MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 8-9 June 2011

8 June 2011

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

The Teacher's Name Day,

* 60. BOGDANOV-BELSKY, NIKOLAI (1868-1945)

The Teacher's Name Day, signed.

Oil on canvas, 65 by 82.5 cm.
200,000-300,000 GBP

Authenticity certificate from the expert T. Zelyukina.

Related literature: For other versions of the work, see exhibition catalogue, The 39th Exhibition of the Society for Itinerant Art Exhibitions, Мoscow, 1911, p. 4.
Iskry. Illustrated Arts and Humour Magazine, No. 1, 1913, p. 4.
N. Lapidus, Bogdanov-Belsky, Moscow, Belyi Gorod, 2005, p. 31.

This work will be included in the book on N. Bogdanov-Belsky being prepared by A. Kouznetsoff.

Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky's The Teacher's Name Day is a smaller-scale copy of his celebrated eponymous work. Executed with impeccable craftsmanship, it is a faithful reproduction of the 1910 composition, revealing the artist's guiding principles in this period. The original, monumental version, which brought him great acclaim in Europe, is thought to be lost and is now known only from reproductions.

The idea for the composition first came to the artist in 1908, in the Tver Province. Here, Bogdanov-Belsky spent the summer in birch groves on the shores of deep, primeval lakes, working with his fellow artists Konstantin Korovin, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Vitold Bilianitsky-Birulia and others. Twenty years later he fondly recalled those days of his youth: "We were like brothers… we were all happy with the plainest food, as long as it was filling. I would leave early in the morning, at six o'clock, with my sketch-box and go into the forest to work. In the evenings we would have sincere, heartfelt, open conversations, with no trace of hypocrisy. Joy and good will reigned. And the work went well, too."

It was on one of those summer days in 1908 that the artist visit- ed the hamlet of Ostrovno, on the estate of the wealthy landowner Ushakov, where he did a study for the picture Visiting the Teacher, which is now in the State Art Museum of Latvia. Two years later, based on this sketch, Bogdanov-Belsky created the large canvas The Teacher's Name Day. After showing successfully at international exhibitions in 1911 in both Paris and Munich, it was acquired by a London-based art-lover and collector and left Russian shores. The trail then goes cold. However, at the request of either the exhibition committee or one of his many patrons, the artist painted the same scene again some time later. This is the work now offered for auction.

Painted following a trip to France, The Teacher's Name Day became a landmark work in the artist's oeuvre. Bogdanov-Belsky's first-hand knowledge of the work of the Impressionists - Renoir, Pissarro, Manet and other contemporaries - had a substantial influence on the techniques he adopted. Keeping the subject matter of happy, rural childhood as his principal theme, the artist fills his pictures with the movement of light, sunshine and air, becoming more and more excited by the new challenges of combining light and colour. His brushwork technique also changes: instead of the "museum-piece" brown tones of his early work, his colours are now pure, un-mixed and thus vivid, vibrating with life.

"After Paris, I was very taken with plein-airism," wrote Bogdanov-Belsky. "The air, figures in a landscape, light - it was to these that I now turned my attention." The Teacher's Name Day is strongly marked by that striving to show the relationship of man to nature by painterly means, to saturate the canvas with light and air, systematically embodying the whole arsenal of new means of expression which the artist had gleaned from the Paris studios of Fernand Cormon and Filippo Colarossi.

This simple genre scene of peasant children drinking tea in their teacher's garden is lit by the sun's rays. Filtering through the foliage, the sunlight falls on the table and the sunburnt faces of the seated children, and catches the light on the glasses and on the samovar which stands by the teacher. The artist has lovingly rendered both the children, busy drinking their tea, and the figure of the young teacher.

Bogdanov-Belsky probably asked local children to pose for this picture, along with his companion of many years, Natalia Antonovna Toporova, who sat for several of his portraits and genre works, notably Visiting the Sick Teacher, of which several versions are also known.

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.