MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 27-30 May 2012

27 May 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Illustration for "The Princess of the Tide" by Mikhail Lermontov

* 17. PETROV-VODKIN, KUZMA (1878-1939)

Illustration for "The Princess of the Tide" by Mikhail Lermontov, signed with a monogram.

Black ink, heightened with white, on paper, 37 by 27.5 cm.
75,000–90,000 GBP

Provenance: M. Petrova-Vodkina, the artist’s widow.
Collection of O. Desnitskaya, Leningrad.
Private collection, Europe.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert Yu. Solonovich.

Exhibited: M.Yu. Lermontov. K 125-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya (1814–1939), The State Russian Museum, Leningrad, 1939, No. 422.

Literature: Exhibition catalogue, M.Yu. Lermontov. K 125-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya, Moscow, Leningrad, Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1941, p. 78, No. 422, listed; p. 116, illustrated.
Mikhail Yur’evich Lermontov. Kartiny i risunki poeta. Illyustratsii k ego proizvedeniyam, Moscow, Leningrad, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1964, p. 111, No. 78, illustrated; p. 125, listed.
Lermontovskaya Entsiklopediya, Moscow, 1981, p. 414.

The present illustration for Mikhail Lermontov’s ballad The Princess of the Tide is a rare surviving example of Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s work in book illustration.

The artist had dreamt for years of illustrating Lermontov, whose imagery had always moved him. Although Petrov-Vodkin began creating illustrations for Lermontov’s poems in the 1910s, his dream finally came true in the 1930s, when he became actively engaged in the preparation for jubilee publications of the poet’s work to mark his 125th anniversary. He produced drawings and a vignette for the poem The Criminal, as well as two illustrations and a tailpiece for The Princess of the Tide.

Of particular interest is the earlier of the two, a large composition dated 1913 depicting the moment when the prince first meets the King of the Sea’s beautiful daughter in the watery depths. It is notable that the artist saw in Lermontov’s prince not the brave hero boasting of his exploits to his dashing friends, but a slight, innocent boy much like the youths on horseback in his paintings of the 1910s. Lermontov’s poetic masterpiece, terse and laconic in form and vivid in its dramatic action, set Petrov- Vodkin the very difficult task of finding an equivalent condensed and incisive form in which to visually express the mounting drama of the romantic encounter. The artist chose to draw laconically with a quill-pen in a single tone, rarely having recourse to brushwork or softening with white. Taking into account the reduction in size necessary for printing, the architectural strictness and abundant hatching, his work is reminiscent of the wood-cut or lino-cut engravings popular at the time.

The artist found himself in good company in his work for the jubilee publications that were in preparation. In parallel with his efforts, drawings were being made to accompany Lermontov’s works of prose and drama by such remarkable artists as N. Tyrsa, T. Mavrina, V. Bekhteev, N. Kuzmin and P. Pavlinov. Petrov-Vodkin did not live to see the actual jubilee celebrations, the 1939 art exhibition dedicated to Lermontov in the Russian Museum, or the publication of the book, but this work became a great creative triumph for the artist and, perhaps, one of his best graphic illustrations.

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.