3 июня 2015
Portrait of the Artist's Mother and Sister, signed and dated 1905.
Oil on canvas, 72 by 66 cm.
Provenance: Collection of a sitter Polina Brodsky, the artist’s sister, Leningrad.
Collection of an art historian Iosif Brodsky, the artist’s nephew, Leningrad.
Private collection, Europe.
Exhibitions: Yubileinaya vystavka proizvedenii zasluzhennogo deyatelya iskusstv I.I. Brodskogo. 30 let khudozhestvennoi deyatelnosti 1904-1934, Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Kiev, September-December 1934.
Vystavka proizvedenii zasluzhennogo deyatelya iskusstv RSFSR Isaaka Izrailevicha Brodskogo, Academy of Arts of the USSR, Moscow, 1955.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Research Museum of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, Leningrad, 1974.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Research Museum of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, Leningrad, 1984.
Dvoe. Zhivopis XX veka iz chastnykh sobranii, Kournikova Gallery, Moscow, 16 November 2008–18 January 2009.
Literature: Iskusstvo, No. 5, 1934, Moscow-Leningrad, Ogiz-Izogiz, p. 7, illustrated.
Yubileinaya vystavka proizvedenii zasluzhennogo deyatelya iskusstv I.I. Brodskogo. 30 let khudozhestvennoi deyatelnosti 1904-1934, Moscow, Vsekokhudozhnik, 1934, p. 9, No. 8, listed under the works from 1905.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky, Moscow-Leningrad, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1950, illustrated. Exhibition catalogue, Vystavka proizvedenii zasluzhennogo deyatelya iskusstv RSFSR Isaaka Izrailevicha Brodskogo, Moscow, Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1955, p. 19, listed under the works from 1905.
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky. Stat’i, pisma, dokumenty, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1956, p. 18, illustrated.
I. Brodsky, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky, Moscow, Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo, 1973, p. 33, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Leningrad, Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1974, p. 17, illustrated; p. 25, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky 1884–1939, Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1984, p. 31, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Dvoe. Zhivopis XX veka iz chastnykh sobranii, St Petersburg, Petronius, 2008, pp. 18, 19, illustrated; p. 106, listed.
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister is a remarkable early work by Isaac Brodsky. It was painted in 1905, at a time when depictions of kith and kin had a huge place in the creative life of the young artist. Every summer, this talented pupil from Ilya Repin’s studio would set out on field trips from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg to Sofievka, the small village of his birth, lost amid the limitless steppe of the Taurida Governorate in Southern Russia. Awaiting him at home was a large and close-knit family: his father, a trader and local shopkeeper, his mother, brothers and sisters.
All summer Brodsky would work persistently and tirelessly, producing studies en plein air and painting portraits and landscapes. Every year, he would return to the Academy with dozens of canvasses, which formed a small exhibition. Later in life, the artist would treasure the canvasses created during his study under Repin, regarding them as an expression of his creative potential and independence from his teacher.
The models for Brodsky’s portraits at the beginning of the 1900s were the artist himself, as well as the children of Sofievka, members of his family and the sisters and brothers of his fellow pupils – including Lyudmila Burliuk. Often the artist would portray his younger sister Polina Brodskaya, whose features are easy to recognise in several works entitled Portrait of the Artist’s Sister (1902–1904), Gypsy Girl (1902) and Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and Sister, presented here for auction. Depictions of Brodsky’s mother, Golda Elkonovna, however, are rather rare and distinguished by the special care with which they are executed.
Working on the image of his mother, the artist is determined to find a firm, distinct outline and devotes a great deal of attention to details and overtones, yet ensures they do not predominate. While achieving an academically rigorous form, he nevertheless retains a restlessness and a slight psychological tension, so typical of his art. The swarthy little girl with large eyes is depicted in three-quarter profile, her entire pose conveying the energy and restlessness of an adolescent – looking as if she is about to spontaneously hug her mother – who, conversely is fully focused on maintaining her pose. This intrinsic contrast between the static and the dynamic highlights the originality of Brodsky’s figurative thinking, a particular artistic orientation of his. This “domestic” double portrait, imbued with feeling and even a degree of exultation, is distinguished by the originality of its composition and its individualised approach to each of the artist’s cherished models. Brodsky strives to portray the members of his family with movement and expression of each person’s character. In some profound way, his painterly manner resembles that of the celebrated Valentin Serov and Ilya Repin.
It is no coincidence that Brodsky’s mentor Repin said of him: “Both his character and his work, in which he invests so much love and beauty, always bubble like a clear stream of spring water. This source of pure art is a mirror that reflects everything dwelt on by the profound gaze of this delightful artistic soul”.
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