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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky Masterwork for Sotheby’s London Sale

Sotheby’s London is delighted to announce that on Monday, June 8, 2009, as part of its Russian Art Evening auction, it will offer for sale the recently rediscovered oil on canvas painting, Nanny with Children by acclaimed Russian artist Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky (1883-1939), signed in Cyrillic and dated 1912. The painting, which has been considered lost for almost a century, comes from a private collection in Italy – where it has remained since the 1950s – and is estimated at £300,000-500,000.

Commenting on the rediscovery of this exquisite work, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s Russian Art Department in London, Jo Vickery, said: “Works by Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky are extremely rare on the market and the rediscovery of his painting ‘Nanny with Children’ – a superb example from one of the most important cycles the artist’s prerevolutionary oeuvre – makes an important contribution to the scholarship of this period of Brodsky’s output. The painting, which has remained off-the-market for over half a century, can be considered one of the artist’s finest compositions from the 1910s and its sale in June will represent a one off saleroom opportunity for collectors of Brodsky.”

The Discovery
The painting’s recent history began in Rome in the 1950s, where an art collector bought what he believed to be a longlost painting by Claude Monet. Unable to recognise the signature in Cyrillic in the left-hand corner and thinking the high horizon most untypical of the French impressionist, he assumed the previous owners had disguised their picture, by cutting down the canvas and adding a false signature in order to bring it out of Russia. Intent on returning the work to what he believed were the original dimensions, he asked his restorer to add a strip of canvas along the top Until the present owners sought Sotheby’s help in deciphering the signature, the true identity of the painting remained a mystery. Upon inspection, Sotheby’s recognised the painting as a magnificent work from Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky’s prerevolutionary oeuvre and with the assistance of Natalya Balakina, Director of the Brodsky Museum in St. Petersburg, Sotheby’s was able to identify the work of art as a widely published composition completed after the artist returned from his travels in Europe. Considered lost for almost a century, the painting has now been restored to its original dimensions, and its sale in June represents the first time this remarkable painting by Brodsky will be offered at auction.

The Painting
On graduating from the Imperial Academy of Arts, Brodsky was awarded a travel scholarship to Europe and between March and October of 1909, he visited Germany, France, Spain, England and Italy. He was captivated with the Spanish Old Masters and French Symbolists and Impressionists, yet second on the list of artists who had ‘touched him to the core’ after Velasquez, was the Italian neo-impressionist, Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899). Brodsky was not only influenced by the intense lyricism of Segantini’s work, but also his technique of applying small strokes of pure colour directly onto the canvas which the viewer could combine ‘optically’, a style which becomes increasingly apparent in Brodsky’s own oeuvre during this time.

Nanny with Children is a neo-impressionist tour de force, displaying Brodsky’s distinctive technique which has a lacelike quality. Combined with such resonant colour combinations, it infuses the picture with light and movement to recreate the shimmering qualities of sunlight filtering through the trees. The artist’s bold spatial arrangement with such a high horizon brings the viewer to the level of the children’s eye line and directly into the centre of the work, a compositional device also employed by Segantini.

In the list of Brodsky’s works compiled by the artist’s friend and secretary, Iosif Brodsky, the offered lot appears twice under works for both 1910 and 1912 but is followed by the same Union of Russian Artists exhibition details. It is therefore probable that the work was executed in 1910, but that the artist signed and dated the canvas once it had been purchased in Moscow after the 1912 exhibition.

The painting is now acknowledged to be the precursor for Children in a Glade (1913), in the collection of the Brodsky museum, which replicates several details including the red parasol and the model of the Nanny.