MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25-27 November 2019

25 November 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Children Listening to Balalaika

* 218. BOGDANOV-BELSKY, NIKOLAI (1868–1945)

Children Listening to Balalaika, signed twice and dated 1929, also further signed twice and titled in Cyrillic on the label on the reverse.

Oil on canvas, 88 by 70.5 cm.
40,000–60,000 GBP

Provenance: Private collection, Denmark, before the 1960s.
Private collection, Germany, from the 1970s.
Important private collection, USA.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
The work will be included in the monograph on the artist being prepared by A. Kuznetsov.

Exhibited: Possibly, Russisk Maleriudstilling, Den Frie Udstillings Bygning, Copenhagen, 7–20 February 1929.

Literature: Possibly, exhibition catalogue, Russisk Maleriudstilling, Copenhagen, 1929, No. 25, listed as Nye Sange.

The carefully selected American collection (lots 216–222), offered here for auction, comprises a group of unique Russian paintings, executed in the first half of the 20th century, that depict children and adolescents. The composition of this collection makes it clear that it was the collector’s personal aesthetic and thematic preferences that enabled him to build up such an expressive selection of works, consisting largely of the images of village children and often imbued with an idealised, national colouring. Although the number of works on display is not large, the collection features paintings by the leading lights of several generations of Russian artists and focuses particularly on the period from the 1900s to the 1930s.

The earliest work in the collection chronologically is the canvas In the Garden by Konstantin Makovsky, who produced exquisite academic pastiches on folk and historical themes. His romanticised, harmonious image of a rural idyll, set in the Russian hinterland at the turn of the 20th century against the backdrop of a brilliantly painted landscape, is continued by two rural genre scenes by Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky dating from the late 1920s and early 1930s. Depicting the simple pleasures of leisure time in the countryside — playing the balalaika and relaxing by a river — they show no definite signs of modern times and seem to be following in the wake of the pre-revolutionary artistic tradition.

However, the owner’s range of interests is by no means confined to “native soil-based” subjects (inspired by the Pochvennichestvo movement) that attract because they are picturesque and rich in ethnographic detail. Paintings by artists of completely different aesthetic persuasions also claim his attention. Such are the famous early Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister by Isaak Brodsky, produced in 1905 and highly regarded by his discerning contemporaries, and two fine works by the prominent Leningrad painters Alexei Pakhomov and Alexander Samokhvalov, intended to appeal to the new generation of Soviet youth. Despite all the differences in the images of the young summer resident of Vyritsa who is fishing and the Komsomol girl who is building the future, what they have in common is not only the classical training and the slight formal rapport between their creators (both being former members of the Circle of Artists association), but, above all, a keen interest in the onward movement of time and in the characteristic signs of the period.

Finally, the original, plein air version of Boys on the Boat by Konstantin Maksimov can also be ranked among the collection’s undoubtedly spectacular works. It foreshadows his iconic composition of 1947, now in the Chuvash State Art Museum, and rounds off the collection with a splendid example of postwar Soviet painting.

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.