Seven Years in Russia

19/02/2016

Seven Years in Russia

In December 1914 Kandinsky returned to Moscow after almost twenty years of living in Germany. Being Russian by nationality he had to leave the country which had become his creative homeland, his birthplace as an artist. On August 3, 1914 Kandinsky and Munter left for Switzerland where they stayed until the end of November and then parted: Munter went to Stockholm while Kandinsky headed for Russia. And although Kandinsky and Munter met in Sweden in early 1916, their twelve year period of being together was over.

In autumn of the same year Kandinsky makes an acquaintance with Nina Andreyevskaya on the phone. She was a General’s daughter, a well-educated 17-year old girl studying History and Philosophy in Moscow University. Kandinsky fell in love with her voice and in a couple of days he created a watercolor painting under the impression “To the Unknown Voice». On February 11, 1917 they got married.

In Russia Kandinsky witnessed the aftermath of the Revolution. Although he was indifferent to politics and absolutely devoted to art, he was nevertheless involved in the events. He takes position as Director of the Museum of Painting and Culture and works towards implementing a museum reform in a new country. He teaches in SVOMAS and VHUTEMAS and writes six big articles. But when forwarding his ideas, he takes the path of confronting those who support and promote “the party line” in art. The conflict grows and the artist leaves the country as many others did before and after him. Moreover, the Kandinskys’ recently acquired family happiness is clouded by a great grief in 1920: their three year old son Vsevolod dies. In 1921 the Kandinskys move to Weimar at the invitation of Walter Gropius, Director of the Bauhaus.

There was obviously clear distinction between Kandinsky as a proselytizer of pure spirituality in art and a functionary arranging the new Soviet cultural idea. However, the influence of certain post-revolutionary ideas and their proponents on the artist’s creative work should not be underestimated. As Clark V. Poling writes in his book “Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-1933”: “The seven years Kandinsky spent in Russia occasioned a transition in his art, from the expressionist abstraction of the immediately preceding Munich years to the geometric style of his Bauhaus period. A parallel shift in his theoretical work began to occur in Russia, as he increasingly emphasized the objective characteristics of formal elements and the principles of their use. This change was to be reflected in his teaching and writing at the Bauhaus from 1922 to 1933.”

Kandinsky, in his turn, also had a serious impact on Russian avant-garde artists. Nevertheless, he is sometimes blamed for not being deeply interested in and supporting the advances of the young generation such as Malevich’s Suprematism. It should, however, be understood that Kandinsky’s lyrical approach to abstraction was an inherent result of his success in Munich and the field where he continued carrying out his own experiments. As for accusation of “Occidentalism” and detachment from Russia, we adhere to the idea of the initial cosmopolitan nature of both the Russian spirit in general and Russian art in particular. Art critics Umansky, Zehder and, of course, Kandinsky himself wrote about this back at that time.



To the Unknown Voice, 1916

Watercolor and Indian ink on paper
9.3 x 6.2" (23.7 x 15.8 cm)
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou




Moscow. Red Square, 1916

Oil on canvas
20.3 x 19.5" (51.5 x 49.5 cm)
Moscow, Russia. The State Tretyakov Gallery




Blue Crest, 1917

Oil on canvas
52.4 × 40.9" (133.0 × 104.0 cm)
Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Russian Museum




"In Grey", 1919

Oil on canvas
50.8 x 69.3" (129.0 x 176.0 cm)
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou


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