OUR ARTIST OF INSPIRATION
Each quarter, the Delaplaine designates a different Artist of Inspiration to inspire artists and the art-curious in the community, and to provide a focus for our educational outreach programs.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866—1944) was a Russian painter, teacher, and art theorist, and is generally credited as the pioneer of abstract art. He grew up in what is now the Ukraine and learned to play piano and cello as a young child. After graduating from the Grekov Odessa Art school, he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow. At 30, he declined a professorship in Roman law to begin studying painting in Munich.
His efforts to create work that would immediately connect with the soul, as he believed music has the power to do, led him to compose paintings with increasingly abstract colors and forms. The connections he perceived between the visual arts and music have led some scholars to believe he had synesthesia, a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense will trigger another sense.
In 1911, he joined other like-minded artists to form the Blue Rider Group and began to write about his theories. His treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911) argued that colors and forms have spiritual effects on the soul of the viewer, and famously likened painting to music: “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kandinsky left Munich for Moscow. He held various cultural posts within the new Russian government, including helping to organize the Institute of Artistic Culture and serving as its first director. However, his spiritual and expressive view of art was rejected as too individualistic by the radical members of the Institute, and in 1921 he took advantage of an invitation to teach at the Bauhaus in Germany.
At the Bauhaus, Kandinsky made color theory an important part of the curriculum. His focus on basic geometric shapes and primary colors influenced a generation of artists, and led to more precise, geometrical forms in his paintings and to his second book, Point and Line to Plane, published in 1926. He went with the Bauhaus as the school attempted to escape right-wing hostility by moving to Dessau in 1925 and to Berlin in 1932. When the Nazis forced its closure in 1933, Kandinsky made his final move, this time to Paris. He spent the rest of his life in France, creating some of his most prominent art.
Previous Artists of Inspiration
Andy Goldsworthy is a land artist, sculptor, and photographer, who gained an interest in nature and working outdoors as a youth while working on farms in northern England. Goldsworthy is best known for his temporary, site-specific works created outdoors from natural materials found on-site, which he then photographs before they succumb to the elements.
Goldsworthy views his process as a collaboration with nature, which often requires patience, flexibility, and spontaneity. For his ongoing Rain Shadow series (1984– ), he lies on the ground just before a rainfall and remains there until the rain stops, creating a “shadow,” which he then photographs. He has said of this work that it “is an intuitive response to the day, the light, the season…and without that, I will shrivel up as an artist. The permanent works, the projects, come from that. In a way, this work is breathing in, and the permanent works are breathing out.”
In addition to the work made at his Scottish home and studio, he has created ephemeral and permanent works around the world, including Three Cairns (2001–2003), in Iowa, New York, and California. The National Gallery of Art commissioned Roof (2004–2005), nine stacked slate, low-profile hollow domes, each with centered oculi. The earthbound domes are a counterpoint to the many rooftop domes of Washington, reminding the viewer that we are surrounded by materials from nature, even in a city.
Goldsworthy has been the subject of two documentary films by director Thomas Riedelsheimer: Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time (2001) and Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy (2017). From 2000 to 2008, he served as the A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University, and in 2000, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Anni (Fleischmann) Albers (1899–1994) was an influential textile designer, weaver, writer, and printmaker who blurred the lines between art and craft. Born to an affluent family in Berlin, Germany, she rebelled against societal expectations by becoming an artist. In 1922, she began studying at the Bauhaus, a new art school that embraced modernism and connected art, architecture, and craft.
As a woman, only the Bauhaus’s weaving workshop was open to her, and initially she thought textiles were “too sissy, like needlepoint and the other things . . . ladies do.” However, she came to appreciate what she could create with the medium, and eventually became the head of the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Her use of flat color and geometric shapes, and blend of art and craft were influenced by the Bauhaus style and ethos.
She met her future husband, Josef Albers, when they were both students at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Over his lifetime, Josef became an influential teacher, writer, painter, and color theorist, and, although they did not collaborate professionally, they each fostered the other’s creativity and shared the belief that art is central to the human experience.
When the Bauhaus closed in 1933 under pressure from the Nazis, the Alberses accepted positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a new experimental art school similar to the Bauhaus that shared their belief that the arts are essential. There, Anni Albers established the weaving workshop, where she encouraged her students to experiment with materials, textures, and methods.
Albers continued to explore textiles as an artistic medium at Black Mountain and later in her home studio in Connecticut, where she and Josef moved in 1950. Her artworks were intended to be hung on the wall and utilized pictorial weaving, where abstract shapes tell a story (unlike pattern weavings, which repeat contrasting shapes and colors). She completed large-scale interior and architectural commissions, including for the Harvard Graduate Center, Philip Johnson’s Rockefeller Guest House, and the Jewish Museum, New York. Recognition of her artwork led to her solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first textile artist to do so.
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