6 June 2018
Standing Nude from the Back, signed with initials and dated 1965, also further dated on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 138.5 by 58.5.
Provenance: Important private collection, USA.
Literature: Possibly, L. Zinger, Alexander Samokhvalov, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1982, p. 171, listed under the year 1962 as Devochka u moria.
Standing Nude from the Back by the outstanding Leningrad painter Alexander Samokhvalov, now presented for auction, was produced in 1965 and belongs to the late, yet very striking period of his work. It gives one a keen sense of the “new lease of life” that Samokhvalov experienced with the advent of the “Khrushchev thaw”. After a long break — ever since the image of the “Soviet Valkyrie” in his works of the 1920s and 1930s had been completely exhausted — the artist became himself once more and reverted to the female theme. Now, though, he does not give it the official treatment, but paints in a personal, intimate and lyrical way. And again he proves to be expressing the main trend of his time.
Samokhvalov’s female images are always a symbol of the time. It is no mere coincidence that nearly all of his creative successes are, in one way or another, connected with celebrating the female element in work and leisure, sport and study, the family and the state. This is especially true because, as the triumphal Soviet programme to emancipate women and give them equality was being carried out, the range of themes for embodying it in art expanded infinitely. Starting with the painter’s splendid work The Woman Conductor (1928) in the collection of the State Russian Museum, which personifies the image of a captivating and vengeful power with its unseeing gaze and the raised hand of Nemesis, Samokhvalov’s female images underwent an immense evolution over time. As they changed, so the creative style of the artist changed too.
In Standing Nude from the Back, the new trend makes itself felt in everything — in the soft lines of the drawing, the freedom of artistic treatment, the light range of colours and even the somewhat fragmentary nature of the figure. Bright colours are kept to a minimum: only the pink skin overtones and the sheet or towel in the model’s hands introduce focal points into the colouristic rigour of the composition. In all likelihood, Samokhvalov’s work on this painting provided the variable basis for such pictures as Female Bathers (1960s) and On the Beach (1960s), in which the artist was able to create a new lyrical image, more attuned to Soviet people’s romantic aspirations in the first half of the 1960s.
Notes on symbols:
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