Ivan Choultse (1874-1939)
Golden reflection Italy

Ivan Choultse (1874-1939)
Golden reflection Italy

signed lower right
oil on canvas
65 x 65 cm

Schweitzer Gallery, New-York, USA, before 1990.
Private collection, Japan.
Illustrated catalog Ivan Fedorovich Choultsé (2016) Stiftung Choultsé I. F., Zurich, p. 165, No 47 (illustrated)
The painting titled TITLED GOLDEN REFLECTION, ITALY hypnotises the viewer with a scene of a magnificent sunset, turning reality into a glorious spectacle. It is no wonder that the artist, a bright representative of the art of the Russian emigration, Ivan Fedorovich Choultsé has been admirably appointed in the American press as "the wizard of light". Indeed, this painter can rightly be elevated to the level of the most outstanding masters of depicting sunlight and shades, glare, reflections, moonlight and enigmatic penumbra. Ivan Choultsé's mission in art was to reimagine landscape - as soon as the artist stood on the path of a professional painter, throughout his life he was developing his skills in order to attain perfection in the genre of landscape. As a contemporary of Choultsé, writer and art critic Nikolai Breshko- Breshkovsky wrote in 1929: "Since the time of Kuindzhi, no one has achieved such mastery in the depiction and transition of natural sunlight". Understandably, it is Arkhip Kuindzhi (1841 - 1910), one of the most famous artists in Russia of his era, was an academic mentor and inspirer of Ivan Choultsé. It is fair to say, that the works of Ivan Fedorovich are worthy successors of the heritage of famous classics of the realistic art of the XIX century. As in the works of Kuindzhi at the time, in the works of Choultsé with his incredible glow, people were also looking for some hidden, clever source of additional light. Critics and the public noticed that the paintings radiate a mysterious light and there has been a lot of speculation on this account. Some even claimed that Mendeleev was involved in all this because of his friendship with Choultsé and with the help of some chemical, the material had created a special kind of paint. However, Choultsé himself explained everything in a very easy manner: "There is no secret. These are simple brushes, paints, oil and turpentine, the same you can buy in any store for artists. I'm not trying to make any special paints. I just draw". The hand of the artist, his talent, an extraordinary artistic vision, and a particular skill to realise this vision - this is the special magic of Choultsé's works, which before all else makes them valuable and unique.

Initially, the impressive artistic abilities of Ivan Fedorovich were noticed by Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858 - 1911), who invited the future artist, who had already reached the age of thirty, to be his student at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. It is interesting that Choultsé, despite the fact, that he had painted small sketches for his pleasure from a reasonably early age, did not dream about a path of a professional artist until he left his career as an electrical engineer. The painting Golden Reflection, Italy demonstrates how strongly the tradition of academic painting is imbued into Choultsé's art. Although the artist was working in the heyday of the avant-garde, he never questioned his academic manner and was diligently improving his style in accordance with his own views, independent from the fashionable artistic tendencies of the time. Another model to be followed for Ivan Choultsé was the Swiss painter Alexander Kalam, whose epic Alpine views had a significant influence on landscape painting of the XIX century.

However, even before Choultsé was able to start his numerous and longterm travels, he had already gained well-deserved fame in the Russian Empire, and among his admirers and clients even were the Romanov The royal family and the family of Carl Fabergé. He regularly participated in exhibitions of the Academy of Arts, where his work has always been praised, and exhibitions of the Association of Artists in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Ivan Fedorovich's works were printed on pre-revolutionary postcards ("open letters"), which were used to educate the public even in the most remote corners of the country with reproductions from the best Russian painters such as Vasily Surikov, Ilya Repin, Konstantin Makovsky, Vasily Arkhipov, etc. Nonetheless, the artist's luck did not change when he was forced to emigrate to France in the early 1920s, after the events of the Revolution. His paintings caused a stir among the French public, and the artist had no shortage of commissions and positive attention from the press and critics. Some of the most famous art dealers and gallery owners in Paris, London, New York and Chicago, such as Leon Gerrard, Arthur Tooth, John Levy, Arthur Ackermann and Edward Jonas, actively collaborated with Ivan Fedorovich. It is curious that Jonas was especially famous as a connoisseur of old masters and the only contemporary artist, whose work he once exhibited, was Choultsé.

In 1921, in Paris, he took part in the exhibition of Artists of the Imperial Academy of Arts in the Magellan gallery, which also included such major Russian artists as Ivan Aivazovsky, Isaak Brodsky, Ilya Ginsburg, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Isaak Levitan, Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin. When Leon Gerard organised the first solo exhibition of Choultsé in Paris in 1922, all of the fifty paintings were sold during the opening of the event - it was an immense success. In 1923, one of the Choultsé's paintings was honoured with a place among the best artists of Paris at the time at the Paris Spring Salon. The London magazine The Studio commented on the solo exhibition of the artist in 1927 as a "sensation in the field of classical painting" and claimed that "Choultsé demonstrated a new approach to the landscape and evoked a wave of interest to the old genre". In New York, Ivan Choultsé's paintings were shown as part of the exhibition "150 years of Russian art" in an eminent gallery called Hammer and again were applauded by the critics. Breshko-Breshkovsky has written: "he broke the record, winning the championship from the acclaimed and highly advertised modernists. His main market is England and North America. Choultsé's "snow" and "sun" paintings are highly esteemed and worth a great price in those places". Exhibitions in the United States continued even in the late period of the artist's career and after his death in New York (1936, 1940, 1943) and Oklahoma City (1938). Ivan Fedorovich also had followers who from time to time copied his compositions and style, such as the French painter Serge Sédrac (1878 - 1974), the Canadian artist Frank Johnston (1888 - 1949), and the Russian artist Boris Bessonov (1862 - 1934). The popularity of the artist in the West is so strongly reflected in the legacy of his career that the works of Ivan Choultsé are almost always present in all the different countries apart from his homeland, for instance, they are stored in the collections of the Washington State Art Museum, the State Hillwood Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Indianapolis, Baburizza Museum in Chile, the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, and many others, in addition to private collections around the world.

Contemplating the Golden reflection, Italy, it is hard not to think about another painting of Choultsé, Sailing boat at sunset on the Gulf of Finland (Image 1), which was sold as lot 99 for 169,250 pounds at the auction of Russian art at Christie's, held on June 11, 2008. It was an absolute auction record for this artist. Even though Ivan Fedorovich was so highly praised for his talent to depict snowy landscapes, whether Arctic or Swiss, one of his favourite motifs was undoubtedly the water and the interaction of the moon or sunlight with the surface of the sea or lake. (Image 2) There are often lakes of Switzerland represented in twilight and moonlight with a lonely small sailboat among his paintings. The artist has also combined this subject matter with his impressions of Italy, where he first went immediately after the February Revolution. This country has been special for various artists from different parts of Europe for a long time. Choultsé was no exception, and he managed to visit both the South and the North of Italy. Many graduates of the Academy of Arts travelled to Italy to improve and develop their professional skills and created there some of their most significant works. However, most often those painters were drawn to such cultural “Mecca” as Rome, Venice, Florence. In this respect Choultsé was different from his colleagues, being more interested in what incredible, awe-inspiring nature of the Apennine Peninsula could offer to him than in its legendary cities. The fascinating panorama in the presented painting is striking in resemblance to the breathtaking surroundings of the Lake Como, which is located in Lombardy, near Milan, where most likely, the artist painted the Golden reflection, Italy. Going back to as far as the ancient Roman era, this place, like a healing remedy, has been recognised as a rehabilitating oasis of calm and inspiration. The mountains majestically and dramatically rise around the lake, which sparkles like a jewel in the light of the sunset. Not surprisingly, Como is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Here, the Alpine peaks are covered with snow being side by side with lush, abundant flora at the foot of the mountains, the air is clean and fresh, and the atmosphere has been mesmerising for the people of artistic spheres, such as the French writer Gustav Flaubert or the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, and travellers for many centuries.

The Golden reflection, Italy is a genuinely picturesque, poetic, lyrical painting, enchanting with its vibrant colour combinations and complex shades as well as the play of sunlight. Choultsé almost never depicted humans or animals in his paintings. In Choultsé's artistic realm people do not matter, they can only sometimes act in secondary roles, perhaps, like this small sailboat coexisting with the power of nature. The sailboat functions as a natural addition to all that grandeur and magnificence that overwhelms the viewer in the painting. Ivan Choultsé's works, as well as the present exemplar, show to the world the artist's glorification of nature, which can be called the main priority of Ivan Fedorovich's art. Love for nature and its perfection is spreading through every brushstroke in this painting, and each line celebrates the light of the sun. Looking at the Golden reflection, Italy one can find peace and tranquillity. The magical realism of the artist acts as if a person enters into unity with nature, identifies himself with it, finds harmony. At this point, to accurately describe not only this painting but the whole oeuvre of Ivan Choultsé, it is worth to quote some critic from The London Times writing about Choultsé's art: "We need to see it to believe it".