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Bonhams. Sale 14974 - The Russian Sale, 31 May 2007. New Bond Street  Details>>

Alexander Konstantinovich BOGOMAZOV (Ukrainian, 1880-1930)

Portrait of an painter Burdanov. 1912. oil on canvas. 57.5 x 57.5 cm. (22 3/4 x 22 3/4 in.)
reverse of the canvas titled and inscribed in Russian by the artist's daughter Yaroslava Alexandrovna "Portrait of an actor"/ A painting by A. K. Bogomazov/ Daughter of the artist Ya. A. Ivanikova (Bogomazova).

Bonhams Auction. Sale 4974 - The Russian Sale, 31 May 2007. New Bond Street
Lot No: 83*

Bonhams site: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/14974/lot/83/?category=list&length=10&page=9

Estimate: £200,000 - 300,000, $400,000 - 600,000

Estate of the artist;
Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, California;
Private Collection

A striking example of the Ukrainian Futurist's early work, the present lot's pleasing dynamism betrays the artist's later Futuristic tendencies, while illustrating the contemporary influences on his oeuvre.

Professor D.E. Gorbachov, recognized authority on the artist, has identified the sitter as the Kiev-based artist, Grigorii Grigor'evich Burdanov and has dated the work to 1911. Little is published about Burdanov, but it is known that he helped Vrubel in his work at the Vladimirskiy Cathedral in Kiev. The reverse of the canvas is inscribed by Yaroslava Alexandrovna, the artist's daughter, and titled 'Portrait of an actor'. Given the synthesis of artistic professions at this time (Bogomazov was also a writer on art theory as well as an artist, while David Burliuk was both an artist and poet), it is entirely possible that Burdanov was depicted by Bogomazov in the present lot in the guise of 'actor', as opposed to that of 'artist'. It is more likely, however, that Yaroslava Alxandrovna, born in 1917, was not aware of the identity of the sitter, as she does not name him in the inscription. It may be that the tome held by Burdanov in the painting is not an actor's script, but a treatise or manifesto, such as were being published in Kiev artistic circles at the time (the Burliuk brothers' 1912 A Slap in the Face of Public Taste, or Bogomazov's Zhivopis' i Elementy, written in 1914).

Portrait of an actor is integral to the study of the development of Bogomazov's corpus of work. In this context, it is a Janus-like indicator of the artist's stylistic progression. Motifs, such as the loose, post-Pointillist brushstrokes which comprise the background of the painting, point to an absorption of the style of the Russian Symbolist, Borisov-Musatov, from whose influence Bogomazov was to move away when he embraced the latent power of shape and form and vivified it in the later corpus of his work. Gorbachov notes a distinct change in the artist's style between the period of execution of this work, and the Futuristic mantle which Bogomazov adopted from 1913 onwards.

Ever receptive to the beauty of geometrical forms, Bogomazov's affinity with this aesthetic is evident in the offered lot in the vibrant colour scheme employed. The artist harnesses colour as if it were another dimension; at one remove from convention, whereby light and shade are used to create the illusion of depth, Bogomazov applies colours as if they are forms, with a plasticity all their own. The figure of the sitter sees colour reigned in with a bold, slim blue line which forms the shirt and the book, while the different shades of blue applied add a vibrancy to the overall effect of the colour, imbuing it with texture. That the canvas is stretched to form a perfect square (57.5 x 57.5 cm.) is also worthy of note, indicating as it does, the artist's obession with geometrical absolutes.

Writing in 'A Survey of the Ukrainian Avant-Garde' (Avantgarde & Ukraine, eds. Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Igor Jassenjawsky, Joseph Kiblitsky, Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1993), Professor Gorbachov stresses the Ukrainian origins of the titanic movements of the Russian Avant-Garde, such as Neo-Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, Expressionism and Constructivism. These movements, asserts Gorbachov, were borne of the pioneering work of the Ukrainian artists at the turn of the 20th century, as demonstrated in 'the plasticity of the large, decorative colour expanses, the unshaded forms resulting from a daring linearity, the fauvisitc explosion of the colour and material contrasts' (p. 57 ibid.).

The offered lot is a pivotal work, not only in the canon of the artist, but also within the movement of the Ukrainian Avant-Garde as a whole.

We are grateful to Professor Dmytro Emilianovich Gorbachov and to Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky for their help in writing this catalogue note.

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