- Wassily Kandinsky
- Ohne titel (Untitled)
- Signed with the monogram and dated K 22 (lower left); numbered N.17 on the reverse (not visible due to mounting)
- Watercolor, pen, brush and ink and pencil on paper
(probably) Galerie Twardy, Berlin (acquired circa 1922)
Kikuji Ishimoto, Tokyo (1920s)
Margit Chanin, New York
Minami Gallery, Tokyo
Galerie Berggruen, Paris (1973)
Jorge & Marion Helft, Buenos Aires
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 20, 2005, lot 31)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Berlin, Galerie Goldschmidt-Wallerstein, Kandinsky, 1922
Tomoyoshi Murayama, Kandinsky, Tokyo, 1925, illustrated in color
Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky, Watercolours Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1994, vol. II, no. 563, illustrated p. 20
The present watercolor is possibly one of the very first works Kandinsky executed on his return from Moscow to Germany in June 1922, when he started teaching at the Bauhaus school in Weimar. He quickly became immersed again in the German art world: he participated in a number of exhibitions, and his teachings and writings were crucial to the development of abstract art internationally. Created during this important period of transition, Ohne Titel exemplifies the artist’s gradual move away from the free flowing, irregular lines and shapes of his earlier years, towards a more geometric form of abstraction. His watercolors and paintings of this period are dominated by circles, triangles and straight lines rather than by 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.
It was owing to artists such as Kandinsky and Moholy-Nagy that constructivist art continued to gain international recognition during the early 1920s and become an important artistic force in Germany, where geometry became accepted as a universal artistic language. In the present work, a complex network of intersecting planes set against a pure white background builds a structural tension in the composition; the soft, undulating lines, remnants of Kandinsky’s earlier style, balance the sharpness of the geometric forms, infusing the work with a poetic, playful character. In the present watercolor and the group of works executed in the months that followed, the artist experimented with his ideas about abstraction, form and color, which he articulated in his book Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), published in 1923.
Writing about this pivotal period in Kandinsky’s art, Clark Poling commented: "Basic shapes and straight and curved lines predominate in these paintings, and their black lines against white or light backgrounds maintain a schematic and rigorous quality. The large size and transparency of many of the forms and their open distribution across the picture plane give these compositions a monumentality and an expansiveness despite their relative flatness. Whereas certain abstract features of the series derive from Russian precedents, their vertically positioned triangles and planetary circles refer to landscape… Nevertheless, the transparency of forms, their rigorous definition and floating quality maintain the abstract character of the work" (Clark Poling, Kandinsky, Bauhaus and Russian Years (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 51).
Discussing the early provenance of this work, Vivian Endicott Barnett noted: "According to Nina Kandinsky's annotations in the notebook, number 17 was purchased by the Galerie Twardy at the time. Käte Twardy sold many works to Japanese collectors at an early date and the present watercolor is known to have been in Japan" (Vivian Endicott Barnett, op. cit., p. 20). The work was acquired in the 1920s by Kikuji Ishimoto, who studied at the Bauhaus.