Bonhams Russian sale on November 28th will present four 19th Century Russian works from an important European corporate collection. 

The paintings are all fine examples of works by significant members of Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers).  This group attempted to defeat the strict academic restrictions placed on art and to bring art to the people.  They tackled subjects ranging from the poverty of Russian people to the beauty of the Russian landscape and its folk history.  All four of these paintings have been in the present collection since 1934. Prices range from £250,000 to £2.5m.

* Vladimir Donatovitch Orlovsky (Russian, 1842-1914) ‘River Gnilitsa’, 1885 signed in Cyrillic and dated ‘1885’ (lower left) oil on canvas, 95 x 155cm (37 3/8 x 61in). Estimate £250,000 – 350,000; US$410,000 -570,000; €310,000 – 440,000.

Vladimir Danatovich Orlovsky was one of the most prominent landscape painters of the Russian academy in the last third of the 19th– early 20th century.  Heavily influenced by Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko, Orlovsky’s works mostly express his love for Russian nature and his native Ukraine.  From 1870-1880 he regularly took part in every major national exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.  Already a well-known and popular artist in Russia, Orlovsky ultimately devoted his energies to landscapes.  His works were carefully executed and highly decorative, but naturalistic at the same time.

‘River Gnilitsa’ was conceived during the painter’s great period of artistic maturity and high popularity.  It is one of a number of landscapes which Orlovsky created using studies he made while spending the summer of 1883 in the area of Podolsk.  He conveys the signs of early autumn and the state of transition from day to dusk.  Complex lighting and a harmony of colour make the painting both elegant and decorative, and the depth of composition achieved by the high sky and powerful trees emphasizes the monumental aspect of the painting.  Some of these landscapes, including the offered lot, appeared in the ‘Album of Russian Painting.  Paintings by V.D. Orlovsky’ (Saint Petersburg, 1888), published to commemorate 25 years of the artist’s work.

* Nikolai Egorovich Sverchkov (Russian, 1817-1898) ‘Casting the wolf’, 1878 signed in Cyrillic and dated ‘1878’ (lower left) oil on canvas
87 x 152cm (34 1/4 x 59 13/16in). Estimate £300,000 – 500,000; US$490,000 – 810,000; €380,000 – 630,000.

Nikolai Egorovich Sverchkov (1817-1898) was a famous painter of animals and people whose skill superseded his lack of formal artistic education.  His father worked for the palace stables and here a young Sverchkov trained himself in the depiction of horses.  It is known that the artist’s studio in Tsarskoe Selo near St. Petersburg resembled a zoological museum, filled with stuffed animals and birds, which helped him in his studies of the animal world.


Wolf hunting was a regular subject of Sverchkov’s sketches and paintings and he was familiar with the ways of the hunter as well as the anatomy of horses and dogs. The offered lot shows a hunter pinning the wolf to the ground, sitting on its back and holding it in a firm grip, while the other hunter approaches with a bind in his hands. Sverchkov depicts the scene so vividly that one can almost hear the bark of the dogs ready to attack the fallen wolf and the neighing of the frightened horses. The animals are portrayed with an ease which betrays a thorough knowledge of their nature.  Sverchkov was also a master of composition.  He skilfully depicts the expressive poses of the hunters, the autumnal landscape with its withered grass and yellowed bushes, and the dynamic sky with swirling clouds heavy with rain. Scenes from Turgenev’s Sketches from a Hunter’s Album come to life in this painting.  A slightly larger painting by Sverchkov, which shows a similar scene, was shown at the Fine Arts Exhibition of 1873 and is not part of the Museum of Fine Arts in the Republic of Karelia.

* Pavel Pavlovich Dzhogin (Russian, 1834-1885) River landscape
signed in Cyrillic (lower left) oil on canvas 101 x 150cm (39 3/4 x 59 1/16in). Estimate £30,000 – 50,000; US$49,000 – 81,000; €38,000 – 63,000

Pavel Dzhogin was a Russian landscape painter who mainly depicted views of the St. Petersburg area as well as Estonia, Novgorod and Chernigov provinces. His works are in the collections of major Russian museums including The State Tretyakov Gallery, The State Hermitage Museum, the Museums of Irkutsk, Kursk, Tyumen, Almaty, Tashkent.

‘River Landscape’ is an example of one of Dzhogin’s landscapes, which were famous in Russia and the Baltic states. They were often painted en plein, directly from nature. Due to the artist’s need to appeal to popular taste, his work was largely confined by the dictates of academic landscape painting. The offered lot is one such traditionally painted landscape. It also includes a nod to human cultivation, typical of Dzhogin’s work, in the form of the faint human figure wading by the far bank of the river.

* Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky (Russian, 1846-1920) ‘Fair (Little Russia)’, 1885 signed in Cyrillic and dated ‘1885’ (lower right)  oil on canvas
113 x 180cm (44 1/2 x 70 7/8in). Estimate £1,500,000 – 2,000,000; US$2,400,000 – 3,200,000; €1,900,000 – 2,500,000.
Vladimir Makovsky started working on scenes from the life of Little Russia in the early 1880s.  He and his family regularly travelled to the Ukraine during summer, usually to the Poltava or Chernigov provinces. One of the key destinations of these trips was the famous trade fairs: Ilyinskaya in Piryatin, and Deymanovskaya in Poltava.   Farmers in festive national dress, the endless rows of carts and wagons loaded with all sorts of goods, crowds of beggars and pilgrims flocking from nearby provinces – all were captured by the keen eye of the artist, and depicted in his numerous field sketches. At that time both genre and landscape paintings of the fairs appeared consistently at the annual exhibitions of the Wanderers.
There was, in fact, an almost complete absence of complex ‘finished’ paintings of the fairs by Makovsky at the exhibitions during his lifetime.  This could be explained by the fact that the pictorial spontaneity of studies and sketches were widely promoted by critics and the wider audience at this time.   It should also be noted that the execution of large compositional paintings always took Makovsky a particularly long time as he often returned to his finished canvases.

Makovsky’s works on the theme of fairs were only once all gathered together at a solo exhibition held in St. Petersburg in 1902.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of illustrations in the exhibition catalogue and in some cases the absence of dates, researchers encounter some difficulty when establishing exactly which paintings were exhibited. However the offered lot can be indentified with some confidence as no. 308 in the catalogue, undated, and listed as ‘Fair (Little Russia)’.


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