The Blue Rider

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WASSILY KANDINSKY, GABRIELE MÜNTER, ALEXEJ JAWLENSKY— EARLY PAINTINGS

Wassily Kandinsky read law and economics before moving to Munich in 1896, when he was thirty years old, to study painting. He began with a four-year course of training at Anton Ažbe’s private painting school. In 1900, he became Franz von Stuck’s student at the Academy for one year; in 1901, he joined other progressively minded members of the Schwabing scene to found the artists’ association Phalanx, which held exhibitions and operated an art school. In early 1902, Gabriele Münter enrolled in his class. The two became a couple one year later; in 1904, out of consideration for Anya Shemiakina, to whom Kandinsky was still married, the two adopted an itinerant lifestyle that took them to Holland, Tunis, Dresden, and Rapallo, among other places; in 1906 – 07, they spent a year in Paris. During those years, Münter and Kandinsky primarily created small-format nature studies in a post-Impressionist style, using the palette knife and working en plein air. Kandinsky also produced an entirely separate oeuvre of works featuring nostalgic Old Russian motifs, mosaic-like colorful pictures into which he integrated aspects of Symbolism and Jugendstil, among other influences. In 1908, Kandinsky and Münter returned to Munich and resolved to stay.
Alexej Jawlensky had met the painter Marianne von Werefkin at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art, and she became his companion of many years. In 1896, the couple moved to Munich, where they were introduced to Kandinsky. They rented two spacious adjoining apartments on Schwabing’s Giselastraße which quickly became known as the “Salon of the Giselists,” where many progressively minded artists and visiting Russian colleagues gathered. Between 1903 and 1907, they went on several extended trips to France, where they were profoundly impressed by the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Henri Matisse.