5 Jun 2019
Portrait of Selma Alexander, signed.
Oil on canvas, 91.5 by 71 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Selma Alexander, Los Angeles.
Bequest from the above to the present owner, c. 1982.
Private collection, Australia.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert T. Galeeva.
Exhibited: Paintings and Watercolours by Boris Grigoriev, Marie Sterner Gallery, New York, 17–29 April 1933.
Literature: A. Klevitsky, “Amerika” Borisa Grigorieva”, Novyi zhurnal, No. 231, 2003, mentioned in the text.
The Portrait of Selma Alexander, offered here for auction, is an outstanding work by Boris Grigoriev, who in the 1920–1930s had a reputation in Europe and the USA as a master of the “Russian theme” and as a brilliant portrait painter. The sitter is depicted full-length, wearing an evening gown and expensive jewellery.
Free brushstrokes, complex textural surfaces and resonant bright colours of the work signal a shift in the painterly approach of the artist, who, back in the 1920s, had gravitated heavily towards Neoclassicism, with its precision of form and clarity of line.
Presumably, the new traits evident in this portrait are connected both with the general changes in the artist’s style and the status of his model — a society lady, then married to a well-known cultural figure in New York, the highly successful businessman, philanthropist and collector Vladimir Bashkirov (1885–1969). Selma Alexander sponsored an exhibition of Grigoriev’s paintings and watercolours in New York on 17–29 April 1933 in the Marie Sterner Gallery. The artist exhibited 18 paintings and 30 watercolours, amongst which was the present lot.
The work’s provenance is impeccable. After the 1933 exhibition, the portrait was displayed in Selma’s home in Los Angeles, where it was spotted by the present owner. Delighted by the impression it made on him, Selma exclaimed: “I’ll bequeath it to you when my time comes!” And she kept her promise. In 1982, the Portrait of Selma Alexander made its way to Australia and became part of her close friend and future biographer’s collection, where it remained until now.
We are grateful to Dr Tamara Galeeva, art historian, for providing additional catalogue information.
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.