This season Christie's is once again honoured to present works from the Kapitza Collection. The landmark sale in November 2012, which marked the first time that works from the collection had appeared on the international art market, achieved phenomenal auction records for Boris Kustodiev's The Coachman at £4,409,250 and Aleksandr Shevchenko's The city outskirts which realised £433,250.
Kapitza's achievements in the field of science are world-famous, but it was his enduring friendships with artists, including Boris Kustodiev, Vasilii Shukhaev and Matiros Sarian, that traditionally were lesser-known. In November 2015, Christie’s offers five works from the Kapitza Collection, three by Boris Kustodiev (lots 12-14), a spring scene by Matiros Sarian (lot 15) and a stunning landscape by Vasilii Shukaev (lot 11).
One of the most celebrated scientists of modern times, Peter Leonidovich Kapitza (1894-1984), recipient of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics, was uniquely positioned at the intersection of science and politics, where the East met the West, during some of the most radical turning points of the 20th century. A giant in his field, renowned for his penetrating intellect and ingenuity, Kapitza possessed a passion for scientific enquiry that drove him to continue his research, often in extreme and debilitating circumstances. During his lifetime Kapitza was forced to rebuild his life and his laboratory on more than one occasion, proof of a stalwart resilience and determination that were defining characteristics of his formidable personality. A courageous man and loyal friend, Kapitza used his political weight to defend his colleagues during the purges of the 1930s, and was one of very few individuals who dared to voice criticism of Soviet officials and policies - often addressing his concerns to Stalin personally - and survived.
The land is a living thing – it has a soul. And without land, without a close connection to one’s country, you cannot find yourself, cannot find your own soul. I am convinced that without the land there would be no artists. The heart of the land is found in the heart of people and everything comes first from the heart.
Martiros Sarian, one of the most significant Armenian artists of the 20th century, studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1897-1904. There he was taught by Valentin Serov (1865-1911) and Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939) among others and actively participated in the city’s artistic life, exhibiting with the Union of Russian Artists and the World of Art and Blue Rose groups. Sarian’s contribution to Armenian cultural life was highly significant: he was closely involved in the creation of the Society of Armenian Artists and the Union of Armenian Artists in 1916 and was a founder and then director of the Armenian Regional Museum in Rostov-on-Don.
As a result of the collecting efforts of Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936) and Ivan Morozov (1871-1921) and the exhibition The New Frenchmen organised by Nikolai Ryabushinsky (1876-1951) in Moscow, Sarian was able to explore the latest developments in Western art. While the influence of Matisse and Gauguin on Sarian’s work is discernible, the artist’s work is distinctly national in subject matter and in sentiment; after moving to Armenia in 1921, Sarian devoted his life to capturing the varied and beauteous landscape of his homeland.
Rouzan Sarian, Director of the Martiros Sarian House Museum identifies the artist's Parisian period as a key moment in which Sarian’s technique and approach to texture changed significantly. In contrast to his early works which are more Fauvist in their approach to colour, Garden in bloom's palette is comparatively muted and more unified; the earth is composed of rich brown and red tones, conveying an impression of fertile ground, from which the blossoming trees grow. Peter Kapitza acquired this work directly from the artist when visiting his studio in Yerevan and it is recorded in Sarian's handwritten list under number '58'.
We are grateful to Rouzan Sarian, Director of the Martiros Sarian House Museum, Yerevan for her assistance in cataloguing this work.