5 June 2013
Fishing on the Northern Sosva River, Hunters at Rest and Kindling a Fire, from the "Pripolyarnyi Ural" Series, three works, two signed, one variously numbered, and another signed on the edge of the mountcard, further inscribed in Cyrillic “Ural”, numbered “N 7” and dated 1934 on the reverse of the mountcard.
Each pencil, tempera and oil on card, two measuring 17.5 by 22.5 cm, and the other 17 by 28 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the film director and collector Solomon Shuster, Leningrad.
Important private collection, Europe.
Literature: O. Roitenberg, Neuzheli kto-to vspomnil, chto my byli..., Moscow, Galart, 2004, p. 426, Fishing on the Northern Sosva River illustrated in black and white.
“I should specially like to remember Semashkevich... Somehow he suddenly became a collector’s dream. There are not many of his pictures left”. This was what Tatiana Mavrina wrote of him, her fellow exhibitor and member of The Thirteen. Roman Semashkevich was one of the most interesting painters of his generation and his talent was appreciated by such varied figures of art history, as Pavel Ettinger and Vladimir Tatlin. A brilliant draughtsman, Semashkevich was equally unforgettable as a painter: memoirists remarked on his gift with colour, his ability to use dissonances to create his own “anti-world” with a new harmonic structure. He was one of the first to inject his work with a fast, up-to-date tempo: not only his pen-and-ink drawings, characteristic for The Thirteen, but also his paintings - whatever their size. For Semashkevich, there were certainly lessons to be learned from the past greats - from Van Gogh to Pirosmani – but what gives his creative work its value is the tone set by his own personal “tuning fork”, to which he was always true, and this is why to this day they remain so recognisable.
In 1937 the artist became a victim of Stalin’s repression and was sentenced to death by firing squad. Almost his entire legacy – hundreds of works at his home – was confiscated by the NKVD. There is still no trace of them. All that remains is the small body of work which had already found its way into museums and a few private collections in the 1930s.
In 1933 the artist travelled around the North Urals with some friends. It was then that he painted the three compositions here at auction (the first appearance of works by Semashkevich in the history of Russian art at auction). They give a lively idea of the way he painted, with his mysterious subjects reminiscent of an amateur video, and settings which do not always make sense, but whose depth and hidden tension never fail to cast a spell.
The oil on paper works were in the well-known St Petersburg collection of Solomon Shuster. They were shown in 1990 at an exhibition in the State Tretyakov Gallery and appear in the catalogue Roman Matveyevich Semashkevich. Marking the 90th anniversary of his birth. – Moscow. State Tretyakov Gallery, 1990. Cat. 14, 22 (p.74) and 37 (p.77)
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.