A gift from the Soviet government to Richard Austin Butler (1902-1982), April 1956 Thence by descent
N.Tretyakov, Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1957, p.121 listed under works from 1952; p.214 illustrated b/w
After the Revolution Yuon appeared to embrace new and officially-sanctioned themes, painting large-scale parades on Red Square, portraits of Lenin and heroic Komsomol workers. With its horse-drawn sleigh riding through a snow-covered birch forest, A Beautiful Day, Izmailovo is the artist’s homage to the old, pre-revolutionary Russia, untainted by the industrialisation and urbanisation that followed the events of 1917. This retrospective and nostalgic work harks back to Yuon’s earlier snowy scenes such as March Sun (fig.1) and The End of Winter (fig.2). In this celebration of the brilliance of the Russian winter, one encounters the characteristic sentimentality and optimism that inspired Sergei Gerasimov (1885-1964) to liken Yuon’s late landscapes to ‘a hymn to the beauty of her nature, a marvel of colour, sunshine and light – in them is the joy of life’ (Yuon, Leningrad: Aurora, 1972, p.13).
A Beautiful Day, Izmailovo was gifted by the Soviet government to the British Conservative politician Rab Butler, mostly likely during Khrushchev’s state visit in April 1956. This was barely two months after the first secretary's 'secret speech' which denounced Stalin's purges and marked the beginning of the process of de-Stalinisation. The Soviet delegation came to Britain on warships that docked at Portsmouth spending a total of eight days in the country, including three days of talks at Downing Street and a visit to Chequers. As the Lord Privy Seal and unofficial deputy to the Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Butler played a key role during this important visit.
The canvas has been lined and there is a protective layer of fabric behind the lining. The stretcher however appears to be original. A few isolated areas of minor craquelure are visible in places. There are frame abrasions along the edges with some associated losses and a bump in the canvas in the upper left corner. There is a glue stain at the foot of the two trees in the lower left as well as a general layer of surface dirt with spots of dirt in places. There are a couple of scattered flecks of what appears to be household paint. Inspection under UV light reveals no obvious signs of retouching. Held in a gilt wooden frame with decorative plaster mouldings. Unexamined out of frame. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."