8 June 2011
The Garth, signed and dated 1909.
Tempera on canvas, 62.5 by 74.5 cm.
Provenance: Acquired from the family of the artist.
Private collection, Canada.
The Garth is one of the last in Saryan's brilliant series of tempera works, known under the collective title of Fancies and Dreams. Begun in 1905, this captivating group of Symbolist works reflected the artist's interest in the latest trends in European painting. Already in the earliest of the Fancies, which were closely aligned with the stylistic experimentation of the Blue Rose group of Russian artists (of which Saryan was a member), the young painter was experimenting with an unconstrained handling of form and colour and an enthusiasm for Primitivism and Orientalism. However, by the time Saryan painted The Garth, following his acquaintance with the discoveries of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, his style had beenenriched by several new and distinctive features.
He achieves an overall Symbolist content in his images by addressing a divinely beautiful natural environment - in which people, plants, animals, birds and even wild beasts live together peacefully in a single family - and applying flowing, singing linear rhythms as well as a fairytale feel to the painted forms. To this is added the expressive colour of the warm southern light, endowing his works of the second half of the decade with an absolutely unique enchantment. The Garth (1909) is among these works. The colour here is undoubtedly close to reality, but its heightened intenseness and particular painting technique, with broad brushstrokes applied in parallel, give the depiction a tremulousness, a poetry, a sense of something left unsaid. Saryan's palette is metaphorical. In emphasising the contrasts between his blue-green, yellow and lilac tones, the artist is accentuating a very distinctive feature of his Eastern homeland - the blinding light, which seems to radiate from within the picture. Pure, resonant colours are laid on canvas in long, distinct strokes, creating sparkling modulations of the colour range, imbued with sunlight. The coalescing colours of the bright vegetation, the wild birds and the "fleeing" human foot, which seems to dissolve into the deep blue of the background, embody a natural-philosophical dream, in which nature is one harmonious unit. The artist senses in real life the closeness, the organic kinship of all natural phenomena and allows us to feel it in his art. In the refinement and fragility of the pictorial images we see traces of Symbolist influence, but the brightness and optimistic charge of Saryan's palette place The Garth definitively among the works of his Blue Rose colleagues.
Judging from exhibition catalogues of the 1900s, Saryan painted a whole cycle of works of this kind, but their location is unknown. Today only a few pictures in museums, such as Hot Day. At the Well, Pomegranate Tree, By the Water and By the Sea. Sphinx, give an idea of this master's work of the period: it is also represented in our catalogue by the outstanding tempera work The Garth.
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.