MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 1 December 2011

1 December 2011

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Portrait of Fedor Chaliapin

29. KOROVIN, KONSTANTIN (1861-1939)

Portrait of Fedor Chaliapin, signed, inscribed "Paris" and dated 1938.

Oil on canvas, 71 by 96.5 cm.
280,000-400,000 GBP

Provenance: Collection of Fedor Chaliapin.
Anonymous sale; The Russian Sale, Sotheby’s London, 26 May 2004, Lot 137.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Private collection, UK.

The present portrait of Fedor Fedorovich Chaliapin, son of the legendary opera singer and an Italian prima ballerina, continues the tradition of family portraits of the talented Chaliapins by Konstantin Korovin. A close friend of Fedor Ivanovich Chaliapin, Korovin produced a whole series of portraits of him which were widely known, and include the 1911 work now in the Russian Museum. The picture now offered for auction has many echoes of this earlier portrait, as if underlining the similarity between the lives of father and son.

Korovin has portrayed Fedor Chaliapin in a room flooded with daylight at a large window with a view on to a Paris street. The dashing young Fedor, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, is relishing the invigorating freshness of the day, the light streaming in and the warmth of the sun. His whole being is inseparable from the summer day in Paris just outside the window.

On a visit to France in 1938, when this portrait was painted, Fedor Fedorovich spent a considerable amount of time with Korovin because the artist was finishing a collection of anecdotes about his great friend Chaliapin senior, who had died that year. It is well known that, besides painting, Korovin was an enthusiastic contributor of both features and short sketches to the Russian newspapers and magazines in Paris, principally Vozrozhdenie and Illyustrirovannaya Rossiya. As Chaliapin himself said, these were real gems of prose. Just as he did on canvas, the master produced vivid, rich portraits of people he had chanced to meet, he dashed off memories of his childhood and, of course, portraits of Russia.

The freshness and immediacy of his perception of the world, his free and vigorous painting style, as well as the life-affirming character of his pictures brought him well-deserved renown as a distinguished exponent of Russian Impressionism. He had first become acquainted with this French legacy when studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he was taught by Vasily Polenov and Alexei Savrasov, and by the early 1880s Korovin was already displaying a way of viewing the world that was completely new for the Russian tradition. His extremely striking painting technique, fluid and almost careless, was also seen in his work for the theatre, which was magnificent in its “unfinished” feel. After meeting Sergei Mamontov and his circle in 1884, Korovin became one of the most significant figures in the Moscow art world and it was thanks to these connections that the artist was introduced to Fedor Chaliapin.

In the early 1920s Korovin left Russia to live in Paris, where he carried on working in the theatre. He often met the elder Chaliapin and their friendship continued right up until the latter's death in 1938.

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.