Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky was a pioneer of abstract painting and one of the most influential figures in modern art. Born in Moscow 150 years ago, Kandinsky’s life and art was informed by the 1917 Russian Revolution and the chaos and social upheaval across Europe during the early twentieth century.

In this BBC documentary, Dr Christian Weikop, Senior Lecturer and ECA Chancellor’s Fellow in History of Art, and a specialist in Expressionism, examines Kandinsky’s Russian roots.

In London, Dr Weikop interviews Kandinsky experts and historians of modern art, Dr Shulamith Behr, Prof John Milner, Prof Christina Lodder, Prof Rose-Carol Washton Long and Prof Peter Vergo. Connor Jordan, Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern art at Christie’s, also discusses the very recent sale of a large Kandinsky painting and the artist’s standing in the art market.

In Moscow, various Russian specialists reflect on Kandinsky. Dr Sergey Dzikevitch, the curator of an exhibition celebrating Kandinsky’s 150th anniversary takes us inside the apartment block in central Moscow where Kandinsky lived and worked. Elena Preis – Kandinsky’s grandniece and a celebrated artist in her own right – and her grand-daughter Alexandra discuss their artistic and family connections with the artist. The grandson of Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova also considers the turbulent relationship that Kandinsky had with these two artists, and additionally, Natalia Avtonomova, a Kandinsky expert based at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art in Moscow, considers the artist’s legacy from the late Soviet era onwards.

ECA students can engage with various aspects of the 'revolutionary' art of Wassily Kandinsky on Christian's undergraduate courses "Romanticism to Expressionism" and "Expressionism, Dada, Bauhaus and Beyond"), as well as on his postgraduate course "Critical Episodes in Twentieth-Century German Art: Cultural Exchanges and Divisions".

The documentary will be broadcast on Radio 3 at 18.45 on Sunday 8 January 2017. It will be available on BBC iplayer shortly thereafter:

Reaction to the documentary

Stewart Henderson (Radio 4, ‘Pick of the Week’, 15 Jan 2017),

“… Christian Weikop’s programme is an essential audio crammer for anyone planning a visit to the Royal Academy’s “Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932” exhibition, which opens in February to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, and features work by Kandinsky”. David McGillivray (Radio Times, ‘Sunday Radio - Today’s Choices’, 8 Jan 2017)

“…The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, and his canvases covered in vivid reds, deep blues and vibrant yellows, are the focus of this documentary about his revolutionary role in 20th-century art. Christian Weikop charts how Kandinsky’s work was influenced by the turmoil caused by World Wars and the Russian Revolution which Kandinsky said he had watched from the window of his Moscow studio. Charlotte Runcie (The Daily Telegraph Review, ‘Pick of the week’, 7 January 2017)

Wassily Kandinsky was one of the first artists to break with what this programme calls the “convention” of depicting objects realistically and the idea that the artist actually needed artistry. The art historian Christian Weikop explores the artist’s life and inspiration. Weikop’s narration is enthusiastic and interesting and he isn’t afraid to ask the simple questions. At one point he says the word expressionism then asks: “What does this term mean? The Stalinist government, naturally, hated such art and banned it.” Catherine Nixey, (The Times Saturday Review, ‘Today’s picks’, 7 January 2017)

Kandinsky – A Story of Revolution unfolds the unlikely progress of the ethnographer / lawyer, a habitual exile who turned to art comparatively late, publishing music as part of his visual almanac, a sign of his synaesthesia. ✮✮✮✮ Martin Hoyle, (Financial Times Weekend, ‘Radio Choice’, 7 January 2017)

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