Haunted by this fear of being forever an outsider, Pokhitonov increasingly spent long periods in Russia during the second half of his life. The present lot dates from the most significant of these periods (1901-1906), spent at his father-in-law’s estate at Zhabovshchizna, as indicated by the Cyrillic ‘Zh’ below his signature. Two boys have spread their hunting net across the grasses and lie in wait to catch quail. The rich meadowland strewn with wildflowers comes straight from the pages of Ivan Turgenev’s Sketches from a Hunter’s Album:
‘One’s feet were incessantly tangled and held in the long grass, dried through and through by the burning sun: everywhere the eyes were dazzled by the sharp metallic glitter of the young reddish leaves on the trees. All about, the blue clusters of the vetch, the golden chalices of the buttercups, the half-purple, half-yellow flowers of heartsease formed a gay-coloured carpet… A light breeze now woke up, now subsided: it would suddenly blow straight in my face, and frolic, as it were, – rustle merrily, nod and flutter about, gracefully rock the slender tips of the ferns, - and I would rejoice in it… but lo, it has died down, and everything is calm again.’ (I.Turgenev, Kasyan of Fair Springs)
Pokhitonov and Turgenev were keen sportsmen, but in the case of both the painter and writer, the activity of the hunt itself feels secondary to their grander motive of trying to express their sense of harmony with the countryside and sheer enjoyment of their native Russian land.
‘Beautiful also are the cloudy summer days, although the sportsman does not love them. On such days shooting is impossible: a bird, after fluttering up from under your very feet, instantly disappears in the whitish mist of the motionless haze… But how inexpressibly quiet is everything around! Everything is awake and everything is silent… how unutterably magnificent and clear does the day become when the light at last triumphs, and the last waves of heated mist roll away and spread out like a tablecloth or wreathe about and vanish in deep, tenderly-radiant heights of heaven!’ (I.Turgenev, Epilogue, Sketches from a Hunter’s Album).
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