7 June 2017
Willow in Bloom, signed and dated “Aprel 1939”, also further inscribed in Cyrillic “Baget zolotoi”, titled and dated on the stretcher.
Oil on canvas , 66 by 91.5 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the Czech opera singer Štefa Petrova (1909–1972), Prague.
Russian Sale — Paintings, Sotheby’s London, 12 June 2007, lot 134.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Willow in Bloom, offered here for sale, was painted by Igor Grabar in the late 1930s, when, despite the huge workload imposed by his administrative and teaching duties and by the writing of his books on Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov, the artist felt the resurgence of a creative uplift and an enthusiasm for landscape painting.
The winter and spring of 1939 proved to be particularly productive. Willow in Bloom is one of the works that Grabar painted in April 1939 in Abramtsevo. Still keen to convey the moment at which the first flush of green appears, the annual springtime miracle of the quickening of everything around him, Grabar relies, in the works making up this cycle, not on artistic technique, but on recording as precisely as possible the clear April sky, the fleeting shades of light and the first translucent undergrowth.
Drawing on the traditions of the Russian realist school of painting of the late 19th century, Grabar painted his Abramtsevo canvases while “trying to forget absolutely all the -isms and to be a mere onlooker admiring the splendour of nature”. He chose views that were as broad as possible, almost panoramic, with the valley of the River Moskva and a wide, open sky with a low horizon acting as the background. The artist himself thought that he had achieved something at that time: “Overcoming Impressionism gave the brushstroke great freedom, whereby it immediately liberated both the treatment of form and painting, which became simpler and closer to a synthesis” (I. Grabar, Moia zhizn, p. 292).
Willow in Bloom can thus be seen as a kind of epitome of that productive period, so completely and characteristically did it embody the artist’s main ideas in the late 1930s.
The provenance of the work is also noteworthy. It belonged for many years to the famous Czech opera singer Štefa Petrová (1909–1972), who seems to have acquired the landscape in Moscow during the World War II. For over 60 years, Willow in Bloom was owned by the singer’s family and descendants.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.