LEONOV Pavel Petrovich (1920–2011) Sunday is a day of fun, songs are heard all around. 1990s. Burlap, oil. 145.5 × 129
A man who had seen life, a veteran, a convict, a wanderer. The years had already begun to show. It would seem — sit in the sun and bask. But he didn't. At his old age Pavel Leonov takes up his brush again. He tried before, but stopped — he was afraid of being arrested for unearned income. And then it turns out that his true vocation was art. It happens so that people are born artists. They don't need to learn much, it's even harmful. It's enough to give them a hint somewhere, to tweak something, to explain it. That's how it was with Yakovlev and Sitnikov. And so it was with Leonov and Roginsky. The outstanding artist of the 1960s, Mikhail Roginsky was his teacher by correspondence at the Krupskaya Correspondence People's University of Arts (which still exists).
Today Pavel Leonov is one of the main figures in Russian naive art. One of the most expensive artists in this area. And one of the few inscribed in the market — which collectors hunt for and about which you do not need to explain anything. But this is now. And thirty years ago Leonov wrote in an atmosphere of absolute public misunderstanding. The villagers laughed at him. They say he draws incorrectly. Invents. Tells stories. Trash, not pictures. Nothing looks like it. Well, where have you seen park fountains in the village? And where do such beautiful palaces and wide paved roads come from? Why are the hares and moose of the wrong color? Where is the truth of life? Take it, unfortunate artist, at least read a book about hunting!
He didn't care. He was bending the line. He stretched out his canvas on the street and started painting. Three or five days and a new world was born. Where everything was arranged sensibly, where kindness reigned and people always had a holiday on their souls. No broken-down roads, no lopsided huts, no toilets in the street. Why? Leonov believed that you need to write life like not the one that is, but the one to which you need to strive. He really thought that his paintings will prompt careless architects and designers, as everything must be arranged. Otherwise, they just do not know that the village should have a palace, a tram and the roads with the flow of cars. He wished the people prosperity and a holiday. Enough was enough, they had suffered a lot. And people just laughed at the eccentric grandfather.
It's a miracle that Leonov applied to the Correspondence Institute. Miracle that he was noticed. It's a miracle that he was taken up by dedicated art historians. Ksenia Bogemskaya helped to inscribe his name in the list of naive art of museum value. It is a miracle that the work of Leonov became a prestigious collector's item. But how many such miracles have not happened. How many original artists have been forgotten. Do you remember the film “Serafim Half-Daemon and the other inhabitants of the Earth” with Rodion Nakhapetov in the title role? There the works of Pavel Leonov serve as props — for the visual range in a scene with a workshop of unique artist. And with them — the paintings of Ivan Selivanov, “Pirosmani” from Kemerovo. He was also a discovery, also through ZNUI, but his fate formed so differently. Selivanov was not included in the auction list and today his name is known mostly to specialists. But the works of Leonov are the hits of our auctions, collectors are struggling for them, and 500 000 rubles for them is not the limit.
1960s UNOFFICIAL ART
VECHTOMOV Nikolay Evgenievich (1923–2007) Meeting. 1994. Oil on hardboard. 48 × 33.5
Vechtomov of the highest caliber. Phenomenal quality of execution, multi-piece, complex, diligent painting with the most valuable subject matter. An encounter with biomorphic structures. The thing is cool and what is called unseen — it was not at auctions, was not offered in galleries. This painting was kept for many years in the studio of the artist, with whom Nikolay Vechtomov was friends. And it is exhibited for the first time.
Vechtomov is an artist of the Lianozovo group, a representative of biomorphic cosmism. His works are hits of the auction sale today.
LEVITSKAYA Tatyana Evgenievna (1944) House by the river. 1994. Canvas, nitroenamel. 80 × 100
Tatyana Levitskaya is a sixties artist, an artist of unofficial art, a participant of Bulldozer exhibition and the “House of Culture” at VDNKh, the widow of uncompromising Boruch Steinberg (who was in opposition not only to the authorities, but also to the “negotiable” wing of the underground). She is also a brilliant storyteller. It is impossible to tear yourself away from the stories of this beautiful, artistic woman. For us, she is not just a witness to the events, but also the destroyer of many myths that we have created about those times. In particular, the question of why foreigners were so sympathetic to unofficial artists and eager to communicate. There were many reasons for this, but one we would never have guessed. It turns out that in the 1970s, there was an atmosphere around foreigners which made it dangerous for ordinary Soviet people to even talk to them. Snitching, surveillance. Many people actually paid with their jobs for some unauthorized communication. People were fired. And that was not the worst case scenario. But independent artists were not afraid. There was nowhere to fire them. And Western correspondents and diplomats felt that they were being talked to openly, without looking back. And they appreciated it.
Levitskaya's characteristic improvised nitro-enamels are her accidental invention, a production luck. Inspiration came from an unusual material. Once, while decorating a model showcase, the artist saw jars of strange smelling paint. This turned out to be a car nitro paint. Levitskaya asked to pour it a little. She tried to paint. She could work with it almost without a brush — so predictable were the streams of enamel on the canvas when she simply poured it out of the can. Sometimes the smudges themselves pushed into the plot, it was only necessary to follow the paint. This is how Levitskaya's “nitras” and her improvisations appeared. And one of them is at our auction today.
MELAMID Alexander Danilovich (1945) Dog leash. 1968. Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard. 35 × 50
Yes, that one. For the first time at our auction. The participant of the famous duo Komar-Melamid — the main figures of Sots-art, the instigators of the Bulldozer exhibition and buyers of Andy Warhol's soul (the American artist sold it to them during the performance “Borrowing of Souls”). Alas, the merry duo has already broken up; since 2003, the artists have been working separately. And we still have in front of us 1968 — the early Melamid. Expressionist still life with a dog leash. The thing is seemingly simple, but, if you think about it, deeply philosophical.
ZVEREV Anatoly Timofeevich (1931–1986) Portrait of Inna Costakis. 1960. Watercolor, tempera, powder on paper. 58 × 41
Inna Georgievna Costakis-Dymova is the daughter of Georgy Dionisovich Costakis, the man who saved the Russian avant-garde and one of the discoverers of unofficial post-war art. Costakis was one of the first people who discerned the potential of the Russian underground and, one might say, introduced the fashion for unofficial art among the Soviet intelligentsia. Zverev was his favorite — “Tolechka”. Costakis managed to collect an outstanding layer of works by Russian expressionist — the work of the most valuable period, the 1950s–1970s. Inna's portrait was painted in 1960. It is notable for its connoisseurial and personal character. But it is fully realized in the fierce Zverev’s Tashist manner, which is so appreciated by collectors. The work is accompanied by the expert opinion of Valery Silaev.
MANEVICH Abram Anshelevich (1881–1942) Winter landscape. 1910th. Oil on cardboard. 22.2 × 29.3
The 1910s is still a pre-emigration period. Abram Manevich finally left for the United States in 1922, shortly after his son, a Komsomol activist, was murdered in Ukraine. Manevich was leaving as an accomplished artist. Previously, he had travelled and exhibited extensively in Europe — in Munich and Paris, where he enjoyed success with the public and critical acclaim. A large review of his exhibition was written by Lunacharsky, who clearly sympathized with Manevich's paintings. In the United States, Manevich became a famous modernist artist. They say that in America the famous Albert Einstein was an admirer of his work.
The work “Winter Landscape” is signed. The authenticity of the painting is confirmed by the expertise of Julia Rybakova.