Lot 4
  • 4

Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov
  • Kneading Dough
  • signed in Latin on the reverse; with Gmurzynska label on the reverse of the frame
  • oil on canvas
  • 56 by 70cm, 22 by 27 1/2 in.


The collection of Eugène Rubin, 1961
Sotheby's London, Twentieth Century Russian and East European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture 1900-1930, 4 July 1974, lot 8
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owners in 1982


Moscow, Zolotoe Runo, December 1909 - January 1910, no.51
Moscow, Society of Free Aesthetics, M.F. Larionov (One-Day Exhibition), 21 December 1911, no.49
Leeds, Bristol and London, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Designs for the Theatre, Larionov and Goncharova, 1961, no.13
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Gontcharova-Larionov, 1963, no.89
Paris, Galerie de Paris, Rétrospective Larionov, 17 June - 27 September 1969, no.28
Nevers, Maison de la Culture de Nevers et la Nièvre, Rétrospective Larionov, 3 June - 29 July 1972, no.28
Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Die Kunstismen in Russland / The Isms of Art in Russia 1907-30, May - June 1977, no.51


E.Eganbury, List of works of Natalia Gontcharova and Mikhail Larionov 1900-1913, Moscow, 1913, p.XVIII
A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Designs for the Theatre, Larionov and Goncharova, 1961, no.13 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue, Gontcharova-Larionov, Paris, 1963, no.89 illustrated
W.George, Larionov, Paris: La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1966, p.119 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue, Rétrospective Larionov, Paris, 1969, no.28 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue, Rétrospective Larionov, Nivers, 1972, no.28 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue Die Kunstismen in Russland / The Isms of Art in Russia 1907-30, Cologne: Galerie Gmurzynska, 1977, p.72, no.51 illustrated


The canvas has been strip-lined. There is some surface dirt throughout, including some minor stains to the white shirt, white trousers and the area between the two figures. There is further a dark line along the left edge.There is craquelure throughout, which is slightly raised in places. There is a small area of paint loss to the spray of water. There is further a fleck of paint loss to the figure's back. Inspection under UV light reveals a small area of retouching to the white shirt. Held in a wooden frame with canvas slip. 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.

Catalogue Note

Kneading Dough is the most significant work by Mikhail Larionov to come to light in recent years. Exhibited during the artist’s lifetime, extensively published and listed in the 1913 publication by Ilya Zdanevich (Eganbury, fig.6), by 1961 it is known to have been in the collection of the émigré gallerist, Eugène Rubin (1906-2001). Born in Kiev, Rubin was brought up in Moscow before emigrating to Berlin in 1927 and thence to Paris in 1935 where he made his name as a photographer before opening an art gallery in 1959. The present work is one of two early oil paintings by Larionov which Rubin lent to the 1961 UK Arts Council travelling exhibition; the second, Blue Pig (fig.1) is now in the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Zdanevich lists Kneading Dough under works for 1906, though it could well date to any point between 1906 and 1909. The closest work thematically, The Worker's Morning (fig.2) is thought to date from circa 1908. This so-called Neo-Primitivist period in Larionov’s painting reflects his move away from the influence of French and German Impressionism and Pointillism, towards a very personal style closer to that of the Expressionists. His vigorous and stylised portraits and still lifes are reminiscent in particular of Jawlensky and Kandinsky, both friends of Larionov since he was a student.

It was during this period that he turned to the everyday, even lowly subjects of provincial towns, from Sunday walkers and lounging soldiers to the lives of tradesmen – a fishmonger’s yard, a water-seller’s stall and his famous series of barbers’ salons. It is in this context that he produces a series of works relating to bread and bakers (fig.4). Almost all of Larionov’s works from this fertile period were exhibited in the 3rd month-long 'Zolotoe Runo' exhibition during the winter of 1909-1910.  The exhibition was visited by over 5,000 people and unlike the previous 'Zolotoe Runo' exhibitions, featured works exclusively by Russian artists, even including some examples of Larionov’s sculpture.

In terms of its bold composition and energy, the strange combination of rigid yet vivacious figures, the assimilation of Fauvist principles alongside simplicity of form, Kneading Dough is a stunning example of Larionov at his very best. This distinctive strand of Russian Expressionism can also be found in works by Malevich from this period, for example his Laundress of 1911 (fig.3), which was exhibited alongside Head of a Peasant in 1913. As Camilla Gray writes in her introduction to the 1961 exhibition, amid the fascinating interplay of French and German artistic influences it is largely Larionov and Goncharova who coordinated in a vital way the gradual rejection of foreign parent ideas and encouraged the emergence of a national school. ‘Without Larionov, it is impossible to imagine how Malevich and Tatlin could have reached their historic conclusions’.