Lot 108
  • 108

Wassily Kandinsky

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
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  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Unfester ausgleich (Unstable Compensation)
  • signed with the artist's monogram, dated 1930, titled and numbered 499 on the reverse
  • oil on board
  • 45 by 33cm., 17 1/2 by 13in.


Bernard Maeght, Paris
Galerie Maeght, Paris (acquired from the above by 1965)
Davlyn Gallery, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 29th March 1988, lot 40
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky, Bauhaus de Dessau, 1927-1933, 1965, no. 29
Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, Kandinsky Centenaire, 1966, no. 64
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Kandinsky, The Bauhaus Years, 1966, no. 35, illustrated in the catalogue
Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Kandinsky, 1978, no. 11
Tokyo, Fuji Television Gallery, Kandinsky, Bauhaus & Paris Years, 1922-44, 1986, no. 6, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


The Artist's Handlist, IV, no. 499
Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, London, 1959, no. 348, illustrated p. 378
Werner Haftmann, 'Kandinsky, Bauhaus de Dessau 1927-1933' in Derrière Le Miroir, Maeght Editeur, 1965, no. 29, illustrated n.p.
Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1916-1944, New York, 1984, vol. II, no. 944, illustrated p. 861


The board is sound and gently undulating. There are some creasing and handling marks along all four edges, notably in the upper left corner and along the lower edge, not visible when framed. Examination under UV light reveals some small spots of retouching to the white pigment in the right hand side of the circular form. There are a few further small strokes of inpainting in places, the largest of which is approximately 1cm. line in the blue/green background just above the rectangular element at the lower centre of the composition. There is some stable shrinkage to the thickest area of pigment, notably in the white pigment in the up right quadrant and the orange pigment of the rectangular form. This work is in good overall 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

In 1922, Kandinsky joined the teaching staff at the Bauhaus, where he would remain for over a decade. A radically progressive establishment, the Bauhaus was dedicated to the pursuit of aesthetic theory, and as a gathering place for many of the key figures of Modern art and design in Germany, it provided the perfect backdrop to Kandinsky’s own theoretical and artistic experimentation. His focus on strict geometric forms during this period also reflects the influence of 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 gained in international stature and became an important artistic force in Germany, where geometry was accepted as a universal artistic language.

Building on the publication of his seminal text Point and Line to Plane in 1926, Kandinsky used his teaching to continue his investigations into the interrelationship of colour and form, the results of which are evident in Unfester Ausgleich. As Clark V. Poling discusses: ‘Colour interrelationships were central to Kandinsky's concept of pictorial art and of the compositional process. Occasionally Kandinsky's own works resemble colour studies, specifically those in which he places simple shapes of different hues against uniform backgrounds in order to focus on the character of the individual colours and the subtle phenomena of chromatic intersections’ (Clark V. Poling, Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-1933 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 65). With a geometrical clarity that is typical of his later years in Dessau – where the Bauhaus relocated in 1925 – Unfester Ausgleich focuses on juxtaposing the complementary colours of red and green around two central geometric forms. The tensions between these colours and the juxtaposition of the forms, with the circle appearing on the verge of capsizing the supporting triangle, result in a composition of spectacular dynamism and hint at the “unstable compensation” of the work’s title.