Russian Avant-Garde, French Modern Symbolist and British Post-War Artworks
At Hermitage Fine Art auctions – 27 & 28 October 2020
To follow our Auction with BIDSPIRIT:
- OCTOBER 27 (Russian art & history)
- OCTOBER 28 (Fine Art)
- OCTOBER 28 (Autographs, Manuscripts & Photographs)
The following artists will be some of the protagonists of Hermitage Fine Art upcoming auctions.

An outstanding collection of Russian avant-garde art will feature a portrait of David Shterenberg’s sister executed by the artist, very rare linocuts by Rodchenko from German Karginov’s collection, tree studies by Popova, a bronze bust, a bronze self-portrait of George Annenkov, and three avant-garde collages by Annenkov.
David Shterenberg
Lot 27 - Portrait of the artist’s sister
Defined by A. V. Lunacharsky as «a decisive modernist» and «an honest man», David Shterenberg was a Soviet artist born to a modest Jewish family in Zhytomyr. He took an active part in the defense of Zhytomyr during the three-day pogroms, after which he was forced to leave the Russian Empire. He lived briefly in Vienna, and then moved to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Vitti with the famous Kees van Dongen, one of the leading figures of Fauvism. During this period, he made several trips to Russia but did not settle there until after the 1917 Revolution.

Deeply aware of his origins, he never missed an opportunity to support the Jewish artistic community, for example by presenting an exhibition with the group «Jewish Society for the Promotion of Arts» in Moscow or organizing an exhibition of Jewish artists in Moscow in 1922 which included Marc Chagall. In the same year, he participated in the First Berlin Exhibition of Russian Art in the van Diemen Gallery, the first major exhibition of the Russian avant-garde in Europe since the October Revolution. From 1920 to 1930, he taught in an art school founded in 1920 by a decree of Lenin’s. Among his students are some famous Russian artists such as Yuri Pimenov, Piotr Vladimirovich Williams, Andrei Dmitrievich Goncharov and others. A master of theatrical scenery, Shterenberg worked in the State Jewish and Moscow Drama and other theaters. He was a bright, creative personality, and one of the recognized leaders who determined the cultural policy of the young Soviet state.
This portrait of his younger sister Malka is part of a series of family paintings, the most well-known of which is Portrait of the Artist’s Father and Sister (1914). It was presented amongst works of other Russian avant-garde artists at a Jewish artists exhibition in 2015.
 David Shterenberg - Portrait of the artist’s sister
YURI PIMENOV, drawings 1923, 1930
Lot 45 - Portrait of a man
Lot 46 - Beerhouse
The abstract linocuts executed by Alexander Rodchenko in 1919 are an outstanding example of Russian constructivism. The zig-zag white lines and circles on a black background create a multidimensional sense of depth and generates an idea of general balance.
This works comes from a private collection originally donated to German Karginov by Varvara Stepanova (the artist’s wife).
Hermitage Fine Art will also present some black and white photographs by Rodchenko in its Manuscripts and Photographs auction. Instead of simply representing reality, Rodchenko’s shots become intellectual constructs: his subjects are shown from various perspectives, from above, below, from the side and behind, with a diagonal framing, thus revolutionizing international photography.

Lot 33 - Untitled
Lot 34 - Untitled
Lot 35 - Untitled
Rejecting ideas of illusory representation and, comparable to linocuts by Rodchenko, the tree branches of the sketches (Tree studies) by Russian avant-garde painter Lyubov Popova become geometric shapes, overlapping and intercepting. These drawings relate to her painting made on the same date – 1912. They come from a sketch book formerly owned by George Costakis, a legendary Greek collector of Russian avant-garde art.

Lot 36 - Two Studies of Trees
 LYOBOV POPOVA - Two Studies of Trees
Lot 504 - Tree Figure
Some decades later, the British post-war artist HENRY MOORE also turned to the abstract theme of trees, but in Tree Figure we see this relationship from a different perspective, in the way that the curves and lines of the tree trunk almost take on a human form.

“I have always had a great liking for trees, and for tree trunks in particular. I like the bare trees in winter more perhaps than summer trees in full leaf. The trunks of trees have, for me, a connection with the human body – their limbs branch out like arms and legs from the trunk of a figure. For me, too, trees have a definite affinity with sculpture. The immobility of a tree, rooted in the ground, has the kind of stability that I like in sculpture.”
From exhibition catalogue for Henry Moore: Drawings 1969 – 79
Wildenstein, New York (14 November 1979 – 18 January 1980) pg.18

Surely one of the most admired post-war British artists, Henry Moore is famous for his biomorphic forms. Whilst his most famous sculptures tend to focus on the female form, particularly reclining women, or the subject of mother and child, Moore’s love of nature, particularly the English landscapes that he grew up with in Yorkshire, and later in Hertfordshire, is well known.
Moore was frequently inspired by the forms and textures of natural objects, such as rocks and pebbles, as well as by landscapes and trees. Additionally, in the later part of his career Moore made many drawings and etchings of trees, and he was particularly interested in the trunks of trees, in their shapes and in their rootedness.
HENRY MOORE - Tree Figure
Lot 505 - La ville, feuilles et main (1931)
Lot 506 - Abstract Composition (1938)

A French-Russian modern artist, Leopold Survage was active in the Russian avant-garde scene, and he showed an interest in symbolism, which would continue to influence his work later on. In 1908 he went to Paris, where he eventually settled, and became involved with the Cubist movement for a time.

Hermitage Fine Art presents two works by this artist, which cover both his cubist and symbolist influences, La ville, feuilles et main (1931) and Abstract Composition (1938).

Survage knew many of the top artists of this period, and counted such luminaries as Guillaume Apollinaire as fans. In fact, in 1917 Apollinaire helped to organise an exhibition of Survage’s paintings at a Parisian gallery. At the time Survage was sharing a studio with his friend Amadeo Modigliani, though he would soon move to Nice for a couple of years, before once again returning to Paris. Back in the capitol, he designed some sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe, beginning with Igor Stravinsky’s comic opera Mavra at the Paris Opéra in 1922.
Having moved more towards the neo-classical forms and away from Cubism in the 1920s, Survage was fond of sets of leitmotifs, frequently including groups of symbolic figures such as man, building, bird, flower, window, curtain. Several of these can be seen in the gouache La ville, feuilles et main (1931). In the late 1930s Survage’s work sees a return to more geometric structures, as his paintings took a more mystical turn with a growing interest in symbols, in part due to the influence of Surrealism and André Masson. This development can be seen in Abstract composition (1938), which shares some leitmotifs with his earlier gouache, but differs dramatically in form.

In 1963 Survage was inducted into France’s Légion d’Honneur. His work is held in many museums around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, amongst others.
 La ville, feuilles et main (1931) Abstract Composition (1938).
"La Butte Pinson à Montmagny"
- Japan, “Maurice Utrillo, 130e anniversaire de sa naissance” by Jean Fabris, 2013. Illustrated in the exhibition catalogue (p.39, cat. No.15)
- Paris, “Valadon, Utrillo & Utter in the rue Cortot studio: 1912-12926”, Musee de Montmartre, October 2015-March 2016. Illustrated in the exhibition catalogue (p.74, cat. No.45)

“In point of fact, naiveté and ingeniousness are more apparent than real, however, for one has only to examine with care a canvas by Utrillo to see to what extent one is dealing with a true painter”[…] his work “imparts something magnificently luxurious to the dejected, desperate aspects of modern life»
(Edmond Jaloux, quoted in A. Tabarant, Utrillo, Paris, 1926, p. 234).

Painted circa 1908-1910, La Butte Pinson à Montmagny is a good example of Utrillo’s urban landscapes, and is both typical of his admired early period, and points towards his esteemed white period, with the colour and texture of the building on the left side of the image. The artist lived in the Butte Pinson from 1896 with his grandmother, his mother and her husband. He began painting here and created a series of paintings of Montmagny from 1905 to 1908.

His confident yet soft brushstrokes demonstrate a lingering influence of Impressionism, and the colours of the fence and trees in the front of the image are echoed by some of the multi-coloured rooftops one can see in the distance. Many of his paintings are noted for their energy and a deceptive naiveté of style.

Utrillo is famous for his “white period” which spanned the years 1909-1914, and where he used a thick white impasto which he applied to the canvas with a palette knife, and sometimes mixed in plaster.
MAURICE UTRILLO - La Butte Pinson à Montmagny
This press release was written by Natasha Cheung, Elisa Passaretti.