Sergei Chekhonin (1878-1936)
Sergei Chekhonin (1878-1936)
Sergei Chekhonin (1878-1936)
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Sergei Chekhonin (1878-1936)
4 More

Still life with roses, anemones and chrysanthemums in a Chinese vase

Still life with roses, anemones and chrysanthemums in a Chinese vase
signed and dated '1931 Serge Tchekhonine' (lower right)
gouache on card
28 x 21 ¼ in. (71.1 x 54 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11-12 June 1997, lot 156.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Exhibition catalogue, Russes, Paris, 2003, illustrated and listed p. 56.
A. Tolstoi, Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii [Russian émigré artists], Moscow, 2005, illustrated p. 159.
Exhibition catalogue, Tsvety - ostatki raia na Zemle [Flowers - the remnants of paradise on Earth], Moscow, 2009, illustrated p. 193.
Paris, Musée de Montmartre, Russes, 20 June-21 September 2003.
Moscow, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Tsvety - ostatki raia na Zemle [Flowers - the remnants of paradise on Earth], 6 March-10 May 2009.

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Margo Oganesian
Margo Oganesian Head of Department, Fabergé and Russian Works of Art

Lot Essay

A striking response to the artistic dominance of the Peredvizhniki in the 19th century was the rise of the World of Art movement, which radicalised artistic perception and meaning through its emphasis on 'art for art's sake' and looking to the Russian past in order to stimulate a creative future. This movement and the various artists associated with it, set the tone for unprecedented inventiveness and sweeping changes that would come to define the 20th century avant-garde.
Sergei Chekhonin joined the World of Art society in 1912, thanks to his friendship with Alexandre Benois (1870-1960). A career that began in 1896, when he began studying at the Drawing School of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St Petersburg, Chekhonin would receive increased attention following his participation in the Graphic Art exhibition in Leipzig in 1914, which brought him and his work massive critical acclaim. Chekhonin's creative output flourished. An outstanding graphic artist, he designed book covers, posters, bank notes, postage stamps, governmental seals and created new fonts.
His art remained thoroughly diverse throughout all stages of his career, resulting in a kaleidoscopic range of work. His ability to adapt and master varied media, including a wide range of decorative arts as well as graphic design, while developing new techniques and methods, rank him as one of the leaders in European porcelain design and graphic art in general.
In 1918, in the wake of the Revolution, the 174 year-old Imperial Porcelain Factory of St Petersburg was nationalised and renamed as the State Porcelain Factory in Petrograd. That same year, Chekhonin was appointed Creative Director at the Factory, an appointment which triggered the revitilisation of porcelain as an art form in post-revolutionary Russia, and tasked with producing propaganda art of the highest kind: technically superior, of impeccable quality and stylistically revolutionary. With Chekhoinin's own original designs, and under his leadership, numerous talented artists such as Rudolf Vilde (1868-1938), Mikhail Adamovich (1884-1947), and Alexandra Shchekotikhina-Pototskaya (1892-1967), among others, created a new world of artistic expression in porcelain, which helped to drive Soviet agitprop, as well as further influence Modern Russian art.
Chekhonin encapsulated the vigour of the regime’s revolutionary ideals in his propaganda pieces, and he also mastered revolutionary techniques in art and graphic design, subverting the norms of plane, rhythm and space. The variety of his highly fruitful oeuvre is testament to his incomparable drive to push the boundaries of creative production and that of technology itself in search of sculpting new modes of artistic expression - a legacy tied to his beginnings with the World of Art movement, whose founding member, Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) stressed the need for a recurring battle with the status quo: 'Russian art at the present time finds itself in that transitional position in which history places any rising movement, where the tenets of the old generation are battling and struggling with the new developing demands of the young [...] This phenomenon is often repeated in art history, and in particular in the short history of our own country's art, and re-quires each time a resort to both vigorous and friendly protests of the younger forces against the routine demands and views of the old, dying authorities' (quoted from M. Etkind, Alexandr Benua, Moscow/Leningrad, 1965).
Chekhonin's unique style and inventiveness embraced by the World of Art society were visible throughout his career as he continued to experiment in the design and execution of graphic arts, porcelain and textiles.
Still life with roses, anemones and chrysanthemums in a Chinese vase is a masterpiece executed by Chekhonin a few years following his emigration to France. It is a culmination of the stylistic explorations he had made throughout his career. Delicate tones are combined with strong, yet fleeting brushwork, as well as with his characteristic strong black line and vivid use of colour. Traces of Cubo-Futurist influences that appear in much of Chekhonin’s work can be felt in the undeniable dynamism of the flowers set against more classically and realistically rendered surroundings. The radically colourful bouquet of flowers, which is more of a masterfully authored pastiche rather than a realistic portrayal, is contrasted with the dutifully depicted Chinese blue-and-white vase from which the flowers seem to explode. Equally realistically and exquisitely painted is the luxurious shawl adorning the left side of the composition, reminiscent of 19th century dress, as well as the frail and frayed lace 'Chinoiserie' veil in the background, painted with such delicate precision that no detail, including darned stitching, goes unnoticed. This is evidence of Chekhonin's masterful draughtsmanship and intimate understanding of porcelain and textiles as media. Chekhonin's ability to combine varying elements and place them in an arrangement to create an organic whole elevated and distinguished the expressiveness of his artistry.

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