Nina Kandinsky (by descent from the artist)
I. Schenkein, New York
Jan Ahlers, Herford (acquired by mid-1980s)
Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above. Sale: Christie's, London, 4th February 2002, lot 36)
Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The motif of the horse and rider plays a central role in the symbolic world and iconography of Kandinsky's œuvre. The subject first appeared in a 1901 tempera work titled Dämmerung (Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus) and again in 1903 in the oil painting Der Blaue Reiter in which a rider in a blue cloak is depicted galloping on a white horse. Taking his inspiration from the ubiquitous images of St. George with a lance fighting the dragon which appeared in the icons and folk art of his native Russia, Kandinsky embraced the theme as an allegory of artistic and romantic struggle and yearning. Indeed the artist saw the noble rider as a kind of spiritual ambassador and protector and in 1912 chose his woodcut Der Blaue Reiter for the cover of the eponymous Almanach, which espoused the aesthetic ideals of his artistic circle.
Painted in 1906, Park von St. Cloud – mit Reiter is a wonderful example of the transitional period in Kandinsky's œuvre, introducing a style of painting that prefigures the artist's development towards abstraction. Kandinsky travelled to Paris where he lived at no. 12, rue des Ursulines for a short period during the summer months of 1906, finding endless artistic inspiration in the charm of the city's parks and its surroundings. The picturesque scenery of the park and the artist's new environment gave his work a renewed dynamism. The liberty taken with colour by the Fauve painters, whose works Kandinsky had seen in Paris in the 1905 Salon d'Automne, had been a revelation, pointing the way towards the invention of a pictorial language that would free painting from the object.
The artist's use of strong, defined colour planes and thick impasto paint in the present work reflect the changing and increasingly important role of colour in his work. As Will Grohmann wrote: 'Colour becomes increasingly crucial [...] This was the direction of development. The painter distributes and links the colours, combines them and differentiates them as if they were beings of a specific character and special significance. As in music, the materials now come to the fore, and in this respect Kandinsky stands between Mussorgsky and Scriabin. The language of colour – just as in the composers – calls for depth for fantasy; and Kandinsky's art will henceforward depend increasingly on its own resources' (W. Grohmann, op. cit., pp. 60-61).
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