27 Nov 2013 Russian Art Auctions

27 November 2013

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Still Life With Apples and a Black Shawl

* 26. GRABAR, IGOR (1871-1960)

Still Life With Apples and a Black Shawl, signed and indistinctly dated 190(?).

Oil on canvas, 63 by 63.5 cm.
300,000–500,000 GBP

Executed in the 1900s.

Provenance: Private collection, Europe.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert I. Geraschenko.
Authenticity has also been confirmed by the expert S. Podstanitskii.
Authenticity has also been confirmed by the expert T. Ermakova.

Igor Grabar’s Still Life with Apples and a Black Shawl is a brilliant example of a genre that was actively developed by the artist in the first few years after 1900. At this time Grabar was a frequent visitor at Dugino, the country seat near Moscow belonging to Nikolai Meshcherin, art lover and owner of Danilovskaya Textile Manufactory, where – at the same time as Grabar – Isaak Levitan, Vasiliy Perepletchikov and other famous artists would go to paint from nature.

Grabar first developed an interest in the still life genre during his time in Munich where he taught at Anton Ažbe’s school, and set his pupils the task of painting still lifes in order to develop their sense of colour and form.

Still Life with Apples and a Black Shawl reflects all the main stylistic features peculiar to Grabar’s work in the early 1900s. The artist pays particular attention to arranging the still life, juxtaposing materials and colours with great skill. This work is also a striking example of Grabar’s masterly handling of texture, which comes through in the palpable plumpness of the ripe fruit in the foreground; the delicacy with which he portrays the highlights and reflections on the china and silver; the transparency of the crystal visible in the background; the cosiness of the heavy black shawl slung over the wooden table, contrasting to great effect with the crockery and fruit laid upon it. It should be noted that the colours in the painting create an unusually dramatic effect, based on muted tones of red and yellow combining with the area of black.

A feature of this work in common with most of Grabar’s still lifes of the period is his use of traditional Dutch blue and white china. This is the artist’s way of drawing parallels with images he had seen recently abroad in European painting and which had had a profound impact on his imagination – in this case, from 17th century Dutch still lifes. It is quite clear, however, that this picture represents a different, modern treatment of the genre, embracing the best achievements of Russian still lifes, but also basing itself to a certain extent on impressionist trends which by then were already being reflected in the artist’s work. Here, an impressionist manner is recognisable in the use of small, impasto brushstrokes and in the strikingly pronounced diagonal structure of the composition.

Still Life with Apples and a Black Shawl may without doubt be placed among the most expressive and important still life compositions created by Igor Grabar in the early 1900s. Still lifes from this period can be found in the Russian Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery as well as in major private collections. At the same time, this work subtly reflects the life of an aristocratic estate at a time characterised by nostalgia for an age that was slipping away and by the desire to capture, with all the depth of feeling possible, its unique and elusive atmosphere.

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.