On his return from Italy, Pokhitonov moved to Belgium where his younger sister Anastasia was living in Jupille with her husband, Ivan Lazarevich, a former member of Narodnaya Volya [The People's Will] who had escaped from a Siberian labour camp. Pokhitonov decided to settle there also and, in July 1893, moved into 220, rue Trou-Louette, Jupille (Bressoux). Once there, he started a series of melancholy paintings. Used to travelling as he was, Pokhitonov could not bring himself to stay in the Liège region alone. He therefore made regular trips to the Belgian coast and, in 1895, rented a cottage in the dunes of La Panne. Years later, when asked by his son Boris why he had swapped Italy for Belgium, he replied sardonically that he 'liked to do 'hygrometric' painting' - a reference to the humid climate of his adopted country.
In 1895, the Pokhitonov family spent the summer on the Belgian Coast and Pokhitonov depicted numerous beautiful beach scenes of which this painting is one. Rather unusually, he depicted himself with his son Boris who was born in the August of 1893 and the influence of the French Impressionists is clear. Pokhitonov lived for a number of years in Paris and was closely related to the artistic and gallery world there. He also spent time in Normandy and Pokhitonov's beach scenes executed at La Panne between 1895 and 1900 do not suffer from comparison with Claude Monet's pictures of the Normandy coastline nor with the panels painted by Eugéne Boudin at Deauville and Trouville. There is something both classical and modern at the same time in these beach scenes. Whilst the composition is classical in its immediacy and gives the sensation of a moment frozen in time, it is also modern with its varied focal points, the range of colours and the depiction of the artist himself in the foreground.
Throughout his life, Pokhitonov returned to subjects depending on demand from commissions and sales. These reprised works could either be the same as, or vary slightly, from their prototypes. This tendency is also apparent in the works of other artists such as James Ensor and tended to occur with their most popular works. The variations are sometimes so small as to make it difficult to distinguish the two versions. However, this is not the case with our painting which differs significantly from a variation held in the State Tretyakov Gallery. The variants were either painted directly after the original (if the painter still owned it) or from photographs. This process allowed the artists to paint landscapes which were sometimes thousands of miles from his studio and explains how, towards the end of his life, whilst living in the rue du Trône in Brussels, Pokhitonov was still painting views of Russia and Ukraine 'from memory' - with the aid of photographs.
We would like to thank Olivier Bertrand, in whose forthcoming catalogue raisonné the present work will be included, for providing this catalogue note.