Lotuses, signed, titled in Cyrillic and dated 1956 on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 100 by 150 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Europe.
Konstantin Maksimov was amongst the first Soviet artists to reinterpret the rigorous academic canons of the Stalinist era through the stylistic principles of Impressionism. Three of his works are offered at auction (lots 2, 14 and 70). Two of them are associated with the years 1954–1957, which Maksimov spent in China and which were a defining period in the artist’s creative and spiritual life.
The canvasses Lotuses and Night Roses (lot 2) – both of them scenes with natural, living flowers – show the influence of the ancient Chinese philosophical system of Taoism on the artist’s world view. The genre of still life had no place in Chinese classical art; but from the masters’ brushes were born images of plants in their natural environment, where as only a tiny part of the world fabric they still symbolised a reflection of the great Universal Mind. This was a tradition to which Maksimov was highly sensitive and which continued to play a role in his art long after his sojourn in China – as seen in Lotuses and Night Roses, which are separated by a period of almost 30 years.
The sense of the universal present in the particular is especially evident in Lotuses, which was painted in 1956, during the artist’s delegation by the USSR Ministry of Culture to Beijing, where he led a master class at the Chinese Academy of Arts for nearly three years. The artist’s stay in China was so successful, that he is still viewed as the founder of the Chinese realist school of painting in the European tradition. However, Lotuses clearly shows that the cultural exchange was mutual: if Maksimov gave much to China, he also received much from it.
Lotuses reveals Maksimov’s talent as a refined colourist whilst at the same time displaying his mastery of composition. A humble pond with lotus flowers – one of the main symbols of Eastern philosophy – is transformed by the master’s brush into a hymn to the beauty of creation. The main focus of the picture are the graceful flowers, shown by the artist at morning time when they have reopened after the night, symbolising rebirth and renewal, the return of youth and immortality.
This outstanding painting, undoubtedly among the best of Maksimov’s works from his Chinese period, is being offered on the art market for the first time.