26 November 2014
Foire. Photographie, signed.
Oil on canvas, 54 by 73 cm.
Executed c. 1931.
Provenance: Collection of the artist (numbered “N 120” on the stretcher).
Previously in the collection of the prominent art collector Iosif Ezrakh (1899–1991), Leningrad.
Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert Yu. Didenko.
Literature: R.R. Falk, Besedy ob iskusstve. Pis’ma. Vospominaniya o khudozhnike, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1981, p. 118, mentioned in the artist’s letter to his wife.
Yu. Didenko, compiler of Polnyi katalog zhivopisnykh proizvedenii R.R. Fal’ka //D. Sarabianov, Yu. Didenko, Zhivopis’ Roberta Fal’ka. Polnyi katalog proizvedenii, Moscow, Elizium, 2006, p. 544, No. 762, illustrated in black and white.
Foire. Photographie, offered here for auction, was executed by Robert Falk during his French period, which commenced in the summer of 1928 when he embarked on his research trip in order to “study classical heritage” and which lasted for nearly a decade, until the end of 1937.
Falk’s arrival in Paris on 14 July 1928 coincided with a national holiday, Bastille Day, which was a joyous occasion: “I still remember it as if it were yesterday: dusk, paper lanterns and the whole street is dancing. Tinted lamps are shimmering near each café , and small orchestras are playing…” The romantic atmosphere, which dominated Falk’s first encounter with Paris, influenced the way he perceived the city for the rest of his life. Many years later, he remembered: “The French are very hungry for spectacle and they are very talented in coming up with them, in organising them… Every two weeks in two of the city’s 40 districts they organise fun fairs. There is nothing to wish for in those. Russian (or American) slides, merry-go- rounds, shooting ranges, show booths… There are jokes, laughter. It is fun, colourful, and very gracious and sweet, seductive. I was fully enchanted by those spectacles and created a whole series of paintings on this subject.”
Foire. Photographie, was most likely, part of that series, of which only very few paintings now survive. With a large degree of certainty it can be dated to 1931, inasmuch as in a letter to his relatives on 10 July 1931, Falk mentions three paintings depicting night views of travelling fun-fairs (foire): “Now I painted three works from memory: Foir [sic] at night. Now, it is very easy for me to work from memory. I am very pleased with this, this is some sort of liberation… I am now mostly fascinated with the materiality of colour, with making it look as if it is made of precious stones…”
Two other works from the small Foire series mentioned in the letter are Fair Booths. Paris and a study in oil – Foire. Doll Lottery.
Falk was fascinated by many national personality traits of the French people, such as their temperament and “ability to enjoy the simple life”. The artist’s affection for a “fun, loud people” who “joke, laugh – and live” is expressed through the genre of the painting, namely, by how engrossed and perceptive he was in portraying the various types of individuals visiting the fair.
The artist’s archive belonging to his widow, Angelina Shchekin-Krotova, contains a black and white photograph of a painting closely resembling the offered lot and thus confirming its authenticity.
Besides, the artist’s original stretcher still bears a number written in black gouache, “N 120”, which matches a number in the catalogue of the artist’s works, compiled by Shchekin-Krotova who systematised his entire oeuvre. In addition the painting has an exceptional provenance, having been in the renowned collection of Iosif Ezrakh (1899–1991), Leningrad.
We are grateful to Yulia Didenko, art historian and author of the catalogue raisonné on the artist, for providing additional catalogue information.
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.