SERGE POLIAKOFF (1900-1969)
SERGE POLIAKOFF (1900-1969)

COMPOSITION ABSTRAITE AUX TRAITS

Details
SERGE POLIAKOFF (1900-1969)
COMPOSITION ABSTRAITE AUX TRAITS
SIGNED 'SERGE POLIAKOFF' (LOWER RIGHT)
OIL ON CANVAS
51 1/4 X 38 3/8IN. (130 X 97.5CM.)
PAINTED CIRCA 1951
Provenance
ACQUIRED DIRECTLY FROM THE ARTIST BY DR. FRANZ MEYER
Exhibited
BASEL, KUNSTHALLE, SERGE POLIAKOFF, JANUARY-MARCH 1958, NO. 26.
ST. GALLEN, KUNSTMUSEUM, SERGE POLIAKOFF, JUNE-JULY 1966, NO. 20.
PARIS, MUSéE NATIONAL D'ART MODERNE, SERGE POLIAKOFF, SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1970, NO. 20.

Lot Essay

TO BE INCLUDED IN THE FORTHCOMING SERGE POLIAKOFF CATALOGUE RAISONNé BEING PREPARED BY ALEXIS POLIAKOFF, PARIS.

SATURDAY, 7 MARCH 1959.

ZURICH. SOUS LA PLUIE.
DéJEUNER AVEC MES PARENTS CHEZ LE DOCTEUR MEYER, ENTRE LES LIONS DU DOUANIER (HENRI ROUSSEAU, ALSO KNOWN AS LE DOUANIER) ET LES FLEURS DE SéRAPHINE (SéRAPHINE LOUIS, ALSO KNOWN AS SéRAPHINE DE SENLIS, A RENOWNED FLOWER PAINTER) JE RETROUVE LE TABLEAU DE MON PèRE QUI DéVOILE - AVANT DE LE CACHER DéFINITIVEMENT - SON NOMBRE D'OR, CLé DE TOUTES SES COMPOSITIONS à VENIR.

ZURICH. UNDER THE RAIN.
LUNCH WITH MY PARENTS AT DR MEYER'S, BETWEEN LE DOUANIER'S LIONS AND S©RAPHINE'S FLOWERS, I FIND AGAIN MY FATHER'S PAINTING WHICH - BEFORE HIDING IT FOR EVER - REVEALS ITS GOLDEN NUMBER, KEY TO ALL HIS COMPOSITIONS TO COME.

ALEXIS POLIAKOFF (EXTRACT FROM 'ROSAPENNA').

THIS DIARY ENTRY BY ALEXIS POLIAKOFF, THE ARTIST'S SON, GIVES US A FASCINATING INSIGHT INTO THE HIGH ESTEEM THE PRESENT PAINTING WAS HELD BY THE ARTIST AND HIS SON. REFERRING TO THE GOLDEN NUMBER, WHICH RELATES TO THE CLASSICAL ORDER OF PROPORTIONS IN GREEK ARCHITECTURE, ALEXIS POLIAKOFF SEES THE PRESENT WORK AS A CULMINATION OF HIS PREVIOUS ARTISTIC OUTPUT, AND THE KEY TO HIS LATER OEUVRE. THE BALANCE BETWEEN COLOUR, FORM AND PROPORTION, WHICH THE ARTIST HIMSELF CALLED "LE SILENCE COMPLET", WAS ONLY ACHIEVED IN PAINTINGS WHERE ALL THE PAINTERLY PROBLEMS FOUND A PERFECT RESOLUTION. COMPOSITION ABSTRAITE AUX TRAITS 1951-52 IS ONE SUCH PAINTING.

THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1951 AND 1952 WAS OF CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE TO THE WORK OF POLIAKOFF. AFTER HAVING SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH THE GALLERY BING-BODMER, WHO HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED TO HIM BY FRANZ MEYER (THE PREVIOUS OWNER OF THE PRESENT PAINTING), POLIAKOFF WOULD NO LONGER NEED TO SUPPLEMENT HIS INCOME AS A MUSICIAN, AND COULD FINALLY LIVE OFF HIS PAINTING.

HOWEVER, IT WAS THE DISCOVERY OF HIS FELLOW RUSSIAN ARTIST, MALEVICH, WHOSE WORK WAS BEING SHOWN AT THE MUSéE D'ART MODERNE IN PARIS IN 1952, THAT MOST DEEPLY MOVED THE ARTIST AT THE TIME: "I WAS STRUCK UPON SEEING THE FAMOUS WHITE SQUARE ON WHITE BACKGROUND BY MALEVICH," HE WOULD LATER CONFIDE TO HIS FRIEND MICHEL RAGON. "IT SHOWED BY ONCE MORE THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF THE VIBRATION OF MATTER. EVEN IF THERE IS NO COLOUR, A PAINTING WHERE THE MATTER VIBRATES REMAINS ALIVE." (F. BRTSCH, SERGE POLIAKOFF, NEUCHâTEL 1993, P. 172). IN MALEVICH, POLIAKOFF FOUND A KINDRED SPIRIT, AN ARTISTIC ANCESTOR WHO APPEARED TO SHARE HIS SPIRITUAL INSIGHT INTO PAINTING.

POLIAKOFF'S OWN USE OF INTERLOCKING SHAPES COUPLED WITH THE WARM AND BROODING, ALMOST MYSTICAL SHADES OF RED AND YELLOW AND THE HEAVY SENSUOUS IMPASTO, CAN BE SAID TO HAVE ITS ROOTS IN THE RUSSIAN TRADITION OF ICON PAINTING AND THE ART OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. THE OVERALL SENSE OF SOLEMN CALM AND PERFECT BALANCE, ELEVATE THE WORK OF POLIAKOFF TO THE LEVEL OF AN AID TO MEDITATIVE CONTEMPLATION. ABSTRACTION HERE HAS A UNIVERSALISING FUNCTION; THE REPRESENTATIONAL VOID OPENS UP THE POSSIBILITY OF PURE CONTEMPLATION, IN MUCH THE SAME WAY THE ICONS OF RUSSIAN AND BYZANTIUM WERE UNDERSTOOD NOT AS WORKS OF ART DESTINED FOR ARTISTIC CONNOISSEURSHIP, BUT AS TOOLS ENABLING THE VIEWER TO REACH A HIGHER LEVEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

IT IS THUS NOT SURPRISING TO FIND THE WALLS OF SERGE POLIAKOFF'S STUDIO LITERALLY COLLAGED WITH REPRODUCTIONS OF WORKS OF ART THAT OVER THE CENTURIES HAVE STRIVEN TOWARDS VERY MUCH THE SAME GOALS AND IDEALS. FOR HIM THE ARTIST'S ROLE IS TO PENETRATE INTO A SUPERIOR SPHERE, TOWARDS THE SUBLIME. THE CAVE PAINTINGS OF LASCAUX, THE FRESCOES OF GIOTTO AND THE DEEPLY MEDITATIVE WORKS OF VERMEER, ALL USE THE ARTISTIC MASTERY AT THEIR DISPOSAL TO REACH BEYOND THE VISIBLE AND INTO A REALM THAT HUMANITY SHARES WITH ALL ITS FOREBEARERS.

WE ARE GRATEFUL TO ALEXIS POLIAKOFF FOR HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THIS CATALOGUE ENTRY.
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