Vasily Vasilyevich Kandinsky was born in 1866 in Moscow, Russia. Kandinsky spent his early childhood in Odessa, where his parents played the piano and the zither and Kandinsky himself learned the piano and cello at an early age. He received a classical education at the University of Moscow. In 1886, he enrolled at the University of Moscow where he studied law and economics. He lectured at the Moscow Faculty of Law and became quite a successful teacher who also wrote extensively on spirituality. As one can see his childhood and early years of adulthood were full of action but kept him pretty focused on his career. His one visit to Paris in 1895 has changed dramatically the course of his life and another great artist has been born. Kandinsky being exposed to French paintings, became interested in art was so much that he left his law professorship career in his thirties and went to Munich to study life-drawing, sketching and anatomy. These techniques he regarded as basic for an artistic education. At that time, Munich was a very active center for experimental art and of course this could not pass Kandinsky by as he was a sponge who absorbed all art forms of art in sight, in order to later recreate something unique of his own.
Kandinsky was a great experimentalist as well and soon after switching professions he began exploring the world of art as no one before him did. He soon found a new technique which worked when he applied streaks and blobs of colors onto the canvas with a palette knife. He made the borders of the objects mesh with each other and that according to his own words: "made them sing with all the intensity I could..." He was considered to be the founder of abstract art, as we know it today, his work was exhibited throughout Europe beginning in 1903 onwards, and often caused controversy among the public, the art critics, and his contemporaries. These critics did not pass by on of his very famous canvas Improvisation 31, or Sea Battle which was the second working title. This work was painted in 1913 when Kandinsky was living in Munich for quite some time now and was a renowned painted already.
Kandinsky was influenced by music greatly throughout his entire career, he also was so named his paintings Improvisations, Impressions, and Compositions because of that. The artist felt that painting, like music, should be a form of personal expression, not merely a device for storytelling. He wanted to make the viewer feel things that couldn’t be described in words thus he wanted to give "purely spiritual meaning" to this paintings and swim away from any resemblance to the real world. Definitely such incredible colors and unidentified theme as in the Sea Battle does remind the viewer of the music swirls that rapture and do not let go. The Sea Battle was created when the author was in the middle of his art career and probably that caused it to be so expressively vivid, bright and at the same time unsettled. The two great forces of pure passion for life and the unknown of life are battling in this painting. The mystery of life is depicted with the help of blurry strikes of the paint.
In Improvisation 31 Kandinsky shows us the battle of the two objects that could hardly be seen mainly with the color, which bounces on the canvas and balloons over the center of the picture, roughly curtailed at the upper corners, and gloomily smudged at the bottom right. There are also smears, whether of paint or of blood, which one would guess was blood taking into consideration the time in which this painting was drawn. The action is held tightly within two strong ascending diagonals, creating a central triangle that rises ever higher. This rising accent gives a heroic feel to the violence.
Although the color theme is kept in cold blue colors for the most part, there are also stains of red and orange, as if really it was spilled blood. Kandisnky was a creator of a nonobjective work of art because there are no real distinct objects depicted in the painting. The soft washes of color blur together, and the beautiful, bold colors seem to explode violently. It is evident that colors held personal meaning for Kandinsky as he considered yellow to be sharp and blue to be soft. Thus now we understand that the whole canvas looked as soft and meant to be soft looking although to an average person it would convey the direct opposite meaning.
The artist has made several black shapes and calligraphic lines that contrast the patches of color. These lines suggest the activity of combat, as probably the artist was trying to depict people or ships by selecting certain colors to contrast with the blue of the sea which he considered to be of warm color. The Kandinsky’s intent was not to portray actual ships rather he wanted to depict a feeling of action and turbulence. Our eyes move rapidly over the picture as they try to follow the bursts of color, there is a swirling of the waters seen when one tries to look at the picture for a longer minute.
Although it is clear that his paintings convey no concrete and objective meaning, the works created in the years immediate prior to the beginning of World War I have a common ground. Kandinsky’s work contains symbolic forms. The understanding of this came to professionals of the art when the two related drawings have been identified and compared, not just from mere spontaneous looking at the canvas. Besides, pencil marks on the canvas offer another indication of careful planning. As was already mentioned, the Sea Battle, the secondary title of this work, offers an important clue to the subject, although it is not intended to tie the painting to a predictable narrative. The two sailing vessels locked in combat at the center of the canvas serve as abstract emblems, typical of the oblique images Kandinsky came to prefer. We can make out that their battle takes place as giant waves destroy the towers of a city above and to the left. Similar symbols are repeated in Kandinsky's paintings from this period and refer to an apocalyptic destruction that the artist associated with a cleansing necessary for spiritual regeneration of humanity.
As Kandinsky thought that he as an artist was destined to be a unique part of the society, the one that would lead people to a deeper understanding of the reality through his art. His paintings are full of symbolism and color mixed together they provide an exclusive combination of feelings and mystery of life. The Sea Battle however was made quite real in a sense of the secret meaning it carried when was explored in more detail. As said earlier it was written before WWI and it clearly depicts the two fighting giants. Those giants were the major powers of the world that were in war and due to which massive destruction was brought into the world. Undoubtedly the canvas has multiple layers to it and personally for the painter it held a huge meaning. His adoration of music and vague forms is one of the meanings we can easily trace in the blurry shapes. This was the new way of thinking to him and many of his contemporaries and even the artists of our time. Hi believed in his mission as a leader of the society to a new was of seeing things in life, such things as music on the canvas. We see it very clearly that he managed to do it as none of the artists before him were able to create anything like that. The forms and silhouettes on his paintings were revolutionary new in that time and often could not be comprehended. The non-objectivity of his work was a new wave in the world on art in the beginning of the 20th century. It is always a challenge to be the first to introduce something unknown before but Kandinsky as a real Russian with a classical German artistic education was the perfect man to represent the new way of expressing art.
Expressionist was the name of the new form. It can be seen as the first and most dramatic departure from depicting the world and nature accurately and objectively through art. Expressionist painters promoted intense subjective and emotional reactions to the world around them, such as Kandinsky’s understanding of the battling giants of the two world powers. Expressionists transported these emotions to the canvas in the form of abstract shapes and vivid colors, expression of their emotions in such a way characterize this dynamic movement.
Another particular detail of the Sea Battle that contradicts of with the paintings of the classis school is in the concept of the colors as viewed by the artist. Kandinsky as was already said considered blue to be a warm and comforting color. At all times blue was a symbol of cool and cold, the color of the water- nature at its most powerful expression. On the other side yellow for the artist represents-cold, while for the rest of the world it means something warm and kindly encouraging. We see on the canvas however that his understanding of the color coincides completely with the general theme, or at least with the name of the painting. The giants are the ones represented by yellow and bloody strikes and they are the ones who are destroying the world around them, they are the cause of chaos. The sea is the one taking all this blood and suffering and covering is with its deep waters, its warm and inviting waters. This way of depicting man and nature are totally different from what the viewer was used to see before Kandinsky and that was probably where his genius was recognized.
Kandinsky as Russian by birth was a deeply spiritual person. This important detail of his life was never neglected in his art but rather was a major part of it. In all his works including the famous Sea Battle the artist tried to make a picture of his spiritual condition on the canvas with color. For him, as for most of his fellow abstract artists, bold experimentation with color and line was not a sufficient goal. As Kandinsky explained in his 1912 essay, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he sought to achieve a spiritual reality through his paintings. Again when looking at Improvisation 31 and knowing this fact of his life, the viewed can find yet another meaning to this work and see another Kandinsky. The profound research of his paintings have shown that there are no certain patterns in his paintings, there are only creativity outbursts that led to the creations of the masterpieces. One time when Kandinsky himself was lying on the side of the bed looking at his own work, he was mesmerized by its beauty as he was never before when he looked at it in the upright position. This event showed him that the beauty of the color and smeared forms, although sometimes carefully planned, can be seen at different angles if this beauty comes from within of a true heart of the artist.