KRASNOPEVTSEV Dmitry Mikhailovich (1925–1995) Two books and a candle. 1964. Oil on hardboard. 37.5 × 34.5
The painting “Two books and a candle” by Dmitry Krasnopevtsev is published in Alexander Ushakov's “thin” catalog on page 58. It came to Moscow from Sotheby's, from the “Nonconformists” auction, which took place in October 2020. Alexander Ushakov added another interesting detail to the provenance: this work was once in the collection of the famous collector Garig Basmadjian.
The work is wonderful. Not large, but medium sized. Valuable period. The beauty is extraordinary! The candle and books are the attributes of vanitas. Composition, which sets up for philosophical reflections. By the way, Krasnopevtsev knew a lot about philosophy. Michel Montaigne's Essays was the handbook book of the Francophile artist. Probably the same green-bound, beautifully published book that was in many homes of the Soviet intelligentsia.
In short, the future owner can be envied in advance. An exemplary Krasnopevtsev. With history. 1964. A particularly valuable period. Published. Museum collection level.
1960s UNOFFICIAL ART
BORUCH (STEINBERG Boris Arkadievich, 1938–2003) Composition No. 011. 2001. Canvas, tempera, thread. 80.5 × 100
Boruch is a pseudonym. Boris and Baruch (Jewish name, “blessed” in Hebrew) merged into Boruch... At first Boris Steinberg was called that in the family. So as not to confuse the two Borises. After his release from the camp, Boris Petrovich Sveshnikov lived in the house of Arkady Akimovich Steinberg (a front-line soldier and “enemy of the people”) for a long time. And so one became Petrovich, and the young Borya became Boruch. And then this name turned into a creative pseudonym. So that people wouldn't have to ask: “Steinberg? Which Steinberg?”
There were several talented people in the family: poet and artist Arkady Steinberg, poet and artist Boris Steinberg, and artist Eduard Steinberg. His widow, artist Tatyana Levitskaya, said that Boruch was considered more of a poet in the family. But life judged otherwise. Boruch did not publish — and, as they say, did not even try — any of his poems. But he became one of the most brilliant artists in the postwar unofficial art. And one of the rare people who, under Soviet rule, earned only by selling their paintings without official work in publishing houses and art factories. The paintings were bought mostly by foreigners. He had to cheat with Beryozka checks and imported tape recorders to avoid taking dollars. But the devil himself was no brother. He drank and walked, and he could rent a steamboat for his royalties. He was losing his paintings to the sculptor Klykov on billiards. He was friends with Akhmatova. Participated in the Bulldozer exhibition. What could you do to someone like that? You can't kick him out of his job. You can't make him stop going to foreign embassies and talking to foreigners. What else can you do? Arrange a provocation? Lock him up in a psychiatric hospital? Not allow him to go abroad? Well, maybe.
Boruch began his graphic work in a psychiatric hospital. A doctor who sympathized with him helped create the conditions. Before that, Boruch was known for his assemblages. On flat surfaces he assembled compositions of church utensils and various objects. He began painstakingly painting on a large scale in the last years of his life. For such a composition, as in front of us, the artist took about two months. Sat and “dotted” — painted with small strokes, like dots. By the way, this line, protruding above the canvas, is a compositional solution — a cut, painstakingly sewn up with threads by Boruch himself.
NEIZVESTNY Ernst Iosifovich (1925–2016) Life Line. 1980. Oil on canvas. 90 × 60
Ernst Neizvestny needs no introduction. The man-boulder, according to memoirs, was the only one who didn't cower in front of an enraged Khrushchev in Manezh-62. What could a former front-line soldier, who was wounded so badly that he was presumed dead, have to fear? Even in peacetime, every day is a battle with the academic swamp and the “sculpture mafia” for the right to create and embody their sculptures in accordance with the scale of the idea.
In front of us is a painting from 1980 — Neizvestny is already working in America. A giant broken palm and the title is “Life Line”. It is both a play on words and a metaphor. Chiromancers call the Lifeline an arc-shaped fold on the right palm. Its length and shape are supposed to decipher and predict stages of destiny. The lifeline in Neizvestny's painting is simply armor. The powerful palm brushes away any external threat to the master of his fate. The piece is prophetic. Ernst Neizvestny himself, who looked into the eyes of death at the front, lived a long life of 91 years. Having succeeded in placing a monument on the grave of his critic Nikita Khrushchev. Having managed to outlive the Soviet Union. And having waited for the opportunity to erect important monuments in Russia, including the Tree of Life in Moscow, the Mask of Sorrow in Magadan (a monument to victims of repression) and others.
The authenticity of the work was confirmed by a consultation with Olga Neizvestnaya, the artist's daughter.
OSSOVSKY Petr Pavlovich (1925–2015) The road to the temple. 2012. Oil on cardboard. 70 × 44
Petr Ossovsky is one of the founders of the “severe style” and the author of the painting “Three Generations”, which is considered the starting point. The term itself emerged from an art critic Alexander Kamensky's review of this very work by Ossovsky (roughly, as impressionism emerged from Louis Leroy's review of “Impression. Sunrise” by Claude Monet). And soon “Severe Style” with Pavel Nikonov, Tair Salakhov, Viktor Popkov and Nikolai Andronov became a vivid independent phenomenon in Soviet art during the “Khrushchev Thaw”. Young artists began to speak not ostentatious propaganda, but the “harsh” truth of life. In which the achievements of industrialization and the restoration of the national economy are shown as a result of the hard work of the common people. Not smart and smiling communists, but simple laborers with hunched backs and calloused hands.
The theme of temples, church architecture (especially Pskov), Russian landscapes with churches is one of the favorite in the work of the artist. In one of his later interviews, he admitted that if things had turned out differently, he could have become an icon painter. At the age of 20, together with Gely Korzhev, he even made sketches for the murals of the temple. But he said they were not given the opportunity to paint — they were too young. But in his declining years, landscapes with churches became a major theme in the work of the artist. The painting “The road to the temple” is an inspired work by Ossovsky, which has an impeccable provenance. It was received as a gift from the artist by the current owner, with whom Ossovsky was a friend and collaborator.
POLENOV Vasily Dmitrievich (1844–1927) A Corner in the Crimea. 1887. Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard. 15.5 × 10.5
A classic from among the first names. Itinerant. The first associations that arise at the mention of Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov are the pacifying “Moscow courtyard” and the sad “Grandmother's garden”. Masterpieces familiar from school textbooks. Therefore, the image of a pure romantic not of this world is involuntarily formed — a master of landscape, who is only interested in the beauty of nature. This is a mistake. And all because the main painting by Polenov during the Soviet regime was not printed in the textbooks. And during the autocracy they wanted to ban it altogether. The fate of the scandalous canvas “Christ and the Sinner” (on which the Teacher led the stumbled woman to trial) under Alexander III was decided by three censors. And only thanks to the position of the church censor, its fate was decided relatively safely. The Emperor retained the painting and, as if in mockery of the artist's humanistic intent, renamed it “The Prodigal Wife”. And in vain Polenov tried to convey to the tsar that the painting was not about sin, but about misfortune. By the way, the artist was not afraid to contradict the autocrats. And after the events of Bloody Sunday he left the Imperial Academy of Arts in protest.
In general, Polenov was not a timid man. He volunteered for the last Russian-Turkish war. He did not sit at the headquarters, fought bravely, received several awards for bravery. So his portraits of Montenegrin female guerrillas are not a studio fantasy, but his impressions of the war in the Balkans. Later, to create the cycle “From the Life of Christ”, Polenov personally went on a dangerous journey to the Middle East and walked the roads of Jesus, which at the end of the 19th century were swarming with robbers and militant Bedouins. As historians recall, in addition to pencils and paints, the artist always kept a club at hand.
Polenov remained in the history of national art as the author of a heartfelt gospel cycle and simultaneously as the founder of the genre of intimate landscape — a declaration of love for the unfathomable beauty of Russian nature. In each trip, he made sketches, noting picturesque places. And today these works are valued by collectors and art lovers. Moreover, they are not only beautiful, but also relatively affordable. While successful medium-sized landscapes on the domestic market can cost 15–25 million rubles, the usual price of etudes is 400,000–1,000,000 rubles.
“A Corner in the Crimea” was painted during a creative trip in 1887. It is small, but it is distinguished by a high degree of completeness. The authenticity of the work is certified by the artist's daughter and confirmed by the expert opinion of Natalia Sergeevna Ignatova.