A Nod to Wassily Kandinsky – Painter & Poet

"WWI" by Wassily Kandinsky

"WWI" by Wassily Kandinsky

Were he still alive, today would be the birthday of the famed Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. If you live in or near NYC and you haven’t been to the Guggenheim retrospective, I highly recommend it. It’s on through January 13.

Kandinsky has always fascinated me, both because of his vibrant Abstract Expressionist canvases, and because he possessed such a poetic soul. There’s a lot of deep thought and emotion behind those expressive paintings, which, as he’s quoted as saying, were all driven by “inner necessity” and a devotion to beauty.

He felt colors deeply, at times, almost painfully:

“When [blue] sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human. When it rises towards white … its appeal to men grows weaker and more distant.” — Kandinsky in “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” from 1911.

Kandinsky was famously fascinated with color symbolism, psychology and, of course, music. He once said, “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

My list of favorite Kandinsky quotes goes on and on. Here’s what he had to say about Abstract Art:

“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”

And here’s another great one that speaks to the difficulties all artists face:

“The artist is not a ‘Sunday child’ for whom everything immediately succeeds. He does not have the right to live without duty. The task that is assigned to him is painful, it is a heavy cross for him to bear.”

Here’s to Kandinsky: painter, poet and visionary.

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