An early period work "Munich-Schwabing with the Church of St. Ursula" (Kandinsky 1908) Kandinsky's creation of purely abstract work followed a long period of development and maturation of intense theoretical thought based on his personal artistic experiences. He called this devotion to inner beauty, fervor of spirit, and deep spiritual desire inner necessity, which was a central aspect of his art.
Kandinsky learned from a variety of sources during his youth and life in Moscow. Later in his life, he would recall being fascinated and unusually stimulated by color as a child. The fascination with color symbolism and color psychologycontinued as he grew, although he seems to have made no attempt to study art. In 1889 he was part of an ethnographic research group that travelled to the Vologda region north of Moscow. In Looks on the Past he relates that the houses and churches were decorated with such shimmering colors that, upon entering them, he had the impression that he was moving into a painting. The experience and his study of the folk art in the region, in particular the use of bright colors on a dark background, was reflected in much his early work. A few years later, he first related the act of painting to creating music in the manner for which he would later become noted and wrote, "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer, the soul is the piano with the strings."
It was not until 1896, at the age of 30, that Kandinsky gave up a promising career teaching law and economics to enroll in art school in Munich. He was not immediately granted admission in Munich and began learning art on his own. Also in 1896, prior to leaving Moscow, he saw an exhibit of paintings by Monet and was particularly taken with the famous impressionistic Haystacks which, to him, had a powerful sense of color almost independent of the objects themselves. Later he would write about this experience: |“ |That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognization was painful|” | | |to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the | | | |painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but | | | |impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour. | |
He was similarly influenced during this period by Richard Wagner's Lohengrin which, he felt, pushed the limits of music and melody beyond standard lyricism.
Kandinsky was also spiritually influenced by H. P. Blavatsky (1831–1891), the most important exponent of Theosophy in modern times. Theosophical theory postulates that creation is a geometrical progression, beginning with a single point. The creative aspect of the forms is expressed by the descending series of circles, triangles, and squares. Kandinsky's book Concerning the Spiritual In Art (1910) and Point and Line to Plane (1926) echoed this basic Theosophical tenet.
Artistic metamorphosis (1896–1911)
Kandinsky's Der Blaue Reiter (1903).
Kandinsky's time at art school, typically considered difficult to get through, was eased by the fact that he was older and more settled than the other students. It was during this time that he began to emerge as a true art theorist in addition to being a painter. Unfortunately, very little exists of his work from this period, though it is supposed to have been extensive. The survival of his works changes at the beginning of the 20th century and much remains of the many landscapes and towns that he painted, using broad swathes of color but recognizable forms. For the most part, however, Kandinsky's paintings did not emphasize any human figures. An exception is Sunday, Old Russia (1904) where Kandinsky recreates a highly colorful (and no doubt fanciful) view of peasants and nobles before the...