What Happened to Kandinsky's Belongings?

Centre Pompidou

Throughout his nomadic life, every time he moved, Kandinsky was faced with the dilemma of taking with him only what was necessary, and leaving everything else behind to retrieve at a later date. When war was declared in 1914, Russians were no longer welcome in Germany, and so Kandinsky returned to Moscow, leaving most of his belongings and his artworks with Gabriele Münter, who in 1926 returned only his furniture and his bicycle to him.

Wassily Kandinsky on a bicycle on a countryside path in Kochel, Münter, Gabriele, c. 1902, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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More than 70 pieces of art were stored at the Berlin home of the trader Herwarth Walden, who continued to sell them during the war against the artist's wishes. In December 1921, Kandinsky left Moscow with his wife, Nina, and headed back to Berlin. He brought with him only a dozen rolled-up canvases, because he thought they would only be in Berlin temporarily. In reality, he would never return to his home country again.

Wassily and Nina Kandinsky on the balcony of the house in Berlin Wassily and Nina Kandinsky on the balcony of the house in Berlin, Anonymous, 1933, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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Due to the difficult circumstances, Kandinsky's works were put in the new museums in what was then called the Soviet Union, and were not discovered until 1984. As a result of this difficult, but necessary, move to Berlin, today there are two large collections of Kandinsky's work on paper (drawings, watercolors, manuscripts, and photographs): the Gabriele Münter- und Johannes Eichner-Stiftung in Munich and the Fonds Kandinsky (Kandinsky Collection) in Paris.

Study for Im Schwarzen Viereck, Kandinsky, Vassily, 1923-07, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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When the latter was created, more than 30 years after the artist's death on December 13, 1944 at his home in Neuilly sur Seine, it was a collection of items from Kandinsky's final studio. Kandinsky named his wife Nina Andreievskaïa, a naturalized French citizen like himself, as his universal legatee in his October 25, 1939 will. Nina gradually enriches the collection following a donation to the French National Museum of Modern Art in 1966, and a donation of 15 works to the Pompidou Center in 1976.

Nina Kandinsky in her husband's studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Spoerri, Vera, c. 1980, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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Nina bequeathed in her handwritten will, dated January 12, 1980, that all of her husband's works , paintings, watercolors, drawings, and graphic works, as well as all documents about Kandinsky and his work, become after [her] death the property of the French National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Center. After Nina Kandinsky's death on September 23, 1981. The Pompidou Center came into possession of this legacy.

Nina Kandinsky in the studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Anonymous, c. 1980, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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On December 6, 1979, Nina Kandinsky created the Kandinsky Society, the permanent headquarters of which are at the Pompidou Center. After Nina's death, this society was to be in charge of "the protection and promotion of Kandinsky's work […] ensuring the publication of the catalogue raisonné of his entire body of work […] being the competent authority to be consulted on matters concerning Kandinsky's work." Until its dissolution in 2015, the Kandinsky Society, headquartered at the Centre Pompidou, was constantly working to acquire new pieces to guarantee the consistency and protection of the works. Such pieces included watercolors and drawings from the collection of Alexandre Kojève, acquired in 2001, and the Christian Zervos collection, which included Kandinsky's 60th birthday portfolio at Dessau in 1926 and some of Kandinsky's Bauhaus teaching materials. Another part of the Bauhaus archives had been purchased by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 1986.

Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in the garden in Dessau Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in the garden in Dessau, Anonymous, 1932, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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As for Bauhaus objects, only Marcel Breuer's dining room—commissioned by Kandinsky for his house-cum-studio at Dessau—and the easels were originally attributed to the museum.

Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in the dining room of the apartment in Dessau Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in the dining room of the apartment in Dessau, Anonymous, 1927, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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Manuscripts deemed national treasures were purchased in 2008 and the collection was enriched further by donations. These included donations from the Alexandre Kojève archives, watercolors from a collection that had belonged to Karl Flincker, including a first draft for the cover of the Blaue Reiter Almanac, and a collection that once belonged to André Breton.

Study for the Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach, Kandinsky, Vassily, 1911, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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While many of Kandinsky's principle works can be found in Germany and Russia, many others remain scattered throughout markets in the USA and elsewhere. However, L’arc noir and Bleu de ciel belong to the collection at the Pompidou Center, and the Kandinsky Library at the Pompidou Center currently holds the only archive in France to cover the entirety of Kandinsky's life. Such a collection offers an overview and sheds new light on his life and career.

Mit dem schwarzen Bogen (Picture with a Black Arch), Kandinsky, Vassily, 1912, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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Bleu de ciel (Sky Blue), Kandinsky, Vassily, 1940, From the collection of: Centre Pompidou
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Credits: Story

We would like to thank Christian Derouet for providing information for this article. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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