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Man versus nature at Bonhams Russian Art sale
Siberian Sleigh Riders by Leon Gaspard. Estimated at £250,000-450,000. Photo: Bonhams.


LONDON.- Siberian Sleigh Riders, by Leon Gaspard, leads Bonhams Russian sale in London on Wednesday 6 June. It is estimated at £250,000-450,000.

In the course of a long career, the insatiably curious and restless Gaspard (1882-1964) travelled widely. As a boy, he accompanied his fur-trader father on journeys through the Russian country; in later life, he made expeditions to Siberia, Mongolia, Asia, the Himalayas and Tibet, China and Morocco, eventually settling permanently in Taos, New Mexico. Siberian Sleigh Riders was painted there in 1921. The subject was inspired by memories of his boyhood travels in Russia, and the dramatic, but harmonious, scene contrasts the fragility of the ceremonial procession of riders, horses and sleighs with the monumental and desolate landscape.

Bonhams Head of Russian Art, Daria Khristova, said: “Siberian Sleigh Riders is a true masterpiece. Drawing on his artistic training in Paris in the early years of the 20th century, and his many years of travels, Gaspard developed a unique and highly personal style of painting. His works have a timeless appeal that expands our understanding of human experience.”

Other highlights of the sale include:

• Still Life with Daisies by Nikolai Fechin (1881-1955) estimated at £100,000-150,000). It was painted in the 1930s in Taos, New Mexico, the site of a thriving artistic community. Fechin, who suffered from tuberculosis, had moved there from New York in search of a drier climate. Drawing inspiration from the rich culture of his surroundings, he broadened his palette and experimented with more expansive brushwork. This new-found freedom of expression can be seen perfectly in Still Life with Daisies. Fechin was known primarily as a portrait painter, and this work is one of the artist’s few still lives.

• Self-portrait with Brushes by Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967) estimated at £100,000-150,000. The artist painted self-portraits throughout her life to record her moods and changing appearance, regarding them as a kind of pictorial diary. Self-portrait with Brushes was executed in Paris in 1945, immediately after World War II. Personally and professionally it was a bleak period, though, characteristically, Serebriakova portrays herself with a slight smile, as if anticipating better times.

• The Tower, a stage design by Nikolai Roerich (1874-1947) for Princess Maleine estimated at £120,000-180,000. Roerich painted the design for a 1913 revival of the Belgian dramatist Maurice Maeterlink’s first play, Princess Maleine, at the Svobodyni Theatre in Moscow. In the event, the production was cancelled, but the stage designs survived. Artist, philosopher and writer, Roerich was also a celebrated stage-set designer – most famously collaborating with Igor Stravinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky and Serge Diaghilev on Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) in 1913. Maeterlink’s strongly symbolic, mystical drama appealed to Roerich for its early Renaissance setting, and for the tragic theme of man’s impotence in the face of destiny.





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