The painting was sold at Sotheby’s on behalf of the great-grandchildren of the owner. They were recently reunited with the 1910 work, titled Murnau mit Kirche II (Murnau with Church II), which had been discovered in a museum in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, the Guardian reported.
The descendants of Johanna Margarethe Stern-Lippmann and Siegbert Stern, the founders of a textile company and keen art collectors, said they would use some of the proceeds of the sale to try to track down more of the family’s vast art collection that was seized by the Nazis in the 1930s.
The painting, which depicts the Bavarian village of Murnau in a burst of color, had hung in the couple’s dining room in their villa in Potsdam, Berlin. It is said to have heralded the Russian master’s move towards abstract art.
The £37.2m sale to an as-yet unknown telephone bidder was the star of Sotheby’s 36-lot modern and contemporary sale this week and set a fresh record price for a Kandinsky. The previous highest amount paid at auction for a Kandinsky was £33m for Painting with White Lines (1913), sold at Sotheby’s in 2017. Its original owners were friends with some of the the most influential writers and thinkers of their day including Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. The couple’s collection of more than 100 artworks ranged from Dutch old master paintings to Renoir and modern artists including Munch and Kandinsky.
Everything changed, however, after the Nazis rise to power. Although Stern died of natural causes in 1935, Stern-Lippmann was forced to flee Germany and was later murdered in Auschwitz.