The present lot was included in the major International Exhibition of Paintings which opened in May 1882 at the Galerie Georges Petit. Pokhitonov sent seven works, four of which were already sold before the opening. Two of his paintings are recorded as belonging to the Russian dealer Popoff; the present work listed as Le Soir, was loaned by Turgenev. Pokhitonov’s portrait of Turgenev, which the sitter described as ‘more alive than nature’ is now in the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Provenance aside, the superb depiction of stormy light in the offered lot is outstanding and as so often it is the line of the horizon where he concentrates his efforts, in this instance dazzling the viewer with the effect of sunlight on the white village walls. As a contemporary reviewer noted in respect to a Pokhitonov landscape shown in the same year in New York, it ‘has a most charming and finely drawn middle distance’ (The Art Exchange, New York, 13 April 1882). If one could attribute the allure of this ‘sorcerer-painter’ to a single hallmark, for many it would be his command of this middle distance, which here is further dramatised by the impression of rain sweeping across the landscape, almost indiscernible until one compares the grey skies on the right hand side to the deep blue on the left.
Nor is detail sacrificed for atmosphere. From the beautifully painted cart and horse, to the windmills under cloud and the flock of birds taking flight from the fields, each element is balanced and above all, unmistakably Russian, calling to mind a number of compositions by his Peredvizhniki contemporaries whom he first discovered and greatly admired at their 5th exhibition in 1877, shortly before his departure for Paris.
The present lot will be included in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Olivier Bertrand and due to be published in 2017.
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