Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more BAUHAUS AND BEYOND: AN ABSTRACT CONVERSATION For over thirty years Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee enjoyed one of the most fruitful and lasting friendships in modern art, working, exhibiting and living alongside one another during some of the most ground-breaking years of their careers. Forged in 1911, their relationship went from strength to strength, from its fledgling stages in Munich where the two artists exhibited together as part of the Der Blaue Reiter group, to the intense bond they developed during their tenures at the Bauhaus, first in Weimar and then in Dessau. This friendship continued into their later years, as they remained in touch via correspondence, despite the geographical distance that separated them. Built on a deep sense of camaraderie and mutual respect, the two artists enjoyed a close bond, sharing important life events and celebrations with one another, offering support in times of conflict and need, and assisting one another with both their personal and artistic affairs. Throughout their relationship, they engaged in a lively artistic dialogue, and traces of the influence they exerted on each other’s working practices remain visible to this day. Although it may be argued that an element of professional rivalry simmered beneath the surface of their friendship, their bond was never tested by petty jealousy or drama. Rather, their individual successes seemed to spur one another on, further encouraging them to boldly experiment in their own work and push the boundaries of their art to new levels.Klee and Kandinsky both embarked upon their artistic education in Munich during the opening years of the twentieth-century, simultaneously studying at the city’s Kunstakademie (Academy of Fine Arts) under the tutelage of the greatly admired painter Franz von Stuck. However, their relationship at this time remained quite distant, with Klee claiming he could only ‘dimly recollect Kandinsky’ from their classes together (Klee, quoted in M. Baumgartner, A. Hoberg, & C. Hopfengart, eds., Klee & Kandinsky: Neighbours, Friends, Rivals, exh. cat., Munich & London, 2015, p. 13). Indeed, it was not until a decade later, in October 1911, that Klee and Kandinsky would become personally acquainted with one another thanks to the intercession of the Swiss artist, Louis Moilliet. By this stage of their lives, the two artists were in fact neighbours, living on the same street in the artist’s quarter of Schwabing in Munich. Kandinsky recorded his first impressions of the young artist in a letter to his close friend Franz Marc, explaining that ‘There is certainly something there in his soul’ (Kandinsky, quoted in ibid, p. 36). Klee, meanwhile, noted in his diary that: ‘Personal acquaintance [with Kandinsky] has given me a somewhat deeper confidence in him. He is somebody and has an exceptionally fine, clear mind’ (Klee, quoted in ibid, p. 36). According to Klee, the pair spoke about Kandinsky’s plans to establish a new society of artists and agreed on the trolley ride home to meet more often in the future, a promise they kept over the following months with visits from house to house growing increasingly frequent.Their meeting came at a pivotal time in Kandinsky’s career, as he officially departed the artist’s group Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM), of which he had been a founding member, to establish the Der Blaue Reiter group with his friend Franz Marc. Klee, in his role as special correspondent for the Swiss periodical Die Alpen, reviewed the Der Blaue Reiter Exhibition in December 1911, and delivered a highly positive account of the event to his readers. The article reserved special praise for Kandinsky, identifying him as ‘the boldest’ among the artists involved, and emphasising the bravery he showed in following his own artistic path in the face of opposition (Klee, quoted in ibid, p. 37). Through his contact with Kandinsky, Klee was soon embraced by the wider circle of artists involved with Der Blaue Reiter, and joined the group for their second exhibition in 1912, subtitled ‘Black and White’ (Schwarz-Weiss), in which he was represented by seventeen drawings.The friendship between Kandinsky and Klee continued to grow throughout the years immediately preceding the First World War, with the older artist making introductions on Klee’s behalf to his various contacts, and encouraging collectors such as Arthur Jerome Eddy to purchase the young artist’s work. In 1912, Klee received a copy of Kandinsky’s recent publication On the Spiritual in Art from the author, and the personal dedication included on the frontispiece points towards the growing warmth of their friendship, reading: ‘To my dear friend Paul Klee, affectionately Kandinsky.’ Klee’s son Felix would later recall numerous visits to Kandinsky’s home with his father during this time and as the two men grew closer they began to exchange their own works as tokens of their friendship. Thus began an inspiring and thought-provoking artistic dialogue between the two painters, whose impact could be felt in Klee’s oeuvre almost immediately. Indeed, it was as a result of this contact with Kandinsky, and in particular his exposure to the artist’s colour experiments, that Klee began to develop a new, and increasingly personal, relationship to colour in his own art.The outbreak of the First World War led to a prolonged separation between the two artists, as Kandinsky was forced to flee Germany as an enemy alien. Although they met briefly in Switzerland in the summer of 1914, the pair would not reconnect again for almost eight years. By this time, their professional fortunes had dramatically altered – Klee was now a widely acclaimed painter, experiencing critical and commercial success across Europe, and achieving new levels of popularity among the public. In 1921, he had been invited to become a Master at the Bauhaus in Weimar by Walter Gropius, a position which granted him a new degree of financial security, as well as a heightened professional standing. Kandinsky, on the other hand, had been absent from the German art scene for a number of years, working on the reorganisation of the cultural establishment in Russia following the revolution. He had left his post as a teacher at the Free State Art Studios (SVOMAS) after encountering the ideological limitations of the Constructivists, who rejected his subjectivism and spiritualism, and returned to Germany where he was, once again, the topic of fierce controversy. Upon his arrival in Berlin, he sent a letter to Klee at the Bauhaus, enquiring about the living standards in Weimar and expressing his desire to see his old friend once again. Just a few months later, Klee would assist Kandinsky and his wife in their own move to Weimar, as his friend also joined the faculty of the Bauhaus. This ushered in a new phase in their friendship, as they came to know each other as colleagues of equal standing.In Weimar, the friends often shared an inexpensive meal together, or visited one another’s homes in the evening to listen to jazz and tango records. Kandinsky was one of the few people who could elicit conversation from Klee, often peppering him with questions that were interesting enough for him to answer. Kandinsky, meanwhile, trusted Klee’s opinion enough to show his friend his latest experiments. ‘There are not many colleagues I like to show my pictures to,’ he explained, ‘but Klee is a great and very rare exception, and besides, I highly respect his judgement’ (Kandinsky, quoted in ibid., p. 267). Their friendship became much closer than it had been in Munich, as they came to know each other on a more personal level, working alongside one another on a daily basis. They revived their tradition of gifting each other works of art on special occasions, exchanging small paintings and works on paper on each other’s birthdays and at Christmas. For example, to celebrate Kandinsky’s sixtieth birthday, Klee created the work Letter-Paper Picture for 5 December 1927, featuring the artist’s name alongside inscriptions which refer to the various places Kandinsky had called home over the previous decade: Moscow, Munich, Weimar and Dessau. These works acted as both expressions of their friendship, but also as markers of their ongoing artistic dialogue with one another, as they pursued similar motifs, themes, and experimental techniques.When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1926, the closeness between Klee and Kandinsky increased even further. This was largely driven by the fact that they became, once again, neighbours, living together first in rented accommodation, and then side-by-side in two semi-detached Master’s Houses on the new Bauhaus site. With just a single wall separating them in both cases, the pair’s friendship reached new levels of familiarity and intimacy. Here, Klee and Kandinsky quickly fell into an easy routine, working and teaching alongside one another, regularly socialising together with their wives, and taking long walks in the valley of the Elbe River. Tea on the terrace became something of an afternoon ritual for the pair, with numerous photographs from the period showing the two at a table outside their house, enjoying one another’s company. Indeed, these snapshots, as well as those taken on a joint holiday to France, showcase the camaraderie between the two and the easy friendship they enjoyed. In a now famous photograph in which Kandinsky and Klee pose in the manner of the Goethe and Schiller monument in Weimar, the pair’s sense of fun and humour comes to the fore, as they stand among the lapping waves of the Atlantic Ocean, imitating the German literary heroes.As they entered the 1930s, the idyllic environment and close working relationship they enjoyed at the Bauhaus disappeared. Changes in the organisation’s leadership and an increasingly complex and dangerous political climate in Germany ushered in a period of intense uncertainty and upheaval for the two artists. Klee resigned from his position at the Bauhaus in 1931 in order to begin a new post at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, while the dissolution of the school in Dessau in 1932 saw Kandinsky move to Berlin. However, with the rise of the National Socialists to power in 1933, Germany became a dangerous place for both artists to live. Klee was first suspended, then dismissed, from his teaching post by the authorities, and both he and Kandinsky were labelled ‘Degenerate’ artists by the new government, who confiscated their works from public collections. To avoid persecution, they fled the country, Klee travelling to his hometown of Bern in neutral Switzerland and Kandinsky to Paris. The two remained in contact during this time via regular letters, which were often filled with fond recollections from their long friendship. For example, in a 1936 letter from Kandinsky to Klee, the artist remembers the domestic bliss they once enjoyed in Dessau, and laments their separation: ‘It would be so nice to once again drink a cup of tea with you, as was so often and so pleasantly the case in Dessau. We frequently think of our former closeness, of watering flowers at the same time, of the bocce battles and – sad thought – of our collective complaints about the BH meetings. How far behind us all of that is!’ (16 Dec 1936).Klee and Kandinsky saw each other for the last time in February 1937, when Wassily and his wife Nina travelled to the Swiss capital for the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Kunsthalle Bern. While there, they made a point of visiting Klee, who was largely housebound due to the debilitating illness which had plagued him since 1935. Kandinsky brought with him the watercolour Above-Below, which he dedicated ‘To my dear friend of many years.’ In a letter Kandinsky wrote to Lily Klee a few weeks later, he expressed his joy at the meeting: ‘I was so delighted to be able to see you both again, and the hours we spend together have left such a wonderful memory. In today’s cool and increasingly cooler ‘atmosphere’, the rare warmth does even more good than was the case in old times’ (Kandinsky, quoted in ibid., p. 266). Their friendship continued to survive despite their geographical distance from one another and the political unrest which surrounded them, offering them both solace and comfort in a time of great uncertainty and turmoil. They would remain close until Klee’s death in 1940, and Kandinsky would continue to remember his friend fondly in his writings for the rest of his life. PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Verschleiertes Glühen (Veiled Glow)

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Verschleiertes Glühen (Veiled Glow)
signed with the monogram and dated ‘28’ (lower left)
oil on board laid down on panel
30 1/2 x 24 3/8 in. (77.5 x 62 cm.)
Painted in January - February 1928
With Emmy 'Galka' Scheyer, Hollywood, 1933.
Nina Kandinsky, Paris.
Galerie Maeght, Paris, by 1953.
Victor Kiam, New York, by 1959.
Marlborough Fine Art, London.
Fanny & Stephen Rosenak, New York.
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York, by 1984.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners on 17 June 1999.
The artist's handlist, vol. IV, no. 422.
W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, London, 1959, no. 422, p. 337 (illustrated fig. 282, p. 372).
H.K. Roethel & J.K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, vol. II, 1916-1944, London, 1984, no. 865, p. 799 (illustrated).
Dusseldorf, Kunstpalast, Deutsche Kunst, May - October 1928, no. 360, p. 82.
Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Kandinsky, February 1931, no. 38 (illustrated).
Oakland Art Gallery, Paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, The "Old Master" of Abstract Art, January 1935; this exhibition later travelled to travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Art, May - June 1935 (no catalogue).
Los Angeles, Stendahl Gallery, Kandinsky, April 1940 (no catalogue).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, October - November 1953, no. 15.
Bern, Kunsthalle, Gesamtausstellung Wassily Kandinsky, March - May 1955, no. 55 (illustrated).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Painters of the Bauhaus: Albers, Bayers, Feininger, Itten, Kandinsky, Klee, Moholy-Nagy, Muche, Schlemmer, March - April 1962, no. 73 (illustrated).
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, March - May 1984, no. 50A, p. 62A (illustrated).
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Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

Painted in the early months of 1928, Wassily Kandinsky’s Verschleiertes Glühen (Veiled Glow) is a testament to the artist’s continued dedication to experimentation in his art during his tenure at the Bauhaus. In this innovative work, Kandinsky explores the wealth of possibilities which lie behind different variations of the primary elements of triangle and line, through repetition, opposition, convergence and divergence, as a constellation of geometric shapes, overlapping and intersecting one another in a complex network of lines, fills the picture plane. The schematic nature of Verschleiertes Glühen’s geometry may be seen as a response to the designs and theories of Kandinsky’s colleagues at the Bauhaus, as it entered a new phase of architectural and technological orientation during the closing years of the 1920s at Dessau. The Bauhaus at this time was a location filled with stimulating and engaging interactions, between the many students and masters, designers and architects, painters and engineers that gathered there. It was this highly engaging atmosphere that inspired Kandinsky to explore new themes and subjects in his art, pushing his theories and practices to new levels of innovation which dealt directly with the modern world.

Particularly influential for Kandinsky were the striking photographs of the Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy, whose unexpected vantage points and innovative printing methods generated highly modern images which challenged the relationship between photography and the visible world. As he stated in his contribution to the Bauhaus series of books, Painting, Photography, Film, Moholy-Nagy believed that by shifting the camera to new viewpoints, ‘we may see the world with entirely different eyes’ (L. Moholy-Nagy, Painting, Photography, Film, trans. J. Seligman, London, 1969, p. 29). Kandinsky used one of Moholy-Nagy’s iconic photographs of the structure of a radio tower to illustrate his 1926 book, Point and Line to Plane, choosing an image in which the overlapping bars and crossbeams of the metal structure appear as an abstract network of intersecting lines, triangles and geometric shapes, when seen from below. Verschleiertes Glühen appears to echo this structure, while some elements of the composition recall the imposing constructions of electricity pylons. The technological advancements of modern architecture and industry intrigued Kandinsky, who saw the radio tower and the ‘technological forests’ of pylons as pure expressions of geometry. Introducing these themes allowed him to address this aspect of modernity, in the spatial openness and apparent weightlessness of the structures he invoked.

The intersecting triangles and lines in Verschleiertes Glühen are underpinned by a series of floating colour patches, the fluid outlines of their forms offering a striking contrast to the linear regularity of the geometric shapes which converge over them. Executed with a subtle textured surface, these cloud-like formations carry varying tonal effects, which cause them to appear as if they are floating independently within the deep navy space. In grounding the composition in this dark background, Kandinsky allows the power of these patches of bright colour to increase, glowing at varying tenors against the deep blue void. This causes them to assume diverse positions in the illusory space, depending on their brightness, chromatic temperature, size and position in relation to the other areas of colour. In his 1926 publication, Point and Line to Plane, Kandinsky described this phenomenon as the ‘annihilation’ of the picture plane, in which the space ‘is pulled in both directions like an accordion’ (Kandinsky, Point and Line to Plane, reproduced in K.C. Lindsay & P. Vergo, eds., Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, New York, 1994, p. 648). The artist further explores this sensation by subtly shifting the colours in certain sections of the overlapping lines to alter our perception of their relationships to one another and the picture plane. For example, by colouring some of the white lines with the vibrant tones of the colourful clouds they overlap, Kandinsky instils these linear elements with different formal properties to those which remain white. Some move forwards, towards the front of the picture plane, while others appear to recede and sink into the chromatic cloud, depending on their different tonalities. These gradual shifts in colour also affect the clarity of the lines, causing them to appear softer and less material than those shown in white or in isolation. This further accentuates the impression that the constellation of lines is floating on multiple different levels within the illusory space of the painting. 

As with many of his paintings executed at the Bauhaus, Verschleiertes Glühen is closely connected to Kandinsky’s teaching methods at this time. As Master and subsequently Professor at the school, the artist engaged young students in the theory of form and colour during the lessons he taught as part of the first year preliminary programme, as well as in his ‘Free Painting Classes’. In many of these tutorials and workshops, the multiple and contradictory spatial effects which could occur by the interrelationships between different colours and forms were examined by Kandinsky and his students. For example, one painting student described the exercises set by the artist to supplement and explain these theories to his students: ‘He has brought along a great variety of rectangles, squares, disks, and triangles, in various colours, which he holds in front of us to test and to build our visual perception. On one combination, for instance, yellow is in front of blue in black. If I add this black, what happens then? Etc. etc. For the painter, this is a never tiring game, magic and even torture, when one, for instance, cannot get something to the front’ (U. Diedrich Schuh, quoted in Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years, exh. cat., New York, 1983 p. 67). From this account, it is evident that Kandinsky’s lessons were intrinsically linked to his explorations of the theoretical nature of art, incorporating ideas and concepts he had discussed in both On the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane. Herbert Bayer, recalling Kandinsky’s lessons, explained that ‘the practical work was amplified by discussions about the nature of colour and its relationship to form. Each flowed into the other: theory and practice…Kandinsky’s ideas about the psychology of colours and their relationship to space provoked especially animated discussions’ (H. Bayer, quoted in F. Whitford, Bauhaus, London, 1984, pp. 98-99). This engaging dialogue with his students inspired Kandinsky to continue to explore these themes in his own painting, leading to such innovative compositions as Verschleiertes Glühen.

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