Lot 1
  • 1

Varvara Fedorovna Stepanova

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
1,650,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Varvara Fedorovna Stepanova
  • Figure with Guitar
  • signed in Cyrillic VarSt. and dated 19. l.r.; further signed in Cyrillic VarSt., signed in Cyrillic, dated 19. and numbered no.3 M. on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


A gift from the artist to Alexei Gan in the early 1920s
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owners in 1978


A.Lavrentiev, Varvara Stepanova. The Complete Work, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1988, p.32 the present work is visible in a photograph taken at Stepanova's and Rodchenko's apartment in 1920

Catalogue Note

Figure with Guitar belongs to a series of 38 works painted by Stepanova between 1919 and 1921 in which she undertakes methodical and technical investigations into the kinetics of the human figure. Far from being Cubist studies, the works in this series focus on the familiar and characteristic poses of musicians, circus artists and athletes in various standing, sitting and jumping positions. Stepanova’s treatment of figures in this series is essentially linear, and it is the graphic qualities which stand out most of all with minimal attention paid to the details of smaller shapes for example. A sense of movement is constructed out of abstract geometrical shapes – circles, rectangles and lines – a schematic approach which she developed further in her designs for costumes and sportswear, as well as her caricatures of Charlie Chaplin published in the journal Kino-Fotin 1922 (fig.2).

As number three in the series, the present composition is among Stepanova's earliest works on this subject. A study for this piece was included in the 19th State Exhibition in 1920 according to the exhibition catalogue. A photograph taken in March 1920 shows the present work hanging among graphic works by Stepanova on the same ‘Figure’ theme on the walls of apartment no.25 of the building owned by the Kandinsky family, where Rodchenko and Stepanova were living from January to October 1920 (figs.3 and 4).

Figure with Guitar was among the works by Rodchenko and Stepanova that were given to Alexei Gan in 1920-1922, when Gan was writing the programme of the First Working Group of Constructivists at INKhUK in collaboration with Rodchenko and Stepanova.

We are grateful to Professor Alexander Lavrentiev of the Stroganov Moscow State University of Arts and Industry for providing this catalogue note.