Korovin traveled extensively throughout his lifetime, and in the summer of 1911 he visited Vichy with Fedor Chaliapin. It was there that he executed some of his best-known portraits of the famous opera-singer, and at the same time he painted several important landscapes and cityscapes. Unlike his Parisian pictures, Korovin's Vichy street scenes are particularly rare, and the present lot evokes a sense of wonderment and sophistication found only in the master's very finest pictures. Accordingly, a related work, Street in Vichy, now hangs in the State Russian Museum.
Korovin's French street scenes typify the impulsive yet subtle character of his brushstroke. While clearly influenced by Claude Monet's Impressionist technique—emphasizing light and atmosphere through nuances of shade, texture and color—it is the sweeping perspective of his grandest compositions that sets Korovin's oeuvre apart. Scholars often say that Korovin was the first to introduce Impressionism to the stage, but the reverse is equally true. There is a sense of theatricality to be found in his cityscape compositions, which appear as detailed settings infused with energy and possibility, and in which the viewer is invited to gaze upon the dynamic spectacle of life.
When painting images at night, Korovin explored the tonal contrasts of the dark night sky and bright street-lighting. At times he painted flames flickering in lanterns, with dashes of paint evoking a synchronous dance of light and shadow along the street. At other times he painted the softer, atmospheric qualities of the late evening hours, thereby creating a scene of dark blues and greens where the eye must strain to discern the landscape beyond the foreground. In the present Vichy scene, the artist masterfully combines these techniques, creating an image that is at once peaceful and dynamic, inviting and alive.
As Konstantin Yuon commented, "Korovin's painting is the embodiment in imagery of the artist's happiness and joy of living. All the colors of the world beckoned to him and smiled at him." Yet soon after moving permanently to France in 1923, Korovin was robbed of a significant number of paintings and left penniless, forced to enter into various binding agreements and rely on the generosity of other Russian émigrés. He began painting with an intensity and vigor like never before, and his many resulting Parisian scenes reflect an abstracted, phantasmagoric quality.
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