25 November 2012
Carousel. Brittany .
Oil on canvas, 70.5 by 90 cm.
Painted c. 1934–1935.
Provenance: Estate of the artist (label on the stretcher signed by the widow of the artist A. Shchekin-Krotova).
Private collection, Israel.
Exhibited: R. Falk, Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk, 1967, No. 56 (label on the stretcher).
Literature: D. Sarabianov, Yu. Didenko, Zhivopis’ Roberta Fal’ka. Polnyi katalog proizvedenii, Moscow, Elizium, 2006, p. 603, No. 860, illustrated in black and white.
Carousel. Brittany is one of Robert Falk’s most eye-catching and dynamic compositions. Painted in 1934 following Falk’s visit to a Breton fair, it is the most clear and vivid expression of that same idea of movement which had possessed the artist in his Paris scenes of the early 1930s. Already in his Crane on the River, painted the same year, before he left for the Brittany coast, we can feel that latent energy of movement. It can be sensed from the way the load hangs slightly away from the arm of the crane, and in the gestures of the workers standing nearby, frozen gestures which seem to shout “Down!”, “Up!”. The theme of captured movement was further developed in the picture Beginning of Construction. Working-Class Area of Paris in which, in addition to the crane transferring a load, a car sweeps past with billowing exhaust fumes. Even among this whole series of canvasses based on the idea of conveying movement, Carousel. Brittany stands out as an apotheosis of the expression of this artistic principle, the most thought-through and consistently-formulated of Falk’s works.
In Carousel. Brittany, Falk tries to merge into a single whole both the prim black and white particularity of the Breton costumes and the noisy, riotous fun of a festive evening. At the same time, despite the obvious twilight setting, the artist strives to liberate hints of colour from the clutches of the grey tone which had, only recently, played such a defining role in his canvasses.
Exploiting the principle of centrifugal motion, Falk invigorates the centre of the composition with the yellow and red patches of the carousel’s lights, which immediately raises the level of colour resonance. Gradually, in line with the general movement outwards, beyond the colourful whirling, the colours dim, dissolve in the haze and merge into the overall grey tone. At the same time, however, they retain vestiges of their original colour qualities and as a whole constitute a harmonious and eye-catching array.
Falk has created a composition which is in motion yet simultaneously frozen. He achieves an impression of uniting movement with an immersion into a kind of “semi-reality”, employing the device of contrasting juxtaposition: the body of the carousel flying in the air while the spectators stand around in suspended animation. At first glance it seems as if there might be an element of chance to this composition, as in a snapshot. But this is not the case. The centrifugal motion is closing down, and the contrast is acquiring some permanence. The precisely graduated colour forms a space around the carousel as it cuts through the twilight, but without dissolving the carousel in this space. The Impressionistic freedom here is reinforced by Falk’s experiments with Post-Cézannism and the ideas of constructivism. He is seen here not as a simple to Post-Impressionism, but as an idiosyncratic interpreter of the heritage of Fauvism and Cézannism, bringing together the past and present.
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.