1 December 2010
Smithy signed, c. 1910s
Watercolour on paper, 21 by 38 cm
Provenance: Collection of I. Angenitski, Kiev.
Exhibited: Vystavka proizvedenii russkikh khudozhnikov vtoroi poloviny XIX - nachala XX vv., The Kiev State Museum of Russian Art, 1958, label on the reverse of the mount.
Konstantin Yuon’s watercolour Smithy, with its refined colour sense and uncommonly light-hearted approach, dates from the 1910s, when this outstanding Russian artist’s work was at its creative peak. Yuon was one of the leading lights and a distinguished representative of the Union of Russian Artists, the organisation which brought together in its ranks such masters of the Russian Realist school as Sergei Vinogradov, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Leonard Turzhansky, Igor Grabar and Nikolai Meshcherin. Yuon occupies a special place in this company. A multi-talented artist mastering a range of skills, he demonstrated special brilliance in the use of watercolour. His panoramic views of Russian towns, his colourful fairgrounds and sketches of life in the depths of the Russian countryside graced prestigious exhibitions of the time both at home and abroad. Alongside Boris Kustodiev, Yuon developed the concept of highly-coloured “mood pieces” recounting everyday Russian life.
Yuon’s work is characterised by a very individual watercolour style and a distinctive ability to endow his views of events — be it a country fair or the arrival of merchant ships in port — with epic universality. This modest scene at the village smithy, against a background of the majestic, wide-open Russian spaces, seems to typify the artist’s concept of the importance of what would seem to be insignificant details and everyday events, which form an integral part of the lives of simple folk.
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