Happy 150th birthday, Wassily Kandinsky!

150 years ago today, December 16th 1866, the painter Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow. To celebrate, here are two portraits: The painter himself and a photo of the painter hung in his studio.

Florence Henri
, Portrait de W. Kandinsky, 1934 (printed 1976), 138.1998

This portrait, by Bauhaus student Florence Henri was taken just after the school was closed down by the Nazis in 1933. He was 67 years old.

Alexander Liberman
, Wassily Kandinsky’s painting cabinet with his 1935 Two Green Dots, Paris, 1954, 119.1990

In Alexander Liberman’s book of studio portraits, Liberman explains this image as, “Kandisky’s Paris studio, as he left it at his death in 1944. Beside his carefully arranged painting cabinet, which he called “my keyboard,” stands a large serene composition, Two Green Dots, painted in 1935. The two oils under glass, done in 1911, are among the first abstract paintings. The photograph on the wall is of Kandinsky, taken in 1933.”

Liberman later describes Kandinsky’s moment of inspiration to make non-representational paintings at the age of 44, as described in his memoirs:

“Coming home at sunset from a session out of doors in 1910, his mind still absorbed by his work, he was struck as he entered his studio by an ‘indescribably beautiful painting, all irradiated by an interior light.’ In the mysterious canvas he could distinguish only ‘forms and colors and no meaning.’ Suddenly he realized that it was one of his own paintings, turned on its side. ‘The next day in daylight I tried to recapture my previous impression. I only succeeded halfway. Even with the painting of its side, I could always find the object, but the blue light of dusk was missing. I knew then precisely that objects were harming my painting.’ He wrote that he felt ‘a terrifying abyss opening under my feet.'”

Today we celebrate you, Kandinsky! Happy 150th Birthday!

About Emily P Dunne

archivist, artist
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