27 May 2012
The Garth, signed and dated 1909.
Tempera on canvas, 62.5 by 74.5 cm.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist’s family.
Private collection, Canada.
The Garth is one of the last in Saryan’s brilliant series of tempera works, known by the collective title of Fancies and Dreams. Commencing in 1905, this captivating group of Symbolist works reflected the artist’s interest in the latest trends in European painting. Even in the earliest of the Fancies, which were closely aligned with the stylistic experimentation of the Blue Rose group of Russian artists (of which Saryan was a member), the young painter was experimenting with an unconstrained handling of form and colour and an enthusiasm for Primitivism and Orientalism. However, by the time Saryan painted The Garth his style had been enriched by new and distinctive features thanks to his acquaintance with the discoveries of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
The generally Symbolist nature of his images is achieved by the depiction of a divinely beautiful natural environment – in which people, plants, animals, birds and even wild beasts live together peacefully as a single family – and the application of singing, flowing linear rhythms as well as a fairytale feel to the painted forms. To this is added the expressive colour of the warm southern light, lending his works of the second half of the decade a particular charm. The Garth is among these works. The colour here is undoubtedly close to reality, but its heightened intensivity and distinctive painting technique of broad, parallel brushstrokes, give the work a tremulousness, a poetry, a sense of something left unsaid. Saryan’s palette is metaphorical. In emphasising the contrasts between his blue-green, yellow and lilac tones, the artist is accentuating a very distinctive feature of his eastern homeland – the blinding light, which seems to radiate from within the picture. Pure, resonant colours are laid on the canvas in long, distinct strokes, creating sparkling modulations of colour, imbued with sunlight. The coalescing colours of the bright vegetation, the wild birds and the “fleeing” human foot, which seems to dissolve into the deep blue of the background, embody a dream in which nature is one harmonious whole. The artist senses the closeness, the organic kinship of all natural phenomena in life and allows us to feel it in his art. In the refinement and fragility of the pictorial images we see traces of a Symbolist influence, but the brightness and optimism of Saryan’s palette single out this painting from other works of his Blue Rose colleagues.
Judging by exhibition catalogues of the 1900s, Saryan evidently painted a whole cycle of works of this kind, but their location is now unknown. Today only a few pictures in the collections of museums, such as Hot Day. At the Well, Pomegranate Tree, By the Water and By the Sea. Sphinx, give an idea of the artist’s work of the period, and this outstanding tempera work The Garth.
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.