Biographical / Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Wassily Kandinsky papers
Date (inclusive): 1911-1940 (bulk 1921-1937)
2 Linear Feet
(3 boxes, 1 flat file folder)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Russian-born artist considered to be
one of the creators of abstract painting. Papers document Kandinsky's teachings at the
Bauhaus, his writings, his involvement with the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (RAKhN)
in Moscow, and his professional contacts with art dealers, artists, collectors, and
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Language: Collection material is in German
and Russian with some English and French.
Biographical / Historical Note
Wasily Kandinsky [Vasilii Vasil'evich Kandinskii] was born in 1866 in Moscow, Russia and
died in 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. He is considered one of the first creators of
purely abstract painting.
In 1896, after academic studies and initial career in law and social sciences, Kandinsky
turned down an offer of professorship in jurisprudence, and together with his first wife
Anja Shemiakina, left Russia for Munich with the intention of becoming a painter.
In Munich, he enrolled at the Academie der Bildenden Künste where he studied with Anton
Azbé and Franz von Stuck. After achieving a diploma in 1900, Kandinsky participated in
several nonacademic shows, including the Phalanx group in Munich, of which he became
president in 1902, with the Berlin Sezession group, in the Paris Salon' d'Automne and the
Salon des Indépendants, and with the group Die Brücke in Dresden.
In 1909 Kandinsky met the German painter Gabriele Münter. They established a close
relationship and lived and worked together in Munich as well as in Murnau, in southern
Bavaria. At this time Kandinsky began the process that led to the emergence of his personal
style and to the historic breakthrough into abstract painting. The marriage to Anja
Shemiakina was dissolved in 1911.
Kandinsky was actively involved in avant-garde movements in Munich. Among his friends were
Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Hans Arp, August Macke,
and the composer Arnold Schoenberg. In opposition to officially approved art, Kandinsky
helped to found the group Neue Künstlervereinigung, and participated in the group's first
exhibition in 1909 and in the second exhibition in 1910 at the Moderne Galerie Tannhäuser.
While preparing for the third exhibition in December 1911, the group split due to aesthetic
differences. Favouring freedom of expression, Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter, and
Alfred Kubin, left the group Neue Künstlervereinigung and exhibited their art work that same
month at the Moderne Galerie Tannhäuser [Galerien Thannhauser] under the name Der Blaue
Der Blaue Reiter was also the title of a volume on aesthetics edited
by Kandinsky together with Franz Marc, and published by Piper Verlag in Munich in 1912. Also
in 1912, the Piper Verlag published Kandinsky's main theoretical treatise
Geistige in der Kunst
In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky left Munich and returned to Russia by
way of Switzerland, Italy, and the Balkans. Gabriele Münter initially accompagnied
Kandinsky; however, their relationship ended in Odessa in 1916. In Moscow Kandinsky settled
down with the intention of reintegrating himself into Russian life. In 1917 he married a
Russian woman, Nina von Andreevskaia. In 1918 he became professor at the Moscow Academy of
Fine Arts and a member of the arts section of the People's Commissariat for Public
Instruction. In 1919 he created the Institute of Artistic Culture, and helped to organize
numerous museums across the Soviet Union. In 1920 he was made professor at the University of
Moscow and was honored with a state-arranged one-man show. In 1921 he founded the Russian
Academy of Artistic Sciences. Because of the change in the Soviet government's policy
towards avant-garde art, Kandinsky and his wife Nina, left Russia for Berlin at the end of
Early in 1922 Kandinsky was offered a teaching position at the Bauhaus school of
architecture and applied art in Weimar, where he began lecturing on the elements of form,
gave a course in color, and directed the mural workshop. In 1923 Kandinsky became
vice-president of the Sociéte Anonyme in New York and co-editor of the series
Bauhausbücher. In 1924 he founded the group Die Blaue Vier, together with
Klee, Feininger and Jawlensky. In 1925, after the school's relocation to Dessau, Kandinsky
added a class on painting not intended as applied art. In 1926, his second important
Punkt und Linie zu Fläche, in which he emphasized in particular the
expressiveness of colors, was published by Albert Langen in Munich. In 1927 several
exhibitions of his art took place in Germany and abroad. His essay "Réflexions sur l'art
abstrait" appeared in 1931 in
Cahiers d'art in Paris.
In 1933 the Nazis forced the Bauhaus to close. After living several months in Berlin,
Kandinsky emigrated to France. For the remaining 11 years of his life, he lived with his
wife in an apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris. During this time, he continued to
paint and to write, mainly for the magazine
Cahiers d'art. Numerous
exhibitions of his art took place between 1934 and 1936, including the exhibition in 1935 in
Paris at the gallery Cahiers d'art, in 1936 in the United States at J. B. Neumann's New Art
Circle in New York and at the Stendahl Gallery in Los Angeles, and in San Francisco. In 1937
a retrospective show opened at the Kunsthalle in Bern. Also in 1937, Kandinsky's art work
was included in the propagandistically designed Nazi exhibition of modern art called
Entartete Kunst [Degenerate art], shown at the Hofgarten in Munich.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Wassily Kandinsky papers, 1921-1937, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession
Acquired by the repository in 1985.
The collection was first processed and described in 1986, when an inventory was prepared.
In 2001, Isabella Zuralski re-processed the collection and wrote a new finding aid.
Alternate Form Available
Microfiche available for Series I.A and parts of Series I.B. (All items in Box 1), and for
Scope and Content of Collection
The archive consists of ca. 280 items (on ca. 470 leaves) documenting various aspects of
Kandinsky's professional life from 1911 to 1940. It is organized into four distinct groups.
The most extensive part constitutes a large body of teaching materials from the time
Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau, from 1925 until 1933, the year of the dissolution
of theschool under the pressure from the National Socialist regime. Included are detailed
teaching notes and graphic teaching aids, reading lists and class rosters. The entire
collection was digitized in 2014 and is available online:
Another group consists of undated manuscript writings by Kandinsky, mainly an unpublished
Russian translation of
Über das Geistige in der Kunst; also outlines for
essays, and miscellaneous notes.
The third group relates to Kandinsky's professional life after his return to Russia at the
outbreak of World War I, where he was actively involved as co-founder and vice president of
the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences in Moscow. Included are institutional records of
the Academy, as well as outlines and transcripts of lectures and discussions by Kandinsky
and several other Academy members. Most of the papers are dated 1921, the year in which
Kandinsky and his wife left Moscow for Berlin.
The fourth group consists of professional correspondence. A significant portion comprise 19
letters by Kandinsky to the New York art dealer and collector, Israel Ber Neumann, written
between 1934 and 1940, after Kandinsky's relocation from Germany to Neuilly-sur-Seine near
Paris. Also present are ca. 50 letters received by Kandinsky from artists, art dealers,
private collectors, art critics, editors and publishers, dating from 1911 to 1933. The
letters are rich in detail related to Kandinsky's exhibition activities and the reception of
his artistic ideas, as well as provide information about the activities of other significant
persons, including Alexander von Jawlenski, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Franz Marc, and Arnold
Schoenberg, and the American art collector Arthur Jerome Eddy.
The papers are arranged in 4 series:
Series I. Bauhaus teaching materials, Berlin/Dessau, 1925-1933;
Series II. Kandinsky manuscripts;
Series III. Papers of the
Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences [RAKhN], 1921;
Series IV. Correspondence, 1911-1940.
Subjects - Names
Sweeney, James Johnson
Scheyer, Galka E.
Barr, Alfred Hamilton
Eddy, Arthur Jerome
Bechtejeff, Wladimir von
Dalì , Salvador
Neumann, J. B. (Jsrael
Pashkov, V. A.
Ridder, André de
Leonidov, Ivan I.
Marées, Hans von
Jawlensky, Alexej von
Kirschmann, A. (August)
Laban, Rudolf von
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
Guggenheim, Solomon R. (Solomon
Helmholtz, Hermann von
Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
Brücke (Artists' group)
Obshchestvo molodykh architektov
Subjects - Topics
Blaue Reiter (Group of artists)
Neue Sachlichkeit (Art)
Subjects - Titles
Genres and Forms of Material
Drawings (visual works)
Uspenskii, Nikolai Evgenevich
Shor, Evsei D.
Westdeutscher Kunstfreunde und Künstler
Frank, S. L. (Semen
Burberg, K. A.
Petrovskii, A. M.
Petrov, N. V.
Mashkovtsev, N. G.
Kames, Alfred W.
Kreis für Kunst Köln
Kogan, P. S. (Petr
Lazarev, P. P. (Petr