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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist; Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay


    Oleg Vassiliev’s paintings have the distinct quality of a nostalgic sensitivity that was present in traditional Russian 19th-century landscape painting and German Romanticism as well as an awareness of geometric abstraction that was characteristic of the Russian avant-garde. This ability to connect the past and the present is an aspect that is unique to the work of Oleg Vassiliev. In the foreground of the present lot, foliage is depicted in various stages of decline, from autumnal red leaves still upon the branch to shrivelled and discoloured upon the ground. In the painting, Vassiliev commemorates a fellow artist Efim Moiseevich Royak, who died in September 1987. Royak was one of the students of Marc Chagall in Vitebsk Art School and later belonged to Kazimir Malevich’s art group UNOVIS, an abbreviation of the phrase ‘The Champions of New Art’. The group was focused on promoting the idea of Suprematist aesthetic, and instrumental in advancing the avant-garde movement in Russia. Royak was also one of the victims of the labour camps, having spent ten years there, and his record was only rehabilitated posthumously. The leaves depicted here can be seen as a reference to the death of Efim Moiseevich Royak as well as a sentimental allusion to the passing of time and the remnants of the dissolved Soviet Union. The composition itself is reminiscent of a tombstone.
    “[Oleg Vassiliev’s paintings] seem to tear the viewer out of everyday life and transfer him into an extra-temporal state in which he perceives images that are at once real and fantastic. There is something wonderful and mysterious in his works and, looking at them, we gain an insight into the most intimate and innermost recesses, which both frighten and attract us in our lives and the lives of other people. In paintings with the simplest subjects, be it a village house in a spring forest or a path in a summer field, we always sense more troubling or dramatic intonations: recollections of the past, an intimation of fate or death. Perhaps it was for the sake of this feeling that the artist’s individual style took so long to crystallize. In any case, Oleg Vassiliev’s art is deeply and intimately psychological.” (A-Ya: Unofficial Russian Art Review, No. 2, Moscow/Paris/New York, p. 30)

21

In the memory of Efim Moiseevich Royak

1987
Oil on fibreboard.
90 x 68.5 cm (35 1/2 x 27 in).
Signed, titled and dated in Cyrillic 'O.Vassiliev "in memory of Efim Moiseevich Royak X-87" on the reverse.

Estimate
£50,000 - 70,000 ‡ ♠

BRIC Theme Sale

23-24 April 2010
London