Thursday, October 06, 2016

Kandinsky, Small Worlds IV

The Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College has some wonderful pieces. One of my favorite prints is the Kandinsky lithograph of Kleine Welten IV (1922) that we recently exhibited . We don't know very much about how we acquired this piece (but hope to find out). 

Kandinsky arrived at the Bauhaus in 1922 to teach mural painting and visual principles. In the summer months, likely at the studios in Dessau, he made a set of 12 prints that he published as an album Kleine Welten (Small Worlds) by Propyläen-Verlag, Berlin.

Thanks to a wonderful post by on Facebook by Marilena Cassimatis, I learned that the National Gallery in Athens also has one, acquired by the director Marinos Kalligas in 1966. I have always wondered how our little museum acquired this piece. 

I fantasize that it came through Albers.  In a letter dated May 5, 1935, Kandinsky (at Neuilly) writes to Albers (at Black Mountain, N.C.): 

"I am very pleased that you ordered another three of the "Sm. Worlds" series, you seem to be becoming my representative in Bl. Mountains! If Nierendorf cannot send you any small lithographs (the diagram in your letter was very accurate), I could send you 10 or so. I have still got some, but do not know offhand how many" 

See, Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky: Friends in Exile. A Decade of Correspondence, 1929-1949, edited by Nicholas Fox Weber (dir. of the Albers Foundation) and Jessica Boissel (former curator at the Pompidou), p. 70.

Most likely our piece came through Nierendorf Gallery that operated in New York between 1936 and 1947. When Karl Nierendorf died in Germany without any heirs in the U.S., the Gallery was confiscated by the State of New York. The Museum of Modern Art bought all its contents, which explains the Small Worlds in MoMA's collection.

Franklin and Marhsall has had a number of students studying heritage law within art history (Emma DeDourcy '15, Joel Naiman '14). Like most museums, we have plenty of pieces with complicated provenances. 

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States