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Release: Previously Unseen on the Market Still Life with Fruit by Ilya Mashkov



London – Christie’s is proud to present Ilya Mashkov’s (1881-1944) masterpiece Still life with fruit, the finest example of Russian Neo-Primitivism to appear at auction in recent history. Painted in 1910, it was immediately revealed to the public at the inaugural Jack of Diamonds exhibition in Moscow, one of the earliest exhibitions of Russian Avant-Garde. Exceptionally rare, Still life with fruit will feature in the Russian Art sale at Christie’s London on 3 June 2013, appearing on the market for the first time in history. This extraordinary painting will be unveiled on public view in Moscow for the first time since 1911 at Christie’s 20th exhibition of highlights, which will cover 350 years of art history and will be held at Spiridonov House, from 24 to 26 April 2013.


Still life with fruit clearly reveals the influence of the French Fauves who are so comprehensively represented in the Moscow collections of Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin. Its ingenuity lies in Mashkov’s sophisticated synthesis of Western modernism with distinctly national sources. The flattened perspective recalls hand-painted trays; the empty background references Russian woodcuts known as lubki; the simplified fruits are reminiscent of the blunt carvings of the ancient anthropomorphic stone obelisks of southern Russia. Simultaneously, the work reveals the extent to which Western artists, particularly Matisse, informed Mashkov’s approach. This is most evident in the subject matter, the vibrant palette, the heavy Fauvist outline and the plain yet textured rendering of the blue/green background, which directly references Cézanne. There is also something distinctly classical in the composition; the arrangement of the fruits in Still life with fruit reminiscent of Giotto’s compositions, with the central anchoring area of interest flanked by symmetrical attendants.

Measuring an impressive 103 x 133.8 cm, Still life with fruit was one of 20 canvases by Mashkov included in the inaugural exhibition of the Jack of Diamonds (December 1910 to January 1911). The exhibition was organised on the impetus of Natalia Goncharova, Petr Konchalovsky, Mikhail Larionov and Aristarkh Lentulov and showcased works by the French Fauves and German Expressionists alongside their Russian counterparts.

Still life with fruit was last exhibited in 1913, alongside works by Derain, Mondrian and Konchalovsky among others, at the third exhibition organised by the Contemporary Art Society at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. The first appearance of this remarkable painting on the international art market for the first time provides a unique opportunity to simultaneously acquire a masterpiece by one of Russia’s most significant artists and an important piece of Russian Art history.


By circa 1920, Still life with fruit was in the collection of William Beffie (1880-1950). Personally acquainted with Marc, Kandinsky, Jawlensky and Le Fauconnier, Beffie was a passionate collector of German and Russian expressionist art and assembled a world-class collection in Amsterdam in the early 20th century. Many paintings formerly in his collection now enrich major museums worldwide including the Guggenheim, the Stedelijk Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. While no known documentation exists with regards to where and when each work was acquired, it is likely that Beffie acquired Mashkov’s Still life with fruit directly from the 1913 exhibition in Amsterdam via one of his two advisors: Le Fauconnier, who was a participant in the 1910 Jack of Diamonds exhibition and the 1913 Stedelijk Museum exhibition, or Conrad Kickert, the Dutch artist and critic who served as the Contemporary Art Society’s Secretary and Treasurer.

About Christie’s
Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2011 that totaled £3.6 billion/$5.7 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie’s has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War and Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Private sales totaled £502 million / $808.6m in 2011, an increase of 44% on the previous year.

Christie’s has a global presence with 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

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