Expert Voices: On Kandinsky’s “Murnau mit Kirche II”

London | 1 March 2023

Painted during a transformative moment in Kandinsky’s career, Murnau mit Kirche II (1910) encapsulates the very beginnings of the revolutionary abstract language that would underpin the rest of Kandinsky’s career – and set the next generation of artists on a new path. In the near-square format favored by avant-garde contemporaries from Monet to Klimt, the work has a rich palette of contrasting hues and a remarkable history.

Shortly after it was painted, the work was acquired by Johanna Margarete Stern (née Lippmann, 1874-1944) and Siegbert Samuel Stern (1864-1935). The Sterns were at the heart of the famously glittering cultural life of 1920s Berlin and together they built an impressive art collection consisting of well over 100 paintings and drawings, the scope of which reflected their multifaceted tastes and interests.

Everything changed, however, following the rise to power of the Nazis. The restitution of Kandinsky’s masterpiece to the heirs of Johanna Margarete and Siegbert Stern has reconnected the painting with its history. It was identified just under ten years ago on the walls of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where it had been hanging since 1951.

Early works by Kandinsky rarely come to the market, and this work is one of the last of the Murnau period and in this scale remaining in private hands. Murnau mit Kirche II is one of the most important works by the artist ever to appear at auction. This masterpiece will be one of the top highlights of the Modern and Contemporary Evening Auction to be held in London on the 1st of March.

Sotheby's Talk: Lost Pictures, Lost Lives - Stories of Restitution
With Anne Webber, Lucian Simmons and Helena Newman

Sunday 26 February, 2.30-3.30pm

Some of the greatest artworks of the twentieth century were commissioned and owned by connoisseurs who lost their collections following persecution under the Third Reich. What was the cultural impact of these collectors? How does restitution shed light on this important piece of history and commemorate the individuals behind the artworks? In this panel, chaired by Helena Newman, Lucian Simmons and Anne Webber will examine the role of restitution in celebrating these collectors as art patrons. The discussion will focus on the cultural milieu of 1920s Berlin, and the Stern and Glaser families, whose restituted masterpieces by Kandinsky and Munch will be auctioned on March 1st.

Book your free ticket here.


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