25 November 2012
Oil on canvas, 108.5 by 93.5 cm.
Provenance: Acquired at the Russian Art Exhibition at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in 1924.
Thence by decent.
Acquired from the above.
Private collection, USA.
Exhibited: The Russian Art Exhibition, Grand Central Palace, New York and other cities, 1924, No. 63 (label on the reverse).
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, The Russian Art Exhibition, New York, 1924, No. 63, listed.
The work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Bogdanov-Belsky being prepared by A. Kuznetsov.
Bogdanov-Belsky’s painting Working is a wonderful example of the creativity of his Latvian period, in which the artist pursued his favourite theme of peasant children. Painted in the early years of his time in Latvia, the picture is one of a whole series of canvasses devoted to needlework (Embroidering, Latvian National Museum of Art; Woman Embroidering a Shawl, private collection, etc.).
In 1924 Bogdanov-Belsky chose Working among his best paintings for the first representative exhibition of Soviet art in the USA and, through Sergei Vinogradov, sent the canvasses off to America. The grand opening of the exhibition came on 8 April 1924 in New York, and then the show was despatched on a commercial tour round the northern and southern States, during which Working was bought by an American collector.
The heirs of the painting’s original owner have kept a touching letter by their grandfather. He bought the canvas directly from the Russian exhibition and wrote that he had acquired it not as an investment or for personal enjoyment, but purely as a charitable gesture towards distressed Russian artists “abandoned by the Soviet government and left to starve”. How disappointed this American patron of the arts must have been to learn, that two days after his purchase,“Soviet Russia had ordered all the paintings to be returned there and the money I paid had been confiscated, while the artists continued to starve”.
Since then the painting has remained for almost 90 years in the same family, and is now offered for public sale for the first 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.