Major Kandinsky Retrospective Brings Modern Masterworks from the Centre Pompidou-Paris to the Frist Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents Kandinsky: A Retrospective, an exhibition celebrating a lifetime of work by Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from September 26, 2014–January 4, 2015. Chronicling four decades of artistic evolution—from early figurative works to exuberant experiments in abstraction and color—this exhibition invites visitors on an extraordinary stylistic journey of one of the most innovative modern art masters of the twentieth century.

Vasily Kandinsky, red spot ii
Vasily Kandinsky

Kandinsky: A Retrospective is drawn largely from the collection of the Centre Pompidou–Paris, and features more than 100 paintings, drawings and other works. A majority of these stunning works were part of the artist’s personal collection and were given by the artist’s widow, Nina. Additional paintings from the Milwaukee Art Museum, including works by Gabriele Munter, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, further an appreciation of the artist in the context of his contemporaries.

Organized chronologically and spanning the artist’s periods in Russia, Germany and France, the exhibition begins with paintings from the early 1900s including landscapes, painted folk tales and figurative works. “These works show how the young artist was influenced by major styles such as Art Nouveau, Impressionism, Symbolism, and Post-Impressionism,” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala. In a period of experimentation and movement towards more symbolic work, Kandinsky and other like-minded artists founded Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider) in 1911, a group of artists based in Munich who emphasized the expression of extreme psychological conditions in their art. “Kandinsky made a radical move away from recognizable subject matter in the belief that painting’s most important property was its capacity to dissolve the outside world and evoke inner conditions,” says Mr. Scala.

Kandinsky felt that music has the capacity to induce spiritual feelings within listeners through its formal arrangement of melodic sounds, harmonies and rhythms. He believed that “painters could similarly ‘orchestrate’ the elements of art—color, form, and line—to trigger pure emotional experiences,” says Mr. Scala. In the theoretical treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky wrote that “color is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer, while the soul is a piano of many strings. The artist is the hand through which the medium of different keys causes the human soul to vibrate.”

In 1914, Kandinsky returned to Russia, his country of birth, and married Nina Andreevskaya in 1917. Facing financial hardship and material shortage during World War I and the Russian Revolution, his artistic output was somewhat limited. However, the paintings that Kandinsky did complete, some marking a return to Impressionism, further demonstrated his belief that art should comfort and convey inner meaning rather than provoke and express political views, as other avant-garde Russian artists believed.

Back in Germany during a period of heady intellectualism in the 1920s at the Bauhaus, a highly influential German art school, Kandinsky favored geometric works and created monumental decors, including the large scale mural panels he and his students designed for the Juryfreie Kunstschau—Berlin (Non-juried Art Exhibition—Berlin). The panels, built for a never-realized museum lounge, were intended to immerse the viewer in a complete aesthetic experience. A 1977 reconstruction of this room is a highlight of this exhibition, and as Kandinsky initially desired, lets “the viewer ‘stroll’ within the picture.” In stark contrast with the rigid geometry of the Bauhaus period, Kandinsky’s paintings from the end of his life and career in France are recognized for their joyful use of biomorphic forms, which reflect the influence of Parisian light and nature as well as Surrealism.