1 December 2011
The Teacher's Guests, signed.
Oil on canvas, 80.5 by 102 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
The work will be included in the book on N. Bogdanov-Belsky being prepared by A. Kouznetsoff.
The Teacher’s Guests by Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky is the artist’s reworking of his celebrated work The Teacher’s Name Day. Executed with impeccable skill, it presents a significant departure from his earlier works painted at the turn of the century and bears witness to the creative strides made during his later period.
The idea of a work on the theme of village children invited to tea with their teacher was first conceived of by Bogdanov-Belsky in 1908, when visiting the estate of a landowner named Ushakov, in Tver Province. There he executed a sketch entitled Visiting the Teacher from which, two years later, he painted the large-scale work that brought him celebrity in Europe. Sadly, it has been lost and is known only from reproductions. The artist, however, carefully preserved the sketch itself and used it as the basis for several variations which would have been well-known by his contemporaries, including The Teacher’s Name Day, The Teacher’s Birthday and Visiting the Teacher.
When Bogdanov-Belsky left Soviet Russia for Latvia in 1924 he took the sketch with him, and it is today preserved in the Art Museum in Riga. As an émigré he again turned to the theme of children having tea in a garden, always composed from fresh sketches drawn from life and never forfeiting the principles of Impressionism, which for him were still relevant. Thus his protagonists change from picture to picture and this large work, The Teacher’s Guests, is a splendid demonstration of this. Painted while the artist was living in Latvia, this work continues to focus on the theme of a happy village childhood, which allowed him to address the creative problems of light and colour that interested him. By arranging his figures within their landscape and using lively, vivid, vibrant colours, the artist fills the picture with the fleeting movement of foliage trembling in the wind and with the sense of a glimpse of real life. The composition is imbued with the desire to convey artistically the link between man and nature and to suffuse the canvas with light and air.
It was most likely local youngsters who posed for this picture, alongside the artist’s young wife, who often modelled for Bogdanov-Belsky’s portraits and genre works. Incidentally, many of the teacher’s guests can also be seen in his other works of the time. We can, for example, recognise the little girl in the flowered headscarf and striped top, drinking tea from a saucer, as the protagonist in the romanticised work Inspiration, and the two urchins sitting at the end of the table nearest to us as the young visitors to an artist’s studio in the painting Guests.
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.