He was born in Moscow but spent his childhood in Odesa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow and chose law and economics. He started painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) in 1896 in Munich and went back to Moscow in 1918 after the Russian Revolution. Being in conflict with official theories on art, he returned to Germany in 1921. There he was a teacher at the Bauhaus from 1922 until it was closed by the Nazis in 1933. At that time he moved to France. He lived the rest of his life there, becoming a French citizen in 1939. He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.
Along with Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, he is considered a pioneer in abstract art, undoubtedly the most famous. He co-founded the art movement "Der Blaue Reiter". Paintings by Kandinsky have sold for as much as US$15 million. One of the largest collection of Kandinsky paintings is owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Kandinsky is a well known synaesthete [see synaesthesia].