The new exhibition on Wassily Kandinsky contains over ninety
works including paintings on canvas, watercolors, drawings and
engravings from the Tret'jakov Gallery of Moscow and other Russian
museums, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of Venice and various
The chronology begins in 1896, the year in which Kandinsky, at the
age of thirty (born in Odessa in 1866), with a law degree, married to
his cousin Anja Shemjakina, abandoned his academic career and
moved toMunich to work exclusively on art. It stops in 1921, the year
in which he headed back from Moscow (where he had returned in
1914) to Germany, where the climate of the Bauhaus was to influence
him to gradually make his images more geometric.
The exhibition itinerary concentrates on three different planes of
interpretation that form the basis for the show.
The first, monographic level shows the stylistic evolution of
Kandinsky from the early naturalistic works to the achievement of
The second level reflects the Russian art scene, as an antagonistic
context, in some cases, but also as a situation of consensus with
respect to Kandinsky's work. Thus works are included by symbolist
artists like Victor Borissov-Mussatov, fauvists like Il'ja Machkov and
abstract artists like Kazimir Malevich or Aleksandr Rodchenko.
Among the most significant works we can mention The Dancers
(1908) by Michail Malevich, the Abstract Composition (1916) by
Olga Rosanova, The Peacock under the Shining Sun (1911) by
Natalja Goncharova, The House in the Mountains (1912) by Alexej
Jawlensky, Pictorial Architecture (1916-17) by Ljubov Popova,
Composition 86 (1919) by Aleksandr Rodchenko.
The third level focuses on the Russian cultural heritage, through a
significant series of icons of the 17th century and objects from the
Russian folk tradition, which represented a reference point for the
artists of the avant-garde.
The surpassing of 19th-century academic realism and the conquest of
new figurative languages took place,
in fact, through the examples offered by primitive art and national
folklore. Kandinsky transformed themes such as that of St. George
battling the dragon or Elijah on a flaming chariot into personal
emblems and new non-figurative forms.
But in Kandinsky tradition and abstraction also allude to an
alternation (present in his art until 1917-18) between the figurative
and abstract planes, either opposed or juxtaposed. Alongside fully
non-representational works we also find many figurative works that
are not merely or exclusively forerunners of abstract inventions.The
fulcrum of the exhibition is Composition VII, undisputed
masterpiece of the abstract expressionist period, the most important
and mysterious of the ten compositions created by Kandinsky
during his career. The artist painted this work in Munich in November
1913, the same year as other great works like Composition VI and
Painting with White Border. Nevertheless the complex elaboration of
Composition VII, which can be interpreted as a sort of Last
Judgement, gives this work a unique character: the last of the great
expressionist creations, it sums up the ideas and convictions of
Kandinsky in the most fervent years of his battle in favor of abstract
The term composition, for Kandinsky, indicates a work completed
after a long period of development. He wrote: Expressions that take
form inside me in a particularly slow way and which, after the first
sketches, I examine and rework at length, in an almost pedantic way.
For Composition VII, in fact, the artist made about thirty preparatory
studies, from a diagram drawing to a large rough version in oil.
The fulfillment of Kandinsky's abstract research, Composition VII
also marks a turning point dramatically emphasized by historical and
biographical events, forcing the artist to retrace his steps, in both
concrete and metaphorical terms.
In the early years of the second stay in his beloved Moscow
Kandinsky also returned to figurative work and to those genres, such
as landscape or scenes from fables, that had characterized his earlier
output, while around him the research of the Russian avant-garde, with
the suprematists and the constructivists, was exploring new thresholds
of non-representative art. In Russia, therefore, the artist reworked his
own language of abstract forms, in dialogue with contemporary
The exhibition also features other very important paintings by
Kandinsky, like Cupolas (1909), Improvisation VII (1910), Arabs
III (1911), Orient II (1913), as well as a number of works on paper,
including several graphic series created at the start of his career, like
the Poems without Words of 1903.
Mosca I (Piazza Rossa), 1916