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Murnau - Landschaft mit grünem Haus(Murnau - Landscape with Green House)
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Kandinsky, Landscape Painting and Avant-Gardism: the Murnau Factor By Dr Shulamith Behr\n \nIn 1937, while in exile in Paris, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) wrote with pride about the impact of his Murnau landscapes that were still in his collection, the colours have to this day remained completely fresh as though they are still wet. It was not without good reason that I concerned myself so very much with technical matters.[1] We can agree with both Kandinsky and the eminent conservator Rudolf H. Wackernagel that the colour effects of these works are truly astonishing to this day, the consequence of the artists versatile talents and knowledge of his techniques.[2] Kandinskys gestural exploration of the oil medium was accompanied by his selection of short-haired brushes and a change of support, from canvas or cardboard, to unprimed strawboard. The present painting Murnau Landscape with Green House (1909) is testimony not only to his adoption of these avant-garde painterly strategies, but also to his collaboration with like-minded colleagues and involvement in the pre-war German art world.[3] Prior to considering the Murnau phenomenon, it is helpful to position Kandinskys practices in relation to his experiences in Munich and Paris.\nOne can ascertain from Kandinskys biography that his professional path was by no means straightforward. In 1896, at the age of thirty, he decided to pursue an artistic rather than an academic career; yet his specialist study of Russian peasant law and ethnography was to prove a vital influence on his development. He was not alone in his choice of Munich as a place to train as many of his compatriots, among them Alexei Jawlensky (1864-1941) and Marianne Werefkin (1869-1938), settled there in the same year. A rival to Berlin as an artistic centre, Munich boasted the highly rated teaching institution of the Academy of Fine Arts and a greater availability of exhibiting space. In 1901, however, Kandinsky struck out independently by co-founding the artists association known as Phalanx, which was devoted to the reforming principles of Jugendstil or Youth Style, the German term for the Applied Arts movement.\nIt was in his capacity as a teacher in the Phalanx school that Kandinsky first made contact with Gabriele Münter (1887-1962), who attended evening life-classes under his guidance and was encouraged to pursue plein air painting in excursions to Kochel and Kallmünz in Bavaria. Although Kandinsky was married at the time, he and Münter became lovers and they led a peripatetic lifestyle over the next four years. This concluded with a year spent in Sèvres on the outskirts of Paris where Kandinsky produced small oil studies of the environs. The paint was applied with the palette knife, directly from the tube or occasionally with the brush. The freedom of painting landscape in situ offered Kandinsky the opportunity for modernist experimentation. In contrast, his developed studio work, painted on large stretched canvases in mixed media, drew on medieval imagery and themes of Old Russia.\nA major work of this period Das bunte Leben (1907, fig. 2) was exhibited at the Salon dAutomne in 1907, Kandinsky being well aware of Matisses unusual pastoral The Joy of Life (1905-06, fig. 3), which was shown in the Salon des Indépendants the previous year. Whereas Matisse located his lyrical fantasy in Collioure in the south of France, Kandinskys travels in rural Russia led him to anchor this mythical narrative in the market town of Ust Sysolsk, apparently the centre of Kandinskys earlier ethnographic activities.[4] An amphitheatre is created to contain the varied populace, who are portrayed wearing the patterned costume of the local Zyrian peasants. Pagan and Christian images, such as the Madonna and Child, are subordinated to a quasi-pointillist technique, applied over a black tempera ground, and sealed with varnish. Because of their unscientific and rhythmic application, the dots, patches and shapes of colour take on their own independent existence and elude a systematic reading of form and space.\nIt is difficult to determine whether Kandinsky considered this enigmatic account of things Russian to be marketable; there was a forceful community of Russian expatriates in Paris who exhibited at the Salon dAutomne in 1905, which saw the controversial launching of the French group of Fauvists. For this occasion, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev organised a Russian pavilion; however, Kandinsky didnt affiliate with this group. It was only after the couples return to Munich that, along with Jawlensky and Werefkin, they became actively engaged in transforming painting into the more non-naturalistic art associated with Expressionism.\nThe radical changes that occurred in Kandinskys uvre in the summer of 1908 are best considered in light of the foursomes excursions to the town of Murnau. This initiated a period of interaction that involved their testing of the limits of painting within the landscape genre, while intensifying an engagement with notions of primitivism. Located in the south Bavarian Alps, Murnau was a market town with a predominantly agrarian and Catholic population. It was also sought after as a tourist destination and contemporary photographs of the artists give credence to the disjunction of their urbane attire in the country setting. That the architectural cohesion of the town was the result of recent modernisation was of little consequence since it matched their search for rustic simplicity, authenticity and piety. Indeed, so taken were they with the area that Münter purchased a property there in 1909, which became a retreat for members of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, an exhibiting association of artists that they co-founded in January of that year.\nIt was Jawlensky who first drew their attention to Bavarian and Bohemian glass painting and to the technique known as Hinterglasmalerei (reverse glass painting). A substantial collection was owned by a local brewer in Murnau, Johann Krötz. Münter started her own collection recreating the votive corners of Bavarian interiors. She copied traditional examples of this genre (images of patron saints), both she and Kandinsky learning the technique from Heinrich Rambold, a glass painter still active in Murnau. Notwithstanding the fact that the production of folk art had long been part of a thriving industry stimulated by the expanding tourist economy of the region the group cherished the neo-romantic belief in the innocent religiosity and naïve originality of folk artists. No doubt, as ethnographer cum artist, Kandinsky delighted in the transnational and cultural parallels between Russia and Germany.\nJawlensky was the most conversant with avant-garde developments in Paris. He had exhibited with the Russian group of artists at the Salon dAutomne of 1905 and his acquaintance with Synthetist aesthetic theory was updated by a period spent in Matisses studio during 1907. Hence, in the painting Summer Evening in Murnau, of 1908-09 (Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus Munich), he negotiated paths between a Matisse-inspired modernism and the lessons offered by the linear-bound planes of folk art. Based on the near complementary colours of purple and orange, the paint application varies from thin washes, through to the textured impasto of the blazing sunset. Encouraged by Jawlenskys example, in the present painting Murnau Landscape with Green House (1909), Kandinsky gave up the palette knife in favour of short-haired brushes and larger, unprimed boards.\nIn view of its scale, the work indicates that Kandinsky had come to regard the landscape genre as worthy of a fully worked-up painting rather than a mere oil study, albeit that the exposed ground and hautes pâtes brushstrokes give the appearance of in situ painting. To retain the freshness and nuances of direct colour application, Kandinsky refrained from varnishing his works from 1909 onwards. Interestingly, this richly orchestrated painting rather than the preparatory oil study (1908, fig. 7) was exhibited and purchased in Kandinskys lifetime. The latter, produced concurrently with Münters photograph of Pfarrstrasse (fig. 8), reveals the site-specific nature of the street and houses, Kandinsky opening up the vista above the railings of the fence and abutting garden.\nIt was in Murnau that Kandinskys somewhat academic practice of retaining firm distinctions between his paintings, oil studies and coloured drawings was turned on its head. Indeed, between 1909 and 1914, visionary landscape was to become the basis for his major abstract compositions.\n\nDr Shulamith Behr is an Honorary Research Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London\n1 Letter to Galka Scheyer, 29 June 1937, in Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, Stuttgart, 1993, p. 330\n2 Rudolf H. Wackernagel, Watercolor with Oil , Oil with Watercolor, and so on: On Kandinskys Studio and his Painting Techniques, in Vasily Kandinsky: A Colorful Life, Helmut Friedel (ed.), Cologne, 1995, p. 561\n3 The German-Jewish publisher and art dealer Herwarth Walden (1878-1942) became the artists agent in 1912. See Riccardo Marchi, October 1912. Understanding Kandinskys Art Indirectly at Der Sturm, Getty Research Journal, no. 1, 2009, pp. 53-74\n4 See Peg Weiss, Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman, New Haven & London, 1995, pp. 49-50\nSigned Kandinsky and dated 1909 (lower right); signed Kandinsky on the reverse; signed Kandinsky, titled and numbered no. 79 on the backboard
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medium

Oil on board

creator

Kandinsky, Wassily

dimensions

70 by 96cm.

exhibition

London, The Royal Albert Hall, The London Salon of the Allied Artists' Association, 1910, no. 963 (titled Landscape) Berlin, Der Sturm, Kandinsky Kollektiv-Ausstellung 1902-1912, 1912, no. 68 (first edition) & no. 61 (second edition) Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm, 44. Ausstellung, Kandinsky, 1916, no. 5 Bern, Kunsthalle, Gesamtausstellung Wassily Kandinsky, 1955, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue Basel, Kunsthalle, Wassily Kandinsky Gesamtausstellung, 1963, no. 91 Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (on loan 1984-2017) Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Monet to Matisse: Modern Masters from Swiss Private Collections, 1988-89, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Berlin, Brücke-Museum & Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Der frühe Kandinsky, 1994-95, no. 99, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Zurich, Kunsthaus, Die Sammlung Bernhard Mayer, 1998, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Zurich, Kunsthaus, Fest der Farbe: Die Sammlung Merzbacher-Mayer, 2006, no. 73 London, Tate Modern & Basel, Kunstmuseum, Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction / Kandinsky: Malerei 1908-1921, 2006-07, no. 11 (in London); no. 9 (in Basel), illustrated in colour in the catalogue Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Tel Aviv Museum of Art Visits Berlin: Modern and Contemporary Art, 2015, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

The artist's handlists II & III, no. 79 Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work, London, 1959, no. 25, illustrated p. 351 Donald E. Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions, 1900-1916, Munich, 1974, vol. II, no. 963, listed p. 417 (titled Landscape) Hans K. Roethel & Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, New York, 1982, vol. I, no. 277, illustrated p. 265

provenance

Der Sturm (Herwarth Walden), Berlin (sold in September 1916) Bernhard Mayer, Zurich (acquired in the 1920s) Thence by descent to the present owner

signedDate

Signed Kandinsky and dated 1909 (lower right); signed Kandinsky on the reverse; signed Kandinsky, titled and numbered no. 79 on the backboard

time_period

Painted in 1909.

time_range_end

1909

artist_range_end

1944

time_range_start

1909

artist_range_start

1866

consignmentDesignation

Property from an Important Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1866 - 1944


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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