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Lot 497: Alexander Volkov , 1886 - 1957 Caravan pastel on paper

Est: £30,000 GBP - £40,000 GBPSold:
Sotheby'sNovember 25, 2008London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


signed in Latin and dated 1922 l.l. pastel on paper


18.5 by 33.5cm., 7 1/4 by 13 1/4 in.


Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery, Alexander Volkov. Sun and Caravan, 2007, cat.no.5


M.E.Zemskaya, Alexander Volkov. Master of the Pomegranate Chaikhana, 1922 cat. 1
Sovetskiy Khudozhnik, Moscow, 1975
Russian Avant Garde, The George Kostakis Collection, London: Thames and Hudson, 1981, p.1157-1164
Alexander Volkov. Sun and Caravan, Moscow: Slovo publishers, 2007, p.124 illustrated


Acquired directly from the family of the artist


John Bowlt, in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue of Alexander Nikolaevich Volkov at the Tretyakov Gallery, writes of the formation of an 'Oriental avant garde' whereby ethnic types, national decoration and local ritual became the objects of Cubist fragmentation, Futurist dislocation and Suprematist geometrization. In Volkov's case, these stimuli resulted in a series of 'free improvisations on the theme of the East'. As Alexei Sidorov observed in 1923, 'Some of his works, by their rich colours and rhythm provide such a description of the East which cannot be found elsewhere. His art is European and leftist in form. In many works there is more Paris than Tashkent, more Matisse and Picasso than an Eastern carpet'. Volkov's early work owed a great debt to Vrubel, under whose spell he fell during his studies in Kiev. The first of the offered works however, refer to the artists 'Eastern Primitive' period. As Volkov wrote in his autobiography, 'Eastern painting is built in the main on primitive and decorative principles. These became the foundations of my paintings.' The critic Durus wrote how 'The colours of Central Asian ornaments in Volkov's early work acquire great dramatic force because of the lack of restraint. His paintings are imbued with the loud but unimportunate rhythm which lives in Uzbek folk art.' As little as two years later, however his work had seen a seismic change to cubism, though with an Eastern twist. 'My work evolved in the primitive tradition', wrote the artist, 'I began to introduce a whole series of triangles and other geometrical shapes, arriving at the depiction of man in triangles as the simplest of forms. This cycle of work came to an end with the painting 'Pomegranate Teahouse' - my symbol of faith.' Between 1921 and 1923, the theme of the eastern caravan of camels was a common one in Volkov's work, the best known of which are in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, the Tretyakov Gallery and the Museum of the East, Moscow. It is a historically important piece featuring what was referred to as Volkov's mosaic of colours with three camels and two figures set into geometric shapes. Volkov wrote in his notes : 'Tashkent. 1916. Eastern primitive. Simplification, colour, rhythm (carpets, siuzane (sic), ornament). The movements of Western painting. Constructivism. Futurism. In general every 'leftist' artist founded and recognized his own system and tried to translate it into his art'. M. Zemskaya commented in her 1975 monograph on the artist how 'these words were notable in the appreciation of the large and most fruitful period of the artist's work, from roughly 1916 to 1925.' Born in Fergana, Central Asia, to a Russian father and gypsy mother, Volkov remained in the area of his artistic inspiration until he attended St. Petersburg University in 1906 where he studies mathematics and physics. After private lessons, Volkov enrolled in the Imperial of Academy of Arts in 1908 studying under Vladimir Makovsky. In 1910 he furthered his studies at the private studio of Mikhail Bernstein, just returned from Paris full of the ideas of Picasso, Braque and other cubists, where his teachers included Roerich and Bilibin. In 1912 Volkov moved to Kiev, studying under Krichevsky and Menk and in 1916, he settled in Tashkent, remaining there until the end of his life. In 1934, Volkov was accused of formalism, banned from receiving war rations and, despite a brief period from 1944, virtually banned from exhibiting publicly.

Auction Details

Russian Paintings

November 25, 2008, 12:00 PM GMT

34-35 New Bond Street, London, LDN, W1A 2AA, UK