Kandinsky. Membership Card of the NKV 1909
Kandinsky, Wassily.1866-1944, Abstract Expressionist painter and author of several books on art. Russian-born, worked in Germany before the first World War and, after a brief interval in Russia, joined the Bauhaus staff in Weimar. From 1934 until his death ten years later he painted in Paris.
Kandinsky's theory merits the same criticism that was brought against Plotinus and Schopenhauer; they were defending art in one temper as though it were the whole of art, as though all painters worthy of the name must belong to the brotherhood of William Blake. There may be other mystics of abstraction to whom Kandinsky's doctrines apply, point by point, but they must be few. There may be also a prophetic value in Kandinsky's pronouncements on the immediate effectiveness of colors and forms, and on what might be called the distortion of color by form. That forms do indeed affect us directly and profoundly has been ascertained by Gestalt psychologists. It may be true that forms also distort a color, that the same blue pigment evokes a different color-response when it is shaped now as a circle, now a triangle, now a square, but where is the proof? Kandinsky's assertions are hypotheses needing to be tested by the careful scientific method which he held of little worth.
Kandinsky painted intricate and varied compositions of many tints and hues; Mondrian is famous for simple patterns of rectangles in which he uses only primary colors.
The second organized group of Expressionists in Germany developed in Munich during the last few years before the First World War. They continued in another form the antinaturalistic emotive efforts of the Brücke group, and gave to the movement as a whole the name Expressionism.
In Munich the first Secession group had been set up in 1892, its initial ( 1893) exhibition including works by Corot, Millet, Courbet, Böcklin, and Liebermann. And here in 1896 the magazine 'Jugend' was founded as the organ of the Jagendstil artists, those practitioners of cursive, linear, nature-derived, and semiabstract ornament used primarily in industrial art. The Jugendstil also played a part in the ferment that preceded the Expressionist revolt, though later that art would be disavowed completely by the more profoundly psychological and structural-minded Expressionists.
In 1896, Kandinsky, Jawlensky, and Werefkin all arrived from Russia, bringing with them a great desire for change as well as vivid memories of the colorfully abstract Russian folk and church art. Kandinsky was to become not only the theoretician of the Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) but one of the most important influences on modern painting in general. At first the young Russians studied with Anton Azbe; later a number of the future Blue Riders worked in the studio of the allegorically decorative Franz Stuck.
In 1897 Ferdinand Hodler, the violently expressive and linear Swiss painter, was awarded a gold medal in Munich for The Night and Eurythmie, works that illustrated his powerful effect on modern symbolism and the Jugendstil movement. These and other signs would seem to indicate that Munich offered little scope for Impressionist painting, and in 1900 both Slevogt and Corinth moved to Berlin.
By 1902 Kandinsky was showing at the Berlin Secession; in Munich he opened an art school and became president of the new Phalanx group. Two years later he traveled to Tunis and Kairouan, where Klee was to go some years later. Klee at this point had just begun his grotesque etchings, and Marc was making his first trip to Paris and learning about Impressionism.
In 1904 the Phalanx held a neo-Impressionist show and the Munich Artists Secession exhibited Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, the latter two especially important in the development of Blue Rider color symbolism and linear expressiveness. A unified German Artists Federation of progressive artists held its first showing that year, while Kandinsky added to his growing reputation by showing at the Salon d'Automne and the Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1907 his name appeared again in a one-man show at a Frankfurt gallery.
Dr. Hugo von Tschudi, dismissed from the directorship of the Berlin National Gallery in 1908 by Kaiser Wilhelm for espousing modern art, became director of the Bavarian State Galleries in 1909, an event that helped to give Munich its leading position in the modern movement. Another important factor was the consistent refusal of the Munich Secession to show the work of the more advanced men. By 1909 the latter organized a New Artists Federation (Neue Küstler Vereinigung or NKV) under the leadership of Kandinsky and Jawlensky and including Marianne von Werefkin, Gabriele Münter, the Austrian Alfred Kubin, Adolf Erbslöh, and Alexander Kanoldt. Later adherents were Franz Marc, Karl Hofer, the Burliuk brothers, Pierre Girieud, and Henri Le Fauconnier. The first exhibition was held at the Thannhauser Gallery from December 1909 to January 1910.