Riverside scene with crane and barge signed in Latin (lower left) oil on canvas 60 x 73cm (23 5/8 x 28 3/4in).
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist in Paris, 1930s Private collection of Michel Michelet, Paris Inherited in 1995 from the above by the present owner
Michel Michelet, who acquired the present lot from Falk in Paris, was born in Kiev in 1894 as Mikhail Isaakovitch Levin. A musician by training, he moved to Europe in 1913 and had settled in Paris by 1929, where his career in the cinema began in earnest and he moved in artistic circles. Although he mostly worked under the name Michel Michelet (from 1937), he also worked as Michael Levine and collaborated with his Kiev-born contemporary Victor Tourjansky. In 1941, Michelet left German-occupied France for Los Angeles and Hollywood where he continued to work as a composer for the American film industry and was twice nominated for an Oscar for his scores for A Voice in the Wind and The Hairy Ape. He died in California in 1995.
Riverside scene with crane and barge was painted by Falk during his French period (1928-1937) and is one of many works he painted along the banks of the river Seine. Similarities between features in the present lot and the view depicted in Peyzazh s pod'yomniim kranom/ ugol'niye barzhi na Senye, 1934 (D.V. Sarab'yanov, Yu.V. Didenko, The art of Robert Falk/ Complete catalogue of works, Gallery Elysium, Moscow, 2006, no. 831, p.588) suggest that the present lot was painted from the port de Javel, quai André-Citroën, slightly to the left of the jetty in Peyzazh s pod'yomniim kranom. Many of Falk's compositions featured the Seine and her bridges, as well as the variety of vessels moving up and down her waterways, for example Peyzazh s parokhodikom, 1929 (supra, no.716). It was not unusual for Falk to exclude a famous construction, such as Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower, from his compositional frame, such was his preoccupation with the more 'prosaic' aspects of the city.
Falk's oeuvre from this period suggests a fascination with construction and industry: bridges, boats, trains and building sites feature as much in his works as parks and natural landscapes. The compositions of Mesto pod zastroyku,(étude), 1934 (supra, no.829) and Pod'yomniy kran na reke, 1934 (supra, no.830) are dominated by the cranes and the mechanical instruments at the forefront of the paintings. The crane in the present lot, although to the right of the work, soars out of the margin of the painting making it as much a part of the horizon as the buildings across the river. In Riverside scene with crane and barge, Falk's palette is overwhelmingly 'urban': the predominantly 'cold' colours, reminiscent of cement and construction materials, are piqued by touches of red, apricot and green. The artist even refers to the theme of construction in the way he builds up the texture of the painting, using the palette knife to create impasto and smear the oil as a plasterer or builder might paste his materials.