Letters from Munich

In the first decade of the 20th century there were multiple periodicals in Europe concerned with the the world of western art. One was Zolotoe Runo (The Golden Fleece), published by the patron and collector Nikolai Riabushinsky. Another was Apollon, edited by Sergei Makovsky, which began publication in 1909. Apollon published extensive sections initially on poetry and literature, but then expanded its range with sections on art and music. Apollon also featured reviews from abroad with correspondents in different cities such as Paris, Rome, Munich and Berlin. Vassily Kandinsky served as the Munich correspondent for the first year of publication. During this period he submitted five "Letters," which appeared in the Apollon between October 1909 and October-November 1910. These "Letters From Munich" marked the pinnacle of Kandinsky's role as an art critic. This wiki is chiefly concerned with the first of the five letters.

Letters From Munich: [I]

Kandinsky's first submission to the Apollon is chiefly concerned with the state of art in Munich. He criticizes the deteriorated and stagnant art scene, yet notes that the city seems to be waiting for something big to happen. Kandinsky notes the subsequent manifestation of these expectations through two events, which he metaphorically refers to as exploding bombs. These "bombs" were the failure of two events: an exhibition of French artists , and a large exhibition of Van Gogh's paintings. Both were representative of the general decline of Munich as an artistic center at the time.

Kandinsky continues on to describe a fortunate turn of events for Munich: a man by the name of Hugo Von Tschudi had accepted a newly-vacated seat as director of Bavarian galleries, and the city of art was beginning to turn around. Tschudi showed immediate interest in a new association of Russian and German artists, of which Kandinsky was intimately involved, called the Neue Künstler-Bereinigung München, or New Artists Association of Munich. New exhibitions began to open in Munich and around Germany, many of which showed Far Eastern and Asiatic art . Kandinsky finds this particularly inspiring. He notes:

"Again and again, so much that is part of Western art becomes clear when one sees the infinite variety of the works of the East, which are, nonetheless, subordinated to and united by the same fundamental "tone"! It is precisely this general "inner tone" that the West lacks. Indeed, it cannot be helped: we have turned, for reasons obscure to us, away from the internal toward the external. And yet, perhaps we Westerners shall not, after all, have to wait too long before the same inner sound, so strangely silenced, reawakens within us and, sounding forth from the innermost depths, involuntarily reveals its affinity with the East—just as in the very heart of all peoples, in the now darkest depths of the spirit, there shall resound one universal sound, albeit at present inaudible to us—The sound of the spirit of man."
-Vassily Kandinsky, Munich, October 1909

Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

external image Vassily-Kandinsky.jpeg
Vassily Vassilyevich Kandinsky was a Russian painter and art theorist credited with painting the first abstract works of art. Much of his art theory was concerned with shifting the focus of western art, which he argued was externally representative and concerned with copying nature, towards the expression of inner forms; vibrations of the soul.


Kandinsky was born Moscow, Russia. It was there he attended the University of Moscow, where he studied economics and law. He became successful in his profession and was offered professorship at the University of Dorpat. Additionally, Kandinsky was involved professionally with ethnography, a holistic research approach to different peoples and cultures.

As a child Kandinsky recalled being curiously fascinated by the power of colors . This tendency would develop throughout his life, prompting a formal study of art at the age of thirty. Three years after beginning his studies, in 1896, Kandinsky settled in Munich, Germany. There he began technical studies of form via models at the well-known private art school of Anton Ažbe. Despite the schools professional reputation, Kandinsky found the lack of character and soul demoralizing. He was accepted to study with Franz Stuck, who he considered "Germany's foremost draftsmen," though not without a second request and a year of practice between. With Stuck, Kandinsky found a new focus towards art that he had previously been missing, and noted that he finished a painting for the first time. Kandinsky's newfound clarity was instrumental in the development of his seminal art theories, which were largely concerned with meaning in art, progress in humanity, and above all the "Principle of Internal Necessity."