In 1912, Serge Charchoune deserted his military obligations and fled abroad, arriving in Paris where he entered the Académie de la Palette, an institution patronised by the French cubists. The present work is an extremely rare example from his Dada period, an artistic movement Charchoune became involved with after 1916 in Paris, which sought to make a clean break with the past. Alongside André Breton (1896-1966), Tristan Tzara (1896-1963), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and others, Charchoune disregarded the artistic conventions of the time to liberate his artistic approach. Dadaism, by definition anti-war and anti-bourgeois, became a way of openly mocking established values but was quickly rendered obsolete by the Bolshevik revolution and collapsed in the early 1920s.
Like Dragon (fig.1), also painted in this period, Charchoune uses a background of pure colour without any technique designed to feign perspective. His refined style from this period focuses on geometric motifs, simple colours and the absence of any elaboration to introduce a narrative approach. His use of simplistic forms and colour is close to abstract formalism, while the contrast between foreground and background provokes emotion irrespective of this simplicity; as Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) said: ‘All things are difficult before they are easy’.
The exhibition at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona in 1917, where the present work was likely exhibited and for which there is a corresponding label attached to the frame, was a forum via which Charchoune was able to illustrate his interrogation of modernism: the artist displayed images evoking the cinema and movement, advocating a protean form of art. Harmony no longer exists in the representation of reality ‘but in the elegance of a line, in the contrast of values, in the aspect of a stroke or of the material […] whose true nature Charchoune strived to exploit.’ (P. Guenegan, Charchoune, Carouge, 2006, vol. 1, p. 71). The printed matter on the reverse of the work may indicate that the work travelled to Germany with the artist when he moved to Berlin in 1921. It is possible that the present work was exhibited in a 1922 Galerie Der Sturm exhibition that included works by Charchounne, although the artist’s German period is most closely associated with his period of ‘ornamental cubism’.