25 November 2012
Still Life with a Copper Ewer, signed and dated 1916.
Oil on canvas, 61 by 79 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Ya.E. Rubinstein, Moscow.
Thence by descent to T.V. Rubinstein, Moscow.
Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert T. Zelyukina.
Exhibited: The Yaroslavl Museum of Fine Arts, 5 July–20 August 1979 (label on the stretcher).
Literature: Exhibition catalogue of the Yaroslavl Museum of Fine Arts, 1979, p. 9, listed as being in the collection of Ya.E. Rubinstein.
The development of progressive Soviet figurative art in the 1920s and 1930s is closely linked with the name of the well-known Moscow painter, graphic artist and illustrator, Antonina Sofronova. A pupil of Fyodor Rerberg and Ilya Mashkov, Sofronova exhibited regularly from 1913. She belonged to, and exhibited with, the most famous artistic groups – the Jack of Diamonds, World of Art and the Moscow Association of Artists, Society of Moscow Artists and The Thirteen. As a painter Antonina Sofronova’s talent was so all-embracing yet multifaceted that there was no contradiction in her membership of groups so irregular in the aims and directions they pursued: indeed, it was entirely justified and natural. Sofronova not only had a singular, virtuoso mastery of both painting and sketching, but easily and readily adopted any stylistic technique. A gift for composition, a high degree of professionalism, and a freshness of perception were distinguishing features of her work. Sofronova did not conform to the canons of the various “associations”, but in her individual hand spontaneously generated a style that was instantly recognisable and with its own distinct qualities. Nevertheless she had a fruitful association with The Thirteen, in which she was one of the key figures who directly defined the group’s creative credo.
The brilliant Still Life with a Copper Ewer 1916 dates from the period when Sofronova was a pupil in the Moscow studio of Ilya Mashkov. Her adoption of Mashkov’s methods of using paint to create form is evident in this picture, as is her highly professional variation on his distinctive technique. A rare quality of this work, however, is her masterful handling of the relationship between the different hues, and they are perhaps even more beautiful than in the paintings of the famous Jack of Diamonds man himself. The relationship in the painting between light and dark painted surfaces, their faultless balance and perfectly judged accentuation are the most significant merits of this striking still life.
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