26 November 2014 Russian Art Auctions

26 November 2014

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Girl with a Straw Hat

§ 81. GONCHAROVA, NATALIA (1881-1962)

Girl with a Straw Hat .

Pastel and charcoal on paper, laid on card, 199 by 50 cm.
80,000-120,000 GBP

Executed in the 1900s.

Provenance: Collection of the architect N. Vinogradov, Moscow.
Thence by descent.
Collection of E. Ovsyannikova, granddaughter of the above, Moscow.
Private collection, UK.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert O. Glebova.

Literature: Natalia Goncharova. Gody v Rossii, St Petersburg, Palace Editions, 2002, p. 316, illustrated; p. 320, No. 5, listed.

These two enormous, larger than life-size, female portraits on paper by Natalia Goncharova were formerly in the collection of the artist’s friend and colleague, the architect Nikolai Vinogradov, and their appearance on the Russian art market is a singular event. For not only is their provenance impeccable but they are also among the very few drawings of the 1900s that allow us to form an idea of the early period of this artist’s work.

There is no doubt that the model for both these portraits – executed in charcoal and pastel on the reverse of lengths of wallpaper – was the same young girl, dressed in a long, black skirt and light-coloured blouse, with a straw hat in her hands. It is possible that Goncharova, as she turned the female figure to decide on the right composition, now full-face, now three-quarters view, was actually drawing herself. In any event, published photographs do exist, showing the artist in the early 1900s wearing a similar straw hat.

The style is fluid. The face, neck and torso are vigorously “sculpted” in black. In places the charcoal is over-painted with pale pink, yellowish and white pastel. It is worth noting that Goncharova not only shows a preference for traditional charcoal techniques, creating volume by hatching and stippling, but is also keen to emphasise her contour, using the line as her basic means of expression.

In this we can make out the influence of Art Nouveau and of the latest French art trends, which played a crucial role in her development as an artist. Both Goncharova and her first biographer Ilya Zdanevich referred to the early period of her career, up to and including 1906, as “a period of Impressionism and of colour decomposition”, for Goncharova’s aesthetic tastes – and those of most young painters of her generation – were to a great extent influenced by the preferences of the collectors Shchukin and Morozov.

The portraits now offered for auction are from an artist who has already come to sense “painterliness” as an essential and integral quality of her talent. It is no coincidence that such works, executed with a dynamic “Impressionist” line and drawn from life, offer us a glimpse of that elusive moment of Goncharova’s approach towards the avant-garde, which is not easy to distinguish in her paintings on canvas of the same period.

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.