Autumn Auctions 2020

From Beuys to Liebermann – Selected Works


Hugo Erfurth

Halle (Saale) 1874 – 1948 Gaienhofen

”Porträt Wassily Kandinsky”. 1925

Vintage. Gelatin silver print. 17 × 11,5 cm. (6 ¾ × 4 ½ in.) On the reverse signed, monogrammed and titled by László Moholy-Nagy in pencil as well as inscribed with the object no. A.38.2460.3. Inscribed by different persons in black ink with object no. E 13 as well as with blue coloured pencil with measurements and layout marking.  [3547] Framed 

ProvenanceWassily Kandinsky after 1925 to László Moholy-Nagy, 1946 to Hattula Moholy-Nagy / Private Collection, Berlin

EUR 10.000 – 15.000
USD 11,800 – 17,600

Sold for:
11,250 EUR (incl. premium)

„Porträt Wassily Kandinsky“

Auction 324Thursday, 3 December 2020
06:00 PM

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The portrait was reproduced in the catalogue of the first comprehensive american Bauhaus exhibition, held in the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1938. The notes on the reverse of the photograph reveal that the present print was not only provided for reproduction purposes, but was also an exhibit in the show

ExhibitionBauhaus: 1919-1928, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1938/39, A.38.2460.3, E 13

Literature and IllustrationExh. cat.: Bauhaus 1919–1928. New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1938/39, p. 21 / Hans M. Wingler (ed.): Das Bauhaus. 1919–1933 Weimar Dessau Berlin und die Nachfolge in Chicago seit 1937. Bramsche 1975, p. 269

The most ancient specimens of human cultural history consist of profile views of people or animals. A profile initially refuses to communicate with the viewer, remaining alien – yet does it not also condense within it the very essence of the individuality it portrays? If there is any expressive movement, it remains unseen; a profile is static. It is pure objectification, as it were, yet nevertheless spiritual elevation, genius, and creative power can also be read into its bold outlines.
Profile portraits are rare in the oeuvre of Hugo Erfurth, the most renowned portrait photographer of the Weimar Republic. They are usually found among the sets of photos which he created of the most important artists of his time, including the Bauhaus masters. Working from the “Lichtbildnerei Erfurth,” his studio in Dresden, Erfurth gained a reputation for treating his models with the care of a sensitive psychologist. His portraits captured his subjects in a manner both pictorial and neo-objective, and were produced using top-quality printing processes.
In this renaissance-like portrait, we encounter the Russian artist and Bauhaus teacher Wassily Kandinsky. Using a tight shot against white studio wallpaper, Erfurth presents him as a cerebral prince among painters at the zenith of his career. The sitter’s dignified aura is increased by his professorial appearance and bearing – something that was common to all the Bauhaus masters and which contrasted with the modern appearance of their students. It was Walter Gropius who invited the celebrated pioneer of abstract art to join the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922. While there, Kandinsky would go on to publish his second theoretical essay, “Punkt und Linie zu Fl.che,” in 1926. That same year, the Galerie Ernst Arnold in Dresden dedicated a jubilee exhibition to his work on the occasion of his 60th birthday. This particular portrait may have been taken in Erfurth’s studio as part of the show’s promotional campaign.
Besides Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger, and Schlemmer, L.szl. Moholy-Nagy was another artistic luminary who had his photo taken by Erfurth. The Kandinsky portrait inscribed by Moholy-Nagy accompanied him into his American exile.
Jeannine Fiedler

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