Vasily Kandinsky started his rise to fame as an abstract painter with the “Jack of Diamonds” exhibition sponsored by Nikolai Riabushinsky, a vigorous patron of young brilliant artists. Kandinsky was part of the group of artists, who “declared a war on the realist tradition and shocked the public with their art” (Figes, 212).
Interestingly, Kandinsky did not always aspire to be an artist. Originally he studied anthropology at Moscow University. In his last year of school he became ill, and shortly after graduation went to the Komi region to recover. His main goal soon became “to study the beliefs of [Komi’s] Finno-Ugric tribes” (Figes, 358). However, his curiosity was also somewhat personally driven, as his family “was descended from Tungus tribe [from] Amur river in Mongolia” (Figes 360). Through time, the tribe moved to the Ob’ and Konda rivers (Kandinsky derives his surname from the river Konda), where “they intermingled with the Ostiaks and the Voguls [and] intermarried with the Komi people” (Figes 361).
The timing of his trip could not have been better, as Russia was in the middle of a major debate over the roots of its folk culture. Kandinsky’s findings in Komi region provided much evidence to support the ongoing theory that majority of Russian customs originated in Asia. His works were widely read and discussed, providing great insight to deep connections between Asiatic tribes and Russian people.
Questions for discussion in class:
Which Kandinsky’s works had a greater influence on Russian culture: anthropological findings or the art?
Is Kandinsky a Petersburg artist? What does it mean: the Petersburg artist?
By Yevgeniya Derevyannykh and Barry O’Keefe