5 June 2013
Kusok zhizni No 13, an Original Cover Design and 70 Drawings Bound into an Album, each variously inscribed in Cyrillic, some numbered and dated, some 1924 and others 1925.
Cover: pencil, ink and gouache on paper, laid on card. Drawings: mostly pencil, ink and watercolour, some with gouache, and others pencil and ink on paper, laid on paper.
Provenance: Acquired from Galina Ufimtseva-Nikolaeva, the artist’s widow.
Important private collection, Europe.
Viktor Ufimtsev created this album of original work entitled Kusok zhizni No 13 (Slice of Life No 13) between late 1924 and early 1925. The album comprises 70 drawings and watercolours with their binder, bound in chronological order by the artist himself. It was put together by Ufimtsev at the time of his first journey to the Orient, specifically Samarkand, when he was still the “Omsk mischief maker” and leader of the futurist art and literary group, the Three of Hearts.
There is no better or more eloquent representation of the artist than his illustrated diary, which is a brilliant kaleidoscope of life in Samarkand – full of lively impressions, seasoned with gentle humour, and recounted inventively and interestingly by figurative means. The album, intended to be seen by friends and family, can rightfully be called The Artist’s Book, its concept of genre being clearly defined and its creative bar set high. This ranks it with examples of Russian avant-garde graphic art that are unique in the first quarter of the 20th century.
The Samarkand series of drawings Kusok zhizni by Ufimtsev is a continuation of his experimental work in Omsk creating hand-crafted futurist pamphlets, one of which – The Futurists – Digest 1 (1921) – is preserved in a single copy in the archive of Ufimtsev’s colleague, the famous poet Leonid Martynov. If in the Omsk pamphlet we find a series of black and white engravings, then in Kusok zhizni No 13 we see how the artist was captivated by colour impressions, which fed his imagination on a daily basis.
For a Russian artist of the 20th century, the name of no Asian capital sounded more seductive than Samarkand – not simply a city, but a universal image of the Orient and as compelling as a drug. The Russian allegiance to Samarkand has always been interpreted as an objection to Eurocentrism, as recognition of the need to direct one’s feet “towards the origin of the arts, towards the Orient” (Natalia Goncharova). Ufimtsev steeped himself in the atmosphere of Turkestan in the wake of his eminent predecessors Pavel Kuznetsov and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, who had recorded their impressions in their own way. This album lets us sense the beating heart and breath of another artist who belonged to the younger generation and left us his legacy of a “piece of life” – not only his personal life, but that of all 20th century Russian art.
The album comes from the collection of the artist’s widow Galina Ufimtseva-Nikolayeva, sister of the artist Andrei Nikolaev (Usto-Mumin).
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.