4 June 2014 Russian Art Auctions

4 June 2014

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Still Life with Flowers

*§ 16. LARIONOV, MIKHAIL (1881-1964)

Still Life with Flowers, signed, also further signed on the reverse.

Tempera on canvas, 92 by 65 cm.
400,000-600,000 GBP

Provenance: Leonard Clayton Gallery, New York, before 1977 (label on the stretcher).

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the experts A. Kiseleva and Yu. Rybakova.

Exhibited: Art Russe, Ancien et Moderne, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, May–June 1928, No. 782 or 783 (label on the stretcher).

Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Art Russe, Ancien et Moderne, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1928, p. 76, No. 782 or 783, listed.

Mikhail Larionov’s Still Life with Flowers from the 1920s is one of the most poetic compositions of his Parisian period. Here, as in other works of this time, the artist moves away from the physical quality of his still lifes from the previous decade. Bright colours are replaced by a spare, almost monochrome palette and all the diversity of the objective world is reduced to a set of three or four choice constituents, used with striking aesthetic impact. Most of his still life compositions from this time are a restrained brown, yellow or pale blue, featuring time and again the lineaments of a simple wooden table, the white of a napkin, a glass goblet, and a twig in bloom in a transparent jug.

The eye is drawn especially to the nude that hovers above the table, in picturesquely narrowed perspective. This nude is one of Larionov’s gouaches, placed within the still life as a joint backdrop with the striped wallpaper familiar from so much of the artist’s work from these years. The device of a picture within a picture, where the artist’s own work is used as essential background detail and constitutes a figurative entity integrated with the overall composition, became a trademark feature of his still lifes of the 1920s.

In these paintings Larionov reproduces his large works on paper, with their laconic lines, as objects actually present in the still life, whereas by contrast the real things – jug, glass, table – become almost ethereal, taking on incorporeal forms rendered in a diaphanous and fragile texture. According to a vivid description by G. Pospelov, who dedicated an entire section of his book on Larionov to these works, “the draughtsmanship – light as air – reinforces the impression of a tracery of bare twigs reaching upward from the translucent jug”.

The elegiac mood of this exquisite monochrome painting and the technical virtuosity of the delicate, almost ephemeral, touch of the brush place Still Life with Flowers on a par with such expressive compositions as Still Life with Standing Figure and Still Life with Twigs in a Glass Jug from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.

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.