, Kandinsky was a late bloomer. He grew up in Moscow and lived there until he was thirty—and in Moscow he wasn’t making art but practicing law. Yet at thirty, inspired by artistic developments in Paris, he decided to leave Moscow and pursue a career in the arts in Munich. In Munich, Kandinsky shone in his classes and he quickly moved outside of the classroom, to form a progressive organization called Phalanx; to teach art independently; and to exhibit his work, which was included in the Berlin Secession, from which he received enough press to be included in Salon d’Automne in Paris, in 1904.
Yet Kandinsky’s works in these exhibitions were deemed minor and were chiefly interesting due to their fairytale narratives and bright colors. See, for example, his Blue Rider of 1903. As a result in 1903 Kandinsky decided to pick up from Munich and travel. This was by no means a brief trip—it lasted until 1908. The point of this long wunderjahr for Kandinsky was literally to take stock of what Western art “had accomplished to that date.” Though Kandinsky’s travels ranged, he spent most of his time in Paris. From the beginning of his re-thinking of painting, Kandinsky became distrustful of any theories regarding the truth or reality in art. In particular, he rooted this distrust in the recent disintegration of the atom, which truly shook him and showed him that any interpretations of reality had to be questioned; for him it also suggested art should be concerned with the mystical, the metaphysical and the spiritual.
Kandinsky started making abstract paintings in 1908. How he arrived at them is a subject of debate. Some believe it was his experience of seeing Monet’s haystack works—whose value he believed was just in their colors and lines. There is also a story of him seeing one of his own works propped up on its side, glowing “with inner radiance,” and realizing that its figurative elements were secondary. During this period, Kandinsky began to call his works Improvisations and Compositions, reflecting his interest in finding a way to parallel the immediately expressive, non-material nature of music in his art.