Kandinsky's Painting with White Border
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October 21, 2011–January 15, 2012
Vasily Kandinsky’s canvas, Painting with White Border (Bild mit weissem Rand, May 1913) was inspired by a trip the artist took to Moscow in fall 1912. Upon his return to Munich, where he had been living intermittently since 1896, Kandinsky searched for a way to visually record the “extremely powerful impressions” of his native Russia that lingered in his memory. Over a period of five months, he explored various motifs and compositions in study after study, moving freely between pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, and oil. After he produced at least 16 studies, Kandinsky finally arrived at the pictorial solution to the painting: the white border. In his seminal 1911 treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst. Insbesondere in der Malerei (On the Spiritual in Art: And Painting in Particular), Kandinsky wrote that the color white expresses a “harmony of silence . . . pregnant with possibilities.”
This focused exhibition, co-organized with the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., brings the Guggenheim’s final version of the painting from May 1913 together with twelve related drawings and watercolors and one major oil sketch, and features the results of an extensive conservation study of the Guggenheim and Phillips paintings. The study unearthed a previously unknown landscape painting beneath the surface of the Phillips’s Sketch I for Painting with White Border (Moscow) (Skizze für Bild mit weissem Rand [Moskau], 1913). A rare glimpse into Kandinsky’s creative process, Kandinsky’s Painting with White Border reveals the gradual and deliberate way the artist sought to translate his ideas into a bold new language of abstraction.
Kandinsky’s work is a cornerstone of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s collection. The museum’s founder, industrialist Solomon R. Guggenheim, began acquiring Kandinsky’s paintings—including Painting with White Border—as early as 1929, and today the Guggenheim’s holdings of his work are among the most extensive in the world.
This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Joseph and Sylvia Slifka Foundation.
—Tracey Bashkoff, Curator, Collections and Exhibitions