Kandinsky Wassily, “Bear”, 1907

Wassily KANDINSKY

(Moscow, 1866 – 1944, Neuilly- sur-Seine)

Bear

1907

Gouache on paper laid down on board, 29.5 x 49.2 cm

Signed “Kandinsky. L’Ours” (lower left) and numbered “121” on the reverse

Presentation

A renowned master of the Russian avant-garde, a theorist and teacher, one of the founders of abstract art. He received a legal education, after which he studied with Anton Azbe and Franz von Stuck (Munich). Founder of the Blue Rider association. Exhibited with the Jack of Diamonds (1910), Donkey’s Tail, the World of Art and other groups. Taught in Moscow and abroad, predominantly in Munich. The author of several theoretical works that are of principle importance for the Russian avant-garde.

Painted in 1907, the picture “The Bear” is a wonderful example of the fairytale-folklore period in Wassily Kandinsky’s work. The image of the bear expresses the quintessence of the Russian national theme. Kandinsky interprets this motif lightly and with humor. The freedom in the use of the color, borrowed from the Fauvists and the artists of the Nabi group, served as an impulse to tackle the divisionist technique with a color essence at its heart. The use in this work of vivid, coordinated tones reflects the growing role of pure color in Kandinsky’s work. As Grohmann wrote, “The color becomes increasingly important… [green, blue-green, light pink, purple, yellow, orange] carrying the object into the sphere of dreams and legends.” As in music, color for Kandinsky resonates in different ways according to the character, timbre and power of the voices. The color notes create a form on the canvas. The artist set out his color-musical associations in literary works that, to this day, are of great interest to those studying the works of the Russian avant-garde.

In all probability, the picture, within which a family is depicted in Russian national costumes against the background of a church, reflects Kandinsky’s impressions gained on ethnographical expeditions to the Vologda Oblast in the north of Russia in 1889. In the right section of the composition, in the foreground, a happy family is depicted; in the background there is a funeral procession. The motif of the burial receives a new interpretation here through the juxtaposition of images of love, life and death. In order to convey this idea, Kandinsky used a compositional device, heading the movement of the procession in the background and the life-affirming movement of the girl with the flower, along with the musician in red in the foreground, in opposing directions. In this way, they symbolize the dynamic status quo between life (love) and death.

Condition report:

The artwork is in excellent condition.

Provenance:

Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, 1912;

Paul Citroën, Amsterdam & Wassenaar, circa 1919; Frederick Muller, Amsterdam;

Sale: Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern, 17th June 1965, lot 442;

Private collection, Hamburg;

Important private collection, Zürich, Switzerland

Bibliography:

Wassily Kandinsky, listed as No. 121 L’ours in The Artist’s Handlist, Coloured Drawings;

Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky. Life and Work, New York, 1958, no. 121, p. 343;

Douglas Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900 – 1916, Vol. 2, Munich, 1974. Listed, p. 196, 441 & 610;

Jonathan D. Fineberg, Kandinsky in Paris 1906-1907, Michigan, 1984, pp. 54 & 79;

Vivian Endicott Barnett, Kandinsky Watercolours, Catalogue Raisonné Volume One, 1900-1921, London, 1992, no. 217, illustrated p. 193; illustrated in colour p. 197 (with incorrect medium);

Kunstberatung Zurich. Old masters and Modern art catalogue: private treasures, Zurich, 2019

Exhibitions:

1907, Paris, Serres de l’Alma, Society of Independent Artists (Société des Artistes Indépendants), 23e Exposition, no. 2650

1908, Dresden, Grosse Kunstausstellung; 1910, Odessa, Vladimir Izdebsky, Salon 2; 1910-11, International Art Exhibition, no. 238 (as dating from 1909)

1912, Munich, Hans Goltz

Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm & Rotterdam, Gallery Oldenzeel, Kandinsky Kollektiv- Ausstellung, no. 20

PAM – Salon Point Art Monaco – 2015

Exhibition of Russian avant-garde paintings. Kandinsky and his contemporaries. On the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Wassily Kandinsky. 16 December 2016 – 31 December 2017, ‘Art Centre. Moscow’, Moscow, Russia

Masterpiece London – 2017

La Biennale Paris – GRAND PALAS – 13 – 17 September 2019

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