Lot 64
  • 64

Vasily Sitnikov, 1915-1987

18,000 - 25,000 GBP
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  • Vasily Sitnikov
  • nude
  • signed in Cyrillic on reverse and dated 30.V.1986 sreda
  • oil on canvas
  • 130.5 by 85.5cm., 51¼ by 33½in.

Catalogue Note


Initially rejected by the Higher Institute of Artistic and Technical Workshops, VKHuTeMas, Vasily Sitnikov was completely self-taught, acquiring his knowledge of art by listening in on lectures at the Surikov Art Institute where he was employed as a slide projection assistant. Indeed, it was this lack of formal artistic education which allowed him to experiment freely beyond the strict confines of Socialist Realism which dominated the academies. Indeed, Sitnikov’s style is instantly recognisable for its expert modelling and monochrome palette, a skill mastered while working as an animator for fantasy film director Alexander Ptushko.


The present lot is typical of Sitnikov’s nudes from the 1980s. These women are faceless, devoid of any defining characteristics and their bodies emerge from a dense surrounding mist, exuding a surreal eroticism. They are figures from dreams, lit with a hazy, artificial glow, yet entirely three-dimensional and almost palpable. The artist usually inscribed each composition in great detail, as if compiling a logbook, noting not only the title and date, but also the day of the week and time at which the work was painted.


Sitnikov is often referred to as the Russian van Gogh on account of his eccentricity and the fact that, in contrast to his dream-like images, his personal life was more reminiscent of a nightmare. Arrested in 1941, he was declared insane and confined to an asylum for several years. Like van Gogh, Sitnikov never enjoyed commercial success during his lifetime, his fame eclipsed by that of his students, such as Vladmir Weisberg and Alexander Kharitonov.  Posthumously, however, there has been renewed appreciation in Sitnikov’s painting as the precursor to an important formal element of Russian nonconformism and his works can be found in major collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.