This exhibition offers, for the first time in 25 years, a comprehensive overview of the work of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, documenting the key periods of his artistic career (Munich, Paris / Munich/ Moscow / Weimar, Dessau, Berlin / Paris) through a selection of major paintings dating from 1907 to 1942. Thanks to the unprecedented collaboration between the Centre Pompidou, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, this international retrospective, showing in Munich, Paris and New York, has been able to draw on the three largest public collections of Kandinsky’s work, as well as loans from other institutions and private collections.
Through some hundred exceptional paintings, this unique exhibition examines Kandinsky’s contribution to modern art, its chronological organisation revealing the logical unfolding of his ideas and his relationship to his time.
At the Centre Pompidou, the retrospective is complemented by a selection of recent additions to the Centre’s own holding of Kandinsky’s work: watercolours and manuscripts of the so-called “Russian” period from 1914 to 1917, and the Bauhaus portfolio celebrating his 60th birthday in 1926. The last major Kandinsky exhibition in Paris was held at the Centre Pompidou in 1984, to mark the accession of the Nina Kandinsky Bequest.
Kandinsky is curated by Tracey Bashkoff, Associate Curator for Collections and Exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Christian Derouet, Curator at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Annegret Hoberg, Curator at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. Karole Vail, Assistant Curator, assisted with the organization of the New York presentation.
The exhibition will offer a comprehensive chronological survey of Kandinsky’s work through a selection of his most important canvases, including examples from his series of Improvisations, Impressions and Compositions, while investigating his formal and conceptual contributions to the course of abstraction in the twentieth-century. The unprecedented collaborative efforts of the Guggenheim, Pompidou, and Lenbachhaus will assemble works that have rarely traveled together, such as Munich’s early masterpiece, A Colorful Life (1907), or the Guggenheim’s Light Picture (1913)—a seminal work among the first of Kandinsky’s truly abstract canvases which has not even been exhibited in the museum’s own galleries since the 1970s—offering new contexts and comparisons for those works that have been held apart.
The survey will trace Kandinsky’s vision through thematic motifs, such as the horse and rider, mountainous landscapes and tumultuous seascapes, apocalyptic imagery and other religious subjects, and follow the artist’s painted realizations of his well-developed aesthetic theories, allowing a re-examination of the geographical- and time-based periods traditionally applied to his oeuvre.
Wassily Kandinsky (b. 1866, Moscow – d. 1944, Paris ) was one of the pioneers of abstraction and great theorists of Modernism. His seminal pre-World War I treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, published in Munich in 1911 lays out his program for the development of art independent of observations of the objective world. Interested in synesthesia, and more particularly in the relationship between painting and music, Kandinsky strove to give painting the freedom from nature he felt in music. Kandinsky’s discovery of a new subject matter based only on the artist’s “inner need” would occupy him throughout his life.