Russian-born painter, wood-engraver, lithographer, teacher and theorist; pioneer of abstract art. Born in Moscow. Studied law and economics at Moscow University; declined in 1896 the offer of a chair at the University of Dorpat and moved to Munich to study painting. Spent two years at the Azbé School, afterwards attended the Academy under Stuck. Close friendship with Gabriele Münter 1902-14. Visited Russia, Italy, Holland, Tunisia, Switzerland and spent a year 1906-7 near Paris. Made paintings and woodcuts inspired by Russian folk art and fairy tales, and also landscape studies painted directly from nature. Returned to Munich 1908. Developed rich, Fauve-like contrasts of colour, then began to eliminate the representational element from his paintings and compose with abstract colours and shapes. Wrote Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1910 and founded the Blue Rider group with Franz Marc 1911. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Hans Goltz, Neue Kunst in Munich 1912. Spent 1914-21 in Russia, where he held various important cultural appointments, then returned in 1921 to Berlin; appointed professor at the Bauhaus, Weimar, in 1922, moving with the Bauhaus to Dessau 1925. Began to work with precise, geometrical forms and published in 1926 Point and Line to Plane. After the closure of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, spent his last years from 1933 in Paris, where he died.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.379