8 June 2011
Boulevard Montmartre by Night, signed, further stamped on the reverse, inscribed "Bl. Montmartre" and numbered "N3" on the stretcher.
Oil on canvas, 65 by 85 cm.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by Vasili Levi.
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner in Sweden in 1942.
Thence by descent.
Private collection, England
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibited: En privat konstsamling, Jönköping, Sweden, 22-29 October 1944.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, En privat konstsamling, Jönköping, 1944, cat. no. 61, listed as Boulevard de Montparnasse.
Konst i svenska hem (Art in Swedish Homes), Götenborg, Isacsons, before 1948, p. 486, listed as Boulevard de Montparnasse.
This picture was painted by Konstantin Korovin in the first few years after his departure from Russia and belongs to his celebrated series of depictions of Paris in the evening. Here, Boulevard Montmartre is viewed and painted from above, from a window or balcony. Korovin began using this angle, typical of the majority of his best Paris scenes, during his first stay in Paris in the 1890s, having picked it up from Monet, Pissarro and other Impressionists.
However, from the turn of the century, in contrast to the French painters, Korovin started to show a preference for evening and night-time scenes. His squares and boulevards are ablaze with the light of myriad lamps, allowing art historians to group almost the entire cycle of his Paris oeuvre under the general title of "Paris lights".
Indeed, when looking at Boulevard Montmartre by Night, the viewer is immersed in the atmosphere of the city after dark, with its brightly-lit shop windows and the multicoloured lights of its streetlamps and illuminated signs. Parisians from all walks of life stroll along the pavement which is drenched in reflected artificial light.
Korovin does not shy away from large areas of grey tones in his rendering of the massive buildings stretching the length of the boulevard. Against the grey of these buildings, the yellow, orange, red and green lights of the shop windows and street lamps sparkle all the more brightly, forming a lively whirlpool of colour, applied in paint dabs of varying size, shape, consistency and depth. The artist painted Boulevard Montmartre by Night in the 1920s, long after the demise of French Impressionism; as a result, his chief concern was not to devote himself to experiments with colour, an area in which he could hardly compete with the French, but rather to develop the decorative resonance of his painting.
His "impression" of Paris by night is painted according to different principles from those of the French Impressionists. For Monet and Pissarro, with their combination of refined artistry and Cartesian rationalism, the main priority was to capture and fix the ever-changing light and atmosphere which filled the Paris streets and enveloped its inhabitants. These artists used an elevated viewpoint and breadth of scope so that they could convey by colour, and as delicately as possible, aerial perspective and its tonal variations as a scene recedes into the distance. Korovin, with his Romantic tendencies, delights in the magnificent spectacle of a captured moment of street life. The depiction of the artificial lighting along the boulevard adds a touch of theatricality to ths completely real subject and makes the painting especially eye-catching.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
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