5 June 2013
Café sur les Grands Boulevards, signed.
Oil on canvas, 50 by 61 cm.
Executed c. 1925.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibition: Russes. Artistes de Saint-Pétersbourg à Paris au début du XXème siècle, Musée de Montmartre, Paris, 20 June–21 September 2003.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Russes. Musée de Montmartre, Paris, Fragments, 2003, pp. 36–37, illustrated.
Konstantin Korovin, perhaps the most distinguished and talented Russian Impressionist, is represented in this catalogue by the notable canvas Café sur les Grands Boulevards. Korovin was unrivalled in his ability to convey the “captured moment”, the fleeting state of nature and a vibrant colour harmony. Through his masterly observation of the effect of colour on light, he achieved astonishing integrity of perception. The painting before us was executed around 1925, two years after the artist’s departure from the Soviet Union to Paris, and is a wonderful manifestation of his mature style.
Korovin adored Paris, and Parisian street scenes constitute a substantial part of his late oeuvre. As Alexander Benois put it, “Korovin… somehow particularly passionately loved that city. Paris had an exhilarating, almost electrifying effect on him… it was indeed ‘The Moveable Feast’.”
Korovin most often depicted his beloved city at night, filled with the bright lights from street lanterns, rushing crowds, automobiles and the overall atmosphere of excitement. However, Café sur les Grands Boulevards is a rare depiction of Paris during the day. This canvas, highly expressive yet delicately executed, is a shining example of the artist’s painterly mastery, with its striking patchwork-like play of light created by the sun rays reflected on the tables, chairs and marquees of the surrounding cafés, and the shadows of the tree tops. The thin, rapidly-applied, angular brushstrokes of his scenes of night-time remain, conveying the buzz of the boulevard, crowded with flâneurs observing the city life unfolding before them. As does the precise, clearly delineated composition of the canvas, which is an equally distinguishing characteristic of his late works. The atmosphere of Café sur les Grands Boulevards is incredibly relaxed and festive, with the work acting as a paean to the carefree and easygoing life of leisure. The degree of skill and the depth of feeling with which Korovin conveys the lightness of being that permeates the canvas is particularly striking given the uneasy reality of the artist’s personal life, thus once again underlining the unswerving buoyancy of his oeuvre that acts as its major appeal.
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.