Born in Moscow in 1866, Vassilly Kandinsky (also spelled Wassilly) was raised in comfort and educated to be a lawyer. After practicing law for a few years, Kandinsky started painting at age 30 and pursued art as his passion thereafter.
Kandinsky read the occult teachers popular in the early 20th century. He synthesized evolving precepts of anti-materialism and creativity into his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art published in 1910.
Vassily Kandinsky and his wife Nina moved to Paris in 1933, he came as an exile who’d lost his professorship in Munich after the Nazis closed the school. They also revoked his German citizenship acquired in 1927.
Vassilly and Nina Kandinsky settled in suburban Neuilly-sur-Seine on the sixth floor of a building overlooking the river.
This was the era when Paris warmly welcomed refugees from other parts of Europe and beyond. Foreign artists included: Miro, Mondrian, Max Ernst, Brancusi, Rivera and many others.
They lived near the Bois de Boulogne with a view of Mont Valerien. After Liberation Day in 1945, the Mont Valerien property became a monument to those who were executed for work in the French underground resistance to Nazi occupation.
– Bois de Boulogne, Paris 1925
The Russian-French designer Sonia Delaunay and her husband Charles Delaunay were friendly colleagues of the Kandinskys. Fernand Leger and Jean Arp were also part of their circle, though Leger spent the World War II years teaching at Yale. Kandinsky liked to vacation at Cauterets in the Hautes-Pyrenees.
For Kandinsky, the stateless citizen who fled to Paris, success and appreciation came during his lifetime. There were exhibitions in 1936, 1939, and 1942 at the Gallery Jeanne Bucher. Nina Kandinsky dubbed 1934-1944 “the years of synthesis”.
* Hilton Kramer on Kandinsky in Paris, The New Criterion, April 1985.
* Francois Le Targat, Kandinsky, Rizzoli, 1987.