30 May 2020
View of the Moscow Kremlin, signed and dated 1925, also further signed, inscribed, titled in Cyrillic and dated on a label on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 99.5 by 141 cm.
Provenance: Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibited: La Russie inconnue, Salle d'exposition du Quai Antoine Ier, Monaco, 25 June–27 August 2015.
Literature: X. Muratova, Neizvestnaia Rossiia. Russkoe iskusstvo pervoi poloviny XX veka, Milan, Silvana Editoriale, 2015, p. 281, No. 225, illustrated.
Pavel Sokolov-Skalya’s View of the Moscow Kremlin is one of the rare landscape canvasses that the famous painter of battle scenes left to posterity. He is best known for his compositions involving many figures, filled with the pathos of heroic struggle and the romance of revolution. In the early 1920s, however, and even his first years with the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, when Sokolov-Skalya finally decided to dedicate himself to chronicling Soviet history, the artist painted lively landscapes distinctive for their intense colour and light touch of Mashkov. These works include views of Paris and Marseilles, but primarily of Moscow.
The view in the present lot of the old Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge, the Moscow River and the Kremlin is typical of the artist’s landscapes at this time. Painted in 1925 when Sokolov-Skalya was still an active member of the Bytiye group, it fully reflects his and his fellow members’ artistic credo and desire to “move away from formalist experimentation and the etude approach towards form of contemporary painting”.
The artist plays on the contrast between the red brick of the Kremlin walls and towers, the bright summer green of the gardens and grass on the river bank, the pale blue sky with its white clouds and the dark blue river, seemingly enveloped in the golden rays of sunset. He does not resort to the devices of political agitation, but creates a festive and well turned-out image of the Soviet capital on a happy summer’s evening. There is a particularly noteworthy genre element that was a constant feature in Sokolov’s animated landscapes – trams and cab-drivers bustling over the bridge, little boys bathing on the embankment, a lone angler and touching couples out enjoying themselves in boats.
Sokolov was a pupil of Ilya Mashkov, who taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and, after the Civil War, at VKhUTEMAS, and even took in his pupil as his studio secretary. Mashkov rightly spoke of Sokolov’s urge to fill his compositions with unending, unfettered movement. “His drawings and all his work were in the major key, powerfully exuding joy and boisterousness, and exceeding the boundaries of their youth...”
View of the Moscow Kremlin is a fine example of Sokolov’s sunlit, festive paintings where Mashkov’s lessons in decorativism combine with his own ability to reproduce objects and buildings on canvas in all their richness of substance and colour, forming an organic entity and creating one of the most attractive portraits of Moscow in Russian painting of the 1920s.
The present lot as illustrated in K. Muratova, Neizvestnaya Rossiya. Russkoye iskusstvo pervoy poloviny XX veka, Milan, Silvana Editoriale, 2015, p. 281.
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.