- Wassily Kandinsky
- Ohne titel
- Signed with the monogram and dated 23 (lower left); inscribed No. 109 Aquarelle mouvementée and dated 1923 on the backboard
- Watercolor, pen and ink on paper laid down on board
- 13 by 18 3/4 in.
- 33 by 47.5 cm
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above)
Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, London, June 28, 1999, lot 26)
Acquired at the above sale
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky: Aquarelles et gouaches. Collection privé
de Madame W. Kandinsky, 1957, no. 17
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Kandinsky, Gemälde und Aquarelle, 1958, no. 76
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Wassily Kandinsky 1886-1944, 1976, no. 161, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Karl Flinker, Kandinsky: 82 oeuvres sur papier de 1902 à 1933, 1977, no. 11
Kandinsky. Kleine Freuden: Aquarelle und Zeichnungen (exhibition catalogue), Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhien-Westfalen, 1992, illustrated in color pl. 88
Vivian Endicott Barnett & Armin Zweite, Kandinsky, Watercolors and Drawing (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1992, no. 88, illustrated in color n.p.
Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours Catalogue Raisonné, 1922-1944, vol. II, London, 1994, no. 665, illustrated p. 92
In 1922-23, Kandinsky's work gradually moved 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 undefined shapes and loosely applied paint. This shift to strict geometric forms reflects the influence of the Russian Constructivist art, to which he was exposed during the war years spent in Moscow. With artists such as Kandinsky and Moholy-Nagy, Constructivist art was gaining international scope and becoming an important artistic force in Germany, where geometry was accepted as a universal artistic language. Whilst developing this increasingly abstract vocabulary, Kandinsky's art did not fully adopt the practical, utilitarian quality characteristic of much of Constructivist art. The poetic and spiritual elements of his earlier works remained the underlying force of his art in the 1920s.
Kandinsky composed this work with sharp lines of ink and translucent watercolor, applied with an atomizing spray in some areas, to create the highly-charged atmosphere we see here. The resulting image is a visual explosion of shape and color, torquing and twisting as it expands through this pictorial universe. During the Bauhaus period Kandinsky produced a number of important works based primarily on the circle, in which he explored its inherent values, and its interaction with other forms. Clark Poling comments, "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 works" (C. Poling in Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Year, 1915-1933 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 51).
Kandinsky further developed his theories about the spiritual in art at the Bauhaus, and his ideas found a fresh expression in the compositions of the period. In 1923, the year he completed this picture, Kandinsky published his book Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane). In his writing he outlined his theories of the basic elements of artistic composition, which are evident in the dynamic counterpoint between the geometric forms of the present work. Most notably, he developed his Theory of Correspondences, which emphasized a systematic study of pictorial elements, both in combining the forms of triangle and circle, considered by the artist to be "the two primary, most strongly contrasting plane figures" (W. Kandinsky quoted in ibid., p. 52).