Lot 3417 - A189 PostWar & Contemporary - Saturday, 29. June 2019, 02.00 PM

JOHANNES ITTEN

(Südern-Linden 1888 - 1967 Zurich)
Quadrate in Bewegung. 1958.
Oil on masonite.
Signed and dated on the reverse: Itten 1958.
70 x 100 cm.

Provenance:
- Collection Dr. M. H. Welti, Zurich.
- Galerie Schlégl, Zurich (verso with the label).
- Private collection Switzerland.

Exhibition: Stuttgart 1961, Hölzel und sein Kreis. Württembergischer Kunstverein, September - November (verso with the label).

Literature: Rotzler, Willy: Johannes Itten. Werke und Schriften, Zurich 1972, no. 1081.

“Each creative work of art begins with an impulse of love from the heart, it grows, it enters the consciousness of the artist, through the intellect it becomes something concrete, controlled and measured through the perception of the external world, finally it is thrust into the world in the hour of its birth, and led towards independence and maturity with tender and judicious care." Johannes Itten

Johannes Itten is probably one of the most fascinating artistic personalities of the 20th century. He set the standards not only in painting, but also in art theory and art education. Scarcely any other artist identified and lived art as an all-encompassing experience as consistently as Itten.

Born in 1888 in the Bernese Oberland to a farming family, in 1904 Johannes Itten followed in his father’s footsteps and began his training as a teacher at the teachers’ college of the Canton of Bern. By 1909 he had made the decision to become a painter, but was not satisfied with the art studies on offer in Geneva. However, at that time in Geneva, in addition to artists and musicians, he also got to know Eugène Gillard, whose book on the principles of form would prove to be relevant to the young artist’s own theory of art. In 1913 he moved to Stuttgart to become a student of Adolf Hölzel, which marked the beginning of his artistic career. Under Hölzel he learned the formal analysis of colour and soon became one of his master students. Itten quickly turned to abstract painting and in a very short time he developed his own, independent style. By way of a parting gesture, Hölzel organised an exhibition for Itten with Herwarth Walden, which demonstrated the great respect and fondness that existed between teacher and student.

In 1916 the young artist gravitated towards Vienna where, as teacher in a private art school, he was able to try out and develop for the first time the educational concept on which he had been working for years. He encountered numerous avant-garde artists, became acquainted with twelve-tone music, and above all met Alma Mahler, who provided the contact with Walter Gropius.

With the founding of the Bauhaus school in Weimar in 1919, Gropius had achieved something unique and hitherto unknown: for the first time, the fine arts, the performing arts and applied arts were taught on equal terms, with the common goal of producing total art works under the primacy of functionality. Itten became the teacher of the so-called preparatory course, in which students learned the principles and rules of form and colour. From Itten’s point of view the students also achieved an awareness of where their strengths lay within the arts. Soon Johannes Itten, who saw a missionary purpose in his teaching activity, which he pursued and defended emotionally, and Walter Gropius, who was more rational and guided by reason, were to fall out and went their separate ways in 1922.

In 1929 Itten opened his own school in Berlin and in 1932 also became teacher at the newly founded school of textile design (Fachschule für Textile Flächenkunst) in Krefeld. As a former teacher of the Bauhaus, he was classed as a “degenerate artist” in 1933 when the Nazis seized power, which led to the closure of both art schools in the 1930s. In 1938 Itten decided to return to his home country, and became director of the school and museum of arts and crafts in Zurich.

While Itten used painting during this period of teaching and lecturing as a way of testing his theories and he derived energy from this creative activity, in the last phase of his life, he dedicated himself again to his own art.
The present painting “Quadrate in Bewegung” (Squares in movement) from 1958 is an outstanding example of his late paintings. The composition stands out for its use of different rectangles and squares which are bound together by continuous contour lines. This way they seem to float, which endows the painting with great vitality. The confident use of colour supports the composition, so that the harmonious combination of various blue, red and violet tones in particular gives the work great radiance.

CHF 60 000 / 80 000

€ 52 630 / 70 180