4 Jun 2014
Mythological Landscape, signed and dated 1928.
Oil on canvas, 168 by 212.5 cm.
Provenance: Fine 19th Century European Paintings and Watercolours, Phillips London, 12 March 1996, lot 125.
Russian Art Evening, Sotheby’s London, 24 November 2008, lot 33.
Private collection, Europe.
The work will be included in the forthcoming Alexander Yakovlev catalogue raisonné being prepared by Caroline Haardt de La Baume.
Alexander Yakovlev’s Mythological Landscape is a clear example of the beginning of technical and stylistic changes in the artist’s painting. An experienced and acknowledged master, he took many people by surprise at the end of the 1920s by changing the form of his painting from that of a “documenter and recorder of minutes”, enriching it with a new palette and new brushwork.
All these elements are intrinsic to Mythological Landscape which was painted in 1928 under the influence of Italian landscapes and the frescoes from Pompeii at the Museum of Naples. The painting is distinguished by its extraordinarily organic compositional structure and subtle combinations of colour, with Yakovlev giving free rein to his desire to understand the art of the Old Masters, his love of ancient mythology and perfected classical form, but also a mature wish to free up his own painting with looser brushwork.
The canvas recreates the majestic landscape of the Mediterranean, devoting a large part of the composition to the broad sky stretching to the horizon. The sense of immeasurable space emphasises the barely discernible mythical characters in it who are the inhabitants of the landscape. Judging by their appearance, the three figures in the lower right-hand corner are probably Venus, Adonis and, hovering over them, Cupid – a subject painted repeatedly by the Old Masters.
Yakovlev’s 1929 one-man exhibitions at the Renaissance gallery in Paris and the Kodak gallery in Brussels included a large number of works with subjects and images from ancient mythology, created in a new, liberated manner. It is entirely possible that Mythological Landscape was also shown at these exhibitions. Regardless of that, in the work in question the painter not only achieves graphic resolution of the classical subject, but successfully accomplishes the painterly tasks involved, leaving no doubt as to its artistic value.
We are grateful to Dr Elena Yakovleva, art historian and expert on the artist, for providing additional catalogue information.
Notes on symbols:
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§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
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