PATH TO ABSTRACTION Wassily Kandinsky’s Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus

An Expressionist Masterpiece by the Pioneer of Abstract Art f Appearing at Auction for the First Time As Part of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale London, 21 June 2017

Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “Kandinsky’s major early work Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus is a blazing celebration of colour that captures the moment of transition in the artist’s career when he is on the cusp of moving from figuration to abstraction. Many of his important paintings from this highly sought-after period are housed in major museums, so this work surfacing from a private collection after almost a century represents a tremendously appealing opportunity for collectors worldwide.”

Kandinsky was at the forefront of the momentous changes that were to transform the face of art history and it was in the critical year of 1909 that the artist took his first steps along the path towards creating something radically new. Works from this transformative expressionist year are rare to the market, attracting strong interest whenever they appear (in 2012, another painting from 1909 made $23 million to establish a record for the artist that was only recently eclipsed). This summer, Sotheby’s will bring to the market one of the finest early works by Kandinsky left in private hands. Having remained in the private collection of the same family since the 1920s, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus will appear at auction for the first time with an estimate of £15-25 million.

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. The painting has for many years been on loan to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with a smaller-scale study of it in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

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