Bathers by the River, signed and dated 1974, also further titled in Cyrillic and dated on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 63.5 by 48.5 cm.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner in St Petersburg.
Acquired from the above by the present owner. Private collection, USA.
Exhibited:Andrei Mylnikov. Zhivopis. Skulptura. Grafika, The State Russian Museum, Leningrad, 1989.
Literature: A. Kaganovich, Andrey Mylnikov, Leningrad, Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1980, illustrated; p. 260 listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Andrei Mylnikov. Vystavka. Zhivopis. Skulptura. Grafika, Leningrad, The State Russian Museum, 1989, p. 81, listed under works from 1974.
The work Bathers by the River by Andrei Mylnikov, that is now offered for auction, was executed during the period of the artist’s heyday. The picture was painted by an already acknowledged master who had won state prizes on numerous occasions.
From the mid-1960s onwards, Mylnikov created a whole series of bathers, and the theme came to be one of those, that dominated his work during those years. The beauty of the naked female body on a bank beside a stretch of water was handled by the artist in different ways: sometimes he would depict a single girl in close-up, as in the celebrated pictures Sleep (1974) or Morning (1972); at other times, he would paint a group of female bathers some distance away, as in the no less well-known canvases Summer (1969) and A Summer’s Day (1974). The picture that is now presented, which embodies the results of the painter’s many years of creative endeavour, also belongs to the best works in this cycle.
Passing through the foliage, scattered sunbeams softly illuminate the women, highlighting the similarity of one of them to a fine statue of antiquity. The art critic Vladimir Petrov wrote of the master’s Bathers by the River: “The artist ‘reverently’ captures the elegance of the pose, seems to slow down the rhythms of the smooth, centuries-old motions and reveals a particular significance in the straightforward scene, a certain ritualistic, magical beauty” (V. Petrov, A. Mylnikov, Moscow, 1977). The liveliness with which the work was painted, the generalised nature of the images and the subtle gradations in the shades of green impart a joyful freshness to the picture. The master extols eternal beauty when confronted with life, showing that Existence lurks behind ordinary, everyday matters.