12 June 2008
Still Life with Ukrainian Motif c. 1906-1907.
Oil and tempera on canvas, 27 by 35 cm.
Provenance: Private collection.
Authenticity certificate from Professor G. F. Kovalenko, the State Institute of Fine Arts.
The work will be included in the catalogue raisonne, prepared by Professor G. F. Kovalenko.
Alexandra Exter painted a whole series of still lifes whilst in Kiev from 1905–1907. In many of these one is struck how the realia of Ukrainian folk art makes itself felt, both in everyday articles, such as bowls, plates or jugs, and in decorative, ornamental motifs.
During this period Exter was actively involved in preparations for the Exhibition of Applied Art and Cottage Crafts (Kiev 1906), travelling round villages in Kiev Province together with Natalia Davydova, selecting embroidery work and ceramics for the forthcoming exhibition. It is no exaggeration to say that this was when Exter’s colour palette took shape, in many ways influenced by the polychromy of Ukrainian folk art and the rhythmic structures of Ukrainian ornamentation. This can be seen both in her early figurative works and in the non-figurative works of her Russian and Parisian periods.
The “Ukrainian” origins of this still life can be seen firstly in the background, with its stylised Ukrainian wall paintings, and secondly in attributes such as the bowl from the Ukrainian village of Dybintsy. Exter particularly liked Dybintsy ceramics, which she collected, taking much of it with her to France. Everyone who visited her Paris apartment remarked on it. On the other hand, this still life also reflects everything that was important in Exter’s painting in those years, particularly her individual interpretation of Cezanne’s principles: light and colour do not exist separately; the paint mass determines the subject, forms its moulding; traditional modelling of light and shade is replaced by modulations of colour.
Professor G. Kovalenko.
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