Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
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Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Rosa im Grau

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Rosa im Grau
signed with the monogram and dated '26' (lower left); signed with the monogram and dated again, titled and numbered and inscribed 'Rosa im Grau No. 352 1926 41 x 52' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
16¼ x 20¾ in. (41.3 x 52.8 cm.)
Painted in 1926
Nina Kandinsky, Paris.
Karl Nierendorf, New York.
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 8396).
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 November 1979, lot 193a.
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1987, lot 70.
Private collection.
The Artist's Handlist, vol. II, no. 352.
W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, New York, 1958, no. 352, p. 336 (illustrated p. 368, no. 229).
H.K. Roethel & J.K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume Two 1916-1944, London, 1984, no. 796, p. 740 (illustrated p. 746).
Paris, Galerie de France, Wassily Kandinsky, 1930 (illustrated on the cover).
Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Wassily Kandinsky, 1931, no. 34. New York, Valentine Gallery, Kandinsky, November 1932, no. 6.
Los Angeles, Stendhal Art Galleries, Wassily Kandinsky, February 1936, no. 17.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kandinsky, March 1941, no. 53.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Museum of Non-Objective Paintings, In Memory of Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944, March - May 1945, no. 93 (with the incorrect Handlist number).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky, November 1953, no. 9 (catalogue printed in Derrière le miroir, nos. 60-61, October - November 1953).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Kandinsky, April - May 1965, no. 40 (dated 1925).
Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Wassily Kandinsky: Gëmalde 1900-1944, July - September 1970, no. 68 (illustrated).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Petits Formats, May - July 1978, no. 72.
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, The Blue Four, March - May 1984, no. 45 (illustrated p. 57).
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Lot Essay

'The teaching of drawing at the Bauhaus' Kandinsky maintained, 'is an education in looking, precise observation, and the precise representation not of the external appearance of an object, but of constructive elements, the laws that govern the forces (=tensions) that can be discovered in given objects and of their logical construction' (Wassily Kandinsky, 'Analytisches Zeichnen', 1928, quoted in K. C. Lindsay and P. Vergo Wassily Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Boston, 1982, p. 729).

Painted in 1926, Rosa im Grau (Rose in Grey) is an important composition that dates from the height of Kandinsky's involvement with the Bauhaus. Orientated around a central rose vortex set into a grey landscape-like background, the work is one that expresses Kandinsky's often quoted intention that his compositions be complete 'worlds' in themselves.

The painting derives from the period when Kandinsky was attempting to put into practice the theoretical analysis of form that he had published in 1925 in his treatise Pünkt und Linie zu Fläche, ('Point and Line to Plane'). With its dramatic contrasts of form and, in particular, its juxtaposition of an intense and detailed centre with a more open and landscape-like background of larger and apparently floating forms, Rosa im Grau echoes many of the ideals outlined in this complex and detailed analysis of abstract form. It is, however, like the vast majority of Kandinsky's paintings, only an approximation of these ideals rather than a literal transcribing of them. In his theoretical writing, Kandinsky was scrupulous, methodical and dry but when painting, fortunately, he was sensual and impulsive, responding to form and colour in the way that he also hoped his viewer would: emotionally.

Kandinsky's aims with his art were to articulate an abstract language that induced powerful emotions in the viewer in much the same way that music does. Believing that 'form itself, even if completely abstract... has its own inner sound', to the point where it becomes 'a spiritual being' with its own 'spiritual perfume', Kandinsky sought through pictorial theory, to discover the rules of an underlying and universal order of harmony that he believed lay at the root of all creation. It was, however, only in his painterly work that this essentially mystical belief was articulated with any persuasive force, for it was only through the lyrical power of his paintings that this transcendent nature of abstraction instills deep feeling and emotion in the viewer was really expressed.

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