26 Nov 2014
Oil on canvas, 108.5 by 83.5 cm.
Executed in the 1930s.
Provenance: Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert Yu. Rybakova.
Exhibited: Vechnaya zagadka, Novyi Manezh, Moscow, 23 August–13 September 2006, No. 85.
Aleksandr Drevin i Nadezhda Udal’tsova, Dom Naschokina Gallery, Moscow, 24 January–23 March 2008.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Vechnaya zagadka, Moscow, 2006, p. 59, illustrated; p. 142, No. 85, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Aleksandr Drevin i Nadezhda Udal’tsova, Moscow, Virtual Gallery, 2008, p. 82, illustrated and listed.
Nude is a picture by Nadezhda Udaltzova, an artist whose name stands alongside those of Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Olga Rozanova and Lyubov Popova in the history of Russian art. This work postdates Udaltzova’s period of avant-garde experimentation, Cubist decomposition and her part in the Suprematist movement. She had instead returned to figurative painting, using Post-Impressionist forms and seeing her main object as working with colour. The then officious demands for “thematic pictures” and accusations of “formalism”, which arose in the 1930s drastically limited the scope of activity by the criticised artists, but simultaneously greatly enlarged the role of private aspects of creativity.
The result for Udaltzova was the creation in the 1930s of a long series of portraits and self-portraits, landscapes in Altai and Armenia, floral still-lifes, genre pictures and nudes. Udaltzova’s pictures of the naked human form, often of imposing size, are far more than technical studies. These are finished, stand-alone paintings, valuable for their deep, almost psychological qualities as portraits. This depiction of a naked woman with a scarf around her neck is a fine example. The large and beautiful figure of the model seems to emerge from a neutral space, although the colour relationships between the graded background, and the warm body, render figure and space inseparable. This work is an absolutely individual portrait, with its own particular mood. The melancholy of the model, “the exhaustion of being”, expressed in her gaze and the apparently minimalist colour palette, are redeemed by the consummate artistry of the technique and by “incidental” colour inclusions. A continuous line, sometimes tense and sometimes free-flowing, encircles the bare arms of the model, her hands locked together behind her head, the silhouette of her shoulders and the hips. The result is a harmonious balance between linear and rhythmic ease, on the one hand, and a palpable density of mass, on the other.
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