The Financial Times‘s Jackie Wullschlager reviews the Wassily Kandinsky show at the Pompidou that will travel to New York’s Guggenheim:
When the first Monets arrived in Russia in 1896, those flocking to see them included a 30-year-old Moscow lawyer, who stood transfixed by the “Haystacks”. Wassily Kandinsky perceived at once that the series pointed to the abstraction of colour and form as painting’s future; in response, he quit law and became an art student with big ambitions. “If fate grants me sufficient time, I shall discover a new international language that will be eternal, and will develop infinitely and is not called Esperanto. It is called ‘painting’,” he announced. “Everything done so far is just copying.” […]
The retrospective now at Paris’s Pompidou Centre includes many choice works demonstrating how, from the start, Kandinsky painted hazily defined forms in flat saturated blocks of colour: sunflower and cherry-magenta trees flanking “The Blue Mountain”; a scarlet-orange sun burning within a white glacier in “Romantic Landscape”. The chromatic range and intensity is exhilarating: too often, when grouped together, Kandinsky’s attempts to turn symbols into a universal language churn into worthy painterly Esperanto.
The triumph of this exhibition – organised with Munich’s Lenbachhaus and New York’s Guggenheim – is to showcase Kandinsky’s works not narrowly as a progress to abstraction but as variations on a theme as the artist responded to shifting political, social, personal realities, especially life as a triple exile. The largest ever exhibition of his oeuvre, and including most of his best works as well as revelatory studies on paper, it is a humanly appealing interpretation of this cerebral yet romantic artist.
Wassily Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou (Financial Times)