MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25-27 November 2019

25 November 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Poster for the Film “Battle of the Giants”

230. KLIUN, IVAN (1873–1943)

Poster for the Film “Battle of the Giants” .

Pencil, watercolour, gouache, ink and collage with paper on paper, 37 by 26.5 cm.
60,000–90,000 GBP

Executed in the 1920s.

Provenance: Collection of S. Kliunkova-Soloveichik.
Private collection, USA.
Private collection, Europe.

The work bears a stamp with authentication from S. Kliunkova-Soloveichik, the artist’s granddaughter, on the reverse.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert O. Glebova.

Literature: S. Kliunkova-Soloveichik, Ivan Vasilievich Kliun, New York, IVK Art, 1993, p. 251, illustrated and listed.

The poster design by Kliun that is presented for auction is a truly unique example of film poster aesthetics during the avant-garde period. Unlike many works by Alexander Rodchenko and the Stenberg brothers, this design is just about the only surviving example of Kliun’s work for the film industry.

After the revolution, Kliun, like most of his associates, became actively involved in experiments with industrial, urban and print design. He made sketches for the Moscow decorations marking the first anniversary of the October Revolution, and worked on book illustrations and film posters. Yet the artist’s interest in new media and, in particular, the cinema was by no means a random one, nor was it connected only with boosting his income. Kliun’s archive has preserved several of his articles on the cinema and the artist’s role in film production, as well as evidence of his attempts to broaden the traditional forms of artistic expression by deploying cinema and photographic techniques.

Today it is difficult to judge the film for which the study of the poster Battle of the Giants was intended. A pencil inscription on the sketch reveals that the film’s cameraman was Alexei Gan, a close associate of Malevich and Kliun, and Yakov Protazanov was the director. One can only assume that the film is one of the lost examples of the avant-garde experimental cinema of the 1920s. After all, if an advertising poster has been produced for a film, the general assumption is that work on it has actually been carried out and that its release has been planned. In our case, however, another scenario is equally possible. Gan was involved in active theoretical work during the first half of the 1920s, publishing the Kino-Fot magazine and organising a large number of projects, exhibitions and conferences as well. He is known to have embarked on many different tasks at the same time and certainly did not complete some of them. The same fate may well have over- taken the film he was contemplating. A film with the same name, Battle of the Giants, really did exist and is known in Soviet cinema history, but it was actually made by a completely different team — by the director Viktor Turin and the cameraman Louis Forestier — and was released in 1926.

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.