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

Im lockeren Schwarz

Im lockeren Schwarz
signed with the monogram and dated '27' (lower left)
gouache, watercolour and pen and India ink on paper
artist's mount: 13 1⁄8 x 9 5⁄8 in. (33.3 x 24.3 cm.)
Executed in November 1927
Kandinsky-Gesellschaft, Braunschweig.
Richard Doetsch-Benziger, Basel, by whom acquired from the above, by 1956.
Private collection, Basel.
Private collection, Switzerland, and thence by descent to the present owners.
The Artist's Handlist, Watercolours, no. 'xi 1927, 236'.
V. Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky, Watercolours, catalogue raisonné, vol. II, 1922-1944, London, 1994, no. 803, p. 171 (illustrated; illustrated again p. 141).
Berlin, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Oktober-Ausstellung, October 1928, no. 13.
Paris, Galerie Zak, Exposition d'Aquarelles de Wassily Kandinsky, January 1929, no. 13; this exhibition later travelled to The Hague, Kunstzaal de Bron, March - April 1929; and Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, May - June 1929.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Moderne Deutsche Malerei aus Privatbesitz, October 1933, no. 56, p. 3.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Gedächtnisausstellung Wassily Kandinsky, March - April 1945, no. 9, p. 7 (titled 'In lockerem Schwarz').
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Sammlung Richard Doetsch-Benziger. Malerei, Zeichnung und Plastik des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, June - July 1956, no. 125, p. 37 (illustrated).
Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Kandinsky nelle collezioni svizzere, June - October 1995, no. 38, p. 195 (illustrated).
Lugano, Museo d'Arte, Jean Arp - Osvaldo Licini, April - July 2014, no. 35, p. 278 (illustrated p. 145).
Bern, Paul Klee Zentrum, Klee & Kandinsky, Nachbarn, Freunde, Konkurrenten, June - September 2015, no. 137, p. 348 (illustrated p. 196); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau München, October 2015 - January 2016.
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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Lot Essay

Painted in November 1927, Im lockeren Schwarz is a superb example of the inherent elegance and dynamism characteristic of Wassily Kandinsky’s work during his tenure as a Master of painting at the Bauhaus. Combining a variety of strict geometric shapes with block colour and textured surface effects, Im lockeren Schwarz demonstrates the Moscow-born artist’s desire to achieve unexpected spatial and illusory effects through the dynamic play of strict forms and bold colour, and is one of several of his Bauhaus paintings that explores the specific system of abstract geometry as its central compositional motif.

A completely abstract painterly construction of colourful geometric form, Im lockeren Schwarz’s dynamic yet balanced composition is quite clearly reminiscent of the Bavarian Alpine landscape, a theme inspired by his time spent in the Bavarian town of Murnau between 1908-1909. Inspired by the mountains and trees of the natural landscape, Kandinsky subsequently distilled these into symbolic pictorial signifiers, repeating forms such as squares, triangles and circles, giving way to his oft-stated intention that his paintings become complete ‘worlds’ in themselves through abstraction.

Kandinsky considered the triangle and the circle as the two primary, most strongly contrasting plane figures. Whilst at the Bauhaus, his students were to use a combination of shapes as an expression of various emotions: aggression as signified by the triangle; calm demonstrated through the square; and a sense of deepening where the circle is dominant. For Kandinsky, painting was not an end in itself but a contributory organising force. To feel the affinity between the elements and laws of nature was, for him, to gain insight into the elements and laws of the arts.

The title of the present lot, Im lockeren Schwarz, suggests the contrasting nature of the different elements Kandinsky employed in this composition: pointed and hard-edged linear forms within a nebulously atmospheric environment, a contrast emphasised by the German words ‘lockeren’, simply meaning loose or slack, and ‘schwarz’ meaning black. Kandinsky's titles often use such descriptive terms, internal or emotional in nature, to characterise the abstract formal elements in his compositions, and infer a fundamental conflict or dialectic which lies at the heart of his conception.

Seeking to create and practice a ‘science of art’ that would reveal the compositional laws and expressive potential inherent in abstract forms, Kandinsky systematically laid out this pioneering process of abstraction in his manifesto Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), published under Bauhaus auspices in Munich in 1926. From basic geometric elements Kandinsky created an astonishingly inventive body of work, from contemplative paintings that are relatively simple and minimal in their composition, as is the case with the present lot, to dazzling works of layered complexity, all evoking a broad range of subtle emotional states and diverse thematic references, which he completely transfigured into his abstract pictorial language.

For Kandinsky, painting was not an end in itself but a contributory organising force. To feel the affinity between the elements and laws of nature was, for him, to gain insight into the elements and laws of the arts. In short, Kandinsky's aims with his art were to articulate an abstract language that induced powerful emotions in the viewer in much the same way that music does. Believing that ‘form itself, even if completely abstract... has its own inner sound’, to the point where it becomes ‘a spiritual being’ with its own ‘spiritual perfume’, Kandinsky sought, through pictorial theory, to discover the rules of an underlying and universal order of harmony that he believed lay at the root of all creation (Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Malerei als reine Kunst’ in Der Sturm, Berlin, 1913, reproduced in P. Vergo & K. Lindsay, ed., Wassily Kandinsky Complete Writings on Art, Boston, 1982, pp. 348-354). It was, however, only in his painterly work that this essentially mystical belief was articulated with any persuasive force, for it was only through the lyrical power of his paintings that this transcendent nature of abstraction to instil deep feeling and emotion in the viewer was really expressed.

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