30 November 2016 Russian Art Auctions

30 Nov 2016

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


Road by the Volga River

47. SAVRASOV, ALEKSEI (1830-1897)

Road by the Volga River

Oil on canvas, 55 by 43 cm.
140,000–180,000 GBP


Provenance: Private collection, Europe.

Authenticity certificate from the expert V. Petrov.

From the 1870s, landscapes of the great Russian river Volga attain a special place in the oeuvre of Alexei Savrasov. The beauty of the Volga inspired him to paint bird’s eye views of its flooded shores and panoramic landscapes of the surrounding areas. At the same time, Savrasov remained true to himself, and his acute love of nature, influenced by the Orthodox faith, found a powerful expression in these unpretentious landscapes with elements of Russian rural life, rendered in a meticulous and touching manner.

Road by the Volga River is one of these lyrical landscapes, where nature is perceived by the artist as inseparable from the life of people who inhabit it – fishermen, peasants and barge haulers – each with their everyday concerns and pursuits.

The size of the present work – middling-sized salon format, so beloved by Savrasov (notably, almost identical to that of the famous Rainbow in the collection of the State Russian Museum) – together with its poetic subject, embody the persistent quest for artistic representation that for many years had been the defining feature of the work of one of the most soulful Russian landscapists.

Apparently simple, the composition of the picture is meticulously structured. Savrasov encompasses at a glance the endless expanses of the Central Russian landscape, the vastness of the sky strewn with clouds, and the quiet, unassuming beauty of the high river bank with two peasants leisurely strolling along. Tranquility and clarity are defining features of the compositon. The foreground is dominated by the tall tree, its leafy branches concealing the roof of the house, and by the diagonal path of a welltrodden muddy track. In the distance, we see the mast of a boat with a flag flapping in the wind and yet another person, making his way up from the riverbank. Human presence permeates the whole composition and lends warmth to the landscape.

Showcasing the artist’s beloved themes, the present work incorporates other typical features: water surface intricately reflecting the light from the cloudy sky, the large tree illuminated by the sun, the figures walking along the bank and the panoramic view of a village, melting away into the distance. Savrasov’s brushstrokes are delicate, almost transparent. He manages to masterfully blend the intimacy of human habitation with the grandeur of landscape. With its modest, low-key subject matter and tranquil manner of painting, Road by the Volga River embodies Isaac Levitan’s famous comment on the art of Savrasov: “What simplicity! But behind the simplicity you feel the gentle, kind soul of the artist, for whom all this is dear and close to his heart.”


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.