8 Jun 2011
Winter. Children Playing (Moscow Courtyard), signed and dated 1929, also further signed, numbered "738" and dated on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 80 by 100 cm.
Exhibited: 6th Exhibition of P.P. Konchalovsky's Works, Leningrad, 1929.
7th Exhibition of P.P. Konchalovsky's Works, Moscow, 1930.
13th Exhibition of P.P. Konchalovsky's Works, Krasnoyarsk, 1946.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, 6th Exhibition of P.P. Konchalovsky's Works, Leningrad, 1929, p. 27, No. 191, listed.
Iskusstvo, 1933, No. 4, p. 81, illustrated.
Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Art in the USSR, Voks Illustrated Almanac, October 1934, p. 113, illustrated.
P. Konchalovsky. Khudozhestvennoe nasledie, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1964, p. 119, listed ‘zhi 603'.
It was works painted here, the celebrated Game of Hockey and the present lot, Winter. Children Playing, (or Moscow Courtyard, as the painting was called by Mikhail Konchalovsky) that launched Konchalovsky's long and seminal series of "winters".
Swiftly-painted, economic, full of movement, these pictures marked a new stage in the artist's career. His primary concerns were matters of composition. "Take fortuitous elements from nature and make them conform to a system - that is the true rule of composition in painting," said Konchalovsky later of his endeavours of that period. "The viewer must understand at first glance that the artist was striving hard to do exactly what he has done, rather than just portraying what he had happened to catch sight of… It is hard to explain how this can be achieved, but if the artist is not good at composition, not good at distributing his shapes and colours around the canvas in such a way that everything follows the same rhythm, that everything converges on a single goal, then he cannot show the viewer exactly what he meant at a given moment, what his idea was."
These are the questions that Konchalovsky was resolving while working on this simple scene of children's winter games, seemingly glimpsed by chance in the park. He seeks correlations between the colours of the landscape and his own motif, and through colour effects he achieves specific moods. The artist's understanding of his protagonists is, first and foremost, as the decorative and expressive, bright splashes of the children's coats, contrasting with the static, dark figures of the adults, freezing on the bench. The field of white snow all around adds emphasis to this faithfully rendered colour contrast.
Konchalovsky was not able to produce much work in the winter of 1929: he was constantly distracted by problems in connection with the opening of his sixth solo exhibition which the Russian Museum was organising in Leningrad. This was to be a monumental overview of this master's whole creative journey, starting in 1907. He chose the works very carefully, wanting only his best. It was natural that these winter landscapes - Winter. Children Playing and Game of Hockey, which he himself valued so highly - would represent Konchalovsky's latest creative advances. He never changed his opinion of them and subsequently included Children Playing in exhibitions of his selected works both in 1930 and in 1946.
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