RA Gallery has already reviewed some of the top lots of the upcoming Russian Art Week auctions in June — still lifes by Larionov and Petrov-Vodkin , “Bakhchisarai” by Kustodiev and a beautiful portrait by Malyavin. However, the summer auctions will also feature many other wonderful works including paintings, drawings and other objects of art.
The portrait of Alexander Bozheryanov, created by the artist’s friend and colleague, Yuri Annenkov, is part of the famous series “Portraits” — the most famous cycle of Annenkov’s works on paper. In addition, this is a classic example of an excellent portrait from Annenkov’s Russian period.
The master didn’t seriously engage in the portrait painting genre until the late 1910s. After successfully completing several private commissions, in 1921 Annenkov received an offer from the publishers Zinovy Grzhebin and Yakov Bloch to create portraits of several modern writers for their upcoming publications. Since the portraits were intended for print, it made no sense to execute them in oil or watercolor and instead the artist used ink and pencil. This led the author to create a new style which included two main principles: the portraits were limited to just the head or torso and featured a sharp, economical style of drawing with geometric accents in the spirit of European Art Deco. Portraits of writers were quickly followed by portraits of other artists, as well as musicians, publicists, filmmakers and members of the Soviet government. Thus, what seemed to be a one-off project inspired the painter for a whole series of wonderful portraits of his contemporaries.
The portrait of Bozheryanov was drawn shortly before emigration in 1922. Typical for Annenkov of that period, the drawing combines filigree, grotesque and naivety — set against the background of the post-revolutionary collapse. In the foreground is Bozheryanov himself as well as his tools: a large bottle of ink and a tube of paint. In the background — a sailor is pissing in the street, and children are smoking cigarettes. It is not at all accidental, because Annenkov was not just creating a portrait of a man, but also a socio-biographical portrait of his society.
The piece will appear on 5 June in London at the MacDougall’s auction during Russian Art Week 2019.