2 December 2015
The Teacher's Name Day, signed.
Oil on canvas, 108.5 by 136.5 cm.
Provenance: Russian Sale, Christie’s, 18 December 1996, lot 121.
Collection of Gordon P. Getty, American investor, philanthropist and composer.
Russian Art I, Sotheby’s New York, 15 April 2008, lot 105.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Related literature: For other versions of the present lot, see exhibition catalogue, The 39th Exhibition of the Society for Itinerant Art Exhibitions, Moscow, 1911, p. 4.
Iskry. Illustrated Arts and Humour Magazine, No. 1, 1913, p. 4.
N. Lapidus, Bogdanov-Belsky, Moscow, Belyi gorod, 2005, p. 31.
The work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Bogdanov-Belsky being prepared by A. Kuznetsov.
Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky’s The Teacher’s Name Day is a version of his celebrated eponymous work, thought to be lost and now known only from reproductions.
The idea for the composition came to the artist in 1908, in Tver province. Here, Bogdanov-Belsky spent the summer in birch groves on the shores of deep, primeval lakes, working with his fellow artists Konstantin Korovin, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Vitold Bilianitsky-Birulia and others. Twenty years later he fondly recalled those days of his youth: “We were like brothers... we were all happy with the plainest food, as long as it was filling. I would leave early in the morning, at six o’clock, with my sketching equipment and go into the forest to work. In the evenings our conversation was sincere, heartfelt, open, with no trace of guile. Joy and goodwill reigned. And the work went well too.”
It was on one of those summer days in 1908 that the artist visited the settlement of Ostrovno, on the estate of the wealthy landowner Ushakov, where he did a study for the picture Visiting the Teacher, which is now in the State Art Museum of Latvia. Two years later, based on this sketch, Bogdanov-Belsky created the large canvas The Teacher’s Name Day. After showing successfully at international exhibitions in 1911 in both Paris and Munich, it was acquired by a London-based art-lover and collector and left Russian shores. The trail then goes cold. However, the artist painted in the years that followed several variations of the much-loved scene at the request of his many patrons. The work offered here for auction is one of the best-known versions.
Painted following a trip to France, The Teacher’s Name Day became a landmark work in Bogdanov-Belsky’s oeuvre. His firsthand knowledge of the work of the Impressionists – Renoir, Pissarro, Manet and other contemporaries – had a substantial influence on his technique. Keeping the subject matter of happy, rural childhood as his principal theme, the artist fills his pictures with the movement of light, sunshine and air, becoming more and more excited by the new challenges of combining light and colour. Instead of the “museum-piece” brown tones of his early work, his colours are now pure, unmixed and thus vivid, vibrating with life.
This charming scene in the garden is bathed in sunlight. It seeps through the leaves, falling in patches on the table, on the tanned faces of the children, sparkling in the tea glasses and on the sides of the samovar by the teacher. The artist lovingly paints the rural school-children and the young woman revelling in the company of her pupils.
The Teacher’s Name Day is undoubtedly a work of museum quality and worthy of a place in even the most refined of collections.
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.