19. Wassily Kandinsky, Kreis u. Fleck

Object description
WASSILY KANDINSKY
Russia/France 1866-1944
Kreis u. Fleck / Cercle et tache / Circle and Spot
Signed and dated VK 29. Oil on canvas, 77 x 67 cm.
Executed in January 1929
Handlist IV, No 442
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PROVENANCE
Gaika Scheyer, Los Angeles (1930-1945)
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Galerie Maeght, Paris
Yamamura Glass Co, Ltd, Japan
Kunsthalle Bern
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (4530)
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EXHIBITED
Die Blaue Vier, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin October 1929, catalogue No. 113
Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin 1931, catalogue No. 40
An Exhibition of Paintings by Kandinsky, Valentine Gallery, New York, 15 November - 10 December 1932, catalogue No. 10
Stendahl Art Galleries, Los Angeles 1936, catalogue No. 22
Paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, San Francisco Museum of Art, July 1939, catalogue No. 14
The Blue Four, Buchholz Gallery, New York, 31 October - 25 November 1944, catalogue No. 36
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles
San Francisco Museum of Art, 1950
Kandinsky - Derrière le Miroir, Galerie Maeght, Paris 1953, catalogue No. 16
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Köln 1958, catalogue No 31
Painters of the Bauhaus, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, London 1962, catalogue No. 79
Moon and Space, Galerie Beyeler, Basel 1970, catalogue No. 31
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LITERATURE
Galerie de France, Paris 1930, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue
Hans Roethel and Jean Benjamin: Catalogue Raisonné - Kandinsky - Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde 1916-1944, Band II, Verlag Beck München 1984, catalogue No. 886, illustrated page 814
Will Grohmann: Wassily Kandinsky - Life and Work, 1958, page 337, illustrated page 298, page 374
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Stockholms Auktionsverk would like to express its sincere gratitude to Dr. Vivian Endicott Barnett for her valuable contribution to the cataloguing
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WASSILY KANDINSKY was born into a wealthy family in Moscow on 4 December 1866. When his parents divorced, the 5-year-old boy stayed with his father, but was raised by an aunt to whom, many years later, he dedicated his famous theoretical treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art). In 1885, he began studying law, economics and statistics at the University of Moscow. After graduating, he commenced preparation of a PhD in law, and in 1896 he was offered an associate professorship at the University of Dorpat (Tartu) in Estonia, but he declined the position. Instead of continuing his academic career, he chose to follow a different path, and that same year he moved to Munich to study painting. In his 1913 book Rückblicke (Looking Back, 1913), Kandinsky explains that there were two predominant artistic impressions that led him to take this radical decision. The first was Monet's famous Haystack, which he saw at the French exhibition in Moscow in 1896, where the object - the haystack - seemed to dissolve into itself, an impression that shook Kandinsky. The other was Wagner's opera Lohengrin, which he saw and heard at the Bolshoi Theatre that same year. Painting and music, the pillars of Kandinsky's philosophy of art.
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Kandinsky made Munich his base until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, even though he spent much of his time travelling in the company of his lady friend and artist colleague Gabriele Münter, who had originally been his pupil at an art school in Munich. Kandinsky was strongly influenced by his Russian background, often referring to his home city of Moscow as his 'artistic tuning fork'. In the period 1903-07, he composed a series of symbolist paintings and wood carvings featuring traditional Russian motifs, such as the painting Begräbnis (Burial, 1907), which was one of the works to feature in Kandinsky's first exhibition in Sweden - at Gummeson's art gallery in Stockholm in 1916. Kandinsky and Münter spent several summers in the Bavarian mountain town of Murnau, where Kandinsky's symbolist painting transitioned into a more abstract, strongly coloured phase, featuring works with musicalsounding titles such as Impression, Improvisation and Composition in various numbered series. In the early 1910s, he became a pioneer of non-objective painting in free expressive forms, although his use of colour is carefully thought out, with a measure of association to Kandinsky's strong interest in music with various sound-related analogies to the colours, as explained in Über das Geistige in der Kunst, published in December 1911. Also in 1911, Kandinsky and Franz Marc formed the expressionist group called Der blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Munich. Kandinsky's idealist philosophy of art, which is influenced by the prevailing theosophy of his time, is a reaction to the materialism of the industrial society. Art is a spiritual affair, and non-objective painting - the paintingstyle of a new age - has to rest on what Kandinsky calls "the principle of inner necessity". Art must, so to speak, grow 'from the inside out' and, in the same way as music, it must be its own reality.
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The First World War marked a complete break for Kandinsky. As a Russian, he found it impossible to stay in Germany and he returned to Moscow, where, following the October Revolution of 1917, he was appointed to different leading positions in the newly established state administration for art and museums. However, with his spiritual approach to life, Kandinsky was not a member of the Communist Party and the situation became increasingly diÎcult for him from several perspectives. After seven years in Moscow, he returned to Germany together with his Russian wife Nina where in 1922 he accepted a professorship at the radical Bauhaus School in Weimar, founded by the architect Walter Gropius. This significant change marked the start of a new phase in his artistic oeuvre. When, on account of conservative opposition in Weimar, Bauhaus was forced to move to Dessau in 1925, Kandinsky moved with it, continuing in his post as a teacher at the school until it was shut down by the Nazi regime in 1933.
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It was during this second period in Germany that Kandinsky developed a new phase of his non-figurative painting, certainly also inµuenced by Bauhaus modernism. In his early work in the 1910s, Kandinsky had consistently used more hard-to-define expressionist forms, but in his second phase in the 1920s, he switched to a clearer, more geometric idiom - while keeping the shapes µoating freely in an abstract
space. Kandinsky was one of the great theorists of modernism, and as a teacher of painting and morphology, he had an innate need to systematise his ideas. In 1926, he published his second great theoretical work Punkt und Linie zu Fläche. Beitrag zur Analyse der malerischen Elemente (Point and line to plane. Contribution to the analysis of the pictorial elements) as the ninth volume in the series of Bauhaus books - a work Kandinsky himself considered to be the organic sequel to Über das Geistige in der Kunst
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In this new book, Kandinsky formulated the theoretical foundation for his painting. The carefully considered work Kreis und Fleck (Circle and Spot) from 1929, with its geometric shapes against a background of white, yellow and pink space can be viewed as an almost paradigmatic example of Kandinsky's philosophy of art. Against the sharp orange circular form in the upper part, which is juxtaposed with a yellow and a blue shape, contrasts the more diffuse brownish 'spot' in the lower part of the painting. In fact, due to Kandinsky's theory, this 'spot' is also a large dot consisting of a complex of small dots. Kandinsky writes: "The geometric point is an invisible thing. Therefore, it must be considered as an immaterial entity. Considered in terms of substance, it is similar to the figure zero".
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Concerning the line, he writes: The geometric line is an invisible thing. It is the track made by the moving point; that is, its product. It is created by movement - specifically through the destruction of the intense self-contained repose of the point. Here, the leap out of the static to the dynamic occurs. The line is thus the great antithesis to the pictorial proto-element - the point. Viewed in the strictest sense, it can
be designated as a secondary element. According to Kandinsky, the quadratic shape containing four smaller square forms is "the proto-image for linear expression or for linear composition". Similar to his book Über das Geistige in der Kunst Kandinsky draws on sensory analogies and musical comparisons in Punkt und Linie zu Fläche. For example, the first notes of Beethoven's fifth symphony are 'translated' into points. Kreis und Fleck consists of both points and straight lines, as well as more artful shapes in a rhythmic interplay of forms and colours. The painting can be viewed as visual music, if you will, but also as Kandinsky's way of transmuting a spiritual reality of an almost mystical kind. Irrespective of this, the painting can also be seen as a piece of artistic poetry in geometrical forms, and enjoyed for its harmonious beauty in its own right.
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Jan Torsten Ahlstrand
Art Historian, Ph. Lic

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