R.D.Vostryakov, Moscow from 1912
Private Collection, Rome from 1950s
Thence by descent
Moscow, St. Petersburg, Exhibition of the Union of Russian Artists, 1912, no.57
V.Voinov et al, I.Brodsky: A Collection of Articles by V.Voinov, E.Gollerbakh, V.Gross, N.Radlova. Leningrad: Izdanie iubileinogo komiteta, 1929, p.77 listed under the works exhibited in 1912, illustrated plate 12 and incorrectly titled Late Visitors to the Dacha. Oil, 1912
I.Brodsky, Isaak Israilevich Brodsky. Articles, Letters, Documents, Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1956, p.45 illustrated, p.179 listed under the works exhibited in 1912
I.Brodsky, My Creative Journey, Leningrad-Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1940, illustrated plate 29
Masters of Soviet Art: I.I.Brodsky, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1950, illustrated plate no.34
Nanny with Children is a superb example from one of the most important cycles in Isaak Brodsky's pre-revolutionary oeuvre. From his earliest treatment of the subject of children in the open air playing under their nannies' and mothers' watchful eyes (fig.1) the artist used this fusion of landscape and genre-painting to develop his artistic methods and palette.
On graduating from the Imperial Academy of Arts, Brodsky was awarded a travel scholarship to Europe and between March and October of 1909, he visited Germany, France, Spain, England and Italy. In his report to the Academy, Brodsky "struggle[d] to summarise the impressions of such an overwhelming trip".
He was captivated with the Spanish Old Masters and French Symbolists and Impressionists, yet second on the list of artists who had 'touched him to the core' after Velasquez, was the Italian neo-impressionist, Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899). In a letter to fellow artist Kyriak Kostandi in 1910 Brodsky wrote:
"In terms of soul, mood and strength of impression, Segantini is by far the most striking. One is almost reduced to tears standing before his work, it is so full of sadness". Brodsky was not only influenced by the intense lyricism of Segantini's work, but also his technique of applying small strokes of pure colour directly onto the canvas which the viewer could combine 'optically', a style which becomes increasingly apparent in Brodsky's own oeuvre during this time.
Nanny with Children is a neo-impressionist tour de force, displaying his distinctive technique which has a lace-like quality. Combined with such resonant colour combinations, it infuses the picture with light and movement to recreate the shimmering qualities of sunlight filtering through the trees. Brodsky's bold spatial arrangement with such a high horizon brings the viewer to the level of the children's eye line and directly into the centre of the work, a compositional device also employed by Segantini (fig.2).
In the list of Brodsky's works compiled by the artist's friend and secretary, Iosif Brodsky, the offered lot appears twice under works for both 1910 and 1912 but is followed by the same Union of Russian Artists exhibition details. It is therefore probable that the work was executed in 1910, but that the artist signed and dated the canvas once it had been purchased in Moscow after the 1912 exhibition.
The offered lot can be considered one of Brodsky's finest compositions from the 1910s and its rediscovery makes an important contribution to the study of his pre-revolutionary oeuvre. It is now acknowledged to be the precursor for Children in a Glade (1913) in the collection of the Brodsky museum, which replicates several details including the red parasol and the model of the Nanny (fig.3).
Brodsky's reinterpretation of the classic Dejeuner sur l'herbe is a hymn to the innocence and carefree joys of childhood, the love of life and of the 'eternal story', which Maxim Gorky so admired in his work.
We are grateful to Natalia Mikhailovna Balakina, director of the Brodsky Museum, St. Petersburg, for her invaluable help in cataloguing this lot and researching the accompanying note.
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