5 June 2019 Important Russian Art Auctions, at Asia House

5 June 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Landscape with Skiers

* 64. YUON, KONSTANTIN (1875–1958)

Landscape with Skiers, signed.

Oil on canvas, 76 by 111.5 cm.
550,000–800,000 GBP

Executed c. 1915.

Provenance: Collection of M.A. Yablokov, Moscow, c. 1918.
Private collection, Europe.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the experts V. Kruglov and E. Shilova.

Literature: Reproduced on a postcard, 1916.
A. Koiransky, K.F. Yuon, Petrograd, A.E. Kogan, 1918, p. 42, illustrated; p. 74, listed under works from 1915.
N. Tretyakov, Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1957, p. 106, listed under works from 1915.

In the 1910s, winter landscapes became Konstantin Yuon’s favourite genre. The newly married artist settled in the village of Ligachevo near Moscow, where every day he would observe the village children playing on the outskirts of the village and admire in close proximity the rivalry of the two luminous phenomena that fascinated him so much, namely the sun and the snow. The present lot, dating from the mid 1910s, is one of these Ligachevo works, created from the artist’s impressions, which were based on such observations.

Even when it came to large canvasses, Yuon preferred to work en plein air, undeterred by the freezing temperatures, which numbed fingers and solidified the paint. The artist wrote: “I had a method: to start in the open air, then continue working at home, waiting for opportune natural conditions… At home, I would work on the texture of the canvas, perfecting it and preparing for the next open-air session. This is how I painted most of my works.” And this is how the large – over a meter in size – Landscape with Skiers, offered here for auction, was executed.

Compositionally, of paramount importance is the rhythm; generated by the movement of the children, the arrangement of the colour masses of the trees cascading down the slopes of the hill and the gentle drop of the gully, echoed by the short marks of the skis in the snow. Yuon masterfully conveys the soft, pinkish-white of the snow, the reflections of the sunlight and the stirring of the invigorating cold air. Perhaps, this was the first proper snow that winter, and the young skiers are keen to enjoy the moment? The trees still retain some of their vegetation, and the afternoon sun, yielding no warmth but accentuating the ochre and red tones, lends a romantic atmosphere to the painting.

The genre element, masterfully integrated into the landscape, is an indispensable part of the composition. Without the village children on their skis and their entourage of mongrel dogs, cheerfully following their descent, it is impossible to envisage this landscape, and the warm, domesticated natural environment of the Moscow environs, so beloved by the artist. Through this unassuming genre scene, the artist’s contentment with natural events and the smooth proceedings of human life shine through; a simple rural landscape is transformed into a rustic idyll. Such an idealised view of Russia’s most severe season, imbued with the artist’s deep love of the sun, nature and people, became Yuon’s trademark. It is no coincidence that his winter landscapes gained wide recognition among the visitors to the exhibitions of the Union of Russian Artists, while for the art critics and reviewers they become the quintessentially “Yuon” landscapes.

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.