25 November 2019
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister, signed and dated 1905.
Oil on canvas, 72.5 by 66 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the sitter Polina Brodsky, the artist’s sister, Leningrad.
Collection of the art historian Iosif Brodsky, the artist’s nephew, Leningrad.
Private collection, Europe.
Important private collection, USA.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibitions: Iubileinaia vystavka proizvedenii Zasluzhennogo deiatelia iskusstv I.I. Brodskogo. 30 let khudozhestvennoi deiatelnosti 1904–1934, Vsekokhudozhnik; Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Kiev, September–December 1934.
Vystavka proizvedenii Zasluzhennogo deiatelia iskusstv RSFSR Isaaka Izrailevicha Brodskogo, Academy of Arts of the USSR, Moscow, 1955.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Research Museum of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, Leningrad, 1974.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Research Museum of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, Leningrad, 1984.
Dvoe. Zhivopis XX veka iz chastnykh sobranii, Kournikova Gallery, Moscow, 16 November 2008–18 January 2009.
Isaak Brodsky, I.I. Brodsky Apartment Museum, St Petersburg, 24 November 2016–21 January 2017.
Literature: Iskusstvo, No. 5, 1934, Moscow-Leningrad, Ogiz-Izogiz, p. 7, illustrated.
Iubileinaia vystavka proizvedenii Zasluzhennogo deiatelia iskusstv I.I. Brodskogo. 30 let khudozhestvennoi deiatelnosti 1904–1934, Moscow, Vsekokhudozhnik, 1934, p. 9, No. 8, listed under the works from 1905.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky, Moscow-Leningrad, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1950, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Vystavka proizvedenii Zasluzhennogo deiatelia iskusstv RSFSR Isaaka Izrailevicha Brodskogo, Moscow, Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1955, p. 19, listed under the works from 1905.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky. Statii, pisma, dokumenty, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1956, p. 18, illustrated.
I. Brodsky, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky, Moscow, Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo, 1973, p. 33, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Leningrad, Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1974, p. 17, illustrated; p. 25, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1984, p. 31, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Dvoe. Zhivopis XX veka iz chastnykh sobranii, St Petersburg, Petronius, 2008, pp. 18 and 19, illustrated; p. 106, listed.
Isaak Brodsky, St Petersburg, K Gallery, 2016, p. 12, illustrated.
The outstanding Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister, offered here for auction, is one of the most typical and well-known of Isaak Brodsky’s early paintings. The picture was repeatedly shown at exhibitions during the artist’s lifetime and posthumously, and is reproduced in virtually all the monographs on Brodsky’s œuvre.
It was painted in 1905, at a time when depictions of kith and kin had a huge place in the creative life of the young artist. Every summer, this talented pupil from Ilya Repin’s studio, would set out on field trips from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg to Sofiyevka, the small village of his birth, lost amid the limitless steppe of the Taurida Governorate in Southern Russia. Awaiting him at home was a large and close-knit family: his father, a trader and local shopkeeper, his mother, brothers and sisters.
All summer Brodsky would work persistently and tirelessly, producing studies en plein air and painting portraits and landscapes. Every year, he would return to the Academy with dozens of canvases, which formed a small exhibition. Later in life, the artist would treasure the canvases created during his study under Repin, regarding them as an expression of his creative potential and artistic independence. The present portrait clearly reflects the artist’s experimentation as he moved away from the school of his illustrious teacher to his own, individual means of expression.
The models for Brodsky’s portraits at the beginning of the 1900s were the artist himself, as well as the children of Sofiyevka, members of his family and the sisters and brothers of his fellow pupils — including Lyudmila Burliuk. Often, the artist would portray his younger sister Polina Brodskaya, whose features are easy to recognise in several works, such as Portrait of the Artist’s Sister Polina (1906), Gypsy Girl (1902) and Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister, presented here for auction. Depictions of Brodsky’s mother, Golda Elkonovna, however, are rather rare and distinguished by the special care with which they are executed. Recalling that time, Lyudmila Burliuk described with what “tenderness Isaac would speak about his relatives — about his mother, whom he loved and resembled, and about his talented, musical sister”.
Working on the image of his mother, the artist is determined to find a firm, distinct outline and devotes a great deal of attention to details and overtones, yet ensures they do not predominate. While achieving an academically rigorous form, he nevertheless retains a restlessness and a slight psychological tension, so typical of his art.
The swarthy, large-eyed girl is depicted in three-quarter profile, her entire pose conveying the energy and restlessness of an adolescent, looking as if she has just had an urge to spontaneously hug her mother — who, conversely is fully focused on maintaining her pose. This intrinsic contrast between the static and the dynamic highlights the originality of Brodsky’s figurative thinking, a particular artistic orientation of his. This “domestic” double portrait, imbued with feeling and even a degree of exultation, is distinguished by the originality of its composition and its individualised approach to each of the artist’s beloved models.
In some profound way, Brodsky’s painterly manner in this portrait resembles that of his celebrated colleagues Valentin Serov and Ilya Repin. Brodsky was highly regarded as a portrait painter by his contemporaries, who noted his talent for the implicit understanding of his models, an urge to capture them in real-life motion, and a desire to reveal their character. It is no coincidence that Brodsky’s mentor Repin said of him: “Both his character and his work, in which he invests so much love and beauty, always bubble like a clear stream of spring water. This source of pure art is a mirror that reflects everything dwelt on by the profound gaze of this delightful artistic soul”.
Thus, it can be said that the splendid example of Isaak Brodsky’s portrait painting, included in this catalogue, encapsulates the artist’s creative exploration during the early period of his work.
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.