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

Ohne Titel

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Ohne Titel
signed with monogram and dated '22' (lower left)
watercolour, pen and brush with India ink on paper
13 x 18½ in. (33 x 46.9 cm.)
Executed in December 1922
Emilio Cargher, Oberhof, a gift from the artist in January 1923.
Peggy Guggenheim, London, by 1939.
Heinz Berggruen, Paris, by 1958.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owners in August 1960.
The artist's handlist, watercolours, as '1922, 46'.
V. Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume Two, 1922-1944, New York, 1994, no. 597 (illustrated pp. 31 and 48).
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Lot Essay

In June 1922 Wassily Kandinsky returned from his homeland, Russia, to join the faculty of the Bauhaus where he would remain until its closure by the Nazis in 1933. Kandinsky's years at the Bauhaus were to be marked by a methodical, almost scientific pursuance of a severe and highly analytical form of geometric abstraction, which the artist hoped would serve as a blueprint for a new multi-disciplinary constructivist art of the future. Ohne Titel was painted in December 1922 at the end of Kandinsky's first year in Weimar, and is a work that reflects the transitionary stage of both his art at that of the Bauhaus during this important period.

With its largely horizontal composition of floating, but still in places, strongly organic forms, Ohne Titel still adheres to the basic landscape format that had first given rise to Kandinsky's abstraction. A fusion of this lyrical landscape-based abstraction, first pioneered in Murnau in 1913, and the Supematist, flat-land geometry he had adopted in Russia, and which he would refine at the Bauhaus, this work is one of the last of his works to still maintain a few vaguely figurative elements reminiscent of the fairytale castles and rolling mountains of his first abstractions. At the same time, the predominant diagonals and strong use of piercing, angular and intersecting geometric forms - clearly reflective of the constructivism Kandinsky had absorbed during the war years in Russia - also points to the way to the utopian free-form abstraction he would develop within the 'International Constructivist' climate of the Bauhaus.

It is in this respect that this work reflects and parallels the transition that was also taking place inside the Bauhaus at this time. Kandinsky's arrival at the Bauhaus in 1922 coincided with a general shift in the school's aims away from its original utopian Expressionist aesthetic celebrating the spirit, towards a more generic, practical and utilitarian constructivist ideal. With its free-floating forms isolated against an infinite white space, Ohne Titel seems to reflect this dynamic intersection between the geometry of the ideal and the lyricism and beauty of the organic rhythms of nature. Creating its own unique world, Ohne Titel is an abstract exercise in contrasts, marking the division between intuition and dogma, dynamic and passive form, nature and the ideal, that would distinguish Kandinsky's art for much of the rest of his career.

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