Lot 58
  • 58

Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky
  • Women Bathing under the Willows
  • signed in Latin, titled Vetly in Cyrillic, numbered 441 and dated 1922 on the reverse, further bearing an exhibition label from the 14th Venice Biennale on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 138 by 178cm, 54 1/4 by 70in.


Collection of the artist's nieces, Elena and Natalia Konchalovskaya, Paris
Gift from the above to the present owner


Possibly Venice, XIV Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, 1924 


P.Muratov, Zhivopis' Konchalovskogo, Moscow: Tvorchestvo, 1923, illustrated between pages 80 and 81
V.Nikolsky, Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky, Moscow: Vsekokhudozhnik, 1936, listed as Kupan'e
Konchalovsky. Khudozhestvennoe nasledie
, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1964, p.106 listed as zhi 350


Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and is securely attached to what would appear to be the original keyed wooden stretcher. This is ensuring a stable structural support. The canvas is inscribed on the reverse. There is a patched repair to the right of the signature in the upper left quadrant of the composition as viewed from the reverse. This is stable. There is a further very small patched repair below the far right part of the central horizontal stretcher member as viewed from the reverse. This is also stable. There is a very small diagonal crease line in the extreme upper left corner of the composition. Paint Surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer. The painting has an overall pattern of slightly raised craquelure. This is stable at present. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows a general uneven fluorescence which appears to be attributable to the artist's materials and techniques. Inspection under ultraviolet light also shows a number of retouchings, the most significant of which are: 1) a vertical line of retouching which is approximately 14 cm in length within the trees in the upper centre of the composition which corresponds to the patched repair visible on the reverse, 2) a retouching on the trunk of the far left tree towards the left edge, 3) diagonal lines of retouching in the upper left and right corners of the composition, and 4) several small spots of of retouching to the left of the figure cradling the child. Other very small scattered spots and lines of retouching are also visible. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in good and stable condition.
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Catalogue Note

In 1920, inspired by the landscape at Kuntsevo and Abramtsevo, Konchalovsky abandoned the interior portraits and natures-mortes that had been the mainstay of his oeuvre for the past decade and turned instead to living nature. As he escaped the confines of his studio and the urban surroundings of Moscow his previously bright palette changed to one ‘built on the play of shades of green which quietly blend with the browns used for the buildings and pine trunks, grey for poplar trunks. A grey-blue sky tops off the landscape compositions’ (V.Turchin, Petr Konchalovsky, p.136). The primacy of Cézanne’s influence gave way instead to that of the Old Masters, John Constable and the Barbizon school.

The works of the Abramtsevo series are joyful studies in green. The English artist Constable had first pioneered the use of bright greens in landscape painting in order to replicate nature as it truly was, not as convention dictated it was painted. As Eugène Delacroix recalled in a journal entry dated 23 September 1846, ‘Constable said that the superiority of the green he uses for his meadows derives from the fact that it is composed of a multitude of different greens’. Although largely unappreciated by his countrymen, Constable’s revolutionary approach to landscape painting and his upending of the traditional pictorial hierarchy paved the way for the French landscape painters of the 19th century, most notably the Barbizon school.

In the autumn of 1920 Konchalovsky visited the opening of the Barbizon exhibition in Moscow. This was to have a profound influence on him and his approach to landscape painting and he returned to Abramtsevo brimming with ideas. He later recollected that in these paintings of the park at Abramtsevo his aim was to paint trees as the Old Masters had, logically growing out of the ground from their roots right up to the tips of their leaves. Before setting down to paint, he would take his time waking around the grove to find the best spot and to really understand the lay of the land and discover the inherent natural logic and rhythm within it. ‘One cannot take everything one sees, one must generalise, select…’(quoted in Khudozhestvennie nasledie, p.27).

Savva Mamontov’s estate was nationalised after the Revolution but the area continued to attract artists. Konchalovsky’s contemporary and fellow founding-member of the Jack of Diamonds, Ilya Mashkov, also painted the landscape around Abramtsevo at this time. Mashkov's painting Bathers (fig.1) depicts a strikingly similar scene of a group of female bathers swimming in a pond in a clearing. Bathers was exhibited in 1923 at the succinctly named Vystavka kartin, an exhibition that was essentially a reunion of the original Jack of Diamonds artists as well as a public declaration of the continued relevance of easel painting in the age of constructivism. One of Konchalovsky’s exhibits is listed in the catalogue as Willows (Vetly), the same title given by the artist on the reverse of the present lot. The painting exhibited was either this painting or the other composition from 1922 with the same title which is listed in Khudozhestvennie nasledie as being in a collection in London.

Women Bathing under the Willows was published in Pavel Muratov’s monograph on Konchalovsky in 1923 while the artist was still working on the painting. It is not therefore included in the listings from 1922 but is illustrated in its unfinished state, (fig.3) still with areas of blank canvas and without the child in the woman's arms.

The work was taken to Paris not long after it was painted, where it hung in the apartment of the artist’s brother Dmitri and his daughters Elena and Natalia in the rue Boulard. The present owner received it as a gift from the two sisters.