By comparing Collioure. Mistral with another of Shukhaev’s paintings, Arbre (1928, Private collection), one is able to identify the exhibition label on the reverse. The label on the present work, which bears the inscription 'No 9', and the similar, half-erased label on the stretcher of Arbre display the same handwriting. These labels relate to the Exposition du peintre russe Schoukhaeff that took place at the Kodak Gallery in Brussels in 1929. We can therefore deduce that Collioure. Mistral was exhibited under No 9 and titled 'Mistral (Paysage)'. Two other paintings depicting Collioure were also included in this exhibition: No 5, Collioure. Paysage (State Tretyakov Gallery) (Fig. 1) and No 6, Le Pont à Collioure (Paysage) (whereabouts unknown).
The topography of Collioure. Mistral and the inscriptions on the labels of the other two paintings leave no doubt that the coast depicted belongs to Collioure – a small town on the Gulf of Lion, located 29 km north of the French border with Spain (and now in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales). Collioure is notable in the art world as the birthplace of Fauvism, inspiring the great masters Henri Matisse (1869-1954), André Derain (1880-1954), Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) and other eminent artists.
When recalling their travels around the South of France in the 1920s, Vera Shukhaeva (1896-1979), wife of the artist, wrote in her diaries: 'Shukhaev was determined, at all costs, to paint Collioure, which is located 3 km from Port-Vendres. We dragged a canvas measuring 124 x 75 [cm.] there and back along the burning hot road for 10 days, along with a folding chair and his case with paints and brushes. In the evening we returned to Port-Vendres, exhausted by the heat and walking' (quoted from: E. Yakovleva, Vasilii Shukhaev. Zhizn' i tvorchestvo [Life and work], Moscow, 2010, pp. 187-188).
Shukhaev painted three landscapes of Collioure and included them in his solo exhibition at the Kodak Gallery in Brussels, which ran from 26 February to 8 March 1929. The artist wrote the prices of each work next to their listing in his exhibition catalogue: 9000 francs for No 5, Collioure. Paysage, 6000 francs for No 6, Le Pont à Collioure (Paysage), and 7000 francs for No 9, Mistral (Paysage).
No 5, Collioure (Paysage), the largest of the three compositions of Collioure, measuring 124 x 75 cm., is also known as Collioure. La Baie, and was completed in 1928 in his studio. Shukhaev executed a multitude of sketches, études and drawings in order to prepare for this large canvas, which since the 1970s has formed a part of the State Tretyakov Gallery's collection. Collioure. Mistral, however, depicts the bay from a different viewpoint.
As all three works depicting Collioure were exhibited in 1929, Shukhaev named the present work Mistral (Paysage), presumably to avoid repeating the term Collioure, but also to highlight a phenomenon specific to the area: the mistral, a cold north-south wind that blows during the spring from the Cévennes to the Mediterranean coast of France. Shukhaev delicately portrays the frothy, animated crests of the water, thereby depicting the effect of the mistral on the surface of the sea, and adds to the composition a cloudy sky, swaying trees blown by the wind and people dressed in warm clothes, all of which are characteristic of the areas over which the mistral blows. Shukhaev centres the focus of the viewer on the impregnable, powerful walls of the fort and royal castle.
The painting was one of Shukhaev's first landscapes of the French province. A graduate of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1912, the Russian émigré artist lived in France from 1921 to 1935, and in the late 1920s and early 1930s often travelled along the southern coast of the country, painting the landscapes of Provence, La Cote D’Azur and other localities.
It is highly likely that Collioure. Mistral was exhibited as part of Shukhaev’s third solo exhibition which ran from 31 October to November 1929 in Vladimir Girshman’s gallery in Paris, judging by the simple label on the reverse inscribed with Shukhaev’s Paris address and the word 'Collioure'. However, no catalogue exists and a lack of additional documentation means we are unable to be completely certain of this reference.
We are grateful to Elena Yakovleva, Doctor of Art History, Senior Researcher of the Russian Institute of Art History, St Petersburg, for providing this catalogue note.