27 May 2012
Children's Masquerade, signed and dated 1912, also further signed, titled and dated on the reverse.
Watercolour, charcoal and ink, heightened with white, on cardboard, 34.5 by 47.5 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert E. Zhukova.
Exhibited: Treffpunkt Paris! Russlands Künstler zwischen Cézannismus und Lyrischer Abstraktion, Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, 5 September–23 November 2003.
Boris Grigoriev, The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, 21 April–29 August 2011, No. 44.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Treffpunkt Paris! Russlands Künstler zwischen Cézannismus und Lyrischer Abstraktion, Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, 2003, p. 103, illustrated.
T. Galeeva, Boris Dimitrievich Grigoriev, St Petersburg, Zolotoi vek, 2007, No. 34, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Boris Grigoriev, Palace Editions, St Petersburg, 2011, p. 54, No. 44, illustrated.
Children’s Masquerade is one of Boris Grigoriev’s early works, nowadays rarely encountered outside museum collections. From 1910 to 1913 this talented draughtsman was greatly involved in book illustration. Working for the well-known journalist and publisher Alexander Burtsev, he was responsible for the design of many publications on ethnography and folklore.
Grigoriev was closely connected with Russia’s artistic life and maintained creative and social links with the members of the World of Art group, with whom he began to exhibit in 1914, and with the Futurists. Despite this, even in the early years of his career his individuality was already beginning to show through. At that time Grigoriev was interested in the theatricalisation of reality, the “carnival of life”, and his colourful, often grotesque works on paper, attest to his passion for Symbolism. They are executed in a decorative, flat, modernist style, which was very different from the refined style of the World of Art approach.
In this work, the protagonists who fill the stage for the children’s masquerade reference images of Russian folktale characters, and are reminiscent of the protagonists in the works of Sergei Sudeikin and Konstantin Somov, which had had a considerable influence on Grigoriev. The fantasmagorical, merry atmosphere is emphasised by the decorative forms and colourful embellishments of the characters’ costumes, and the enchanting combination of rounded and fragile forms underlines the fairytale atmosphere of the subject.
Boris Grigoriev’s interest in the grotesque became less apparent between 1913–1915, around the time he began to make regular trips to Paris, and his style began to change under the influence of Cubism. This rare work will be of particular interest to collectors as a wonderful example of the early, very expressive and poetic period of Grigoriev’s career.
Notes on symbols:
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