A masterpiece by Kandinsky, Murnau mit Kirche II, recently recovered by the heirs of its owner, a German Jew killed by the Nazis, was sold for nearly 42 million euros, Wednesday March 1, in London, a new auction record for this artist according to Sotheby's.
"Kandinsky's early works are rarely brought to market, with the bulk of them found in major museum collections around the world," the auction house said. The painting was sold for 37.2 million pounds sterling (41.9 million euros).
This work by Vassily Kandinsky, about one meter by one meter, offers a colorful vision of the German village of Murnau, its pointed roofs and the spire of its church, stretched just like the peaks of the Bavarian Alps. This oil on canvas, painted in 1910, a pivotal moment in the work of the Russian painter, has long adorned the dining room of Johanna Margarethe and Siegbert Stern, founders of a prosperous textile company.
Owner victim of the Nazis
This couple at the heart of Berlin cultural life in the 1920s, who frequented Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka or Albert Einstein, had built up an impressive collection of around a hundred paintings and drawings that adorned their interior. If Siegbert Stern died of natural causes in 1935, his wife Johanna Margarethe had to flee persecution and Germany before finally being the victim of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in Auschwitz in May 1944.
It was almost a decade ago that Murnau mit Kirche II was identified in a museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where it had been since 1951. It was returned to the heirs last year Stern, whose thirteen survivors will share the proceeds of the sale. "While nothing can undo the misdeeds of the past, the heirs pointed out, the return of this painting that meant so much to our great-grandparents has immense significance for us, as it is recognition and partially closes a wound that had remained open through generations. »
During this evening was also auctioned a 4 meter long painting by Edvard Munch, Dance on the beach (1906), sheltered from the Nazis in a barn in the heart of the Norwegian forest and which made the subject of a restitution agreement. In the foreground of the canvas are two great loves of the artist, two liaisons that ended in pain. The painting was sold for 16.9 million pounds sterling (19 million euros).
A painting by Frantisek Kupka, Complex (1912), which belonged to actor Sean Connery, was sold for 4.6 million pounds sterling (5.2 million euros). Proceeds will go to the Connery Foundation, which works in Scotland and the Bahamas. This sale is part of a series of auctions in London devoted to modern and contemporary art. At Christie's, paintings by Cézanne, Magritte or Picasso estimated at several million euros must also go under the hammer.