Sotheby’s has announced that it will be selling a Kandinsky from the period when he was painting in Murnau, another work from that time was sold five years ago to set a record for the artist. The Murnau works are prized for several reasons. Among them is that the paintings mark Kandinsky’s transition from figurative painting towards abstraction. The work on offer, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus has an estimate of £15-25 million. It has been held in the sam family for nearly a century and is likely to be one of the last of these works still in private hands (as the auction houses love to intimate.) Until recently, this painting was on long-term loan to the the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and a smaller version of it is in the Hermitage collection in St. Petersburg.
Here’s Sotheby’s release:
In the summer of 1908 Kandinsky and his companion Gabriele Münter, together with artist friends including Jawlensky, summered in the Bavarian mountain village of Murnau. The surrounding dramatic mountain landscapes with their bucolic atmosphere and picturesque viewpoints were to inform his move into Abstraction. Kandinsky pioneered a style of Expressionism that was fuelled by an explosion of pure colour, applied in brushstrokes of thick paint. The artist was deeply impacted by the Fauve invention of a vibrant modern palette, by Paul Cézanne’s breaking up of form and structure as well as by Vincent van Gogh’s transformation of the landscape. In this richly-coloured and dynamic painting, Kandinsky embraces and fuses these three revolutionary approaches to painting and transforms these elements to create an intensely expressive style that was ground-breaking. Kandinsky’s use of colour was essentially fuelled by a belief in a spiritual reality that could only be discovered through the evocative possibilities of music and colour on the senses. The blue in this painting has a strong dominating presence and was in many ways the most important colour to the artist – the most spiritual of all.
Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus was first exhibited at The Royal Albert Hall in 1910, when it was chosen to represent the artist at The London Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association. The AAA was founded by Frank Rutter, an art critic of The Sunday Times newspaper, with the aim of providing a platform for the promotion of modernist art in Britain. This firmly placed Kandinsky at the forefront of the contemporary art scene in Europe, with his works deeply resonating with those of the Bloomsbury Group. Following this, in 1912 it was exhibited at Herwarth Walden’s revolutionary gallery Der Sturm in his first major retrospective. This early exhibition history places the painting at the very heart of Kandinsky’s critical importance. Just under a century later, the painting returned to London as part of a landmark show at the Tate Modern in 2006. A sensation in the art world and the public alike, the exhibition followed Kandinsky’s intriguing journey from figurative landscape painter to master of abstraction.