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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Wassily Kandinsky papers
    Date (inclusive): 1911-1940 (bulk 1921-1937)
    Number: 850910
    Creator/Collector: Kandinsky, Wassily
    Physical Description: 2 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 1 flat file folder)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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 publishers.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    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 Reiter. 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 Über das 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 1921.
    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 treatise 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.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Wassily Kandinsky papers, 1921-1937, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 850910.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the repository in 1985.

    Processing History

    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

    The entire collection was digitized in 2014 and is available online: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/850910 .
    Microfiche available for Series I.A and parts of Series I.B. (All items in Box 1), and for Series II.

    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: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/850910 .
    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.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Weyhe, E.
    Wiesner, Julius
    Wittwer, Hans
    Wölfflin, Heinrich
    Tolziner, Philipp
    Vesnin, Leonid Aleksandrovich
    Werefkin, Marianne
    Stam-Beese, Lotte
    Sweeney, James Johnson
    Thal, Ida
    Segal, Lasar
    Sisley, Alfred
    Schoenberg, Arnold
    Schmid, Wilhelm
    Scriabin, Aleksandr Nikolayevich
    Sakharoff, A. (Alexandre)
    Schlemmer, Oskar
    Scheyer, Galka E.
    Rubin, Reuven
    Röseler, Hermann
    Russolo, Luigi
    Driesch, Hans
    Barr, Alfred Hamilton
    Drewes, Werner
    Dix, Otto
    Debussy, Claude
    Clemens, Roman
    Gabo, Naum
    Fischer, Edward
    Eddy, Arthur Jerome
    Duncan, Isadora
    Bloch, Albert
    Boerschmann, Ernst
    Bergson, Henri
    Berndt, Siegfried
    Bayer, Herbert
    Bechtejeff, Wladimir von
    Caspar, Karl
    Chagall, Marc
    Braun, Albert
    Breuer, Marcel
    Braga, Dominique
    Baumeister, Willi
    Dalì , Salvador
    Arndt, Alfred
    Albers, Josef
    Arp, Jean
    Arndt, Gertrud
    Cézanne, Paul
    Ostwald, Wilhelm
    Nierendorf, Karl
    Neumann, J. B. (Jsrael Ber)
    Pashkov, V. A.
    Palucca, Gret
    Pinder, Wilhelm
    Picabia, Francis
    Ridder, André de
    Rebay, Hilla
    Probst, Rudolf
    Luckiesh, Matthew
    Manet, Édouard
    Leonidov, Ivan I.
    Lissitzky, El
    Marc, Franz
    Marées, Hans von
    Meyer, Hannes
    Monastirski, Luba
    Mataré, Ewald
    Neubert, Dr.
    Mondrian, Piet
    Münter, Gabriele
    Jaques-Dalcroze, Émile
    Kandinsky, Wassily
    Klee, Paul
    Jawlensky, Alexej von
    Kirschmann, A. (August)
    Laban, Rudolf von
    Le Corbusier
    Genin, Robert
    Gide, André
    Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
    Grohmann, Will
    Gropius, Walter
    Guggenheim, Solomon R. (Solomon Robert)
    Helmholtz, Hermann von
    Hodler, Ferdinand
    Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig
    Imkamp, Wilhelm
    Jacoby, Heinrich

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Rossiĭskai︠a︡ akademii︠a︡ khudozhestvennykh nauk
    Brücke (Artists' group)
    Obshchestvo molodykh architektov
    Neue Künstlervereinigung München

    Subjects - Topics

    Blaue Reiter (Group of artists)
    Neue Sachlichkeit (Art)

    Subjects - Titles

    Sovremennaia arkhitektura Cahiers d'art

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Letters (correspondence)
    Ink drawings
    Drawings (visual works)


    Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig
    Marc, Franz
    Eddy, Arthur Jerome
    Grohmann, Will
    Schoenberg, Arnold
    Uspenskii, Nikolai Evgenevich
    Sérouya, Henri
    Shor, Evsei D.
    Sonderbund Westdeutscher Kunstfreunde und Künstler
    Seewald, Richard
    Sadleir, Michael
    Deri, Max
    Gallien, Antoine-Pierre
    Frank, S. L. (Semen Liudvigovich)
    Erbslöh, Adolf
    Einstein, Carl
    Burberg, K. A.
    Bogdanov, A. (Aleksandr)
    Bakushinskiĭ, Anatoliĭ Vasil'evich
    Petrovskii, A. M.
    Petrov, N. V. (Nikolaĭ Vasil'evich)
    Platov, Fedor Fedorovich
    Piper Verlag
    Reiche, Richart
    Mashkov, Ilia Ivanovich
    Mashkovtsev, N. G. (Nikolaĭ Georgievich)
    Kandinsky, Wassily
    Kames, Alfred W.
    Kluxen, Franz
    Klumpp, Hermann
    Kreis für Kunst Köln
    Kogan, P. S. (Petr Semenovich)
    Kuznetsov, Pavel Varfolomeevich
    Lazarev, P. P. (Petr Petrovich)
    Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg
    Hahn, Livingstone
    I︠A︡zvit︠s︡kiĭ, Valeriĭ
    IUon, Konstantin Fedorovich
    IUr'evich, Valerii