Facts within art history aren’t always as solidly verifiable as we would like them to be. Can we say with certainty that Wassily Kandinsky, born on this day, 16 December, in 1866, was the first abstract painter? The artist, honoured today with a Google Doodle, was certainly a pioneer, but humans have been creating non-figurative art for millennia.
Nevertheless, as we explain in our world history of styles and movements, Art in Time, the Russian artist was certainly one of the earliest and most influential abstract painters of the 20th century.
This salience seems unlikely, judging by his early life. The Russian-born artist studied law and economics initially, and only took up painting at the age of 30. However, on moving to Germany in 1896, he soon developed his innovative ideas within a few distinct groups, outlining his theories in key texts.