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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Nearly 100 works by Vasily Kandinsky will be exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum when it launches a retrospective of the abstract artist on Friday as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.
The Russian painter was a pioneer of abstract art during the early part of the 20th Century. He is also the artist most closely associated with the history of the Guggenheim itself.
The exhibit, which runs until January, brings together canvases from the Center Pompidou in Paris, the Staedtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau in Munich and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, the three largest repositories of his work.
Solomon Guggenheim, the museum's founder, was an avid collector of Kandinsky's work, with more than 150 of his pieces. His enthusiasm for the kind of abstractionism espoused by Kandinsky and others, known as nonobjective art, led him to open in 1939 the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, the precursor to the Guggenheim.
Tracey Bashkoff, the museum's curator, said Kandinsky's work helped inspire the museum's famous spiral design by Frank Lloyd Wright, since it made up such a large part of the holdings for which the building was designed.
"It's the connection between the motivation to build this building and the design," Bashkoff said. "It's fitting in the 50th anniversary year of the museum to have the spirals filled with the paintings that inspired the design and foundation of the museum."
The exhibit traces Kandinsky's body of work, focusing on key events that influenced his life and art, such as the two World Wars and Russian revolutions.
It starts with early works such as the 1907 tempura on canvas painting "Colorful Life," depicting a happy pastoral community, and moves chronologically to the more abstract works that are Kandinsky's hallmark, including examples from the three series "Improvisations," "Impressions" and "Compositions."
Kandinsky admired music for its freedom from nature which is reflected in his use of colors, lines and shapes.
Two oils on canvas from 1923, "Composition 8" and "In the Black Square," juxtapose black lines and sharp angles with a galaxy of primary-colored orbs, while later pieces, such as "Succession" from 1935 and "Various Parts" and "Sky Blue," both from 1940, feature softer palates and amoeba-like biomorphic forms.
The exhibition, which has been shown in Munich and Paris, also includes works on paper from other private and public collections as well as photographs of the artist. They span the period from 1902 to 1942 and include pieces that have rarely traveled.
Kandinsky also taught at the Bauhaus school in Germany, where he shared ideas about the correlation between art and the spiritual with artist Paul Klee. He died in 1944 in France, where he lived.
Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Patricia Reaney