30 November 2016
Pine Forest, signed and dated 1866.
Oil on canvas, 91 by 70.5 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
Authenticity certificate from the expert V. Petrov.
Authenticity certificate from the expert N. Ignatova.
Literature: I. Shuvalova, Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, St Petersburg, Khudozhnik Rossii, 1993, p. 41, illustrated; p. 38, mentioned in the text; p. 205, listed.
Pine Forest, offered here for auction, is a rare, early work by Ivan Shishkin. It is all the more noteworthy in that it was one of Shishkin’s first paintings of a pine forest, a subject that would dominate his oeuvre for many years.
Pine Forest was painted en plein air in the village of Bratsevo, north-west of Moscow, where Shishkin and his close friend Lev Kamenev, a fellow student from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, spent the entire summer of 1866 in an old manor house allegedly designed by the famous architect Andrey Voronikhin. The grounds of the estate stretched out to the rivulet Bratovka, a tributary of the Skhodnya, and adjoined the famous historic village of Tushino.
Shishkin, who had just returned home that year after spending several years travelling abroad on a funded research trip, completely immersed himself in painting, working “feverishly”, as he himself said. He would produce several plein air studies every day, and these served as the basis for Pine Forest.
In Pine Forest, Shishkin, as always, depicts a specific place. The canvas is imbued with the light, air and sense of the vastness of space that are so characteristic of his work at the time, and which would later give way to more condensed and secluded forest scenes. He managed both to lend a note of refinement to the picture, and to find a way to convey the wild, untamed character of the central Russian landscape without clashing with the ideals of Russian Academism. The path leading down to the pond, the gentle slope of the hill, the boulders partly covered with grass and the tree roots that break free from the ground give free rein to the viewer’s eye, allowing him to enjoy the harmonious relation between the forest and the vault of the summer sky with its scattering of clouds. Once the glory of the old estate, a pine tree-lined alley that used to lead to the summer-house rotunda is now barely discernible – only a few trees remain, interspersed with the large stumps of others that have been felled. The pines that covered the hillside and which inspired the artist are now also mostly gone. However, contemporary 19th century memoirs tell us that the whole slope at Bratsevo was clad in pine forest that continued right up to the manor house, and that views of the wooded slopes opened out from the clearing and from the shore of the estate pond.
The artistic qualities of Pine Forest lend it special importance as a turning point in Shishkin’s work. It is a remarkably complete, vivid forest scene, full of air and light, and executed in the best classical tradition. Carefully thought out and flawlessly executed, the picture is a precursor to all subsequent masterpieces by this illustrious Russian landscape painter.
Indeed, it was Shishkin’s paintings based on the Bratsevo sketches that drew him to the attention of the influential philanthropist and collector Pavel Tretyakov, the founder of the State Tretyakov Gallery, who was instrumental in bringing the artist success and public recognition.
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.