• Impressionist/Modern Evening S auction at Christies

    Sale 2216

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    3 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15

    Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

    Winkelschwung

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
    Winkelschwung
    signed with monogram and dated '29' (lower left); signed with monogram and dated again, numbered and titled 'No 473 1929 "Winkelschwung"' (on the reverse)
    oil on board
    19 1/8 x 27 5/8 in. (48.5 x 70 cm.)
    Painted in 1929


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    Kandinsky painted Winkelschwung ("Angular Swing") during the seventh year of his tenure as a teaching "Master" of painting at the Bauhaus, which moved in 1925 from its original quarters in Weimar to a new site in Dessau. In mid-June 1926, Kandinsky took up residence in one of the newly built Master's double-houses, which he shared with fellow Master and close friend Paul Klee. The Bauhaus curriculum and faculty was then at the height of its fame and influence internationally; the star roster of professors in Dessau also included Josef Albers, Herbert Beyer, Marcel Breuer, László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer. The architect Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus in 1919 and designed the Dessau buildings and Masters' houses, served as its director until 1928, when Hannes Meyer, also an architect, became his successor.

    The lively exchange of ideas in the Dessau Bauhaus, crossing over the lines of various disciplines in the fine and applied arts, stimulated teachers and students alike, and the classroom experience greatly enriched Kandinsky's painting. The emphasis on architecture and technological design in the later Bauhaus curriculum encouraged Kandinsky to experiment more broadly with geometric imagery, as seen in the present painting. Will Grohmann has written: "During the last years in Dessau, from 1929 to 1932, Kandinsky constantly gained in assurance and lightness of touch. A joy of living is perceptibly felt in his work. In certain paintings there is even a kind of philosophical hum or... Not only are his means very flexible, he transforms them endlessly... What distinguishes the paintings prior to 1933 is first of all the spirituality with which the mathematical and 'Constructivist' elements are treated, the unprecedented empathic response to forms derived from mathematical physics, and their adaptation to the realm of pictorial invention" (in op. cit., pp. 210-211).

    Kandinsky was still battling the opponents of abstraction, especially in France, where a new classicism had endorsed a return to the object and figure as the proper subjects of the artist. To replace the missing object, to move past the traditional means of reproducing nature and external visual reality, Kandinsky sought to foster a science of art that would reveal the compositional laws and expressive potential inherent in abstract forms. He systematically laid out this exploratory process in his book Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), which was published under Bauhaus auspices in Munich, 1926.

    One may read Winkelschwung as a linked sequence of abstract elements--points, lines, and geometric shapes--which comprise a landscape with buildings (quadrilateral forms), trees (triangles) and various other natural and man-made features. The sole circle high up on the board stands for the sun. The ordinary, daily sight of Bauhaus buildings amid trees appears to have inspired Kandinsky to create this composition, which he bent near the center to form an obtuse angle of about 120 degrees. In Point and Line to Plane, Kandinsky described the effect of various zig-zag or angled lines: "An obtuse angle loses more and more of its belligerence, its astringency, its warmth, and is hence distantly related to the curving line which creates the third primary plane figure--the circle [the other two are the triangle and square]. And the passive element of the obtuse angle, its almost nonexistent forward tension gives an intimation of the curved line and eventually has the circle as its goal" (in K. L. Lindsay and P. Vergo, eds., Kandinsky: Complete writings on Art, New York, 1994, p. 589).

    Provenance

    Valentine Gallery, Inc., New York (1932).
    Galka E. Scheyer, Los Angeles (1935 and until circa 1940).
    Hildegarde J. Prytek, New York.
    The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (acquired from the above, 1949); sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1964, lot 37.
    Richard L. Feigen & Co., Inc., New York.
    Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owner, 6 June 1966.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Estate of Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr.


    Literature

    W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, New York, 1958, p. 338, no. 473 (illustrated, p. 376, no. 326).
    H.K. Roethel and J.K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings 1916-1944, New York, 1984, vol. 2, p. 839, no. 917 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Saarbrücken, Staatliches Museum, Kollektiv-Ausstellung Wassily Kandinsky, January-February 1930.
    Paris, Galerie de France, Wassily Kandinsky, March 1930 (illustrated).
    New York, Valentine Gallery, An Exhibition of Paintings by Kandinsky, 1932, no. 14.
    Los Angeles, Stendahl Art Galleries, Wassily Kandinsky, February-March 1936, no. 26.
    San Francisco Museum of Art, Paintings by Wassily Kandinsky: A survey 1923-present, July 1939.
    Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc.; San Francisco Museum of Art, and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Kandinsky Retrospective Exhibition, 1952, no. 41.