25 - 28 November 2012 Russian Art Auctions

25 November 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


§ 38. GORBATOV, KONSTANTIN (1876–1945)

Venice, signed and dated 1912.

Oil on canvas, 96 by 140 cm.
120,000–180,000 GBP

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.

The exquisite World of Art canvas Venice was painted by Konstantin Gorbatov from sketches he made on his first trip to Italy. It was 1912 and the young artist, who had recently graduated from the Academy and received a gold medal at an exhibition in Munich, had won a trip to Europe as his prize. Gorbatov set off at once to Rome, from there to Venice, and then southward at Maxim Gorky’s invitation to Capri, where he eagerly set about committing to canvas the impressions of Italy he had sketched on his travels.

The soft, monochrome, almost grey palette matches the ephemeral, melancholy dreaminess that envelops the image of Venice in the artist’s early works. Only ten years were to pass between the painting of this canvas and Gorbatov emigrating from Soviet Russia to arrive again in Venice, but her image in his work would become entirely different – a cliché of vivid colour, impressionist and changed beyond recognition. Evidently, it was not so much that Venice had changed in these years as that a different perception of her image had arisen in the artist himself, to emerge in a different relationship towards landscape.

At any rate, Gorbatov loved and had a feel for Venice as did the World of Art members Alexander Benois, Konstantin Somov and Mikhail Kuzmin. He delighted in the slightly “fragile” look of the once great capital of a powerful maritime republic that, with all its canals, bridges and narrow streets, fine antique palaces and cathedrals, presented a living theatrical setting for festivities, masked balls and carnivals. Venice held in her palaces and cathedrals the works of the famous artists of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and exuberant Baroque. It was not by chance that his early, modest views of Venice – surprisingly delicate in their treatment of image and evocation of the picturesque – are reminiscent of Old Masters.

It is in this manner that the landscape here at auction is painted. The cold, glassy water and soaring sky, the flat pattern of the arch spanning the canal, through which are glimpsed the silhouettes, recognisably Gorbatov’s, of sails and dark figures hurrying to mass that create the decorative effect of smoky lace against the background of a transparent sky left almost unpainted.

The image of Venice runs through all Gorbatov’s creative work. When he had become a mature master, made wise by life’s misfortunes, he noted down: “Nature has places that spill over with beauty everywhere (Venice). It is not enough to admire Venice; in order to portray her you have to love her. I love her not because she is beautiful but because in Venice I thirst for beauty, and perhaps love, more than anywhere else”.

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.