Boris Kustodiev’s “Bakhchisarai” at Russian Art Week
21.05.2019
Today we have chosen another interesting top lot from the upcoming auctions of Russian art at the Russian Art Week 2019 in London this summer.

Last week, we looked at the still lifes of Mikhail Larionov and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin , and today we chose one of the top lots from the MacDougall’s auction — an unusual piece by one of the most famous Russian painters, Boris Kustodiev.

The 1917 canvas called “Bakhchisarai” is interesting and quite unique because of its oriental theme — this is a great rarity in Kustodiev’s work. In addition, it is more reminiscent of theatrical set design than one of the paintings by this famous artist, even the palette of the eastern city at night is unusual for the works of this master.

The history of the origin of the picture is also quite interesting. In 1915, Kustodiev spent two months in Crimea, but due to various circumstances, this picture turned out to be the only work painted by the master in connection with this trip. The artist travelled to the East to take healing mud baths because of his increasingly bad back, but unfortunately the trip did not justify the hopes of the artist, nor his doctors — he often complains in letters to family and friends, and because of bad mood and state of health he doesn’t do much painting during the trip.

Despite these circumstances, Kustodiev still had some positive impressions from the journey. This happened during a trip to Bakhchisarai, from where the artist brought a small sketch, on the basis of which he later created this painting in 1917. The drawing was made by the master early in the morning before the bright sun had appeared: it shows the street and the mountains surrounding the city, the street vendors are preparing for the day of work laying out their goods.

Returning to the studio, the painter significantly changed the composition, creating a work in his typical style. He enriched the canvas with all sorts of characters, thus reviving as well as enhancing the street from his memories. In this picture, the artist creates a universal image of the "east", using recognizable details of what he saw in reality. Kustodiev combines impressions of what he saw in different places and at different times of the day, and thanks to small details, vivid characters and his beautiful play with colors and contrast, this painting has become a unique work in the master's oeuvre.

The work will be on offer at MacDougall’s auction during the Russian Art Week event in London. The preliminary estimate is £ 1.2 m — 1.8m.