Lot 23
  • 23

Wassily Kandinsky

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
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  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Vertiefte regung (Deepened Impulse)
  • Signed with the monogram and dated 28 (lower left); signed with the monogram, titled, inscribed with the measurements 76 x 100, dated 1928, and numbered 424 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 3/8 by 29 7/8 in.
  • 100 by 76 cm


Otto Ralfs, Braunschweig (acquired from the artist)

S. Hale, Mexico City (acquired in December 1931)

Private Collection, New York  (acquired from the above)

Private Collection (acquired by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby's New York, May 5, 2010, lot 20)

Acquired at the above sale


Düsseldorf, Deutsche Kunstausstellung, 1928, no. 477


The Artist's Handlist IV, no. 424

Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, New York, 1958, no. 424, catalogued p. 337; no. 284, illustrated p. 373

Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume Two, 1916-1944, Ithaca, 1984, no. 867, illustrated p. 801

Catalogue Note

Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse) is Kandinsky's resonant meditation on the celestial beauty of circles.  Painted in 1928 while he taught at the Bauhaus design school in Dessau, the picture embodies the aesthetic principles that Kandinsky promoted to his students.   Circles dominated his most meaningful compositions of this intellectually sophisticated period of his career, and he expounded upon their incomparable aesthetic values in his writing.  In response to why this form was so significant in his art, he could readily enumerate the reasons.  The circle, he believed, was "1. the most modest form, but asserts itself unconditionally, 2.  a precise but inexhaustible variable, 3.  simultaneously stable and unstable, 4. simultaneously loud and soft, 5. a single tension that carries countless tensions within it.  The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions" (quoted in J. Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, Brussels, 1993, pp. 284-85).

Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse) carries on the artistic philosophies that the artist professed so passionately in his 1911 treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art.  Kandinsky was interested in Eastern Mysticism and Theosophy, and his ideas about art and its resonant connection to the soul were integral to his practice.  While his descriptive language may be bombastic, his resulting canvases were no less visually spectacular:  "Technically, every work of art comes into being in the same way as the cosmos — by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music of the spheres. The creation of the work of art is the creation of the world."

It is this cataclysmic force and great symphony of color that Kandinsky has brought to the fore in the present painting.  At the heart of the composition is a great explosion into darkness, rendered with an abrupt transition from the primarily white background into the effervescent blue and blackness of the center. It is as if the artist is attempting to "annihilate" the background, ripping it open to reveal infinity beyond the canvas and creating a pictorial "black hole."  The circles appear to be floating in space, like stars eclipsing and colliding with one another in their perpetual motion through the cosmos.   

Both the present composition and Several Circles, in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, are clear manifestations of Kandinsky's documented fascination with astronomy.  Writing about the Guggenheim picture, Jelena Hahl-Koch has pointed out, "There is a strong association with planets and stars in this and all the pictures of circles, especially those painted on dark backgrounds.  The links between artistic creation and the "creation of the world," bound by the laws of nature, come easily to mind" (J. Hahl-Koch, op. cit., p. 284).  Hahl-Koch tells us that in the early-twentieth century, the artist and Gabriele Münter would often invite an astronomer friend to their home on clear nights to guide them through the starry sky with a telescope.  The artist's instruction in astronomy proved highly influential to his compositions, particularly those he did at the Bauhaus, where the harmony and interplay of circles was his favorite motif. 

The first owner of this painting was Otto Ralfs (1892-1955), a businessman and art collector based in Braunschweig.  Ralfs was instrumental in supporting the careers of several emerging artists, including the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and founded the Kandinsky Gesellschaft and Klee Gesellschaft in 1925.  These organizations ensured that each artist receive a monthly stipend from contributing private collectors in Germany and Switzerland.   In exchange, the collectors were eligible for discounts on works of art and received a drawing or painting as a New Year's gift.  Like so many of his generation, Ralfs went bankrupt in the 1930s and sold his collection.  According to Vivian Endicott Barnett, Ralfs sold Vertiefte Regung to a private collector in Mexico City with the assistance of Rivera, who had wanted to purchase the painting for himself but was unable to afford it.  The Braunschweig collector and dealer Galka Scheyer was also in Mexico in the autumn of 1931, and probably facilitated the transaction for her friends Kandinsky and Ralfs.  Since that time, Vertiefte Regung has remained in private hands.