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Kandinsky may have opened the way to pure abstraction, but he was traditionalist, romantic, sentimental and spiritualist. And not even properly abstract

By Ben Lewis   August 2006

If there is one historical fact that every schoolchild remembers, it is that William the Conqueror won the battle of Hastings in 1066 and so the history of England began. Art history students have their own version of the uncontested item of knowledge—that Kandinsky made the first abstract painting in 1910. Now a new exhibition at Tate Modern, which includes little-known works from private collections and loans from the Tretyakov in Moscow, adds some long overdue complexity to the modernist shibboleth of abstraction. But it doesn’t, in fact, go as far as it should.

According to art history, Kandinsky pursued…

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