6 June 2018
Before the Rain, signed and dated 1911, also further signed and dated on the stretcher.
Oil on canvas, 60 by 82 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Kh. Kagan in the 1960s.
Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Authenticity has also been confirmed by the expert Yu. Rybakova.
Exhibited: Vystavka proizvedenii Nikolaia Petrovicha Krymova, Akademiia khudozhestv SSSR, Moscow, 1967.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, T. Rottert (ed.), Vystavka Nikolaia Petrovicha Krymova. Katalog, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1966, p. 18, listed under the year 1911.
Reproduced on a postcard, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1968.
M. Sitnina (ed.), Nikolai Petrovich Krymov. Albom reproduktsii, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1970, p. 40, illustrated; p. 99, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, I. Porto (ed.), Nikolai Petrovich Krymov. Zhivopis. Grafika. Teatralno-dekoratsionnoe iskusstvo, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1984, No. 39, listed.
I. Porto, N. Krymov. Izbrannye proizvedeniia, 1984, No. 29, illustrated and listed.
I. Porto, Nikolai Krymov. Katalog-rezone. Zhivopis, grafika, teatr, Moscow, Iskusstvo-XXI vek, 2009, p. 69, No. 111, illustrated and listed.
Nikolai Krymov’s landscape Before the Rain, now offered for auction, marks one of the most important stages in the artist’s oeuvre. The work was painted in 1911, when his studies at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture had come to an end, and Krymov, already a fully-fledged painter, widely known and enjoying public recognition, was selected to represent the achievements of contemporary Russian art at an international exhibition in Rome alongside Alexander Benois, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Evgeny Lanceray, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Igor Grabar and others. Krymov was himself something of a “Roman” by then, fascinated as he was by the classical landscapes of the 17th century. His ideal, somewhat theatrical landscapes, with their symmetrical wide-branching treetops, are inspired by the classical tradition and call to mind the outstanding masters of the early 17th century who worked in Rome — Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet.
By making use of this stylistic canon and synthesising it with the decorativeness of a tapestry, the naivete of primitive art and the conventions of a theatrical scene, Krymov achieves a surprisingly modern effect in the composition of Before the Rain. He is no longer in the least dependent on the Russian school of landscape painting, spurning all literal adherence to nature, and reinvents his landscape afresh, combining his observations from real life with distinctly ornamental principles. This will subsequently come to be the hallmark of an artist who instructed his pupils: “Never paint a picture from studies. Paint the studies, examine nature so as to get to know it, but, when starting on the painting, put them right away and paint from inside yourself.” It comes as no surprise that, after seeing Krymov’s works, the eminent Russian art historian Pavel Muratov wrote in 1910: “Particular attention should be paid to this young artist by those who have an interest in the future of Russian landscapes. His works definitely belong to a new era in our landscape painting already.”
Before the Rain shows a kind of “Russian Arcadia”, in which to the ideal harmony of a natural scene is reflected by the clear, balanced, classical structure of the composition, the spatial construction of which is based on an alternation of light and dark masses of landscape, the sharpness of the outlines of the trees, the applique like quality of the colour planes and the use of a particular colour effect to convey a sky before a rainfall whereby it looks “condensed”. Mighty trees, like the side scenes of a theatre, hem in a humble country bridge. Depth in the canvas is achieved by a luminous sky that shines through the crowns of the trees and by the sunny glade in the far distance. It seems like the canvas of a theatre backdrop, with remote expanses painted on it, has been stretched behind the foreground, with its stage-prop bridge and timber side-scenes.
The sunlight falling abruptly from above not only lights up the glade and the treetops, but also sculpts their dimensions. Hence there is a natural contrast between the brightly-lit trees and the shaded ones, while the long shadows that cut across the bridge, and the dark foreground further intensify the theatrically classical nature of the composition. Very typical too is the artist’s use of the staffage female figure standing motionless on the bridge: her bright skirt prevents her from blending in with the shade. Krymov’s human characters — random wayfarers, hunters with dogs, and peasants — are just as conventional in his pictures as the classical landscape figures, which are meant to demonstrate visually the universal harmony of man’s indissoluble link with nature.
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.