The Bauhaus and Geometric Abstraction


Kandinsky left Russia for the second time in 1921, leaving behind a boiling post-revolutionary creative environment and the emerging educational system. This experience probably helped him realize his potential, but during the first years after the revolution only. Political restrictions, the narrow worldview of the powers that be and, of course, harsh living conditions that were aggravated by the unceasing civil war and that caused the death of his little son Vsevolod - all this ultimately forced the artist to leave his homeland. Nevertheless, the participation in exhibitions of Soviet avant-garde artists and managing the Moscow arts studio definitely paid off.

Izo-Narkompros, Moscow 1918

In Berlin, where he and Nina arrived on the eve of the New Year 1922, the conditions were quite hard too. The political instability after the coup of 1918-1919 and the general post-war economic recession caused the ungovernable inflation. Pictures the artist left in the care of his Berlin dealer Herwarth Walden prior to leaving Russia dropped in value significantly. Kandinsky had no connections in local art circles, and German art itself had changed a lot over the years.

Blue Segment, 1921

Through his friend Paul Klee, the artist came in contact with the Bauhaus, an experimental school whose program he supported in general. In March 1922, architect Walter Gropius, the principal of the school, offered Kandinsky a permanent position of wall painting and drawing teacher. Until that time, the Bauhaus’s aesthetic ideal was expressionism. However, Gropius wanted to add a fresh alternative to the learning process. This was the main reason why he hired Kandinsky as a teacher. The artist from Russia, from the very epicenter of innovations and avant-gardism, came very opportunely, of course.

Kandinsky’s Bauhaus identification card, Dessau 1927

The Bauhaus teaching activity promoted Kandinsky as an art theorist very much. Developing his own theories during his lectures, he also wrote a book about the theory of color and form, which came out under the name Point and Line to Plane in 1926. In it, the artist derives compositional laws that come from the basic forms (points and lines) and are the result of "the innermost necessity", which, in his opinion, was to replace obsolete canons defined by the "external" nature.

Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in the Bauhaus “Salon de musique”, 1931 (colorized version)

In the 1920s, European artists considering abstraction as a natural direction of the further art development turned to its geometric language. For the first time, Kandinsky began using geometric elements in his works in Russia. Once moved to Germany, he combined these trends with theoretical principles he was developing when teaching at the Bauhaus. Among the main works of this period, the geometric nature of Kandinsky's abstraction evolves and fully unfolds in Composition VIII painted in 1923. According to the art critic Grohman, 'in this work, geometry becomes a number, but a number transformed into magic'.

Composition VIII, 1923

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