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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Vassilieff Collection for Bonhams & Goodman Melbourne Auction

A fascinating collection of 8 works from the estate of the late Elizabeth Vassilieff, widow of the major Australian artist Danila Vassilieff, will be offered for sale at the Australian & International Fine Art Auction in Melbourne on Wednesday 23 April.

vassilieff.jpg“We are honoured to be entrusted to sell this historically significant group of paintings and sculptures by one of the most influential Australian artists of the twentieth century”, says Geoffrey Smith, National Head of Art. The Executor’s decision to sell the collection through Bonhams & Goodman may have been prompted by the world record price achieved for a Vassilieff sculpture in 2007. The work titled Conventional Madonna 1951 sold for $96,000 in August.

Born in southern Russia, Danila Vassilieff (1898-1958) was a lieutenant colonel on the eastern front during World War I. When captured by the Red Army in 1921, he escaped and led a nomadic life for several years, travelling through
Iran (Persia), Al Jazirah (Mesopotamia), India, Burma, and China, before arriving in Darwin with his first wife Anisia in 1923.

Vassilieff worked as a railway contractor near Katherine in the Northern Territory and established a sugarcane and banana farm south of Cairns, where he began painting as a hobby. From 1929 to 1931 he travelled, stopping with his wife in Shanghai where they permanently parted ways. From here he travelled extensively. During an extended visit to Rio de Janeiro he studied academic painting and drawing with Dmitri Ismailovitch, a Cossack academic painter, and simultaneously worked as an engineering draughtsman with an Anglo-Mexican oil company. Vassilieff rejected all forms of academic training and his three solo exhibitions of West Indian subjects shown in London in 1934 and 1935 gained critical attention and acclaim. These works drew praise for their spontaneity and distinct use of colour: ‘Half of his sketches are brilliant ‘tours de force’, the other half might well have been kept hidden…his vivid and daring colour, his cheeky observation, his imaginative composition, and his unexpected vision combine to produce effects as refreshing as they are spontaneous’. (Observer, London, 4 March 1934.)