27 May 2012
Magnolias, signed with initials.
Oil on canvas, 55 by 46 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Berta B. Mering, Paris.
Thence by descent.
Acquired from the above.
Private collection, Europe.
Still lifes with flowers were one of Natalia Goncharova’s favourite genres in the 1920s and 1930s, and she gave special preference to magnolias. With their longish, pointed leaves and sturdy petals, the naturally highly decorative character of these southern, evergreen blooms truly delighted her eye.
Magnolias is one of the most interesting still lifes of Goncharova’s Parisian period in the 1920s. The form of the flower seamlessly mimics that of the vase as if emphasising the symbiosis of the natural and artificial, living and dead. Goncharova painted white magnolias and pink magnolias, in vases and in jars, executing the same motif but varying the style, which ranged from realistic sketches to almost non-objective compositions.
Over the course of the 1920s and 1930s when she was involved in the decoration of Serge Koussevitzky’s Parisian mansion and decorative panels for the houses of M. Kuznetsova and M. Viborg, Goncharova produced a whole series of pencil and gouache sketches of still lifes and compositions with flowering plants and fruit, including magnolia sprigs. During this period she was reproducing the natural forms of plants on canvas as flat, multicoloured silhouettes resembling brightly coloured ornaments. She later went on to create a series of pochoirs based on similar decorative compositions. The style of these was influenced by her theatre designs and in its application to easel painting, became known as “chequered” (from a review of one of her exhibitions).
Magnolias, which is rendered in dense, textured paint, is a particularly bright and festive variation of one such composition. The “corporeal” depiction of the glass jug and magnolia sprigs serves to reflect the way the artist generally aspired to depict “life”. As Goncharova herself wrote: “As I paint merry images, I can also find new combinations of forms, new combinations of colour ... I am also able to search for abstract formulae, but these are just abstract formulae. The real solution can only be found in life itself. An unconscious instinct would spur me in this direction”.
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.