Provenance: Private collection, USA.
A gift from the above to the present owner, c. 1970s.
Private collection, New York.
MacDougall’s is proud to present an exquisite chamber work by Konstantin Somov, Repose at Sunset. The painting dates from 1922, but carries the viewer back to a bygone World of Art era of pastoral idylls and refined ladies, developing the fin de siècle nostalgia that was close to the heart of many artists. This tendency towards the inclusion of national heroes and motifs in the search for an idealised “golden age” is characteristic not only of Somov, whose Russian and Parisian works of the 1920s and 1930s explore the new “peasant pastoral” themes, but also of Boris Kustodiev, Philippe Maliavin and other painters of the time.
This composition resonates with Somov’s well-known picture, Young Woman Sleeping in the Park (1922), which develops the same theme. A young woman has fallen asleep on the grass in a manor park and is completely oblivious of two duellists fighting with swords and a nanny taking a child for a walk amid the blossoming lilac bushes. Repose at Sunset is much simpler and more expressive, but it shows well how the sources of Somov’s nostalgic imagery changed over time. The gallantry of the 18th century, with its exquisite, tantalizing sensuality in the spirit of Watteau and Boucher, and its powdered wigs and crinolines, give way to the ideals of the naïve beauty associated with Russian country estate life in the 19th century, the innocent girls and romantic love (such as we find in Turgenev’s writing), walks through fields and woods. Furthermore, the elements of the composition – the setting sun, the lilac in blossom and, most importantly, the girl in a light-colouerd dress – evoke the idyllic image of a distant, lost Russia.