Kandinsky and French Impressionism (as related to Letters from Munich)

Impressionism- Impressionism is a style of painting that concentrates on the "impression" of a general object or scene. Small strokes and primary colors are the main ingredients of impressionism. French impressionism first appeared in the late 19th and early 20th century in France and consisted of some very well-known artists (many of which are listed below). Others included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre August-Renoir.


Impressionism sought to "accurately and objectively record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour." Impressionists desired to move away from the traditional style and move towards this new state of mind that was not so rigid and controlled. Impressionism captured contemporary life...just in a way unseen before then.

Paul C├ęzanne


Born in 1839 in France and died in 1906. He was very well known for his style of painting and for his assistance in the growth of cubism (see Picasso). His style grew out of impressionism and it challenged all the traditional styles of the 19th century. He insisted on the integrity of the painting and his paintings focused on the form rather than the content...this can be seen in the above still life titled "Apples and Oranges."

Vincent van Gogh


Born in 1853 in the Netherlands and died in 1890. He moved to Paris where he began to lighten his palette and use short brushstrokes as the impressionists did (he was influenced by Monet and Gauguin). He was able to develop his style into what he is known for today and for what is evident in his "The Starry Night."

Henri Matisse


Born in 1869 in France and died in 1954. He took up drawing as a pastime and eventually became very attracted to painting. He studied under Gustave Moreau and became very influenced by the impressionist style. He developed a style that favored very decorative compositions as can be seen in his "The Dessert Harmony in Red."

Paul Gauguin


Born in 1848 in France and died in 1903. He was first exposed to impressionism in 1874 and was enthralled by it. He decided he wanted to paint as these other masters had. Gauguin is well known for his development of a conceptual method of representation expressed through color as can be seen in his "Mr. Loulou."

Henri Manguin


Born in 1874 in France and died in 1945. He was good friends with Matisse and undoubtedly influenced by his style. Manguin's works can be described as "
joyful painting: what it expresses is neither a burst of self-astonished happiness nor the exuberant joy of a moment or of a sequence of exceptional moments but a tranquil fulfilment conveying a feeling of duration." His pieces maintain very soft forms and exuberant colors as is apparent in his "La Rade de Villefranche."

Impressionist Influence on Kandinsky

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."

In 1895, Kandinsky attended a French impressionist exhibition where he was highly influenced by Monet's "Haystacks." His first impression was that the painter (Monet) had no right to paint in such a manner. Ironically enough as Kandinsky continued in his artistic career, he started moving towards an abstract style far beyond that of the impressionists. He started exploring his own painting abilities and applied his feelings on color to his canvases. As he was highly influenced by the music of Richard Wagner and Arnold Schoenberg, he aimed to make his paintings "sing" and sing they did.



Modern "Haystacks"