A Restituted Kandinsky Painting Could Fetch $45 M. at Auction

A Restituted Kandinsky Painting, Recently Given Back to the Jewish Family, Could Fetch $45 Million at Sotheby’s London on March 1.

Feb 11, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
restituted kandinsky
A visitor views a painting by Russian artist Kandinsky which is part of the exhibition presented at the Pompidou Center in Paris Wednesday April 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)


A restituted Kandinsky painting could fetch up to $45 million at Sotheby’s. The Kandinsky auction will take place on March 1. The painting also recently found its way back to its primary owners. Those owners are the inheritors of Johanna Margarete Stern and Siegbert Samuel Stern. The family lost the painting during the Nazi regime.


A Restituted Kandinsky as a Definition of Abstract Movement

A Restituted Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky, View of Murnau with Church (1910). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s London.


The Netherlands Van Abbemuseum restituted the painting last fall. A legal battle between the museum and the painting’s inheritors lasted for more than a decade. The current price record for Kandinsky‘s painting is $33 million, and hopefully, it will live up to the expectations. The auction taking place in London is an evening sale of modern and impressionist artwork. Kandinsky‘s painting, Murnau mit Kirche II, represents a key point in art history.


The painting represents the start of the evolution of abstract language. Kandinsky also greatly influenced the Abstract Expressionist movement. “Kandinsky’s Murnau period came to define abstract art for future generations. The appearance of such an important painting is a major moment for the market and for collectors”, Helena Newman, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and worldwide head of Impressionist and Modern art, said in a statement.


Wassily Kandinsky, View of Murnau with Church (1910). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.


The Stern family was the first one who owned this masterpiece. They managed a textile company, based in Berlin. They also had a wide art collection of Dutch paintings from the Golden Age and modern works of art. Siegbert died in 1935. His wife tried to escape the Nazis, so she fled to the Netherlands. She managed to get back some of her possessions, but she sold much of her collection. In the end, she died in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter


How Johanna Margarete Lost This Masterpiece?

bauhaus masters
Group portrait of Bauhaus masters, from left to right: Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper, Georg Muche, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Joost Schmidt, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Gunta Stölzl, and Oskar Schlemmer, 1926, via Widewalls


Stern’s granddaughter, Dolly, survived. She spent more than two years hiding. Also, she stated how important the Kandinsky painting is for the remembrance of her deceased grandparents. She also said the restitution closed the wound which stayed open for decades. The thirteen living descendants of Johanna Margarete will each receive a portion of the sale’s revenues.


But, some of the money will be used to fund support further investigation into the rest of her collection. The Van Abbemuseum possessed the painting from 1951. This institution got it from Karl Legat, a Jewish dealer. His job was to sell the artworks previously taken by the Nazis in the Netherlands. Overall, he sold the artworks in order to save families from deportation.


Wassily Kandinsky, Anonymous Photographer, circa 1913
Wassily Kandinsky, Anonymous Photographer, circa 1913


A Dutch restitution committee did not have enough evidence to conclude how Johanna Margarete lost this masterpiece. But a twist happened in 2018 due to new evidence. There was a 1966 postcard from Frank that referred to the in question piece as “our Kandinsky“.

Author Image

By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.