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

Komposition mit weissen Formen

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Komposition mit weissen Formen
signed with the monogram and dated 'VK 40' (lower left); dated, numbered and with the artist's stamp 'No 3 1940' (on the reverse)
gouache on black paper
12¾ x 19½ in. (32.5 x 49.7 cm.)
Executed in 1940
Dr Kurt Herberts, Wuppertal, by February 1941.
Dr Steegmann, Vaduz, Liechtenstein.
Anonymous sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, R. N. Ketterer, 3-4 May 1962, lot 196.
Private Collection, Munich.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 29 March 1988, lot 337.
Galerie Urban, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 26 June 2003, lot 414.
Landau Fine Art, Montreal.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
The artist's handlist, '1940, 635 (g.s. noir, taches blaches)'.
V. Endicott-Barnett, Kandinsky, Watercolours, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, 1922-1944, New York, 1994, no. 1270, p. 467 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Komposition mit weissen Formen (Composition with White Forms) is a distinctive work from Kandinsky's last years in Paris. Executed in 1940 at a time of great uncertainty and austerity caused by the war and the ensuing Nazi Occupation, this painting, like all of Kandinsky's works from this period, reveals nothing of the hardships he and his wife Nina underwent in Neuilly-Sur-Seine at this time. Instead, it, like many of Kandinsky's paintings from this last phase of his career reveals the artist revelling in the unique abstract language of forms, ciphers and signs that he had created throughout the 1930s. As many critics had observed of Kandinsky's art of this period, in Paris, the abstract forms of Kandinsky's art, often began, at this time, to develop a strange near-figurative recognizable quality.

For so long characterized by the straight lines and harsh geometry that typified the work of the Bauhaus, in Paris, Kandinsky's art had developed a mysterious and often organic-based nature. Amoeba-like forms and embryonic shapes began to form semi-distinct characters and unique, separate and distinct hieroglyphic patterns of form that hinted at a mysterious code or hidden glyphic language - one that seemed suspended halfway between the two worlds of figuration and abstraction. In this work with its linear sequence of separate forms seemingly laid out along in three horizontal lines across the picture plane, Kandinsky's forms seem to form a kind of lexicon or classificatory index of such 'creatures'.

Kandinsky's apparent analysis of such forms in this work is reflective of his ongoing interest in the underlying similarity between structures in art and in nature that distinguished his research of the 1930s and '40s. In a 1935 essay entitled 'Two Directions', he had written of 'the experience of the small and great, the micro- and the macrocosmic, coherence', referring to the 'hidden soul' in all things that could be seen either by the naked eye or through microscopes and binoculars. This 'internal eye', he explained, 'penetrates the hard shell, the external "form", goes deep into the object and lets us feel with all our senses its internal "pulse".' This experience 'enriches the individual, and specifically the artist,' he concluded, 'because, within (it) lies the inspiration for his works. Unconsciously. The "dead material" trembles. And in addition, the internal "voice" of simple objects sound not alone, but in harmony - the "music of the spheres"' (Wassily Kandinsky 'Two Directions', 1935, reproduced in K. C. Lindsay & P. Vergo (eds.), Kandinsky, The Complete Writings, Boston, 1982, p. 779).

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