Impressionist & Modern Art

Kandinsky — An Expressionist Masterpiece

By Sotheby's

An Expressionist masterpiece by one of the 20th century's most important painters will be offered for auction in the Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale at Sotheby's in London on 21 June. Painted in 1909, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (Murnau – Landscape with Green House) is considered to be one of Wassily Kandinsky’s most significant works, capturing the moment in which the artist shifted his creative focus from the figurative to the abstract, and signalling a radical change in the narrative of western art in the 20th Century. This is the first time this pivotal work will appear at auction, having remained in private hands since the 1920s. This landmark painting represents the artist’s interest in several key developments in painting. He drew particular influence from Paul Cézanne's deconstruction of form and composition on the picture plane, and explored the vibrant colour palette employed by the Fauves, as well as Vincent van Gogh’s transformation of the landscape.


The Bavarian village of Murnau had become a favourite of Kandinsky and his companion Gabriele Münter in the summer of 1908, for its surrounding dramatic mountain landscapes with their bucolic atmosphere and picturesque viewpoints. He pioneered a style of Expressionism that was fuelled by an explosion of pure colour, applied in brushstrokes of thick paint. Kandinsky's use of colour was inspired by his belief in a spiritual reality that could be discovered through form and colour, and in 1911 he published a seminal text entitled Concerning the Spiritual in Art, in which he examined radical theories relating to painting, the role of artists and the psychology of colour. Many of these theories were later expanded upon during his time teaching at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, alongside his peers Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers and Paul Klee.

Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: "Kandinsky's major early work Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus is a blazing celebration of colour that captures the moment of transition in the artist’s career when he is on the cusp of moving from figuration to abstraction. Many of his important paintings from this highly sought-after period are housed in major museums, so this work surfacing from a private collection after almost a century represents a tremendously appealing opportunity for collectors worldwide."


Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus was first exhibited at The Royal Albert Hall in 1910, when it was chosen to represent the artist at The London Salon of the Allied Artists' Association. The AAA was founded by Frank Rutter, an art critic of The Sunday Times newspaper, with the aim of providing a platform for the promotion of modernist art in Britain. This firmly placed Kandinsky at the forefront of the contemporary art scene in Europe, with his works deeply resonating with those of the Bloomsbury Group, who would have seen him as pioneering figure of modernism.  Just under a century later, the painting returned to London as part of a landmark show at Tate Modern in 2006. A sensation in the art world and the public alike, the exhibition followed Kandinsky's intriguing journey from figurative landscape painter to master of abstraction.



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