Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian artist whose vibrant, abstract paintings are credited with paving the way for Non-Objective Art. In an effort to step outside pictorial tradition, Kandinsky often described color as sound, with several of his most famous works titled using musical terminology, including Improvisation 28 (1912) and Composition VII (1913). “Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings,” he wrote in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911).
Born on December 4, 1866 in Moscow, Russia, as a child he studied music and drawing, but chose a career in law as a young man. It was not until 1896 at the age of 30 that Kandinsky moved to Munich to pursue an education in painting. While in school, he forged relationships with Franz Marc, August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky, and Gabriele Münter. Together, these artists formed the short-lived Der Blaue Reiter group. Due to the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky returned to Moscow, where he spearheaded Russia’s embrasure of avant-garde aesthetics, holding posts at both the University of Moscow and the Institute of Artistic Culture. After returning to Germany in 1921, Kandinsky began teaching at Walter Gropius’s newly formed Bauhaus School in Weimar. The school was shuttered by the Nazi regime in 1933, and the artist was once again forced to flee Germany. He died on December 13, 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.