Eugene Zak (Polish, 1884-1926) Le buveur
Lot 21*
Eugene Zak
(Polish, 1884-1926)
Le buveur
Sold for £90,100 (US$ 145,235) inc. premium

Lot Details
Eugene Zak (Polish, 1884-1926)
Le buveur
signed 'Eug. Zak' (lower right)
oil on canvas
91.5 x 85.4cm (36 x 33 5/8in).
Painted in 1924

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Dr. Herbert Tannenbaum, Amsterdam.
    Acquired from the above by the parents of the present owner, circa 1940s.
    By descent to the present owner.

    EXHIBITED
    Paris, Salon des Tuileries, Le grand succès des artistes Polonnais, 1924, no. 94.

    LITERATURE
    'Salon des Tuileries, Das pariser gegenstuck zu grosser berliner Kunstausstellung', Bilder Courier, 1924, no. 94 (illustrated p. 3).
    Nouvelles, 1924, no. 29 VI.
    M. Kasterska, 'Wystawy Paryskie, Salon w Tuileries i Wystawa polska', Swiat, 1924, no. 32 (illustrated p. 4).
    H. Martinie, 'Auslandescher Maler in Paris', Der Cicerone, 1924, vol. 16 (illustrated p. 1123).
    R. Rey, 'Salon des Tuileries', Le Crapouillot, 1924, no. 1 VII (illustrated p. 24).
    M. Osborn, 'Maler Eugen Zak', Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, 1924-1925, vol. 55 (illustrated p. 330).
    'Salon des Tuileries, w Paryzu. Wielki sukces artystow polskich', Ilustracja, 1925, no. 1 (illustrated p. 5).
    'Z tworczosci swiezo zmarlego artysty Eugeniusza Zaka', Kurier Poranny, 1926, no. z (illustrated p. 31).
    Sztuki Piekne, 1933, vol. 9 (illustrated p. 284).
    B. Brus-Malinowska, Eugeniusz Zak 1884-1926, Warsaw, 2004, no. 239 (illustrated p. 169).

    Executed in 1924 just two years before the sudden death of the artist, Le buveur is a compelling example from Eugene Zak's mature oeuvre. In the years following the end of the First World War, Zak's painting developed a more nostalgic and melancholic tone. From 1917 Zak began to move from his earlier repertoire of idyllic and Arcadian scenes populated by shepherds and fishermen, towards a preoccupation with representing 'outsider' figures in claustrophobic interiors or flat, empty space.

    Returning to settle in Paris from Poland in 1923, Zak drew upon the sombre themes and subjects of Picasso's Blue and Rose period, as well as the general melancholic sentiment which pervaded the work of many European artists in the decades following the Great War. Zak's protagonists were the actors, musicians, drunkards and vagabonds who usually inhabited the fringes of society, and his portraits of these figures sought to foreground their plight and isolation.

    Clutching a wine jug of traditional Polish porcelain and raising his hand in a toast, the expression of the subject in Le buveur belies the joyful the intent of the gesture. This solitary drinker assumes a doleful air, a wry smile coupled with vacant eyes which convey the glazed look of an intoxicated man lost in a fantasy world. In accordance with other compositions from this period Zak directs all the viewer's attention to that of his usually marginalised protagonist, setting him in what appears to be an empty stage rather than a twentieth century saloon so as to further heighten the sense of alienation and escapism.

    Following on from prior representations of the wistful solitary drinker by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso, Zak reconfigures this visual trope through his own uniquely authentic means. Utilising techniques derived from a prior engagement with the Nabis and Primitivism, Zak stylises and elongates his figure as well as deliberately flattening the picture space using fields of un-modulated colour. At the same time however, Zak retains a sensitive appreciation of light and shade in an effect akin to renaissance chiaroscuro to produce a sense of depth and modelling. These opposing visual devices result in an aesthetically unsettling and yet immediately recognisable composition. As Irena Kossowska, a critic of the artist's work notes, 'Zak considered himself an opponent of the avant-garde, though his painting seemed to absorb many of the experiments of [its] innovators which he adapted according to principles of his own creative stance.' (http://culture.pl/en/artist/eugeniusz-eugene-zak, accessed 19 December 2013).
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