28 November 2008
Gremi signed and dated 1952
Tempera and gold on canvas, 66 by 81.5 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, USA.
Exhibited: 80th Birthday Exhibition of Vasily Shukhaev, The State Academy of Arts of USSR, Leningrad, 1968. label on stretcher.
Exhibition label of the Exhibition Hall of the Soviet Union of Artists of the USSR, No. 73, label on the stretcher.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, 80 Year Birthday Anniversary Exhibition of Vasily Shukhaev, The State Academy of Arts of USSR, Leningrad, 1968, illustrated.
Executed in 1952, Gremi presented here for auction, marked the start of Shukhaev’s most successful and productive period as a mature artist. The work was completed during one of his journeys through Georgia, some 16 kilometres outside the village of Telavi, on the road to Kvareli. The once mighty kingdom of Kakheti fell into decline after it was attacked by the Persian Sheikh Abbas the Great in the 17th century. Since then, its greatness has only been celebrated in paintings depicting the ancient ruins which so often attracted the interest of artists. From there, a lovely view opens onto the majestic ruins of the old Kakheti capital of Gremi. A looming cliff supports solid fortress walls, the ruins of the Royal Palace and the church, which was built in 1565.
Shukhaev studied embossing at the Stroganov College, where he was trained by the outstanding masters of his day, including Korovin and Zholtovsky. During the First World War, Shukhaev fought at the front, and also supported the Soviets by sketching theatre costumes and stage sets for the celebrations in Petrograd. At the end of the War, Shukhaev travelled to Finland and Paris, confident he was only leaving Russia for a short time… but, in fact he only returned 15 years later. By the time he returned to Leningrad in 1935 he had long been recognised as a serious artist, who had successfully exhibited at various European exhibitions.
His success led the Academy to provide him with his own studio and he was also provided with the opportunity to teach the principles of classical art, which he so highly valued. Two years later, however, the artist and his wife were detained in Magadan, having been found guilty on charges of espionage. Whilst under arrest, the artist worked on sketching stage sets for local theatres.
He arrived in Tbilisi in 1947, and the city came to represent a place of freedom to him. Whilst there, he was commissioned to produce the stage layouts for Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for the Paliashvili State Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Thanks to the patronage of the famous artist Lanceray, Shukhaev was invited to become a professor of Drawing at the Academy of Arts of Georgia.
This marked a new chapter in his life. He divided his time between working at the theatre and busying himself painting, travelling the region extensively and painting landscapes as well as portraits depicting cultural figures. This period developed his easily identifiable brushwork which becomes evident in the landscape Gremi, fluid, sweeping strokes strengthened by expressive lines which display a careful as well as accomplished painting technique, and light and shade are employed by strict adherence to classical principles.
Shukhaev, like many a great artist before him, also travelled to Italy. Here, in the Mediterranean, the Leningrad born artist, became intrigued by the great masters of the Renaissance. Shukhaev then looked to capture Russian architecture and to emulate Yakovlev and Tschusev when he painted the church of Nikolai Mirlikiysky in Bari and the Kazan Railway Station in Moscow.
In 1962, Shukhaev was honoured by the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. To further honour the artist, four exhibitions were held between the years 1958 and 1968. The last of his solo exhibitions, in 1968, coincided with his 80th birthday and took place in the halls of the Academy in Leningrad.
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.