Lot 20
  • 20

Wassily Kandinsky

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Weiss auf Schwarz (White on Black)
  • signed with the monogram and dated 30 
  • oil on board
  • 27 1/2 by 27 1/4 in. 70 by 69.3 cm.


Ida Bienert, Dresden (acquired from the artist through the Kandinsky Gesellschaft in December 1931)
Philippe Dotremont, Brussels
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London
Acquired from the above by 1974 


Bern, Kunsthalle, Gesamtausstellung Wassily Kandinsky, 1955, no. 62
Munich, Galerie Stangl, Wassily Kandinsky: Ausstellung mit Werken von 1918 bis 1933, 1962, n.n., illustrated 
London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, Kandinsky and his friendscentury exhibition, 1966, no. 33, illustrated 
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years, 1915-1933, 1983, no. 264, illustrated 
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Kandinsky in Russia und am Bauhaus, 1915-1933, 1984, no. 257, illustrated 
Berlin, Bauhaus-Archiv, Kandinsky Russische Zeit und Bauhausjahre, 1915-1933, 1984, no.258, illustrated
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art & Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kandinsky, 1987, no. 74, illustrated 


Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, New York, 1958, no. 378, p. 380, illustrated 
Paul Overy, KandinskyThe Language of the Eye, New York & London, 1969, no. 59, p. 166, illustrated 
Hans K. Roethel, Kandinsky, New York, 1977, no. 45, p. 37, illustrated 
Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume Two 1916-1944, Ithaca, 1984, no. 976, p. 886, illustrated
Clark V. Poling, Kandinsky's Teaching at the BauhausColor Theory and Analytical Drawing, 1986, New York, no. 134, p. 127, illustrated 

Catalogue Note

Weiss auf Schwarz is one of the few oils that Kandinsky completed using the exclusive color palette of black and white. Painted in 1930 while he was teaching at the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius' school of avant-garde art and architecture in Germany, the present work embodies the aesthetic principles Kandinsky promoted to his students. The Bauhaus relocated to Dessau from Weimar in 1925, and Kandinsky found the living and working conditions extremely favorable in this new environment. Radical examples of modern architecture were constructed for workshops and faculty residences, and Kandinsky shared a house with Paul Klee that overlooked the park. Kandinsky's years at Dessau were some of his most productive and the time in which he developed two of his most important series, the "black-and-white" paintings, of which the present work is one of three major canvases, and his symbolic "circle" paintings.

During the Bauhaus years Kandinsky further developed his theories about the spiritual aspect of art, and his ideas found a fresh expression in the paintings and watercolors from this period. In 1926, Kandinsky published his book Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), which outlined his theories of the basic elements of artistic composition, evident in the dynamic contrast of the dense bordering squares and rectangles and the energetic optical effects of the present black and white composition. 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” (WKandinsky quoted in Kandinsky, Bauhaus and Russian Years (exhibition catalogue), Op. cit., p. 52).

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. While 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 Weiss auf Schwarz, were created in a manner honed by a period of great experimentation with new abstract forms and geometric 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 watercolor, 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. Artists such as Josef Albers had a profound impact on Kandinsky’s production during this time as evidenced by the optical effects present in Weiss auf Schwarz and their clear resemblance to those explored by Albers in his flashed glass paintings. Kandinsky's years at Dessau were some of his most productive and his artistic development was strongly influenced by his Bauhaus colleague Paul Klee, whose watercolors and oil paintings of these years demonstrate similar artistic predilections. When the Bauhaus was shut down officially at the end of 1932, Kandinsky left Germany for Paris. There he was influenced by the Surrealists and his oeuvre continued to evolve, though he held fast to his Bauhaus principles.