9 things you didn’t know about Wassily Kandinsky

December 16th was the birthday of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, a man whose abstract art made history in the 20th century and whose name continues to stump English speakers long after his death.

The AGO's Guggenheim Collection
Vasily Kandinsky’s “Improvisation 28 (second version).” (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

In honor of Vah-SEEL-ee Kahn-DIN-skee’s big day, Katherine Brooks of The Huntington Post collected some of the more interesting facts from his storied life and career. From his birth in Moscow, back when the Russian Empire was still in existence, to his death in France at the age of 77, here are the 9 things you might not have know about dear Vasya.

1. Kandinsky began seriously pursuing art when he was 30 years old. Which makes him somewhat of a late bloomer. In fact, he had previously been studying law and economics, but he opted to abandon the fields (and a professorship in jurisprudence at the University of Dorpat) in favor of studying painting in Germany.

2. He was an “average” student. Though his appearance, marked by pince-nez glasses and sharp suits, gave the impression of a formidable teacher, he was mostly an average art student. He studied for two years under Anton Ažbe, then for one year alone, before finally being accepted into the Munich Academy, showing a proclivity toward color theory. He received his diploma in his mid-thirties and enjoyed a few years of mid-level success as a professional artist thereafter.

3. He believed art and music went hand in hand. This famous quote sums up his penchant to equate painting with composing music: “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

{featured image: A visitor passes a painting of Wassily Kandinsky “Komposition VII”, 1913, oil on canvas, in the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland, Friday, Oct. 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Keystone, Georgios Kefalas}

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