The unsurpassed master of miniature painting, Ivan Pokhitonov (1850-1923) was a self-taught artist. A member of both the Imperial Academy of Arts and the Association of Wandering Art Exhibitions or Peredvizhniki, Pokhitonov was considered one of the most talented Russian artists of the 19th century, despite having spent most of his life in France and Belgium.
In 1876 Pokhitonov travelled to Italy to study before moving to Paris, where his natural talent blossomed under the guidance of the artist Aleksei Bogoliubov (1824-1896). Pokhitonov's creative style was heavily influenced by the plein air painting of the Barbizon School and the Impressionist understanding of light and colour. Soon his work was presented in the Paris Salons, conquering the general public and critics alike.
It was Pokhitonov’s encounter with the Barbizon School as well as with the meticulous work of French Classicist Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) that encouraged him to adopt a small-scale format and to experiment with panel as a support. Pokhitonov preferred to use small pieces of lemon wood or mahogany, which had been dried, polished and covered in a layer of mastic. He applied a coloured undercoat, polished it, then applied a tint, on top of which were many layers of paint, each painstakingly applied. He scrupulously chose brushes, mastic and even scalpels, approaching his work as a hybrid artist-technician.
As his great friend Émile Witmeur (1874-1954) observed, for Pokhitonov, the smallest piece ‘…becomes for him an inexhaustible source of detail rich in sensations, just as the human heart is rich in the nuances of feeling' ('Un peintre russe chantre de la Wallonie: Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov', La Vie Wallonne, 15 March 1924). Lots 18-25, from the family of the artist, comprise a rare group of interiors, female figure studies and still lifes, demonstrating Pokhitonov’s ability to conjure a sensation of intimacy and tranquillity on the smallest of scales, with his meticulous, deft strokes.