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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION, GERMANY

Ohne Titel

Ohne Titel
signed with the monogram and dated '30' (lower left); signed, dated and inscribed 'Dem verehrten, lieben Herrn Kirchhoff Herzliche Glückwünsche zu 1931 Kandinsky' (on the artist’s mount)
watercolour, brush and pen and India ink on paper laid down on the artist's mount
sheet: 9 1/4 x 6 7/8 in. (23.5 x 17.5 cm.)
artist's mount: 11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.8 x 21.5 cm.)
Executed in 1930
Heinrich Kirchhoff, Wiesbaden, a gift from the artist, by 1931.
Private collection, United States, by at least 1981.
Anonymous sale, Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, 9 June 1984, lot 813.
Anonymous sale, Christie’s, New York, 7 May 2008, lot 172.
Anonymous sale, Grisebach, Berlin, 26 November 2015, lot 41.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
V.E. Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, 1922-1944, London, 1994, no. 1005, p. 294 (illustrated).
Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden, Der Garten der Avantgarde, Heinrich Kirchhoff: Ein Sammler von Jawlensky, Klee, Nolde…, October 2017 - February 2018, p. 362 (illustrated).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Imogen Kerr
Imogen Kerr Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Created during his professorship at the Bauhaus, the two key facets of Kandinsky’s work, colour and form, come together in Ohne Titel in a dazzling display of sharp lines and soft forms, opposing scales and contrasting colours. Unlike the pure geometry and abstraction of Constructivist works, which Kandinsky lambasted for how cold and mechanical they felt, the artist sought to fuse together the realms of logic and emotion through a combination of daring geometry and intense colour.

Kandinsky’s use of colour in Ohne Titel is striking and laden with symbolic meaning. The artist’s synaesthesia saw him assign specific meanings to different colours and shapes, as outlined in his two seminal texts, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane. The viewer’s eye is immediately caught by the warmth of the large amber triangle, which is surrounded by a wash of dark blue, and contrasts with the bright violet hues that appear either side of it. Orange and violet, to Kandinsky, were antithetical colours, each one representing an opposing spiritual state: ‘just as orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow, so violet is red withdrawn from humanity by blue’, simultaneously creating a sense of balance and tension with one another.

Triangles similarly possessed special meaning to Kandinsky, who wrote: ‘The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle’. A second version of this composition would appear as an oil painting later that year, in Weisse Schärfe, this time, almost totally devoid of colour. The crescent moon shapes that appear in violet and blue in Ohne Titel are now yellow, evoking the artist’s interest in cosmology. Rather uniquely for Kandinsky’s abstract compositions, none of the shapes touch or intersect with one another, neither in Ohne Titel or Weisse Schärfe. Instead, they are placed independently of one another.

1930 was a somewhat strange year within Kandinsky’s own life, bringing together a surreal blend of professional success and an increasingly uncomfortable political environment. Nearly a decade into his return to Germany, his career had reached dizzying new heights. He was internationally renowned as an artist, and his work had been exhibited as far as America to great acclaim. He was also one of the longest serving masters at the Bauhaus school, and both his teachings and writings had proven to be incredibly influential on the development of 20th Century avant-garde art. His works were appearing in the collections of increasingly high profile collectors, such as the original owner of Ohne Titel, Heinrich Kirchhoff, one of the most important patrons of German modern art. However, in addition to this professional success and fame, as the Weimar years progressed, he found himself subject to increasing scrutiny from a political situation that moved ever more to the right, making his position evermore tense. The tension evoked by the contrasting colours and the isolation of the forms in Ohne Titel may speak to his own emotions during this increasingly hostile political environment, which would culminate just a few years later in the closure of the Bauhaus and label Kandinsky a degenerate artist.

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