NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Two Paths to Abstract Art: Kandinsky and Malevich

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 12403
Issued in August 2006
NBER Program(s):   LS

Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich were both great Russian painters who became pioneers of abstract art during the second decade of the twentieth century. Yet the forms of their art differed radically, as did their artistic methods and goals. Kandinsky, an experimental artist, approached abstraction tentatively and visually, by gradually and progressively concealing forms drawn from nature, whereas Malevich, a conceptual innovator, plunged precipitously into abstraction, by creating symbolic elements that had no representational origins. The conceptual Malevich also made his greatest innovations considerably earlier in his life than the experimental Kandinsky. Interestingly, at the age of 50 Kandinsky wrote an essay that clearly described these two categories of artist, contrasting the facile and protean young virtuoso with the single-minded individual who matured more slowly but was ultimately more original.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12403

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