Ukrainian story of Wassily Kandinsky and newly found watercolors featured in new book

Wassyl Kandinskiy against the backdrop of his painting "Yellow-Red-Blue." Collage by Euromaidan Press 

Culture

Article by: Natalie Gryvnyak

The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky is renown throughout the world for his abstract paintings. Yet not many know of his Ukrainian background and of the influence Ukrainian culture made on the famous painter. All of his early years of life he lived in Odesa, modern-day Ukraine, where he studied art and was formed as an artist. The book “Unknown Kandinsky,” presented at a book fair in Kyiv, is an insight into the Ukrainian story of a painter with a detective twist – as it features his lost watercolors paintings that were found by the author Volodymyr Tsvil.

A peek inside the book

A peek inside the book

Each day, the line of people standing at the entrance to the annual book fair “Book Arsenal” in Kyiv that took place over 18-21 May counted hundreds of people. One of the presentations at the fair was unique as to the subject and the form. As Wassily Kandinsky once told himself “everything starts with a starting point.” His own art legacy has inspired art professionals, civic activists and Ukrainian virtual reality designers to create a unique glimpse based on the art of one of the most renowned abstract painters who was inspired by Ukraine and lived in Russia, France, and Germany.

This book was based on a lost collection of Kandinsky’s watercolors, discovered by nobody less but Ukraine’s ex-consul to Germany, Volodymyr Tsvil. He engaged in the detective work of tracking down the artist’s missing artwork from the period of 1909-1913 after being approached by descendants of one of Kandinsky’s civil wives and then wrote “Unknown Kandinsky,” in which he told about the artist’s life in Ukraine and Germany. “In the early 2000’s, distant descendants of the secret bride of Kandinsky – Gabriela Myunter asked me to help them in the search of the collection, which until that time remained in the house. I was not a collector, but I couldn’t have remained indifferent,” Tsvil told at the opening.

Composition VII The period 1910 -1914 is considered the peak of Kandinsky's career and many critics refer to this painting as the peak of his artistic achievement in this period. He did more research for this composition than for any other work, although he wrote the final version in just three days. It is believed that Composition VII refers to the apocalyptic themes of the Flood, the Last Judgment, the Resurrection and Paradise. Kandinsky himself noted that this circling hurricane of colors and shapes is his most difficult work.

Composition VII
The period 1910 -1914 is considered the peak of Kandinsky’s career and many critics refer to this painting as the peak of his artistic achievement in this period. He did more research for this composition than for any other work, although he wrote the final version in just three days.
It is believed that Composition VII refers to the apocalyptic themes of the Flood, the Last Judgment, the Resurrection and Paradise. Kandinsky himself noted that this circling hurricane of colors and shapes is his most difficult work. Source: fb.com/UnknownKandinskiy

The search was victorious – finally, a previously unknown collection of 51 watercolors by Kandinsky was found. This collection has an interesting story of its own. Gabriela Myunter kept many works of painter after winning legal permission to have them in her possessions. In the 1920’s, she rented a separate room to store the art of her lover until the Nazi regime which proclaimed abstract art to be degenerative and started destroying such paintings. Gabriela hid them and managed to keep them safe up until her late years when she donated many masterpieces to Munich museum. But some of the paintings were given to members of the Rossenberg family, who contacted the author of the book. Now with the support and active participation of the author of “Unknown Kandinsky,” work on returning these paintings to Germany and Ukraine, as part of Ukrainian legacy of Wassilly Kandinsky, is ongoing.

The book “Unknown Kandinky” was supported by renowned art professionals and researchers. Dmytro Horbachev, researcher of avant-garde artists and professor at Kyiv National University of Theater, Film and Television and advisor of the Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions, and Jean-Claude Markade, Honorary Director of Research of the French National Center for Scientific Research provided consultations for the book.

Photo: Natalie Gryvniak

Visitors of the book presentation experience Kandinsky’s painting in virtual reality. Photo: Natalie Gryvniak

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The painting which was shown in virtual reality

The book not only told about Kandinsky’s history but gave birth to an innovative new beginning. A Ukrainian new media and virtual reality team put one of the paintings from his lost collection in a 360-degree sphere using virtual reality tools. In “Kandinsky 360,” one can see parts of the painting close up, being surrounded by forms and colors that Wassily Kandinsky once visualized and painted. The first step in the virtual art could be continued into a larger project of versatile paintings being presented virtually and even as a foundation for virtual art museums and art laboratories. The VR lab “Sensorama” chose to perform the project due to great colors and forms painter used in his art, and see it as a founding point to promote virtual art further on.

Ukrainians long for quality literature and art projects. People are inspired to preserve the country’s legacy and to create a new one. Like the lawyer who saw an exhibition of Claude Monet and being mesmerized made an immediate life-changing decision to continue with his child passion for painting, which resulted in the great painter Wassily Kandinsky. Or like the ex-consul of Ukraine in Germany, Volodymyr Tsvil, who was inspired by the chance to find Kandinsky’s legacy and to show it in Ukraine after a conversation with descendants of the Rossenberg family. Or like virtual reality media activists that want to place art in a new form and bravely view the world from different angles, as abstract painters once did.

Inspire yourself and be open for more.

Natalie Gryvnyak is a journalist and inspirer of “Kandinsky 360” done by Sensorama virtual reality team

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