Eugène Baranoff-Rossiné has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
The present work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition, Futurismo 100, to be held at the Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto from 17 January to 7 June 2009.
Vladimir Baranoff-Rossiné's The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) dates from the most important period of the Ukrainian painter's creativity, depicting nothing less than the creation of mankind and, in art historical terms, the birth of Orphism. As a young and promising artist, Baranoff-Rossiné had already taken part in important exhibitions of the Russian avant-garde between 1907 and 1909 in Kiev, Moscow and St Petersburg, yet, it was not until he moved to Paris in 1910, where The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) was created, that the painter began to assimilate the most progressive practices in contemporary art. It was at this time that Baranoff-Rossiné's interest in the properties of colour and light and their problematic representation on canvas saw him embark upon a complete re-evaluation of the dynamics of the picture plane through experimentation with the multi-point perspective techniques of the Cubists', and the Futurists' methods of deconstructing movement.
The painter discarded his birth-name of Shulim Wolf Baranoff in Paris to adopt the pseudonym Daniel Rossiné--a self-transformation later completed through the hyphenated surname Baranoff-Rossiné. This amalgamation of identities represented a fusion of his provincial Russian background with his enthusiasm for the West and was not restricted to name alone, but left a distinctive imprint on his oeuvre. Highly decorative, weightless, and full of light, Baranoff-Rossiné's work was not politically engaged, but united developments in Western art with an interest in the latest scientific advancements and the spiritual harmony of Russian icons. Fusing these diverse influences, The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) is a significant painting from a series of works exploring the themes of creative and destructive forces, which took the biblical tales of the birth of the universe and the Apocalypse as their subjects. The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) reflects the avant-garde's optimistic vision of renewal and regeneration through radical change, addressing an ancient and art historically prevalent story as a means of exploring new methods of representing colour, light, rhythm and movement.
Baranoff-Rossiné had made himself known to the many Russian expatriate artists living in Paris and set up his studio in La Ruche (The Beehive), a notorious building in Montparnasse that was largely peopled by impecunious artists, including Soutine, Chagall, Archipenko and crucially, Sonia and Robert Delaunay. The Delaunays acted as mentors to the young Baranoff-Rossiné and their efforts to represent interrelated states of being fuelled his passion for colour and kinetic energy. The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) shares a similarity with cubist and futurist techniques, but its structure is dynamic, rather than analytical and dissecting. Like the work of the Delaunays, Baranoff-Rossiné followed the principles of Orphism, drawing on mystic, occult and astrological sources, to create works with a meaningful structure and sublime significance that relied on colour harmonies to communicate meaning. Baranoff-Rossiné believed in the Orphist's theories on the 'simultaneity' of sensations and insisted 'not on consecutive but on simultaneous chromatic, geometric and kinetic perception. Colours should not be used to reproduce the colour of an object but on a self-contained basis' (V. Baranoff-Rossiné, quoted in J.-C. Marcadée et al., Baranoff-Rossiné, Moscow, 2002).
Developing his own interpretation of the Orphists drive toward pure, lyrical abstraction, Baranoff-Rossiné lent mythological and cosmological connotations to his use of colour and his schematic organization of the canvas. In The Rhythm (Adam and Eve), the concentric rings both structure the volume and space of the composition, and behave as symbols, forming an ideogram of the successive stages of creation as told in the Book of Genesis. The rings correspond to the six days the Bible describes it took to bring the universe into existence, beginning with a blazing sun that signifies God's creation of light, surrounded by a dark blue second circle that references the formation of the heavens. The separation of water and earth on the third day is depicted in the third circle with apparitions of emerging vegetation. On the fourth and fifth day, the creation of animals is rendered through the amorphous animal shapes that become increasingly visible as the circles grow. The forms of Adam and Eve, fractured and shifting as if in motion, are placed on the sixth ring, representing God's final stage of creation before the day of rest. The profile and contrapposto pose of Adam appears to reference Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve engraving from 1504, but Baranoff-Rossiné breaks the symmetry of Dürer's pair by draping his Eve seductively on the ground, the curve of her voluptuous hips mimicking the sphere of the sun. By Adam's side sits a hound, a symbol of fidelity, whilst the cat beside Eve stands as a classic emblem of sexuality.
The six petaline shapes radiating from the centre echo these six days of creation and add greater dynamism to the image, as if the fecundity of nature were bursting forth from the light. Indeed, these forms mimic the substance of light, their rainbow hues encompassing the colour spectrum. In this way, Baranoff-Rossiné has broken down the visual elements of the subject to serve the requirements of the picture plane and to provide a symbolic interpretation of the story's narrative. Guillaume Apollinaire, another resident of La Ruche, championed and defined the Orphic art that Baranoff-Rossiné was pursuing at this time, by describing the movement as 'the art of painting new structures out of elements which have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but have been created entirely by the artist himself, and been endowed by him with fullness of reality. The works of the orphic artist must simultaneously give a pure aesthetic pleasure, a structure which is self-evident, and a sublime meaning, that is, the subject. This is pure art' (G. Apollinaire, quoted in H. Read, A Concise History of Modern Painting, London, 1968, p. 93). In his poetry, Apollinaire had described the mystic 'voice of light' as a metaphor for the artist's ability to create entirely new forms and colours and it is this power of invention that lies behind Baranoff-Rossiné's desire to depict Adam and Eve, marking the Genesis of a new art movement.
The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) was exhibited for the first time in 1913, at the landmark Salon des Indépendants, in which Orphism was debuted to the public. The works in the show represented a new fluid and expressively coloured pictorial development, in which figurative imagery was adapted to conform to non-figurative structures. In a review for the show, Apollinaire described Orphism as the result of a protracted advancement toward an art that formed a synthesis between human sensibility and aesthetic formalism: 'This school groups together painters with quite different personalities, all of whom have, in their investigations, arrived at a more internal, less intellectual, more poetic vision of the universe and of life. Orphism is not a sudden invention; it is the result of a slow and logical evolution from impressionism, divisionism, fauvism, and cubism' (G. Apollinaire, 'The Opening', L'Intransigeant, 25 March 1913, see ibid, p. 284).
Baranoff-Rossiné's The Rhythm (Adam and Eve) embodies these heady creative forces in the pre-war Parisian art world, forming a new, simple but articulate language, that introduces conceptual and symbolic meaning to abstract methods of representation.