Wassily Kandinsky, Painting with a Red Mark, 1914. Oil on canvas, 51 3/16 × 51 3/16 in.© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Adam Rzepka / Dist.RMN-GP© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

MILWAUKEE, WIS.- Renowned as a painter, printmaker, watercolorist, theoretician, and Bauhaus teacher, Wassily Kandinsky’s prodigious accomplishments span almost all the major artistic movements of the first half of the twentieth century, a time of experimentation and innovation in art, conducted against the upheavals of a society entering the modern world. Beginning Thursday, June 5, 2014, the Milwaukee Art Museum will present a major retrospective of this modern master, side by side with his contemporaries in the Blaue Reiter movement. 

Kandinsky: A Retrospective is conceived by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, one of the major repositories of Kandinsky’s works, and organized together with the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is co-curated by Angela Lampe, the Curator of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou, and Brady Roberts, Chief Curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum. 

The centerpiece of the exhibition will be the reconstruction of an extraordinary lounge Kandinsky created for the 1922 Juryfreie exhibition in Berlin. Made of large scale mural panels, the lounge was meant as a total environment to immerse the viewer in a complete aesthetic experience. It thus predates and anticipates the development of artistic installations and environments later in the century. These murals, reconstructed in 1977 under the supervision of his widow Nina Kandinsky for the opening of the Centre Pompidou, will be presented in the United States for the first time at the Milwaukee Art Museum. 

The exhibition follows the artist through several decades to reveal in five chapters every one of Kandinsky’s creative periods, moving from his native Russia to turn-of-the-century Munich and Murnau, Germany, awash with bold ideas. From there the exhibition returns to revolutionary Russia, before exploring the heady intellectual world of the German Bauhaus, and finally, the dynamic art world of Paris before and during World War II. 

From Art Nouveau’s sinuous, organic forms, to Fauvism and Blaue Reiter’s shocking colors, to Kandinsky’s signature, deeply spiritual abstraction, to the mysteries of Surrealism to the constructivism of the Bauhaus period and the biomorphic forms of the thirties —Kandinsky experienced it all led the way to the invention of radical new forms of modern art. 

The exhibition features over eighty works and documents drawn from the world famous Kandinsky collection of the Centre Pompidou which has one outstanding particularity: nearly all of these works belonged to the artist himself and have been given by his widow Nina Kandinsky to the French State. It allows the visitor the unique opportunity to discover an exhibition made with Kandinsky’s favorite works, those he kept with him all his life. 

The selection is enriched by the exceptional German Expressionist holdings at the Milwaukee Art Museum. A number of paintings from the Bradley Collection will add a complementary art historical dimension to the narrative. The works of Kandinsky’s Munich peers from Milwaukee’s collections will provide rich artistic visual dialogues for visitors. Dazzling works by Alex Jawlensky, August Macke, and Marianne Werefkin, in addition to the Museum’s world-renowned holdings by Kandinsky’s lover and colleague, Gabriele Münter, will gain a new depth from their proximity to her one-time teacher. Two major loans from the Guggenheim Museum and the Walker Art Center will complete this stunning journey through Kandinsky’s career. 

The Milwaukee Art Museum is the premier venue for Kandinsky: A Retrospective. This exhibition celebrates one of the key figures in Modern art by showcasing two extraordinary institutions: the exhaustive collections of works by the artist in the Centre Pompidou; and the superb work of the related Blaue Reiter artists in the Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley Collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum,” said Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This international collaboration tells the story of some of the most dynamic and influential modern art created in the first half of the twentieth century.” 


Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866 – 1944), Achtyrka—A Neighboring Dacha on the Pond (Achtyrka—Eine Nachbar-Datscha am Teich), 1917. Oil on canvas board, 8 1/4 × 11 5/16 in. Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris. Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981 AM 81-65-39 © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM / Dist.RMN-GP© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866–1944), Fragment I for Composition VII (Center), 1913. Oil on canvas, stretchers, 34 15/16 x 39 7/16 in. (88.74 x 100.17 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1958.12Photo credit Larry Sanders © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris