A Collection of Ten Linocuts and One Woodcut, most signed and dated 1926 or 1927 in the plate, one further signed and dated 1926 in pencil in the margin.
Ten linocuts and one woodcut on paper, the largest measuring 40.5 by 44.5 cm and the smallest 11 by 8 cm
The appearance on the auction market of a collection of linocuts by Boris Kustodiev is a unique event. The passion for engraving which took hold of the artist during his final years, from 1922 to 1927, left its mark in the production of about 40 works, each of which is a treasure of Russian 20th-century engraving. Of all forms of engraving, Kustodiev preferred the medium of linoleum. We have the recollections of his close friend and biographer, the artist Vsevolod Voinov, who helped the ailing Kustodiev to print proof copies from the linoleum sheets. According to Voinov, Kustodiev was always suspicious of any printing process in which the artist himself takes part only notionally, or is denied the possibility entirely. For this reason, he was not fond of lithography, where the result is dependent on the printer and his handling of the job, and thus beyond the artist’s control. Voinov remembers the time when, at the request of Kustodiev, they together spent more than two hours producing a print of The Fair, one of the outstanding works of Russian graphic art. In each print one can see the exceptional talent of Kustodiev which enabled him to feel, with a surprising sensitivity, the “nature of the material” and to master it to perfection. We must also mention the conditions in which the artist had to engrave. Lying down with his one free hand, the right, held in mid-air without any support, Kustodiev coped valiantly with uncooperative sheets of linoleum, which would sag and flex if very large.
These linocut prints are from the collection of Petr Kornilov, the well-known collector of Russian graphic art, who in turn acquired them from Vsevolod Voinov. Similar works are in the collections of the Russian Museum in St Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.