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

Ovale animé

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Ovale animé
signed with monogram and dated '35' (lower left); dated, numbered, titled and inscribed '1935 No 552 Ovale animé (Aquar., Tempera)' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolor, tempera, brush and India ink and pencil on paper laid down by the artist on board
Sheet size: 19 x 14½ in. (48.2 x 36.7 cm.)
Mount size: 20 x 15 3/8 in. (50.7 x 39 cm.)
Executed in 1935
Nina Kandinsky, Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Kleemann Galleries, New York (by 1957).
Galleria del Naviglio, Milan (by 1960).
Private collection, London (by 1990).
Galerie Thomas, Munich (by 1991).
Galleria Blu, Milan.
Private collection, Milan.
Pardo Lattuada Gallery, Milan.
Galleria Artecentro, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, May 2000.
The Artist's Handlist, no. 552.
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours, Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1994, vol. 2, p. 396, no. 1181 (illustrated).
Copenhagen, Liniens Samenslutning, Efter-Expressionisme, Abstrakt Kunst, Neoplasticisme, Surrealisme, September 1937, no. 44.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Kandinsky, November-December 1949. New York, Kleemann Galleries, Wassily Kandinsky, January 1957, no. 15 (illustrated).
Milan, Galleria del Naviglio, Wassily Kandinsky, February-March 1960, no. 9 (illustrated).
Munich, Galerie Thomas, Wassily Kandinsky, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Graphiken, May-July 1991, no. 25 (illustrated in color).

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David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

Consisting of a cluster of brightly colored circles in an amorphous, embryonic form which in turn is enclosed by the geometry of two quadrilaterals, Ovale animé is an important watercolor that marks the maturation of the new organic abstraction that Kandinsky developed in Paris in the mid-1930s.

After the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933, Kandinsky had been obliged to leave Hitler's Germany and he and his wife Nina moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris, where they soon came into contact with the Abstraction-Création group, whose members, amongst others, included Fernand Léger, Constantin Brancusi, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Jean Arp and Joan Miró. In contrast to the severe geometry and utopian idealism of the constructivism that had been prevalent in Revolutionary Russia and at the Bauhaus, the Abstraction-Création group favored a 'constructive' art rooted in what they saw as the order of the forms of nature and the intuitive impulse.

A pioneer of abstract art, Kandinsky was drawn to non-referential subject matter by a belief in the ability of art to evoke an emotional response without imitating nature. While his oil paintings are well known and widely studied on this account, it was in his watercolors that Kandinsky first began to explore the possibilities of pure abstraction. Among the most important developments to occur during the Parisian period was the introduction of organic imagery, as evidenced in the present work.

Kandinsky's desire to mix elements from his earlier more geometric work with newer ones resulted in a subtle balance of positive and negative, geometric and organic shapes, exemplifying the layered complexity that the artist achieved in his watercolors. In this manner, he has given visual manifestation to his belief that the best art is never produced by the head or the heart alone: "In general, the ideal balance between the head (conscious moment) and the heart (unconscious moment-intuition) is a law of creation, law as old as humanity" (quoted in "Art Today," Cahiers d'Art, 1935, p. 83).

This philosophy, along with Kandinsky's new environment and his release from responsibility at the Bauhaus, seems to have led to an increasingly pronounced shift in his work towards mysterious nature-based abstract constructions that speak of new astral or microscopic worlds populated by strange cells and bizarre planets. Ovale animé is emblematic of the period, with its wonderful subtle ballet of colorful shapes which are both soft and hard, organic and geometric.

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