Nina Kandinsky, Paris
Louis Clayeux, Paris (acquired from the above)
Fernand Graindorge, Liège (circa 1958)
Robert Kahn-Sriber, Paris (sold: Sotheby's, London, July 1, 1975, lot 30)
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky 1900-1910, 1951, no. 34
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; New York, Knoedler Gallery; San Francisco Museum of Fine Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Kandinsky: Retrospective Exhibition, 1952, no. 8
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Paysages, 1975, no. 31
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Der Blaue Reiter und sein Kreis, 1977, no. 26
Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, New York, 1958 no. 590, illustrated p. 398 (titled Starnberger See II)
Hans K. Roethel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, Volume One, 1900-1915, Ithaca, 1982, no. 243, illustrated p. 234
Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, Brussels, 1993, no. 138, illustrated p. 113
Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky nelle collezioni svizzere (exhibition catalogue), Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano, 1995, discussed p. 20
Kandinsky painted this spectacular vista of Starnberger See (Lake Starnberg) after a visit to Murnau, just south of nearby Munich, in the fall of 1908. The artist had been to the region in the spring with Gabriele Münter, and came back a few months later to paint this autumn scene, which shows the vibrant colors of the leaves along the bank of the lake. The catalogue raisonné identifies no specific location for the painting other than Starnberger See in Murnau, but it has been suggested that the town depicted here is Tutzing. Murnau was only a short train ride from Munich, and the trip Kandinsky made here in the first half of 1908 had a profound effect on his artistic development. The picturesque scenery of the countryside around the village and the lake gave his paintings an energy that had not been present in his earlier work. In the weeks leading up to his completion of the present painting, Kandinsky painted a smaller, preliminary canvas (see fig. 1). Vivian Endicott Barnett has indicated that Kandinsky painted this smaller version outdoors, and then he returned to his studio in Munich to develop the idea into the larger, final picture (the present work), which has also been referred to as Starnberger See II.
The liberty taken with color by the Fauve painters whose works Kandinsky had seen in Paris in 1905-07 had been a revelation, pointing the way towards the invention of a pictorial language that would free painting from the object. Developing the approach of Braque and Derain, Kandinsky was able to build on that experience in Murnau to formulate abstractions from nature (see fig. 2). Landscapes, such as the present one, are characterized by a simplification of forms which represent a crucial transition between the artist's early paintings and the momentous works of 1910 which herald Kandinsky's art of chromatic abstraction.
Kandinsky's companion in Murnau was the painter Gabriele Münter, and they frequently met with two other painter friends Marianna von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky. Münter remembered this period of the four of them working together as "very beautiful, interesting and joyful, with numerous discussions about art" (quoted in Andrea Witte, "Alexei von Jawlensky et Wassily Kandinsky; Rapports avec le néo-impressionisme," Signac et la libération de la couleur, Paris, 1997, p. 260). Jawlensky introduced Münter and Kandinsky to the local tradition of glass painting, an art form that was to make a great impact on Kandinsky's art. His response to the simplicity and forcefulness of folk-art is apparent here in the way the brightness of the yellows and reds glow out from the darker colors surrounding them. Although a certain fidelity to first-hand observation is still predominant, such as the way he records the time of day and season, the abstract element is beginning to assert itself over nature in the confident, resonant dabs and lines of pure color.
As noted by Jelena Hahl-Koch, "The Lake of Starnberg strikes one as an attempt to create a synthesis between the early landscape sketches which are often summarily constructed with dots on a dark background. Its tones are considerably brighter and more luminous than those of the early studies, its color combinations (especially yellow and pink) more daring. The thin, pastel-like, almost uniform treatment of the yellow cloud is a new and seldom repeated occurrence in Kandinsky's oeuvre" (Jelena Hahl-Koch, op. cit., p. 110).
Kandinsky's use of distinct color planes in the present work reflects the increasing role of color in his work of 1908. Grohmann writes, "Color becomes increasingly crucial...[yellow, white, carmine, pink, light blue and blue-green] transport the subject to the sphere of dream and legend. This was the direction of development. The painter distributes and links the colors, combines them and differentiates them as if they were beings of a specific character and special signifigance. As in music, the materials now come to the form, and in this respect Kandinsky stands between Mussorgsky and Scriabin. The language of color - just as in those composers - calls for depth, for fantasy; and Kandinsky's art will henceforward depend increasingly on its own resources" (Will Grohmann, op. cit., p. 61).
As stated in the catalogue raisonné, Starnberger See was created as one side of a double-sided painting. The other side of the picture, titled Lanzenreiter in Lanschaft, (see fig. 3) is recorded in the catalogue raisonné as no. 246. According to an article published in a 1995 catalogue by the Galerie Thomas entitled Meisterwerke I: 9 Gemälde des deutschen Expressionismus, the painting was divided in two under the supervision of Nina Kandinsky, the artist's widow, in 1950. After Mme Kandinsky, the next owner of record of the present work was Fernand Clayeux, the artistic director of the Galerie Maeght, where the picture was exhibited in 1951.
Fig. 1, Wassily Kandinsky, Studie für Starnberger See, 1908, oil on board, Private Collection
Fig. 2, Georges Braque, Le Golfe, Les Lecques, 1906, oil on canvas, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Fig. 3 , Wassily Kandinsky, Lanzenreiter in Landschaft, 1908, oil on board, Private Collection
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