MacDougall's Fine Art Auctions Russian Art Auction - Wednesday 7th June 2017
*KOROVIN, KONSTANTIN (1861-1939) Frozen Lake, signed and inscribed “Russie”, further stamped twice with
the artist’s studio stamp on the reverse. Oil on canvas, 65 by 81 cm.
Provenance: Russian Pictures, Sotheby’s London, 20 November 2002, lot 89. Acquired at the above sale by the present owner. Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
In the oeuvre of Konstantin Korovin, it is hard to find a subject that he liked more than landscapes featuring water, be it a river, pool, millpond, dam or lake. He would often paint such works quite quickly, while fishing or hunting, in between waiting for a fish to bite or firing at wildfowl. Frozen Lake is a fine example of compositions of this type.
Regardless of the season depicted, the familiar Korovin motifs can always be encountered in these compositions – barns, sheds, cottages, wicker fences and other ordinary, essential features of country life. In some canvasses, the artist seeks to convey the movement of air; in others he depicts a boundless cloudy skyscape. In the Frozen Lake, Korovin faces the particularly difficult challenge of representing the immense surface of a snow-flecked, icy expanse of water. The frosty pond, which forms the bulk of the composition, is the picture’s main protagonist.
Painted with meticulously applied parallel brushstrokes, the pond lendsa dynamic rhythm to a rural landscape seemingly lacking in any activity. The centripetal eddies that are created by the energy with which the brush moved and by the wealth of colour contained in the broad brushstrokes convey a feeling of unrest and of the unruly drifting of the snow. The human figures walking along the edge of the pond, like the odd details that are important to the colour composition in the left-hand background near the houses, are barely delineated. For the artist, the painterly aspect of the composition is always far more important than the individual objects or even a person.
Ironically, it is a lake that comes to be the last of Korovin’s subjects from Russian life. In the village of Ostrovno, to which the artist’s family fled in 1919 from the hunger and hardships of life in Moscow, he spent hours and even days on the shore of Lake Udomlya. Having no other subjects or even electricity in order to paint arranged compositions indoors, Korovin turned again and again to views of the surrounding countryside.
Subjects, similar to the one developed in Frozen Lake, remain a prominent feature of Korovin’s works throughout his life. But it is works of this kind that display with particular candour the artist’s heartfelt admiration for the “endearing poverty” of the Russian countryside, typical of his best works.