Specialist Conor Jordan considers Wassily Kandinsky’s Rigide et Courbé (Rigid and Curved), unseen in public for more than 50 years and offered in New York on 16 November.
Wassily Kandinsky painted Rigide et Courbé (Rigid and Curved) in December 1935, marking the second anniversary of his arrival in Paris following the closure of the Bauhaus in Berlin. The canvas is densely packed with lively geometric vignettes and a textured surface composed of sand mixed with paint, a technique Kandinsky used only in his Paris paintings of 1934–1935.
The painting was first owned by Solomon R. Guggenheim, who acquired it from Kandinsky in 1936. Extensively published and much exhibited between 1937 and 1949, the work is the most important Paris period painting by Kandinsky ever to appear on the market.
‘With its dynamic sweep of upward energy, Rigide et Courbé evokes a rhapsodic song of thanksgiving, suggesting the bright hope the artist saw in his new home in Paris following his flight from Nazi Germany,’ explains Conor Jordan, Deputy Chairman of Impressionist & Modern Art. Marcel Duchamp had found the artist and his wife Nina a three-room, sixth-floor apartment in a new building overlooking the river in the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. The Kandinskys had taken up residence during the final days of December 1933.
The bound shapes on one side of the canvas opposed by thrusting organic forms that press outwards suggest a veiled narrative of escape, release and the freedom to begin anew. Rigide et Courbé reflects the profound impact Kandinsky’s new French surroundings had had on his painting.
Estimated at $18-25 million, the painting is being offered from an important private American collection and has not been on the market since 1964. The upcoming sale preview (Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 September to 1 October; Christie’s London, 6-9 October; San Francisco, 13-16 October) marks the first time in more than 50 years that the work will have been publicly displayed.