Search for over 80 million sold items in our price database

Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt (Two Riders and Reclining Figure)
Withdrawn

About the item

Of all the color-rich and fantastical compositions of the German Expressionists, few works are as compelling and visually spectacular as Kandinsky's Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt (Two Riders and Reclining Figure).  Dating from 1909-10, this picture codifies the stylistic and thematic concerns that Kandinsky would extol one year later in his treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art.   Its subject of a horse and rider also inspired the emblem of the 1911 avant-garde artistic periodical, Der Blaue Reiter. Yet, despite the monumental significance of this great painting as a landmark work of the  Expressionist movement, its existence was largely unknown for most of its history.   Since its creation, Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt has never been published and has been exhibited in public only twice.  Although its profound aesthetic appeal alone accounts for its importance within Kandinsky's oeuvre, its extraordinary history and artistic importance make this picture all the more sensational.\nZwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt is one of two compositions that Kandinsky originally painted on the front and back of a single piece of millboard.   The other composition, which has since been separated from the present work, is titled Studie zu Improvisation 5 (Study for Improvisation 5) and is currently in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (see fig. 1).  Kandinsky gave this double-sided painting to his friend and fellow Expressionist painter, Alexej von Jawlensky. Kandinsky and Jawlensky  first met in Munich at the turn of the century and formed a close friendship based on their mutual Russian heritage and artistic affinities.  By 1911, Kandinsky was working on The Blue Rider Almanac (see fig. 2), a publication that  pioneered the second wave of German Expressionism after the demise of Die Brücke.  Like Jawlensky and the artists of Der Blaue Reiter, Kandinsky favored bold choices of color for his picture, believing that certain color tonalities resonate within the soul, not unlike individual piano keys that trigger particular musical vibrations.  Between 1909 and 1914, Kandinsky’s musically and spiritually-rooted artistic philosophies propelled his work further and further towards abstraction.  His pictures took on the vague titles of musical arrangements, such as his important series, Compositions, in which the forms increasingly dematerialized into powerful bursts of color.  In fact, one of the works from this series, which is now in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is directly related to the present work (see fig. 3).\nKandinsky wrote passionately about his color theories and the recent advancements of his art in Concerning the Spiritual in Art, an essay that he completed a year after he finished the present picture.   This treatise set the stage for the direction of all of his future work in that it gave resounding praise for color as a means of complete and penetrating expression.  Discussing the effects of color on the body, mind and spirit, he wrote:  " There occurs a purely physical effect, i.e., the eye itself is charmed by the beauty and other qualities of the color.  The spectator experiences a feeling of satisfaction, of pleasure, like a gourmet who has a tasty morsel in his mouth.  Or the eye is titillated, as is one's palate by a highly spiced dish.  It can also be calmed or cooled again, as one's finger can when it touches ice.  These are all physical sensations and as such can only be of short duration.  They are also superficial, leaving behind no lasting impression if the soul remains closed" (Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1911, reprinted in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art in Theory, 1900-1990, An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 89-90).\nWhen Kandinsky painted Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt in 1909-10, he was reconciling this new metaphysical aesthetic with his existing predilection for depicting symbolic motifs and Russian-inspired iconography.  The mounted rider, for example, is understood to be the symbol of the Christian dragon slayer, St. George.  One can readily decipher his arms, outstretched in opposite directions, as he leaps over the hills with his horse.   The sleeping figure along the bottom left edge is understood to be the symbol of introspection and imagination, which were both characteristics that Kandinsky valued very highly in his art.  In the preliminary watercolor and drawing  from 1909 (see figs. 4 and 5), the artist sketched in these central figures of the composition, concentrating primarily on their forms and spatial arrangement.  When he arrived at the final composition, his focus was much more explicitly on color.  The two sets of horses and riders and the reclining figure are less characters than they are colored contours, harmonizing with the flow of the blues, vermilion, saffron and bright yellow that swirl around the composition.\nThe fact that Kandinsky gave this important painting, and its attached companion, to Jawlensky is not surprising, given the two artists' frequent exchange of pictures over the course of their lifetimes.  Their exchange of pictures is well documented.  For example, in a letter dating from 1937, Jawlensky expresses his deep gratitude for another picture given to him by Kandinsky, saying, "I was able to get the picture without any difficulties. Andrej had to go to customs and take it with him immediately. Oh, how much joy you have given me with your splendid work. Every day now, I look at the picture. I just keep looking and looking. Astonishingly beautiful work, how beautiful the whole structure, what expression there is in the colours, what a masterly technique and the overall rhythm of the whole picture. Splendid work. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thank you for making me a gift of this beautiful work. I am truly in your debt."  Jawlensky  received the double-sided millboard from Kandinsky sometime before 1914, as evidenced by an entry in Kandinsky's handlist.\nThe Expressionists favored millboard supports for their binding effectiveness and ability to withstand heavy applications of paint, and using both sides of the board was common practice.   After Kandinsky finished them, Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt and Studie zu Improvisation 5 were separated and the present work was signed by an unidentified hand, which may have been that of the artist himself, Jawlensky or his assistant, Lisa Kümmel.  It has been proposed that this separation was done by the painting's first owner, Alexej von Jawlensky.  Jawlensky had separated many of his own double-sided millboard works, and according to the catalogue raisonné, he instructed his son to do this.  Sotheby's recent sale of Jawlensky's Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut) (see fig. 6) is such an example, and its reverse is now in a private collection.  Thenceforward, each picture set off on its own separate journey through history.\nJawlensky and his heirs kept Studie zu Improvisation 5, but Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt ended up with Jawlensky’s beloved secretary, Lisa Kümmel.  Kümmel was given a number of works by the artist, who was so dependant upon and appreciative of her loyalty and devotion through the latter half of his career.   Thirty-three years Jawlensky’s junior, Kümmel met the artist in 1927 in Weisbaden, where she assisted him with his correspondence, book keeping and the general maintenance of his paintings.   After the artist’s death in 1941, she remained in Weisbaden and was mortally wounded in an air-raid strike in 1944 while staying at her brother's house.  Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt was unharmed and inherited by her heirs, with whom it has remained for the last sixty years.  Although few outside of the Kümmel family knew of the existence of this painting, a comparison with the Minneapolis Institute's Studie zu Improvisation 5 and its Jawlensky provenance revealed that both paintings were originally joined.\nIn 2003 the Société Kandinsky confirmed that Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt was by the hand of Wassily Kandinsky and that it would be included in the addendum to the catalogue raisonné.   It was then exhibited with great excitement and in collaboration with the Galerie Thomas in the summer of 2004 at the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus in Munich, and, most recently, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (see fig. 7), alongside its long-lost companion, Studie zu Improvisation 5. The reunion of these two masterpieces from Kandinsky's most crucial period was an event of enormous importance to both scholars and admirers of his art.  Both works represent one of the 20th century's leading artist's most important moves towards abstraction -- a move that would forever change Western art.\nFig. 1, Wassily Kandinsky, Studie zu Improvisation 5 (Study for Improvisation 5), 1910, oil on millboard, Minneapolis Institute of Arts\nFig. 2, Wassily Kandinsky, final cover study for of Der Blaue Reiter, 1911, watercolor, opaque white, India ink and pencil on paper, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich\nFig. 3, Wassily Kandinsky, Study for Composition II, 1910, oil on canvas, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York\nFig. 4, Wassily Kandinsky, Entwurf zu Komposition II, 1909, watercolor on paper, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich\nFig. 5, Wassily Kandinsky, pencil studies, 1909, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich\nFig. 6, Alexej von Jawlensky, Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut), circa 1910, oil on cardboard laid down on canvas, sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 5, 2003, lot 20\nFig. 7, The present picture on exhibition in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2004-05\nInscribed Kandinsky by an unidentified hand (lower left)
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on millboard

creator

Wassily Kandinsky

dimensions

27 3/4 by 27 5/8 in.

exhibition

Munich, Lenbachhaus, Blue Rider: The History and Ideas, 2004 (exhibition in collaboration with Galerie Thomas, Munich) Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Kandinsky: A Relationship Revealed, 2004-05 (exhibition in collaboration with the Galerie Thomas, Munich)

literature

Silke Thomas, ed., Portrait of a Painting: Wassily Kandinsky. Two Riders and Reclining Figure, Munich, 2005 (forthcoming)

provenance

Alexej von Jawlensky (acquired from the artist) Lisa Kümmel (acquired from the above and thence by descent)

signedDate

Inscribed Kandinsky by an unidentified hand (lower left)

time_period

Painted circa 1909-10.

creator_nationality_dates

1866-1944





Advert
Advert

Sold items

Seated Figure
Sold

Seated Figure

Realized Price
44,965,000 USD

Figure Writing Reflected in Mirror
Sold

Figure Writing Reflected in Mirror

Realized Price
44,882,500 USD

Study of Nude with Figure in a Mirror
Sold

Study of Nude with Figure in a Mirror

Realized Price
39,673,522 USD

Two Studies for a Self-Portrait
Sold

Two Studies for a Self-Portrait

Realized Price
34,970,000 USD

Abstraktes Bild
Sold

Abstraktes Bild

Realized Price
33,604,500 USD

Sold

Grande figure

Realized Price
23,080,736 USD

Sold

Figure Turning

Realized Price
22,565,000 USD

Sold

Two Studies for Self-Portrait

Realized Price
22,151,754 USD

Sold

Past Times

Realized Price
21,114,500 USD