Lot 16
  • 16

Wassily Kandinsky

Estimate
1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
Sold
1,205,000 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Grün (Green)
  • signed with the monogram and dated 29 (lower left); signed with the monogram, titled, dated 1929 and inscribed No. 460 and 49 x 70 on the reverse
  • oil on board
  • 70 by 48.8cm.
  • 27 1/2 by 19 1/4 in.

Provenance

Nina Kandinsky, Paris (the artist's widow)

Galerie Maeght, Paris (acquired from the above in the 1950s or 1960s)

Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London

Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired by 1994)

Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in the 1990s

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky: Bauhaus de Dessau, 1927-1933, 1965, no. 17

New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Kandinsky, The Bauhaus Years, 1966, no. 27, illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

The Artist's Handlist, vol. IV, no. 460

Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, London, 1959, no. 460, listed p. 337; fig. 315, illustrated p. 375

Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, London, 1984, vol. II, no. 904, illustrated p. 829

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1929, whilst Kandinsky was at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Grün depicts his radical aesthetic theory with all the stylistic hallmarks that defined this period. The key triangular forms in the upper left seem drawn upwards by a compositional impetus imparted by the brilliant colours and sharply defined diagonals. Invited by Walter Gropius, Kandinsky joined the teaching faculty at the newly founded Bauhaus school of art and design in Weimar and after a few recuperative months in Berlin, the artist started teaching at the school in June 1922. 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 changes. In particular his recent acquaintance with the Russian avant-garde and the Revolution had a 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 brought him into close contact with their ideas and aesthetic. Works made at the Bauhaus, such as Grün, were created in a manner honed by a period of great experimentation with new abstract forms and geometrical compositions. The privations of his life in Russia, induced by the Revolution, made it hard for the artist to find the space and materials needed for oil-painting. Preferring to perfect his ideas using watercolour, it was not until Kandinsky took up his teaching post at the Bauhaus that the impact of his time in Russia became fully evident in his oil paintings. The Bauhaus school was also marked by a period of artistic cohesion amongst those who shared Gropius’s campus. Works such as Grün and Empor (fig. 1) possess a similar harmonious balance of forms, often with a subtle sense of movement, as do Paul Klee’s more figurative elements in pictures produced during the same period (fig. 2). Kandinsky was also capable of integrating the poetic and spiritual elements of his earlier works and they remained the underlying force of his art throughout the 1920s.

Entitled simply ‘Green’, the present work’s palette is in fact far more rich and varied than the title suggests. For Kandinsky the vast nuances of meaning that could be conveyed by a single colour were one of the fundamental elements of his theory and practice. In his first major theoretical text On the Spiritual in Art, published in 1911, Kandinsky ascribed different sounds to shades of green which matched his synaesthetic experience of colour, for example: mid-green sounded like the quiet, mid-range tones of a violin, whilst yellow-green was perceived to be like the higher notes of the violin, in contrast to blue-green as a muted alto-violin. As Kandinsky’s research progressed at the Bauhaus his theory became less instinctive and more scientific, but nonetheless entrenched in the depth of emotion that art can elicit. In a letter to Will Grohmann dated 21st November 1925 Kandinsky wrote that he hoped that his audience would grasp 'what lies behind my painting, and are no longer content with the observation that I use triangles or circles [...]. It must be finally understood that form for me is only a means to an end, and that I am so thoroughly and completely concerned with form - in my theories, too - because I want to penetrate its inner nature. You once mentioned the word 'Romantic', and I was delighted [...]. Today there is a 'New Objectivity' - there ought to be a New Romanticism [...]. The meaning, the content of art is Romantic' (quoted in Frank Whitford, Kandinsky: Watercolours and other Works on Paper (exhibition catalogue), The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1999, p. 69).
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