Lot 13
  • 13

WASSILY KANDINSKY | Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse)

5,500,000 - 7,500,000 GBP
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  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse)
  • signed with the monogram (lower left); titled, dated 1928, inscribed with the measurements and numbered 424 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 100 by 76cm.
  • 39 3/8 by 29 7/8 in.
  • Painted in February 1928.


Otto Ralfs, Braunschweig (acquired from the artist) Salomón Hale, Mexico City (acquired from the above in December 1931)

Private Collection (acquired from the above)

Private Collection, New York (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 5th May 2010, lot 20)

Private Collection, USA (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 5th November 2015, lot 23)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Düsseldorf, Deutsche Kunstausstellung, 1928, no. 477


The Artist's Handlist IV, no. 424 Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, London, 1959, no. 424, catalogued p. 337; fig. 284, illustrated p. 373

Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London, 1984, vol. II, no. 867, illustrated p. 801

Klee & Kandinsky: Neighbors, Friends, Rivals (exhibition catalogue), Paul Klee Zentrum, Bern & Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, 2015-16, illustrated in a photograph of Kandinsky’s Dessau apartment p. 284

Catalogue Note

'The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the excentric in a single form, and in equilibrium... It points most clearly to the fourth dimension.'
Wassily Kandinsky

Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse) is Kandinsky's resonant meditation on the essential beauty of circles. Painted in February 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 Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, London, 1993, pp. 284 & 289).

Vertiefte Regung 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 sound ecstatic, 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.’

At the heart of the present 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 centre. 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, which had become his favourite form during the Bauhaus years, 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 Einige Kreise (Several Circles), in the collection of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (fig. 3), 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 recounts that in the early twentieth century, Kandinsky 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 painting, particularly the compositions he created at the Bauhaus, where the harmony and interplay of circles was his favourite motif. 

Once the Weimar Bauhaus was closed by the National Socialists in April 1925, the school was moved to Dessau, where Walter Gropius designed a housing estate for the Bauhaus masters, with one of the houses shared by Kandinsky and Klee. Once he completed Vertiefte Regung in 1928, Kandinsky evidently deemed it an important work, as it hung in his exotically coloured living room with walls painted gold, pale pink and ivory, and ceiling painted grey (fig. 2).

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 at the time, including the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and founded the Kandinsky Gesellschaft and Klee Gesellschaft in 1925. These organisations ensured that each artist received 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.

Ralfs sold Vertiefte Regung to Salomón Hale, a private collector of Polish origin, based in Mexico City. The sale was organised with the assistance of Rivera, who had wanted to purchase the painting for himself but was unable to afford it. The collector and dealer Galka Scheyer was also Mexico in the autumn of 1931, and she probably facilitated the transaction for her friends Kandinsky and Ralfs. An early patron of modern Mexican art, Hale assembled a collection that included works by Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo, among others, as well as a number of work by European artists including Picasso, Miró and Kandinsky. He was an important patron of the Galería de Arte Mexicano, and purchased works both from the gallery and directly from friends.