Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin (Russian, 1861-1939) Portrait of Mikhail Benois

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Lot 79
Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin
(Russian, 1861-1939)
Portrait of Mikhail Benois
£ 80,000 - 120,000
US$ 100,000 - 160,000

The Russian sale

30 May 2012, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin (Russian, 1861-1939) Portrait of Mikhail Benois Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin (Russian, 1861-1939) Portrait of Mikhail Benois
Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin (Russian, 1861-1939)
Portrait of Mikhail Benois
signed in Latin, inscribed 'Paris' and dated '1926' (lower left)
oil on canvas
83 x 64cm (32 11/16 x 25 3/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Commissioned by Mikhail Benois as a birthday present for his mother, Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova
    Natalia Korwin Kukarsky, wife of Mikhail Benois
    Gifted by the above to the family of the present owner
    Thence by descent

    LITERATURE:
    Opéra Privé de Paris: Première Saison, Paris, 1929, illustrated

    We are grateful to the Kuznetsov Fund for providing this additional information.

    Known predominantly as a landscape painter, Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin also painted many portraits throughout his artistic career. His early portraits, painted in Russia, bear all the characteristics of the artist's impressionist manner. The sitter was usually depicted in an interior with the surrounding details reflecting and contributing to the character of the subject, or in an open space: on a terrace, in a garden, or wherever the landscape served as an accompaniment to the latent thoughts of the sitter as, for example, in the portrait of T. Lyubatovich in the Russian Museum, or in the famous portraits of F.I. Chaliapin.

    The portraits of Korovin from his French period differ in style and in the treatment of the subject. His French landscapes from the 1920s are executed in a manner similar to his early works, but his portraits from this period acquire a different character. The artist concentrates on the sitter without rendering any background, the sitter, usually depicted three-quarter-length commands the full attention of the viewer. Korovin, however, adheres to his suggestive methods and avoids heavyweight psychological projection in his portraits. He focuses on finding the most characteristic pose, the most unique foreshortenings, and on imbuing the texture of his brushwork with emotion when depicting details of apparel and background: all of which connects his Paris portraits to his early ones. It is also apparent that the artist pays a great deal of attention to detailing the face of the sitter, highlighting the emotional resonance.

    The present lot shows the artist borrowing some elements from Kees van Dongen, the most popular portrait painter in Parisian bohemian circles in the 1920s. The delicate and refined palette, the shades of fatigue on his face, the loucheness of the posture: these motifs combine to characterise Mikhail Albertovich Kuznetsov-Benois as one of the leading lights of the Russian artistic milieu in pre-war Paris.

    Grandson of the well-known artist Albert N. Benois, Mikhail had the opportunity to develop his artistic skills from early on in his childhood. He was very much interested in painting and literature, as well as engaging in professional singing lessons, a pursuit greatly encouraged by his mother, Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova, the famous Russian opera singer and dancer. As a youngster, Mikhail was sent to Spain to advance his singing techniques and to perfect his baritone voice and in the 1920s, he became a committed member of a Russian private opera set up by his mother in Paris.

    Under the influence of Mikhail Benois, the Opéra Privé de Paris was informed heavily by Russian ballet and art. Benois's passion for and connections with Russian culture continued abroad: in 1928, he performed solo recitals of works by Glazunov, Lyapunov, Mussorgsky, and Dargomyzhsky, among others. Further to strengthen links with Russia, in January 1929 in Paris, Benois gave a benefit concert for the Union of Russian military invalids. That year, he was appointed chief executive of a Russian Private Opera tour of South America and Mexico. Continuing in this vein, from 1937-1939, Benois supported the Russian Musical Society concerts abroad. Benois never lost touch with contemporary Russian ballet and opera and he was instrumental in orchestrating the performances of the Moisseiv Ballet in Spain. For the troupe's first performance in Madrid at the Zarzuela Theatre, Benois was involved in the choreography and attended every single rehearsal.

    Before his death in 1980, Mikhail Benois donated to Russia a large part of his library and many works from his collection which included watercolours by Bakst and pieces by Alexandre Benois and Korovin, among others.

    В творчестве известного русского пейзажиста Константина Алексеевича Коровина портретный жанр занимает не главное место. Тем не менее художник обращался к нему на протяжении всей своей долгой творческой жизни. Портреты, выполненные до отъезда из России, несли на себе все признаки характерной импрессионистической манеры мастера. Модель в них чаще всего помещалась в интерьере, среди характеризующих ее деталей либо в открытом пространстве – на террасе, в саду, где пейзажный фон являлся своеобразным аккомпанементом внутреннему состоянию изображенного (как в портрете
    Т.Любатович из Русского музея или в известных портретах Ф.И.Шаляпина). Работы французского периода, напротив, являют пример иного подхода к решению портретных задач.

    Если в парижских пейзажах 1920-х годов или сделанных тогда же по памяти русских видах Коровин продолжает использовать приемы своего раннего творчества, то в портретах этого времени мы встречаемся с новой концепцией. Художник отказывается от сопроводительных деталей, сосредотачивая все внимание на самой модели. Данная обычно поколенно, на неизобразительном фоне она целиком завладевает вниманием зрителя.

    Конечно, Коровин остается верен себе и избегает тяжеловесного психологизма. Поиск наиболее характерной для персонажа позы, оригинальность ракурса, «эмоциональная» фактурность мазка в передаче деталей костюма и поверхности фона – все это роднит его «парижские» портреты с работами ранних лет. Но нельзя не заметить и более пристального внимания к конкретности в передаче облика изображенного и точной обрисовке его внутреннего состояния, что диктовалось самими условиями заказного портрета.

    В данном случае влияние заказчика можно усмотреть и в том, что Коровин использует некоторые находки самого модного портретиста парижской богемы 1920-х годов К. Ван Донгена. Утонченная изысканность колористического решения портрета, оттенок усталости на лице, артистическая небрежность позы как нельзя лучше характеризуют яркого представителя русской художественной жизни довоенного Парижа – Михаила Альбертовича Кузнецова-Бенуа.

    Будучи внуком известного русского акварелиста Альберта Н. Бенуа (и. соответственно, внучатым племянником Александра Бенуа), он уже с детства получил возможность всестороннего развития своих художественных способностей. Интерес к живописи и литературе соседствовал с серьезными занятиями вокалом. Последним особое внимание уделяла мать изображенного – известная в начале века оперная певица и танцовщица Мария Николаевна Кузнецова. Уже в раннем возрасте он был отправлен ею в Испанию, где усердно совершенствовал свой голос (баритон). Когда в Париже Кузнецова организовала собственную труппу – Русскую частную оперу, Михаил стал одним из активных ее членов.
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