29 November 2017
Still Life. Capri, signed and dated 1930, also further signed, titled twice and numbered "I" on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 110 by 90 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the artist’s family until c. 1955.
Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
The work Still Life. Capri (1938) by Konstantin Gorbatov, presented for auction, is truly unique, since this renowned landscape painter produced only a small number of still-life pictures in his lifetime. Furthermore, this work belongs to the most productive and successful period of the painter’s work, when, living by then in Berlin, he would constantly travel to his beloved island of Capri in search of inspiration. This still-life picture reflects the incredible creative upsurge that Gorbatov experienced every time he visited Capri. Arriving there for the first time in 1922, the artist discovered an “ideal aesthetic environment”, his painting style gradually changed, and his palette scheme became more intense and more vivid. These changes were largely encouraged by the particular artistic ambiance in which the painter found himself. A Russian artistic community had become established on Capri around Maxim Gorky between 1906 and 1913, and its life on the shores of the Bay of Naples had not lost any of its intensity in the 1920s and 1930s either. For Russian artists, writers and intellectuals, Capri was a sort of island of dreams, a utopian land of “Sun and happiness”, lying outside geographical and political boundaries.
Although working in what was to him the unfamiliar still life genre, Gorbatov does, nevertheless, display consummate skill in recreating the warmth of the Italian sunlight in this canvas, as well as a sense of succulence and freshness of the ripe, juicy fruit that seems to have just been picked. As one gazes at this exuberant painting and its vivacious colour, they are reminded of rural celebrations held to mark the harvest time – something that is in full accord with Gorbatov’s definition of art as a festival.
The expressive, lengthy shadows in Still Life. Capri show that the canvas was painted in the early evening. The shapes in the picture are enveloped in an intense, joyous, southern light. The sharp interplay of light and shade, the highlights on the smooth surface of the pumpkin, watermelon and other fruit, and the fanciful patterning created on the wall by the fragile stalks of geranium are all details that combine to give the viewer a tranquil sense of the close of a scorching Italian day. Through its rich, luminous array of colours, the work fully reflects Gorbatov’s belief that “painting is wonderful when it conveys life not as it is, but as it might be”.
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.