MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 27-30 May 2012

27 May 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

The Garden of Hesperides

32. ANISFELD, BORIS (1878-1973)

The Garden of Hesperides, signed and dated 1914-1916.

Oil on canvas, 178 by 249 cm.
400,000–600,000 GBP

Provenance: Estate of the artist.
Shepherd Gallery, New York.
Anonymous sale; Russian Art, Sotheby’s New York, 17 April 2007, Lot 369.
Private collection, UK.

Exhibited: World of Art Exhibition, Petrograd, 1916, No. 3.
The Boris Anisfeld Exhibition, itinerant: Brooklyn Museum, Boston Art Club, Albright Art Gallery Buffalo, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, Milwaukee Art Institute, Minneapolis Institute of Art, St Louis City Art Museum, San Francisco Palace of Honor, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1918–1920, No. 63. The Boris Anisfeld Exhibition, Reinhardt Galleries, New York, 1924, No. 10.
Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Boris Anisfeld, Worcester Art Museum, 1924, No. 31.
Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Boris Anisfeld, Boston Art Club and Twentieth Century Club, Boston, 1924–1925, No. 31.
Exhibition of Paintings by Boris Anisfeld, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1928, No. 6.
Boris Anisfeld in St Petersburg 1901–1917, Shepherd Gallery, New York, 1984, No. 47.
Boris Anisfeld “Fantast-Mystic”. Twelve Russian Paintings from the Collection of Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, itinerant: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre, Sudbury; Art Gallery St Thomas-Elgin, St Thomas; Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, Owen Sound, 1989–1990, No. 11.

Literature: C. Brinton, The Boris Anisfeld Exhibition, New York, 1918, No. 63, illustrated.
L. Weinberg, “The Art of Boris Anisfel",The International Studio, vol. 66, November 1918, pp. III–XI, No. 261.
H. Tyrell, “The Exotic Art of Boris Anisfeld”, The Christian Science Monitor, undated, c. 1918.
W. H. D., “The Anisfeld Pictures”, The Evening Transcript, Boston.
N. N., “A Russian Painter and New York Water Colorists”, The Nation, 16 November 1918, pp. 595–596.
F. Coburn, “Russian Artist Exhibits Works”, The Boston Herald, 10 December 1918.
A. Philpott, “New Thrill From Anisfeld Pictures”, Boston Daily Globe, 10 December 1918, p. 5.
F. de Cisneros, “La Opulencia Bizantina: Boris Anisfeld”, Social, Havana, 1918, p. 19, illustrated.
C. Brinton, “The Boris Anisfeld Exhibition”, Brooklyn Museum Quarterly, January 1919, pp. 11, 18.
“Boris Anisfeld’s Paintings Big Art Feature”, Buffalo News, 18 January 1919.
M. Kinkead, “Boris Anisfeld: Colorist”, Asia, 19 February 1919, pp. 170–172, illustrated.
M. Roberts, “The Great Russia Put on Canvas, Illustrated by the Paintings of Boris Anisfeld”, The Touchstone, February 1919, p. 392.
J. Glasier, “Anisfeld’s Fantastic and Modernist Canvases Go on Exhibition at Museum”, Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 16 and 23 February 1919.
“Cleveland”, American Art News, New York, 29 March 1919.
M. Williams, “Painted His Pictures as Russian Guns Roared – Boris Anisfeld’s Exhibition in Chicago Full of Slav Atmosphere”, News, Chicago, 5 April 1919.
E. Jewett, “New Paintings at Institute Form Notable Exhibit”, Daily Tribune, Chicago, 6 April 1919, p. D7.
Marcus, “Anisfeld’s Paintings Give Thrills to Visitors at Institute”, Herald, Chicago, 10 April 1919.
Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, May 1919, pp. 70–71.
“Anisfeld Exhibition Still Big Attraction”, Bulletin, San Francisco, 28 May 1919.
“The Anisfeld Collection”, Argonaut, San Francisco, 3 May 1919.
“Boris Anisfeld’s Pictures”, Mirror, St Louis, 24 July 1919.
“Anisfeld Pictures at Art Institute”, Milwaukee Sentinel, 20 September 1919.
M. Mayhew, “Anisfeld Works Attract Critics”, Milwaukee Sentinel, 21 September 1919.
P.B., “Anisfeld Pictures Opulent in Colour”, Art News, 29 March 1924.
M. Williams, “About a Painter Without Theories”, Chicago Daily News, 8 January 1930.
Boris Anisfeld in St Petersburg 1901–1917, New York, Shepherd Gallery, 1984, No. 47, plate 47, illustrated.
R. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld “Fantast-Mystic”. Twelve Russian Paintings from the Collection of Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, Toronto, 1989, pp. 60–63, illustrated.
E. Lingenauber and O. Sugrobova-Roth, Boris Anisfeld. Catalogue raisonné, Düsseldorf, Edition Libertars, 2011, pp. 110–111, P 084, illustrated.

Anisfeld painted The Garden of Hesperides 1914–1916, during his Russian period, which was the most productive of his career. The painting is a colourful, dreamlike symphony reminiscent of the artist’s stage designs whose magical use of colour earned Anisfeld the soubriquet “the alchemist of colour”. He was acknowledged early on in his career as both a painter and theatre designer, and his paintings of dreamlike reveries and fairy-tale extravaganzas were particularly celebrated.

From 1907 Anisfeld worked for the theatre, designing sets for Diaghilev’s ballets and Meyerhold’s productions. This theatrical influence is particularly visible in his early paintings and his large easel compositions often look like sets from lavish stage productions. In 1914 he abandoned his work with the theatre devoting himself entirely to painting; he turned to biblical and mythological subjects, seemingly underlining the timelessness and universal human application of their ideas during the war years.

This work is based on the legend of the Hesperides nymphs in Greek mythology. According to the story the Hesperides, the daughters of Night, lived with the dragon Ladon at the edge of the world, on the banks of the River Ocean, and guarded the golden apples of youth that Hera, wife of Zeus, had received as a wedding present.

When Anisfeld was painting The Garden of Hesperides he was greatly influenced by the French Fauves and by Symbolism. In 1916, impressed by his uniting of Symbolism and Decorativism, he fell under the spell of Gauguin, whose works he was able to see in the collection of Sergei Shchukin and at a retrospective exhibition in Paris, which he visited regularly from 1906.

Having chosen colour as his primary means of expression, Anisfeld’s aim was to transform the real world into a colourful fairytale extravaganza. He painted with feeling, with spirit and with broad brush-strokes, not afraid to use exotic hues. As Constantin Sunnenberg keenly observed, his painting was a “reverie of deep shades of red, blue, emerald-green and yellow”. The combination of audacity and innovation in Anisfeld’s works was what immediately won over collectors and lovers of Russian art such as Vladimir Nabokov, Alexei Bakhrushin, Ivan Morozov and Sergei Diaghilev.

Anisfeld immigrated with his family to the USA in 1917 and never returned to Russia. However, in the turmoil of revolution he nevertheless managed to obtain authorisation to take his works out of the country, and the majority were shown as early as 1918 in a solo exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum. The present lot, The Garden of Hesperides, was among those shown in New York and according to archival documents was also the most expensive painting, valued at $12,000, an enormous amount for that time.

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.