8 June 2011
People with Briefcases, signed with a monogram, c. 1969.
Oil on canvas, 70 by 79.5 cm.
Provenance: The A. Glezer collection (label on the reverse).
Acquired from the above.
The Lili Brochetain collection, Paris.
Literature: I. Golomshtok, A. Glezer, Unofficial Art from the Soviet Union, London, Secker & Warburg, 1977, p. 44, illustrated.
For all its apparent literariness, this allegorical blue landscape fabricated out of a pointillist haze of fine brushstrokes is a work generated solely by the bizarre fantasy of its creator. The road along which Sveshnikov's figures wander, immersed in themselves, expressionless and lost, begins and ends with the crosses of a graveyard. This is essentially a metaphor for human life moving from non-existence to non-existence.
Sveshnikov creates "his own form of ‘metaphysical realism' - dream-like, hallucinatory, rarified, which is then embodied in full colour in his fairy-tale canvases". The observations of the well respected specialist of Soviet unofficial art, Ekaterina Bobrinskaya, who noted the "particular sensation of space" and also the "elusive paradoxical sense of dreaming in Sveshnikov's paintings", are entirely apt with regard to People with Briefcases.
The fragmented portrait of a woman in the lower right corner, not connected in any way with the main composition of the work, gives a disturbing sense of alienation to the urban landscape. The artist wrote about this sense of alienation from surrounding reality in one of his letters: "People are phantoms, mannequins. I feel now as if I have crept onto Hoffman's throne. For me the whole world is sadly toy-like, dead".
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.