Lot 332
  • 332

Wassily Kandinsky

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • An die See und an die Sonne (To the Sea and the Sun)
  • signed with the initial K, dated 22  and titled (lower left); inscribed Herzlichsten Dank für den/schönen Sommer and signed Kandinsky (lower right) and inscribed Mit vielem, vielem Dank/Ihre Nina Kandinsky IX 22 by Nina Kandinsky (lower left)
  • watercolour and pen and ink on paper
  • 28.4 by 21.8cm., 11 1/8 by 8 5/8 in.


Walter Gropius, Weimar (between 1922-1969)
Private Collection, Weimar (by descent from the above)
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne (acquired in 1989)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995


Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Malerei im Prisma, Freundeskries Sonia und Robert Delaunay, 1991, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Hohenems, Otten Kunstraum, Russian Avant-Garde, Roots of the Otten Collection, 2008-09


Vivian Endicott Barnett, 'Kandinskys Werke aus Privatsammlungen' in Kandinsky, Kleine Freuden: Aquarelle und Zeichnungen (exhibition catalogue), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, 1992, illustrated p. 47
Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours Catalogue raisonné 1922-44, London, 1994, vol. II, no. 573, illustrated p. 24


Executed on cream wove paper which has been removed from a guest book on which it was originally executed, not laid down, hinged to the backboard in the upper two corners and floating in the mount. The sheet is very slightly time stained. The red colour to the borders of the sheet is original from the border of the guest book. There is some minor staining towards the lower left corner and the ink of the dedication has slightly faded. This work is in overall very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This graceful and exquisitely formed composition was created in September 1922, shortly after Wassily Kandinsky had joined the Bauhaus faculty in Weimar. It was intended as a gift for Walter Gropius, the celebrated architect and founder of the Bauhaus. Kandinsky and his wife, Nina, had spent their summer holiday at Timmendorfer Strand on the German coast, staying with Gropius’ mother, Manon Scharnweber Gropius, and a grateful Kandinsky executed the present work in the Gropius family’s guestbook. The heartfelt inscriptions noted down by both the artist and his wife reveal the extent to which they had enjoyed their break, with Kandinsky writing: ‘Warmest thanks for a wonderful summer,’ and Nina echoing his sentiments with ‘Many many thanks, yours Nina Kandinsky.’ An die See und an die Sonne appears to depict a stylised sail boat drifting within a harbour wall, perhaps indicative of the attractive surroundings in which the Kandinskys had passed their holiday.

Kandinsky had joined the teaching faculty at the newly founded Bauhaus school of art and design in June 1922 after a few recuperative months in Berlin. 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 change, and his recent acquaintance with the Russian avant-garde and the Revolution had a particularly 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 had brought him into close contact with their ideas and aesthetic. Works executed during this time were created in a manner honed by a period of great experimentation with new abstract forms and geometrical compositions.

During the course of 1922-23, Kandinsky's work gradually moved away from the free flowing, irregular lines and shapes of his earlier œuvre, towards a more geometric form of abstraction. His watercolours 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 Russian Constructivist art, to which he was exposed during the war years spent in Moscow. Constructivist art was gaining international scope and becoming an important artistic force in Germany during this time, where geometry was accepted as a universal artistic language. However, whilst developing this increasingly abstract vocabulary, Kandinsky's art did not fully adopt the practical, utilitarian quality characteristic of much of Constructivist art. Instead, the poetic and spiritual elements of his earlier works remained the underlying force of his art in the 1920s.

An die See und an die Sonne further reveals Kandinsky’s abiding interest in the correspondences between colour and form. The artist experienced synaesthesic connections between shapes, sounds and colours throughout his life, a form of extreme sensory perception which informed his entire creative corpus. One of Kandinsky’s abiding beliefs in this regard was that ‘sharp colours have a stronger colour in sharp forms (e.g., yellow in a triangle). The effect of deeper colours is emphasised by rounded forms (e.g., blue in a circle)’ (quoted in Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-33 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 45). The focal point of the present work is the vibrant yellow triangle which appropriates the shape of a billowing sail, surrounded by the ‘softer’ forms of the harbour and waves. Ultimately, An die See und an die Sonne stands not only as an exposition of Kandinsky’s key theories at the outset of a formative phase of his career, but also as a joyful record of a much enjoyed holiday.