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

Schwebende Linie

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Schwebende Linie
signed with monogram and dated '24' (lower left); dated again, numbered and titled '1924 No 180 "Schwebende Linie"' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolor and brush and pen and India ink on paper laid down by the artist on board
19 1/8 x 13 ¼ in. (49 x 33.9 cm.)
Executed in December 1924
Nina Kandinsky, Neuilly-sur-Seine (wife of the artist).
Galerie Maeght, Paris (acquired from the above, 1956).
Saidenberg Gallery, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1957).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1998.
The Artist's Handlist of Watercolors, no. 180.
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours, Catalogue Raisonné, 1922-1944, Ithaca, 1994, vol. 2, p. 128, no. 739 (illustrated).
Erfurt, Angermuseum Kunstverein, Wassily Kandinsky, January 1925.
Wiesbaden Neues Museum, Nassauischer Kunstverein und Wiesbadener Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, März-Ausstellung, March-April 1925.
Wuppertal, Barmen Ruhmeshalle; Stuttgart, Kunsthaus Schaller; Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft and Hamburg-Atlona, Kunstsalon Maria Kunde, Meister des staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar, July 1925-April 1926.
Paris, Galerie l'Esquisse, Peintures abstraites, compositions de matières, Domela, Kandinsky, Magnelli, de Staël, April 1944.
Paris, Galerie l'Esquisse, Etapes de l'oeuvre de Wassily Kandinsky, November-December 1944.

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

Schwebende Linie (“Floating Line”) embodies many of the key elements that defined Kandinsky’s approach to abstraction in the early 1920s. Having returned to Germany from Moscow after World War I, the artist started teaching at the Bauhaus school in Weimar in June 1922. He quickly became involved in the German art world again: he participated in several exhibitions, and his teachings and writings were crucial to the development of abstract art internationally. In these early years at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky's work gradually moved away from the free flowing, irregular lines and shapes of his earlier years, towards a more geometric form of abstraction. This shift to strict geometric forms reflects the influence of Russian Constructivist art, to which Kandinsky was exposed during the war years spent in Moscow. Constructivism was gaining international scope and becoming an important artistic force in Germany, where geometry was accepted as a universal artistic language. Kandinsky was, however, fundamentally opposed to what later became the Constructivist principle of suppressing all feeling, emotion, intuitive logic and individualism within their work. Their abandonment of these elements, he asserted, reduced their “calculated constructions” to mere “mechanics.” “Art” he insisted, “is never produced by the head alone. We know of great paintings that came solely from the heart. In general, the ideal balance between the head (conscious moment) and the heart (unconscious moment - intuition) is a law of creation, a law as old as humanity” (W. Kandinsky, “Art Today,” Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1935, p. 83). The poetic and spiritual elements of his earlier works, therefore, remained the underlying force of his work in the 1920s.
Towards this end, Kandinsky's art was always rooted in an intuitive grasp of his media, even at the height of his involvement with the seemingly cold objective and functional principles of the Bauhaus. It was of paramount importance, he insisted, to counterbalance the complex principles of construction and form that he had painstakingly formulated over several years and finally published in Punkt und Linie zur Fläche with a spontaneous and intuitive form of creation. He therefore often admitted to almost never applying the painstakingly worked-out theories of Punkt und Linie zur Fläche to the creation of his work. Intuition was what he described as the artist's “inner necessity,” without which even the most perfectly constructed picture would be a “dead canvas.”
The present, richly detailed watercolor is an exercise in exploring the interdependent relationships that emerge from the careful orchestration of abstract shapes and colors. It is dominated by a black “Floating Line,” as the title describes, which dances down the center of the composition, passing over detached schematic grids. The sharp, precise lines and angular forms offer a striking contrast to the more organic background of deep, hazy magenta and the dynamic curvature of the Floating Line. Generating tensions and counter-tensions, these shapes hang together in a series of complex relationships and associations, lending Schwebende Linie a vibrant internal energy and dynamism. In this way, the work embodies Kandinsky’s aim “to create by pictorial means…pictures that as purely pictorial objects have their own, independent, intense life” (quoted in K. Lindsay and P. Vergo, eds., Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art, New York, 1994, p. 345).

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