Kandinsky and Russia

Siberian woodTo the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts this morning to catch the Kandinsky and Russia exhibition before it closes at the end of this month. The organisers would have slightly more accurately entitled the exhibition Russia and Kandinsky but, nevertheless, it is a good exhibition and worth a visit. I shan’t write about the great Wassily Kandinsky‘s artistic career, though I can record that I first heard about him at primary school because my – surely exceptional – art teacher told me when I was about eight that he was the author of the first abstract painting. The exhibition is good on his life, as he drifted westwards in geography and philosophy (he started professional life as a lawyer and was, in turn, a Russian, German and then French national). And it is good on ethnic cultural influences. For my illustration I am posting some ‘sacred Siberian wood’, discovered standing in a forest – the faces could almost be African. The exhibition sports a shaman’s ceremonial dress and headgear that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Northern America, reminding the visitor that the Bering Straits land (later ice) bridge existed until relatively recently. The exhibition shows how such ethnic objects clearly had as much influence on Russian artists as, say, African sculptures had on Picasso. But to my mind the exhibition is best in considering Kandinsky’s theoretical analyses of art. I noted, for example, ‘Such red, as is seen by the mind and not by the eye…’, and ‘white sounds like silence, just a little before any beginning.’ And I shall close this post with a fascinating statement of the artistic chemistry between chance and design: ‘Here is a world which came to life by the will of the artist, for the paintings already painted, but was also determined and created through accidents, through the puzzling play of forces alien to the artist. And I owe much to these accidents.’

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan

    I found it a deeply disappointing and expensive exhibition – I’m just pleased I had my Vlaams ‘cultuurwaardebon’, otherwise I would have felt very short changed.

    You are spot on to say it was Russia first, then Kandinsky. We were expecting to see an extensive exhibition of his works. Instead, a significant amount of the art displayed came from other artists. Many of them are very good of course, but not Kandinsky!

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