Wassily Kandinsky is heralded as a pioneer of abstract art and a driving force in German Expressionism. He studied economics and law at Moscow University but in 1896, left this career path and moved to Munich to study painting. Early in his career, Kandinsky’s work was influenced by the work of the Fauves and postimpressionists, which he encountered on a visit to Paris in 1909. In 1911, Kandinsky joined Franz Marc in founding the Blue Rider group of German Expressionists.
Also an active art theorist, Kandinsky published his famous treatise on abstraction, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” in 1912. He lived in Germany until the outbreak of World War I, and then spent a brief time in Switzerland before returning to Russia. In both Germany and Russia, Kandinsky founded numerous arts organizations including the Phalanx in Germany and the Institute for Artistic Culture in Russia. He returned to Germany in 1921 and from 1922-1933, taught at the Bauhaus, where he befriended fellow professor Paul Klee. In 1933, after the Nazis forced the closing of Bauhaus, Kandinsky relocated to Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, where he remained until his death.
Kandinsky’s graphic oeuvre includes works in woodcut, lithograph, and drypoint techniques. His early prints were woodcuts, influenced by William Nicholson and Felix Vallotton. His woodcuts were often translations of images created in paintings or drawings, and it has been proposed that the simplification of line involved in woodcut design aided his analysis of elements of design. He produced nearly 50 woodcuts between 1902 and 1904, and in 1904, Kandinsky published a portfolio of woodcuts entitled “Poems without Words.” In 1913, he published his famous woodcut portfolio, “Harmonies.” While teaching at the Bauhaus, he continued to publish prints in various techniques, including the portfolio “Small World” (1922).