LONDON - The dearth of catalogue raisonnés for Russian artists makes the appearance of every new scholarly edition an exciting moment. The long-awaited publication of Olivier Bertrand’s three-volume work on Ivan Pokhitonov will be particularly cherished by collectors and admirers of this painter, whose work is as ingenious as it is charming.

An artist who features prominently in our Russian sales this June, Pokhitonov is known principally for his small oil panels and it is almost impossible for any admirer of 19th century landscape painting not to fall in love with these miniature masterpieces. They are delicate without being fastidious, impressionistic without feeling loose, often touching but without a hint of sentimentality.


Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov’s Hunting in the Woods. Estimate £100,000-150,000.

He is particularly good at half-light, I think, that potential for brightness in an overcast sky or the thin and broken strand of lemon he finds on a twilight horizon. These barely perceptible hints of light are magical, and during pre-sale exhibitions it is always funny to watch how often they attract attention disproportionate to their size, which can often be less than 20 by 30 cm. Even if a Pokhitonov is hung in a gallery filled with bombastic seascapes or dramatic 19th century genre scenes, you can be sure it will be one of the first pieces to catch the visitor’s eye and draw them across the room.


Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov’s Portrait of Marfoucha. Estimate £20,000-30,000.

Immensely successful during his lifetime, Pokhitonov’s French dealer, Georges Petit, tended to sell the artist’s work almost immediately after the paintings were completed, often to important American collectors. Many works by Pokhitonov have remained in these private collections for generations.


Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov’s Farm at Dusk sold for £92,500 in 2013.

Volume One of the catalogue raisonné focuses mainly on his interior studies, still lifes, seascapes and hunting scenes; the second volume will feature his Western European landscapes and towns and the final volume turns to the countryside of Imperial Russia, his portraits – particularly those of Lev Tolstoy – and the collection of his works which were formerly in the Gatchina Palace.

Further details of the catalogue raisonné can be found here.

Frances Asquith is a specialist in the Russian Art department, Sotheby’s London.