Date of Submission

Fall 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Art History

Project Advisor 1

Oleg Minin

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In this project, I will investigate the differences and similarities between the thought process that Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich explored while creating abstract imagery. It will explore the regional background of the two artists within the turn of the century. It will separately depict the thought process of both Kandinsky and Malevich, while still outlining the similarities that brought the two into their individual ideas. Since the two put a great amount of importance in writing about art theory, these writings will be also referenced and looked at throughout the project I will argue that Kandinsky’s approach was influenced to a great extent by the Symbolist climate prevalent in European culture, specifically seen in Kandinsky’s art works created during the pre-Blue Rider period (c. 1907-1910/11). This Symbolism-infused art, in turn. laid the ground work for his transition to abstraction.

Like Kandinsky, Malevich began his career essentially as an expressionist artist also painting many Futurist style paintings c. 1912-1913 when Kandinsky was transitioning from representational to the abstract. Ultimately, Malevich also created non-objective paintings, specifically as encapsulated in the style he called suprematism, which favored geometry and pure colors. Both Kandinsky and Malevich’s approaches and transitions to abstractions promoted the idea of creating non-objective art that rejected the idea of materiality in the art world and it is the express purpose of this project to investigate these formal approaches and their theoretical justifications.

In the opening chapter, I will first look at Kandinsky’s career as a representational painter, focusing specifically on his early Expressionist landscapes ca. 1907-1910. After this, Kandinsky ultimately transitioned to completely non-representational art – a development highlighted by the creation of his iconic first abstract watercolor of 1910-1911. It may be argued that this journey from representation to abstraction was in large part informed by the Symbolist climate, which surrounded Kandinsky and which, to some extent, informed most of the artists of the early twentieth century. I will therefore briefly examine the Symbolist movement, and show how it contributed to Kandinsky’s transition, specifically within his pre-Blue Rider period. In addition to examining Kandinsky’s early artworks influenced by Symbolism that predate by several years his first abstract works, in this chapter I will also explore his seminal tract Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911), which will be used to elucidate Kandinsky’s movement toward abstraction. Understanding Kandinsky’s own justifications regarding non-representational art, coupled with the formal analysis of his early representational canvases will help understand further development of abstract art and lead to my further exploration of Malevich in following the following chapter.

The second chapter will concern Malevich’s transition to abstract painting, which was to some extent informed by the futurist sentiment. This will hopefully extract why the process of abstraction became more rigid through the application of geometry in suprematism. In this chapter I will also discuss Malevich’s theoretical writings, which, it is hoped, will help illustrate or/and explicate the formal elements of his abstract system. Some space will also be devoted to the early history of Suprematism, but not so much to the exploration of its ultimate morphing back into a semi-representational framework in the mid-1920s.

The final chapter will acknowledge other artists attempting to create non objective art, importantly, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, El Lissitzky, and Alexander Rodchenko. All of these Russian experimental artists created artwork that connected and correlated to the work of Kandinsky or Malevich.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

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