Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Entwurf zu Bild mit orange Rand

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Entwurf zu Bild mit orange Rand
signed with monogram and dated '16' (lower left)
watercolor, brush and India ink on paper
9 x 11¼ in. (23 x 28.6 cm.)
Executed in March 1916
Gummesons Konsthandel, Stockholm (1916-1920).
Gustav Nasstrom, Stockholm.
Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm (1950).
Mme Stassart, Paris.
Galleria Castelnuovo, Ancona.
Private collection, Germany (circa 1970).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 5 November 1981, lot 353.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 1983.
H.K. Roethel and J.K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, 1916-1944, London, 1984, vol. 2, p. 577 (illustrated).
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolors, Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1992, vol. 1, p. 388, no. 444 (illustrated).
J. Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, New York, 1993, p. 245 (illustrated in color).
Rothenburg, Médens Bokhandel, Autumn 1917.
Paris, Galerie Europe, Klee, Kandinsky, Brancusi, February-March 1961, no. 14 (illustrated).
Malmö, Konsthall, Kandinsky and Sweden, October-December 1989, pp. 33, 51, 102-103 and 176-177, no. 32 (illustrated in color, p. 177).

Lot Essay

Kandinsky, as a Russian national, had to leave Munich when war was declared between Russia and Germany on 1 August 1914. He travelled with Gabriele Münter to Switzerland, where they stayed together until late November. Kandinsky journeyed home to Moscow in December; Münter remained in Zurich, where they had parted, before returning to Munich in January 1915 and subsequently moving to Stockholm. Corresponding constantly, Kandinsky and Münter reunited in Stockholm at the end of 1915. The Swedish dealer Carl Gummeson, in partnership with Herwarth Walden of the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin, had arranged for a series of exhibitions of works by Franz Marc, Kandinsky and Münter. Kandinsky's exhibition at Gummesons Konsthandel opened on 1 February 1916. Kandinsky painted Entwurf zu Bild mit orange Rand in early March, leaving it with Gummeson to sell, before he returned to Russia on 17 March. Münter remained in Sweden for the next couple of years. She and Kandinsky never again saw each other; in September Kandinsky met Nina von Andreevskaia, and married her in February 1917.

Entwurf zu Bild mit orange Rand ("Sketch for Painting with Orange Border") is related to a large oil painting, one of three that Kandinsky executed during his stay in Stockholm--the others are Painting with Two Red Spots (Roethel and Benjamin, vol. 2, no. 596), and Painting on Light Ground (R & B., vol. 2, no. 597). Only the latter is known to exist today (Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). A black-and-white photograph exists of Painting with Two Red Spots, but apart from a summary thumbnail sketch in the artist's handlist, the present watercolor is the only visual record of what Bild mit orange Rand may have looked like; it was destroyed during the Second World War.

The present watercolor suggests that Bild mit orange Rand displayed the landscape-derived abstract imagery of Kandinsky's pre-war Munich period. This composition employs a border, an idea first seen in Painting with White Border, 1913 (R.& B., vol. 2, no. 456; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York). The sole surviving Stockholm canvas, Painting on a Light Ground, also has a border. The surrounding contour is no mere decorative device--it generates tensions of confinement and release among the internal elements of the composition. The border may suggest either a state of expansion or contraction; the space within may give the illusion of either advancing or receding. The border delineates the separation between external and internal planes, within which the central clustering of landscape motifs gives rise to it own spatial complexities.

During his stay in Stockholm, Kandinsky wrote an article he dedicated to Münter, Om Konstnären ("On the Artist"), which Gummeson published as a brochure in 1916. His apocalyptic imagery reflects the times, and provides a context for the contending forces in his wartime abstract compositions: "Suddenly everything becomes silent. In rapid succession, burning zig-zag rays split the air. The skies burst. The ground cleaves. And rumbling thunderclaps break the silence. The lilac-colored earth has turned gray. The gray sweeps violently, irresistibly along the hills. Gaudy colors filter through the mesh of the sieve. Space trembles from thousands of voices. The world screams. It is an old picture of new spring. The old picture of the new spring is our time. The time of awakening, resolution, regeneration, and the hurricane, the time of glowing vigor and wondrous power" (K.C. Lindsay and P. Vergo, eds., Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, New York, 1994, p. 409).

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