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

Aquarell für Poul Bjerre

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Aquarell für Poul Bjerre
inscribed by Poul Bjerre (on the reverse mount) (see note)
watercolour and India ink on paper
9 1/8 x 13 5/8 in. (23.2 x 34.5 cm.)
Executed in Stockholm in March 1916
Dr Poul Bjerre, Stockholm, a gift from the artist in March 1916.
Varstavi Foundation, Sweden, by whom acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 February 2004, lot 11.
Private collection; sale, Christie's, London, 4 February 2008, lot 66 (£670,100).
P. Bjerre, Natural System of Dreams, Stockholm, 1936 (illustrated).
P. Bjerre, The Healing Power of Dreams, Stockholm, 1982 (illustrated).
J. Bärmark & I. Nilsson, Poul Bjerre: Människosonen, Stockholm, 1983 (illustrated on the cover).
V. Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One, 1900-1921, London, 1992, no. 447 (illustrated pp. 389 and 392).
J. Landquist, Poul Bjerre: The Psychiatrist and Author, Stockholm, 2002 (illustrated p. 88).
Malmö, Konsthall, Kandinsky and Sweden: Malmö 1914 - Stockholm 1916, October - December 1989, no. 33, pp. 35, 41 and 178 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Stockholm, Moderna Museet, December 1989 - February 1990.
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Wassily Kandinsky: Kleine Freuden, Acquarelle und Zeichnungen, March - May 1992, no. 48, p. 221 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, May - August 1992.
Lidingö (Stockholm), Millesgarden, Wassily Kandinsky - Gabriele Münter, December 2001 - February 2002.
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Lot Essay

Aquarell für Poul Bjerre was painted by Kandinsky in March of 1916 as a parting gift to his friend Dr. Poul Bjerre, a pioneer of psychiatry who helped introduce the painter to local Swedish society during his brief sojourn in Stockholm. Kandinsky rarely depicted a living person on paper or canvas, and as far as is known, Aquarell für Poul Bjerre is the only picture that he ever painted for, and gave, to a private individual. The painting therefore displays an uncharacteristically personal narrative, loaded with hidden meanings and symbolism that distinguishes it from his other work at this time. The luminous and precisely rendered image encapsulates Kandinsky's experiences and impressions of Sweden, depicting a contemplative Poul Bjerre and the artist and activist Ernst Norlind in a vividly coloured Swedish landscape that has been described at length by Dr. Bjerre on the reverse mount of the painting.

Kandinsky's reasons for visiting Sweden were primarily personal. When Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August 1914, the Russian born artist had to flee Munich immediately. Forced to cease his activities with Der Blaue Reiter and to leave most of his possessions and artworks behind, Kandinsky travelled with his long-term companion Gabriele Münter to Switzerland, before leaving her to go to Moscow. The couple's correspondence grew increasingly strained over this time, but Münter travelled in Stockholm in July of 1915 with the intention of meeting Kandinsky in the neutral country to restore their relationship. Through a letter of introduction from Kandinsy's friend Erich Gutkind, Münter established contact with Poul Bjerre and quickly assimilated herself into local intellectual and artistic circles, persuading the dealer Carl Gummeson to hold an exhibition of Kandinsky's work.

The upheaval caused by the outbreak of war had brought about a significant change in Kandinsky's art. A lack of funds and space limited his abilities to paint in oils, but he continued to work in watercolour, constantly shifting between the figurative and the abstract. He produced a number of watercolours during his few months in Stockholm that returned to his roots, combining the landscape-inspired abstract forms he had developed in Munich, with sharply delineated figures that recall the folkloric figures of his earliest work. Dr. Bjerre was deeply interested in Kandinsky's artistic theories, finding parallels in his own research into the psychology of dreams, and he was happy to find that the painting dedicated to him, 'gave me an example of the transition from representation to abstraction' (Bjerre cited in V. E. Barnett, exh. cat., Kandinsky and Sweden, Malmö, 1989, p. 41).

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