26 November 2014 Russian Art Auctions

26 November 2014

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

White Night. Walking in the Park. Murmansk

* 50. KONCHALOVSKY, PETR (1876-1956)

White Night. Walking in the Park. Murmansk, signed, also further signed, titled in Cyrillic, numbered "N 177" and "1219" and dated "1936-37" on the reverse.

Oil on canvas, 137 by 178.5 cm.
450,000-700,000 GBP

Provenance: Private collection, Europe.

Exhibited: Vystavka kartin, akvareli i grafiki sovetskikh khudozhnikov, Kislovodsk, 1939.

Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Vystavka kartin, akvareli i grafiki sovetskikh khudozhnikov, Kislovodsk, 1939, p. 17, listed under the artist's listing no. 48.
Konchalovsky. Khudozhestvennoe nasledie, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1964, p. 138, listed as “zhi 980”.

For Petr Konchalovsky, the period of the late 1920s–1930s marked a new artistic stage, during which he replaced the experimental, explosive search for new forms of expression with a relatively serene, calmer manner of painting. The artist’s ambition was to “see beauty in simple mundane events and find a grand style to express this beauty”.

Konchalovsky was primarily concerned with matters of composition and a greater material authenticity in the rendering of landscape elements: “Take fortuitous elements from nature and make them conform to a system –that is the true rule of composition in painting.” Thus, naturalistic reproduction of nature is replaced with the artist’s understanding and interpretation, while the arbitrary, auxiliary and distracting elements are discarded in pursuit of a single goal.

This approach to painting, centred on the primacy of compositional concerns, is evident in this vast panoramic composition. The artist visited Murmansk in 1936 and produced a small series of works, most of them depicting various aspects of industrial construction. The offered lot stands apart in that its focus is on the mundane life of the Murmansk inhabitants as they enjoy a rare moment of pleasant summer weather during one of the white nights.

At first sight of this striking painting, we feel an immediacy and spontaneity – as if it was glimpsed by chance. Such was the mastery of Konchalovsky that a well-considered composition preserves the freshness of a first impression and is perceived as entirely natural. The artist’s achievement is made even more evident in such a large canvas: coming across as entirely effortless and uncontrived, it draws the viewer in, suggesting the atmosphere of a much smaller, intimate work.

Material authenticity is achieved – not through the pursuit of greater accuracy of line or the elaboration of colour and shading; but rather, through Konchalovsky’s use of colour planes to achieve a desired impact, such as a specific mood.

The artist perceives his protagonists in a decorative and expressive aspect: the three girls and flirting with them sailors are primarily white, shimmering colour splashes, contrasting with predominantly dark, static figures of the other occupants of the park. The white burst of the fountain adds emphasis to these faithfully rendered colour contrasts. Another colour contrast that creates an emotional note, is that of the bright and joyful green of the park with the misty greyish-blue of the warehouses and port behind.

The expressive bursts of light fill the composition with radiance and make all the colours sing with a special intensity. The artist’s inspiration is born out of the desire to flood the canvas with the joy, and to convey the upbeat mood of the people reveling in the simple pleasures of a white summer night. This painting is a paean to Konchalovsky’s true and passionate love of life and his ability to strike a balance between the required optimistic depiction of Socialist reality and his own artistic and human ideals, thus remaining true to himself.

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.