MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25-27 November 2019

25 November 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

In the Garden

* 222. MAKOVSKY, KONSTANTIN (1839–1915)

In the Garden, signed.

Oil on panel, 53.5 by 65.5 cm.
120,000–180,000 GBP

Provenance: Important private collection, USA.

Authenticity certificate from the expert V. Petrov.

Konstantin Makovsky’s painting In the Garden, offered here for auction, is one of his most expressive canvases on the themes of the peasantry and childhood, which made their first appearance in the artist’s work back in the 1860s and 1870s and retained his interest for the rest of his life. Paying homage to the “peasant genre” in The Reaper (1871, The State Russian Museum), Peasant Lunch during the Harvest (1871, Taganrog Museum of Art), Harvesting the Hay (1873) and in numerous rural scenes from his later years, as well as in portraits of Ukrainian and Russian girls with their rakes and garlands, the artist nearly always creates pictures of a rural idyll where children occupy pride of place.

One of Makovsky’s main achievements are compositions in which the mood and feelings of the characters are inextricably linked with the land- scape surrounding them. This rapport between the subjects’ state of mind and the natural world in which they are immersed, brilliantly manifested in Children Running from a Thunderstorm (1872, The State Tretyakov Gallery), comes to be, in subsequent works, a conscious device that gives the artist’s canvases a poetic expressiveness and a national, romantic sentiment that set them apart from the numerous “Itinerant” works of this kind.

The figurative resonance of the painting In the Garden also stems from the harmonious link between the figures of the children and the carefully thought-out and accurately depicted landscape surroundings in which they naturally and comfortably exist. Viewers focus primarily on the girls sitting on the grass. The sun-drenched figures in their light-coloured shirts, head-scarves and bright, red skirts are totally concrete, but, owing to the sketchy execution, they lack the meticulousness and abundance of detail that sometimes give Makovsky’s child images a touch of sentimentality. Their natural surroundings and the landscape, full of light and sunny overtones, are depicted in a way that warrants our wondering about Makovsky’s readiness to embrace an impressionistic way of looking at things.

The gaily dressed country girls, standing out against the foliate backdrop, seem to soak up the manifold sparkling hues of a summer’s day. The proportional discrepancies between the figures of the children and the surrounding vegetation reveal the artistic freedom that is characteristic of Makovsky’s style. He uses the painting texture as a means of expression, wielding brushstrokes that move in different directions and have a different density and mass to convey the lush growth of foliage on the left-hand side, the assorted meadow plants with their muted Central Russian flowers, and the thinness of the air in a sky that shimmers in the distant background.

It is impossible today to unambiguously identify this work among the numerous compositions entitled In the Grass, Two Girls, In the Garden, Peasant Girls and Girls in the Field that were displayed by the artist at various exhibitions in different years and are mentioned in the catalogues. But the genre landscape to be auctioned undoubtedly features among Makovsky’s best lyrical peasant scenes that have been invariably popular with both critics and the general public.

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.