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Kandinsky had joined the teaching faculty at the newly founded Bauhaus school of art and design in June 1922 after a few recuperative months in Berlin. Kandinsky’s role, alongside Lyonel Feininger and Paul Klee, provided the students with introductory courses in art and design as well as lectures on the most innovative artistic theories of the day. In 1925 the Bauhaus moved to the site at Dessau where the school was housed in architecturally ground-breaking buildings designed by Gropius. At the Bauhaus, Kandinsky’s mode of artistic expression underwent significant change, and his recent acquaintance with the Russian avant-garde and the Revolution had a particularly profound impact on his art. Whilst he never committed himself to the Constructivist cause, his role at the Department of Visual Arts (IZO) within the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment had brought him into close contact with their ideas and aesthetic. Works executed during this time were created in a manner honed by a period of great experimentation with new abstract forms and geometrical compositions.
During the course of 1922-23, Kandinsky's work gradually moved away from the free flowing, irregular lines and shapes of his earlier œuvre, towards a more geometric form of abstraction. His watercolours and paintings of this period are dominated by circles, triangles and straight lines rather than undefined shapes and loosely applied paint. This shift to strict geometric forms reflects the influence of Russian Constructivist art, to which he was exposed during the war years spent in Moscow. Constructivist art was gaining international scope and becoming an important artistic force in Germany during this time, where geometry was accepted as a universal artistic language. However, whilst developing this increasingly abstract vocabulary, Kandinsky's art did not fully adopt the practical, utilitarian quality characteristic of much of Constructivist art. Instead, the poetic and spiritual elements of his earlier works remained the underlying force of his art in the 1920s.
An die See und an die Sonne further reveals Kandinsky’s abiding interest in the correspondences between colour and form. The artist experienced synaesthesic connections between shapes, sounds and colours throughout his life, a form of extreme sensory perception which informed his entire creative corpus. One of Kandinsky’s abiding beliefs in this regard was that ‘sharp colours have a stronger colour in sharp forms (e.g., yellow in a triangle). The effect of deeper colours is emphasised by rounded forms (e.g., blue in a circle)’ (quoted in Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-33 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 45). The focal point of the present work is the vibrant yellow triangle which appropriates the shape of a billowing sail, surrounded by the ‘softer’ forms of the harbour and waves. Ultimately, An die See und an die Sonne stands not only as an exposition of Kandinsky’s key theories at the outset of a formative phase of his career, but also as a joyful record of a much enjoyed holiday.
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