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Tuesday 30 November 2021

 

Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc: Art and Apocalypse

Colin Pink

 

Between 1911 and 1914 Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc (two of the founding members of Der Blaue Reiter artists’ group in Munich) believed that they were working together to create a new art for a new spiritual era that was about to dawn.

Influenced by a syncretic mix of ideas derived from German Romanticism, and Theosophy’s blending of Western and Eastern mysticism, Kandinsky and Marc created a highly symbolic art using colour symbolism to represent spiritual ideals and began to explore the possibilities of an art made out of colours and forms independent of the representation of external objects.

As Marc stated in an article in Pan magazine: ‘Today we seek behind the veil of appearances the hidden things in nature that seem to us more important than the discoveries of the Impressionists… We seek and paint this inner spiritual side of nature…’

Around 1913 this endeavour took an apocalyptic turn with both artists producing visions of devastating events which they believed were about to unfold and would hasten in a new era of spiritual perfection.

The apocalypse did indeed take place, but it took the form of the destruction wrought by the First World War. Kandinsky, as an enemy alien, had to flee, first to Switzerland and then to his native Russia. Franz Marc joined the German army and died on the Western Front in 1916.

 

Colin Pink is a poet and art historian. He lectures at Morley College, London and is an accredited Art Society lecturer. He specialises in the relationship between art and ideas.

 

 

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