6 июня 2018
Still Life with Fish, signed.
Oil on canvas, 74.5 by 61.5 cm (oval).
Executed in the 1920s.
Provenance: Estate of the artist, Moscow.
A gift from Fialka Shterenberg, the artist’s daughter, to Andrei Nakov in Moscow, c. 1982–1985.
Collection of A. Nakov, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner after 1995.
Private collection, Switzerland.
Still Life with Fish was painted by David Shterenberg, according to his daughter Fialka, in the 1920s, when his period of study at the Académie Vitti under the supervision of Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin and Kees van Dongen, the turbulent life of the La Ruche residence in Paris and his enthusiasm for Cubism and Paul Cézanne had already come to an end. However, the lessons that the artist had received, assimilated and synthesised to form his own pictorial style, recognisable at every stage of his career, can, in a particular way, be sensed here too.
From the cubist experiments of his years in Paris Shterenberg retains his characteristic, unvarying view of an object from above. It cannot be confidently stated what the fish is actually lying on a dish, into which the actual surface of the artist’s canvas has been transformed, or the small round table that is so familiar from many of the artist’s works dating from the late 1910s and early 1920s. Shterenberg skilfully portrays the shiny scales, the bluish-grey and green backs of the fish and their delicate pink underbellies. In the Still Life with Fish, as in the Herrings, painted somewhat earlier (1917–1918), and the no less famous Pike from the turn of the 1920s, the important part of the composition is not only the actual fish, but also the virtually non-figurative background surrounding the white cloth, the table top or the wooden top of the stool.
Shterenberg has gone down in the history of art as a master of still life. He was always fascinated by the objective essence of existence and the infinite variety of matter. The simplest natural materials, flowers, fruit, the morning’s catch brought from the fish market — any “natural objects no longer alive” — were never just “studies” for the artist. In the 1920s, the period when he was at his creative peak, Shterenberg focuses on the plainest objects and strives to attain an extreme simplification in depicting the objective world, and, in so doing, turns simplicity into elegance. Bidding farewell to the graphic and geometrical nature of his previous period, the artist concentrates on painterliness. The Still Life with Fish that is now offered for auction is an outstanding landmark along that path.
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