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow.
“Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hands which plays touching one key or another purposively to cause vibrations in the Soul” (Vassily Kandinsky)

Vassily Kandinsky’s “Composition VII” (1913), composed on the brink of the Great War,
in his own words the most complex piece he had ever painted.

The notion to depict geometric and linear forms for decorative or even symbolic purposes is literally ancient and can be found among the earliest examples of human art on rock and ceramics. Turner, Moreau and Whistler, to name but a few, seized upon the idea to express themselves in a visual language of colour and form that can exist aesthetically on its own – independent from immediate visual references to a rendition of optical perceptions of the world. It might have been the steady rise of the technical possibilities of photography taking the lead in immediate, ocular realism or the sheer incomprehensibility of the world at the turn of the twentieth century that drove artists to express themselves in turning a psychological state of being from the inside on the canvas, intense, distorted, exaggerated and finally losing immediate closeness to the world’s visually accessible models and climaxing in pure abstraction. In 1906 the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint is supposed to have created the first abstract painting and about the same time, the Russian painter Vassily Vassilyevich Kandinsky had his own ideas of how to approach reality with new artistic concepts.

Hilma af Klint: "Chaos, Nr. 2" (1906) -
one of the first known abstract paintings of the Classic Modern period

Geometry’s points and lines to the plane, music’s closeness in abstractly expressing perception as well as a good measure of spirituality make up much of the core of Kandinsky’s work, especially the amalgam of all three factors and a strong theoretical approach in explaining what was what. Allegedly, Kandinsky had his Damascus experience to become an artist at the age of 30 when he saw Monet’s approach on depicting haystacks with their colours disentangled from the objects’ form, gave up a promising career in law and economics and went to the artist’s stronghold of Munich. What followed was a rare, thoughtful finding of an own style, combined with Kandinsky’s aptitude for conveying his theory of the abstract and an artist’s life and oeuvre that shaped twentieth century’s art and mirrored the political conditions – from leaving Germany at the outbreak of the Great War, turning the back on the Soviet Union after the Procrustean bed of the people’s art functionaries turned him off, fleeing the Weimar Republic and Bauhaus when the Nazis took over and dying in France at the height of his career at the age of 78 in 1944.

Vassily Kandinsky: "Houses in Munich" (1908)

It might be an echo of the ancient concept of sacred geometry, but abstract art received a strong influence from the Golden Dawn-like and theosophic occultism of Mme Blavatsky as well as Gurdjeff’s and Ouspensky’s and Kandinsky’s addition of music gives his theories an almost Pythagorean touch while his approach on colours remind of Goethe’s Farbenlehre, the theory of colours. Kandinsky saw the artist’s role as that of a prophet. Indeed, his approach was to make the invisible, as expressed in music, somehow visible – in a hieroglyphical oeuvre where every point and every line plays a multi-dimensional role that breaks the mould of pure aesthetic appreciation, even if his compositions have few equals in Modern Art.

Vassily Kandinsky: "Squares with Concentric Circles", (1913)

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