27 May 2012
Dancers on a Beach, signed.
Oil on canvas, 81 by 65 cm.
Executed in the 1930s.
Provenance: Estate of the artist.
Anonymous sale; Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby’s New York, 19 October 1995, Lot 41.
Important private collection, England.
One of the most original Amazons of the Russian avant-garde, Alexandra Exter played a highly significant role in the early history of 20th-century progressive art. Her home in Kiev became a meeting-place for many artists and literati where Exter would acquaint her comrades-in-arms with the latest developments of the Paris avant-garde. She spent much time in France and being personally acquainted with Pablo Picasso, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger and many others, Exter spread news of their work in Russia. Like other Russian pioneers, Exter began with Impressionism, but very quickly turned to Cubism. The name of Alexandra Exter is linked with Cubo-Futurism: a specifically Russian variant of Futurism, which is reflected in many of her genre works, still lifes and townscapes.
Dancers on a Beach is one of these compositions in which the artist experiments with colour and movement. Exter’s fluid, pulsating painting is characterised by its superb treatment of colour and distinctive chiaroscuro modelling. The light in her works is inseparable from the colouring of the whole composition. Exter brings together a Cubist approach to Futurist energy to the dance, generating a lively dynamism. She was not only interested in the disintegration of a form into its most basic elements: rather, she was trying to arrive at a universalised harmony through her adherence to Cubo-Futurism. When she left Russia in 1924 her distinctive style, which owed much to the influence of theatre design, had already developed and she was an established painter and respected set designer, with a reputation as a leader of the Russian avant-garde. She settled in Paris, where she continued to work in the theatre world and taught.
The painting presented in the current catalogue belongs to Exter’s Paris period – a time when she gave herself up to the problems of decorative art, designing for both the theatre and cinema. In this work we sense a perfect interconnection between the dynamic of the dance and the immaculate harmony of the colours.
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