Filipp Maliavin (1869-1940)
Filipp Maliavin (1869-1940)


Filipp Maliavin (1869-1940)
signed and dated 'Ph. Maliavine/1927' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 28½ in. (91.8 x 72.5 cm.)
Together with a copy of L'Illustrazione Italiana published in Milan in 1929 in this work is illustrated.
Acquired by the father of the present owner in Piacenza in 1986.
'Osservatorio', L'Illustrazione Italiana, Milan, 24 March 1929, vol. VII, illustrated p. 464.
O. Zhivova, Filipp Andreevich Maliavin, Moscow, 1967, illustrated end-papers, listed p. 270.
L. Ia. Severiukhin & O. L. Leikind, Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii [Artists of the Russian Emigration], St Petersburg, 1994, illustrated p. 309.
A. V. Tolstoi, Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii [Artists of the Russian Emigration], Moscow, 2005, illustrated p. 25.
Paris, Galerie Berheim-Jeune, Exposition de la Société Internationale à la Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, 1928.
Milan, Galleria Bardi, Philippe Maliavine, 1929.

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1927, this magnificent self-portrait by Filipp Maliavin immediately recalls the vibrant compelling canvasses the artist painted prior to his emigration in 1922. Reminiscent of the darkened faces of his almost demonic peasants in works such as Verka (1913, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg), here Maliavin stares intently at the viewer with a look of intense concentration. Boldly executed, awash with the originality that characterises the artist's most successful works, the portrait has none of the nostalgic pathos which typifies the cheery troika scenes he painted after leaving Russia.

His face is depicted with masterful psychological insight, reflecting his artistic education at the hand of Ilya Repin at the St Petersburg Academy. The painterly swathes of blue and green which adorn the background echo the splash of pink paint on the palette which dominates the foreground, as if to suggest that that artist's profession is more than an aspect of his life but rather something that surrounds and even devours him. The lavish layers of paint reveal the artist's pleasure in their application, while his sombre expression confirms the importance he affords his work. Experimenting with a variety of styles, Maliavin's virtuosity is revealed in his rendering of texture; consider the warmth of his skin, the hairs of the paint brush and its wooden handle.

It is not difficult to understand Alexandre Benois's response to the canvasses Maliavin exhibited while still a student: 'Finally we see a talent not bound by a Chinese slipper, but boldly and joyfully prancing about. Repin and his entire system deserve tribute and honour for not extinguishing this flame' (quoted in O. A. Zhivova, Philip Andreevich Maliavin, 1967, p. 68). Held in a private Italian collection for two generations, exhibited in Paris and in Milan during the artist's lifetime, this masterful self-portrait is the most exciting painting by this brilliant artist to appear at auction in recent history.

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