“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”
Credited as the father of abstraction the Russian born artist Vasiliy Kandinsky is reputed to have suffered from Chromesthesia, a form of synaesthesia which allows a person to see music and hear color.
And from his descriptions about his work such as “The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble.” Or “A parallel between color and music can only be relative – just as a violin can give warm shades of tone, so yellow has shades, which can be expressed by various instruments.” It is a supposition not without merit.
Kandinsky was 30 when he gave up a promising career teaching law and economics to become an artist. The catalyst that saw him depart Moscow to attend Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts was twofold.
He saw an exhibition that included Monet’s Haystacks. About which said “That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendor.”
The second was his attendance at a performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin. About which he is reported as saying "I saw all my colours in spirit, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me."
Whilst his early works were representational they contained the abstract elements that were to inform his mature work. Over the next decade Kandinsky refined his ideas both in his painting and in the publication of his theoretical treatise On the Spiritual In Art. His teaching at the Bauhaus between the first and second world wars along with his interest in psychology saw further refinement that he built upon for the rest of his life.
Kandinsky’s abstraction was generated from within independent from observations of the external world. As he had said “The true work of art is born from the Artist: a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being.”
A process he likened to the creation of music, Famously stating “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum currently has selection of Kandinsky’s works on show until the spring of 2016.