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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

Tiefes Braun

Tiefes Braun
signed with monogram and dated ‘24’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
32 3/4 x 28 5/8 in. (83.3 x 72.7 cm.)
Painted between April-June 1924
Karl Nierendorf, New York (by 1937).
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (acquired from the estate of the above, 1948).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 7 March 2000.
The Artist's Handlist II, no. 271.
W. Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, New York, 1958, p. 334, no. 159 (illustrated, p. 362).
A.Z. Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945, New York, 1976, vol. 1, p. 314, no. 107 (illustrated, p. 315; detail of the reverse illustrated, p. 314).
B. Sell Tower, Klee and Kandinsky in Munich and at the Bauhaus, Ann Arbor, 1981, p. 144 (illustrated, p. 152, fig. 30).
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky at the Guggenheim, New York, 1983, p. 168, no. 93 (illustrated; titled Deep Brown, No. 271).
H.K. Roethel and J.K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1916-1944, London, 1984, vol. 2, p. 670, no. 714 (illustrated).
G. Levin and M. Lorenz, Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912-1950, exh. cat., The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1992, p. 214 (illustrated, fig. 6.7).
G. Faigin, "Review: Who Knew? Paul Allen Collection Does Abstration at Pivot Art + Culture" in The Seattle Times, 18 May 2017.
Dresden Kunstgenossenschaft, Secession, July-September 1924, p. 43, no. 418.
Wiesbaden, Neues Museum; Barmen; Bochum and Dusseldorf, Nierendorf Gallery, January-November 1925, no. 16.
New York, College Art Association, Kandinsky: A Retrospective View, 1937, no. 4 (titled Composition 271).
New York, Nierendorf Gallery; Cleveland, Museum of Art and Cambridge, Germanic Museum of Harvard University, Kandinsky, 1937, no. 4.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Group Exhibition, April-May 1939.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kandinsky, March 1941, no. 6.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Works by Kandinsky, December 1942-February 1943.
New York, The Museum of Non-Objective Painting, In Memory of Wassily Kandinsky, 1945, p. 106, no. 78.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou and The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Vasily Kandinsky: A Retrospective Exhibition, January-April 1962, p. 70, no. 54 (illustrated in color, p. 78).
Cambridge, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Bauhaus Faculty, November-December 1966, p. 19.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger: 3 Bauhaus Painters, 1970.
Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Wassily Kandinsky: Gemälde, 1900-1944, July-September 1970, no. 56 (illustrated in color).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Vasily Kandinsky, 1972 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Wassily Kandinsky, November 1976-January 1977, p. 82, no. 63 (illustrated, p. 87).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, Concentrations I: Nine Modern Masters from The Guggenheim Museum and Thannhauser Collections, 1974.
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Thannhauser Collection: From Van Gogh to Picasso, From Kandinsky to Pollock, Masterpieces of Modern Art, 1990, p. 248, no. 64 (illustrated in color, p. 249).
Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Masterpieces from The Guggenheim, February-April 1992, p. 188, no. 66 (illustrated in color).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, Color & Pattern, April-July 2017.
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Painted in 1924, Tiefes Braun is an ambitious exercise in pictorial contrasts, showcasing Wassily Kandinsky’s continuously bold explorations into the expressive potential of abstraction through the 1920s. At this time, the artist was immersed in the invigorating community of the revolutionary Bauhaus in Weimar, where his interactions with the students and fellow teachers fueled his creative energies, leading him to re-examine and refine his approach to form, color and composition. Filled with a powerful sense of dynamism, Tiefes Braun explores the tensions that arise between different elemental shapes when juxtaposed, aligned and contrasted against one another. Examining the interactions between a collection of angular geometric forms arranged in a complex network across the canvas, the painting is a testament to Kandinsky’s ceaselessly inventive artistic vision, which continued to evolve and unfold throughout his mature years.
Kandinsky’s art was profoundly shaped by his experiences at the Bauhaus through the 1920s—attracted by the school’s inclusive educational program and welcoming attitude towards his artistic and theoretical activities, he joined the faculty in 1922 following an invitation from the school’s founder, Walter Gropius. The Bauhaus was filled with stimulating 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. As Master, and subsequently Professor, at the school, the artist engaged young students in his theories of form and color during the lessons he taught, from the wall-painting workshop, to the first year preliminary program, as well as in his “Free Painting Classes.” Herbert Bayer, recalling Kandinsky’s lessons, explained that “the practical work was amplified by discussions about the nature of color and its relationship to form. Each flowed into the other: theory and practice… Kandinsky’s ideas about the psychology of colors and their relationship to space provoked especially animated discussions” (quoted in F. Whitford, Bauhaus, London, 1984, pp. 98-99).
In many ways, Kandinsky found these discussions and lessons as instructive as his students—they allowed him to explore ideas and concepts he had been wrestling with for years, and would prove essential to shaping his seminal treatise, Punkt und Linie zur Fläche (Point and Line to Plane). Highly regarded on its publication, this text became an intellectual touchstone for Kandinsky’s students and colleagues at the Bauhaus, and subsequently influenced generations of artists throughout the twentieth century. While this book offers a key to understanding many of Kandinsky’s paintings of the Bauhaus years, particularly in the different character he assigned to varying types of lines, he never intended it as a formal manual, to be followed religiously. Instead, Kandinsky insisted on the continued importance of personal intuition and spontaneous inspiration in the act of creation: “Art is never produced by the head alone,” he insisted (“Art Today,” in Cahiers d’Art, Paris, 1935, p. 83).
In Tiefes Braun the predominant diagonals and use of piercing, angular and intersecting geometric forms are clearly reflective of the Constructivist aesthetic Kandinsky had absorbed during his time in Russia, recalling the compositions of Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. However, they are combined with several rounded and organic looking forms that appear to echo the artist’s earlier lyrical abstractions, which took their inspiration from the unique rhythms of the landscape. From the sharply pointed zig-zagging line that cuts across the canvas from right to left, its shape recalling the schematic rendering of a mountain range, to the rhythmically curved elements and arches that evoke clouds, rainbows and sunrises, different forms hint at the possible origins of the composition in the natural world. At the same time, these landscape associations are counterbalanced by the neighboring clusters of sharp-edged geometric forms, revealing the evolution of Kandinsky’s style during these years, as his focus sharpened on the dynamics of interrelating and contrasting abstract elements.
Alongside this, from 1924 onwards, Kandinsky began to examine the perceptual effects of color in a more concentrated manner, experimenting with a richer palette in his works. He was fascinated by the interrelationships among colors and forms, and the ways in which the shape, size and placement of varying hues within a composition could affect the reading of normative spatial effects. In the present work, the canvas is flooded with color—the “deep brown” of the title—which the artist modulates in an organic, fluid manner, introducing subtle shades of deep red, soft beige, pink, yellow and deep, chocolate brown to its expanse. Gradually shifting from one hue to the other, the artist achieves a chromatic dynamism across the painted ground, as contrasts between brighter and darker shades add a new level of intensity to different elements within the composition, or conjure an alternate sense of a lighter or heavier atmosphere. Alongside this, Kandinsky plays with color contrasts and saturation in the cluster of geometric shapes that dominate the left hand side of the canvas, creating a sense of transparency within their forms by altering the hue of an element as it overlaps and interacts with a neighboring shape. This effect causes the planes to shift before our eyes, with some appearing to recede and others moving towards the front of the picture plane, in a way that animates the composition, imbuing it with a vivid sense of internal energy.
Exhibited extensively by the artist through the mid-1920s, Tiefes Braun was formerly in the collection of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, which acquired the painting from the estate of the influential art dealer Karl Nierendorf. A wealthy business mogul, Solomon R. Guggenheim had begun collecting non-objective art in 1929, after the artist Hilla Rebay introduced him to the work of Kandinsky and the German avant-garde. Guggenheim’s decision to begin purchasing Kandinsky’s work may have been driven in part by his own passion for innovation and ingenuity, two concepts which had been the pillars of his numerous business ventures over the years. Describing his desire to collect non-objective art, he explained: “Pioneering always attracted my attention… The first time I saw non-objective painting in Europe I was enchanted by its appeal and I saw in this art a medium for the American painter to exceed the past…” (quoted in Kandinsky, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2010, p. 14). Guggenheim would acquire more than one hundred and seventy works by Kandinsky over the course of his life, and envisioned a grand museum project dedicated to non-objective art, centered on his impressive collection.
Plans for such an institution were already in motion when the Nierendorf collection became available in 1948. Guggenheim and Rebay had initially come to know Karl Nierendorf through their shared enthusiasm for Kandinsky’s painting, purchasing several of the artist’s works through his eponymous Berlin gallery in the 1930s. Their connection strengthened when Nierendorf relocated to New York to escape the darkening political climate in Europe, where he reopened his gallery on 53rd Street, in January 1937. When Nierendorf died suddenly from a heart attack in 1947, at the age of 58, he had not executed a will in the United States, leading his estate to pass into the courts. In early 1948 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum purchased the entirety of the Nierendorf collection from New York State, adding many important Expressionist, Surrealist, and early Abstract Expressionist works to its permanent collection, including Tiefes Braun.

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