Property from a Private American Collection 
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Festes III

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Festes III
signed with monogram and dated 'K 25.' (lower left); numbered, dated and titled 'No 206 1925 -- Festes' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolor and pen and India ink on paper
12¼ x 19 in. (31 x 48 cm.)
Executed in December 1925
Galerie Arnold, Dresden (until 1927).
Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, from April 1927, from whom confiscated by the National Socialists as 'entartete Kunst' in 1937.
Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Cologne (January 1940).
Suzanna Feigel, Basel (circa 1957).
Dr. Fritz Heer, Zurich.
Dr. Steegmann, Cologne (1962).
Anon. sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, 3-4 May 1962, lot 194.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.
W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Paris, 1930, no. 41 (illustrated).
F. Roh, Entartete Kunst: Kunstbarbarei im Dritten Reich, Hanover, 1962, p. 277 (illustrated).
N. Kandinsky, Kandinsky und ich, Munich, 1976, p. 166.
Kunst + Dokumentation: Entartete Kunst. Beschlagnahmeaktionen in der Städtischen Kunsthalle Mannheim 1937, Mannheim, 1987, p. 74.
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolors, Catalogue raisonné, Ithaca, 1994, vol. II, no. 769 (illustrated).
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, 1927, no. 96.
Frankfurt, Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Vom Abbild zum Sinnbild : Ausstellung von Meisterwerken moderner Malerei im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, June-July 1931, no. 335.

Lot Essay

Intensifying opposition from right-wing elements in the Thuringian regional government led to the closing of the Weimar Bauhaus in April 1925. The faculty and students moved to new quarters in Dessau, and reopened the school in June. Kandinsky and his wife Nina took an apartment in Dessau; he resumed teaching in July. The Bauhaus curriculum and staff was then at the height of its fame, and the influence of the school was being felt throughout Europe and in America. The roster of teachers included Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Lionel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, under the directorship of Gropius.

The lively exchange of ideas in the Dessau Bauhaus, freely crossing 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 increasing emphasis on architecture and technological design in the Bauhaus curriculum during this period encouraged Kandinsky to experiment more broadly with geometric imagery and a complex structuring of space, as seen in the present watercolor. His over-riding concern for the spiritual dimension in art nonetheless transcended the utilitarian origins of the means he employed; his paintings, never mere exercises in form, contained veiled meanings and feelings in their sign-like imagery. The work of Klee was especially important to Kandinsky during the mid-1920s. Kandinsky admired Klee's improvisational approach to form and materials, the great variety of his subjects, and his ability to connect with the spiritual significance in art through his astonishing flights of imagination and fantasy. In 1926 Kandinsky and Klee, with their wives, moved into one of the dual-unit masters' houses on the Bauhaus grounds.

Kandinsky was hard at work during 1925 completing the manuscript and illustrations for his text Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), in which he explored the theoretical aspects of points, various kinds of lines and angles, repeated forms and the placement of horizontal and vertical elements. This effort did not detract from his work--on the contrary, it appears to have enriched his paintings and watercolors, as if he were exploring the very ideas he was discussing in his text. Kandinsky's watercolor compositions from this period display an extraordinarily high level of continuous invention; he combined the basic geometrical elements at his disposal to create elaborate and varied works, without the least suggestion of repetition or routine.

The title Festes III (Solid III) refers to the large rectangular shape at right, which breaks up into smaller geometrical shards toward the left side of the composition. The imagery in Kandinsky's geometrical forms is not difficult to decipher: in an allegory of life's journey, a boat with a tall antenna-like mast appears to be departing, moving to the left, away from a pier lined with well-wishers. Flying gull-forms and triangular clouds fill the sky. Kandinsky painted Festes I, which contains a large, mountainous landscape form, in April 1924 (Barnett, no. 685). There is no Festes II.

In 1925 Kandinsky was approaching his 60th birthday, which was to be celebrated with numerous exhibitions the following year. On 21 November he wrote to Will Grohmann: "In a Russian novel there is this sentence: 'The hair is dumb--ignorant of the youth of the heart, it turns white.' So far as I am concerned I neither respect nor fear white hair... I'd like to live, say, another fifty years to penetrate art ever more deeply. We are really forced to stop much, much too early, at the very moment when we have begun to understand something. But perhaps we can continue in the other world" (quoted in W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, New York, 1958, p. 200).

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