5 June 2013
Bathing Nude, signed and dated 1927.
Pencil and pastel on paper, 48 by 63 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert E. Lanceray of the Serebriakova Trust.
This lovely pastel, full of internal movement, was executed by Serebriakova in 1927 and opens an entire suite of portrayals of the young, daydreaming model who was the artist’s favourite life model at the end of the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s. In Serebriakova’s best works of this period we time and again encounter this invariably pensive girl who came from a Parisian Russian family. She poses lying serenely on sheets with a red scarf (Nude with a Scarf, 1932), blowing out a candle before bed (Nude with a Candle, 1934), sleeping (Nude, 1927) and washing herself in a bath house, her long hair falling over her shoulder (The Bath House, 1926). The pictorial resolution and the standard of finish of each of these works differ and are determined by the particular artistic task Serebriakova set herself on each occasion. The present lot, like Torso of 1930 (collection of The State Russian Museum) which depicts the same model, is one of the artist’s lively, light sketches in which she uses pastel to delicately recreate the effects of light and shadow and lend a sense of softness. Konstantin Somov held these pastel sketches in particular high esteem, and often remarked upon Serebriakova’s taste and skill in his diary entries and correspondence.
Following her move to Paris in 1924, Serebriakova, returning to the favourite themes of her Russian years, spent a great deal of her time on life drawing and painting and created another version of her celebrated work The Bath House, portraying in the foreground the same model who posed for our pastel. However, the artist’s principal achievements in the late 1920s and the 1930s were in fact to be her studies and her life sketches in pastels and oils, in which she refrained from attempting, in the style of Kabanel, to transform her life models into abstract bathers or heroines of ancient mythology. She filled her albums with entire series of nudes lying, sitting and standing in various poses, drawn with astonishing ease and with a fine understanding of the female body.
Serebriakova herself explained her passion for drawing and painting the naked body in a letter which she wrote from Paris to Alexander Savinov: “I have always had a passion for the theme of the nude, and the subject of The Bath House was merely a pretext for this purpose – and you are right that this is “simply because a young and clean human body is a nice thing”. At the beginning of my time here, that is from 1922 to 1934, I had a number of acquaintances – nice young Russian girls – who would agree to pose for me and act as models. Then they would go off and get married, and after that they would no longer have any time to act as models. I did not have the money to draw and paint professional life models, so I contented myself with drawing and painting still lifes instead, managing to find creative satisfaction in this “quiet life” too …”
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.