5 June 2013
Still Life With Fish, signed, inscribed "Paris" and dated 1930.
Oil on canvas, 60.5 by 73.5 cm.
Provenance: Commissioned for a charity evening in aid of the veterans of the Russian Volunteer Army in 1930.
Acquired by the father of the previous owner.
Galerie librairie Sialsky, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Private collection, USA.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibited: Faces of Russia, Palm Beach Fine Art and Antique Fair, Florida, 3–11 February 2007.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Faces of Russia, Florida, Palm Beach Fine Art and Antique Fair, 2007, p. 23, illustrated.
Fish, like flowers, were one of Konstantin Korovin’s favourite subjects. From the 1910s, on the general wave of enthusiasm for the still life genre at the time, Korovin turned to the style of Dutch fish market paintings and created his first still lifes with fish – Fish, Wine and Fruit (1916, The State Tretyakov Gallery), Delicious Fish (1917, The State Tretyakov Gallery) and Fish (1916, The State Russian Museum).
The still life here at auction, with its wonderfully rich palette, is from Korovin’s Paris period and is a continuation of this series. However, for all the apparent similarity of the motifs, there is no repetition, either in terms of the technique or subject matter. Executed in luscious, cheerful tones, it is notable for its tactile quality and the physicality of the objects portrayed which do not disappear into the masterful sweeping brushwork. The composition is more ascetic, more austere than the early still lifes. Of the earlier abundance of objects, only the wicker basket with a few leeks remains. Korovin stakes everything on his painterly skill, the beauty of a purely artistic approach, the energy of the motion of the brush, the richness of the forms of different coloured brushstokes which become more like parallel dashes. The artist applies colour in broad strokes, in places densely, in others sparsely, letting patches of the base-coat show through and arranging his favourite accents of unmixed red and green. Korovin seemingly fuses his brush-strokes with the surface, uniting the components of the composition and avoiding any disorderliness in the lively, study-like execution. The conceptual centre of the composition, the pile of orangey-red lobsters, is clearly defined in light and colour, as in the Old Masters. The interaction between colour and light is the essence of this still life. The light reflects off the cold, mirrored surface of the fish; it acquires warmth in the straw filling the basket and basks in the heat of the curved backs and claws of the lobsters.
Korovin uses his brush to sculpt the form of objects, conjuring up the freshness of the green leeks, the slippery fish scales and of the crisp, starched drapery. The joie de vivre of the objective world – present in the artist’s best works and which Korovin himself defined as “my desire to glorify everything I see” – is much in evidence in this still life of 1930. On a par with his other canvasses of the period, such as Still Life with Lobsters, Fish and Still Life with Fish (all three in the collection of the Yaroslavl Art Museum), the present lot is painted with the characteristic artistry and sensuality that makes the work of Korovin so captivating.
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.