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Ohne Titel (Untitled)
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About the item

Ohne Titel, executed in circa 1916, is one of Kandinsky's most exquisite works produced in a period that saw an important development in his artistic style and theory. After returning to Russia in 1914, following the outbreak of the First World War, the tumultuous events surrounding him both at home and abroad led to a shift in his working practices, and encouraged him to concentrate more on works on paper (fig. 1), although he was still able to create a small number of impressive canvases which depicted the city of Moscow, such as Moskau II (fig. 2). An exquisite balance between colours and forms, the composition of Ohne Titel retains the visual energy of the Munich Period evident in the studies he made for Komposition VII (fig. 3), but also introduces a new vivacity and sense of compositional unity. At the core is a maelstrom of colour which bursts into an array of sparkling yellows and blues, brittle stitching of black lines bind the opposing forces, and delineate mountainous motifs and distant cities. Paul Overy writes: ‘the few works he was able to produce show a continuous evolution, a progressive rethinking in paint. In the works painted in Russia the geometrical forms can be seen emerging as the result of a gradual simplifying of the amorphous forms which occur in the Munich paintings […]. The pictorial elements seem to be in a state of tension, pulled one way toward geometric forms and the other way towards the spontaneous exploding forms of the Munich works’ (P. Overy, Kandinsky, The Language of the Eye, London, 1969, p. 16).\nThe present work epitomises the expressive qualities for which Kandinsky’s watercolours are famed. John Russell quotes André Breton to describe the exceptional variety of Kandinsky’s draughtsmanship: ‘reproduction cannot cope with what André Breton rightly called “the incomparable exuberance” of Kandinsky’s colour. Nor does it seem able to counterfeit the endlessly varied pressure of Kandinsky’s hand upon brush or pen’ (J. Russell, Oil Paintings and Watercolours by Wassily Kandinsky (exhibition catalogue), The Lefevre Gallery, London, 1973). The works Kandinsky produced during his Russian period, are distinguished by the skilful inclusion of representational motifs. The hill-like diagonals and writhing pitch-black lines have an almost calligraphic quality which express the importance of the motifs to a greater extent than in his earlier works. The unparalleled precision of his pen, clearly delineates the different elements of the composition, giving it a unique sense of perspective. The city of Moscow itself became a feature of these near-abstract composition in a way that Munich did not. Although the circumstances of the Kandinsky's return to his native city were unforeseen, it is apparent in the ecstatic manner in which the artist describes the city in works such as these that he found his homeland every bit as inspirational as the Bavarian countryside he had been forced to leave.\n\nThe vivid palette employed in the present work illustrates the artist's highly tuned sense of colour and its application. Kandinsky's response to colour was heightened by a synesthetic combination of sights and sounds, and in his first major theoretical text, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he wrote about the various meanings and emotions captured by colours: 'In its middle tones such as vermilion, red has more of the constancy of a powerful emotion: it is like a steadily burning passion, a self-confident power that cannot easily be subdued, but can be extinguished by blue, as a red-hot iron by water [...]. Vermilion has a sound like a tuba, and a parallel can be drawn with the sound of a loud drum beat' (quoted in Frank Whitford, Kandinsky: Watercolours and other Works on Paper (exhibition catalogue), The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1999, p. 24). The present work, with is harmonious balance of tones - from the fiery reds and oranges to the verdant greens and celestial blues - are symptomatic of Kandinsky's extraordinary receptiveness and understanding of colour.\n\nThe extraordinary lucidity with which Kandinsky expressed his ground-breaking aesthetic theories in his watercolours is due to his highly inventive, virtuosic technical use of the medium: ‘Kandinsky was not a pure water-colourist in the traditional sense: he did not consistently exploit translucency, the subtle effects of cumulative washes or any of the other qualities unique to the medium. He used opaque body colour, ink and wash, pencil and chalk, often in one and the same composition. Determined to achieve unusual effects, he even mixed watercolours and oils on occasion, or added soap and other substances to his paint. In many of his works on paper the colours nevertheless achieve a brilliance and saturation rarely approached in his oils. Given the central importance of colour in his œuvre, it might therefore be argued that Kandinsky’s sensibilities found its fullest expression in his watercolours’ (F. Whitford, ibid., p. 13).\nSigned with the artist's monogram (lower left)
GB
GB
GB

medium

Gouache, watercolour and pen and ink on paper

creator

Wassily Kandinsky

condition

Executed on thick paper, with three original perforated edges intact, hinged to the mount at the reverse of the top two corners. Apart from two very tiny losses to the upper corners, this work is in very good, original condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although stronger and more vibrant in the original. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

22.9 by 34cm.

exhibition

Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen & Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Kandinsky. Kleine Freuden. Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, 1992, no. 54, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Murnau, Schloßmuseum Murnau, Paul Klee und seine Weggefährten, 1999, no. 26, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Murnau, Schloßmuseum Murnau, Maler des ‘Blauen Reiter’ – Paul Klee – Deutsche Expressionisten. Eine Privatsammlung, 2006, no. 6, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours. Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1992, vol. I, no. 462, illustrated in colour p. 407, illustrated p. 403

provenance

Private Collection, St. Petersburg (acquired from the artist in 1920) Private Collection (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, London, 3rd December 1986, lot 466) Piccadilly Gallery, London (purchased at the above sale) Landau Fine Art, Montreal Orix Corporation, Japan Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999

signedDate

Signed with the artist's monogram (lower left)

time_period

Executed circa 1916.

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Private German Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1866-1944


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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