Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky: Country Boys (1916)

Screenshot_2018-11-04 bogdanov-belsky, nikolai petrovi figures sotheby's l12111lot6f6xfen
Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky, (1868-1945), Country Boys, signed in Cyrillic and dated 1916 l.l., oil on canvas, 153 by 124cm, 60 1/4 by 48 3/4 in., Source: Sotheby’s.

Bogdanov-Belsky’s Best: Pre-revolution

Bogdanov-Belsky’s pre-revolutionary works include some of his most striking canvases, the scale alone often an indication of his artistic confidence. The present lot is an exceptional example of the qualities that mark out these rare, early paintings – tight brushwork, vivid blues and greens, and an impact that would grow gradually more diffuse with the looser strokes and muted palette that appear at times in his later works. Source: Sotheby’s.

Screenshot_2018-11-04 6bogdanov-belsky-nikolai-petrovi-figures-sothebys-l12111lot6f6xfen-e1541387788711 jpg (JPEG Image, 31[...]

Faces Reflect Coming Chaos

In the present lot there is an unmistakable sense of resolve in the boys’ expressions. Their tightly-pursed lips and concentration ground the pair to a pre-Revolutionary epoch: alert in the face of uncertainty rather than the glazed look of Soviet youth.  

Source: Sotheby’s.

aScreenshot_2018-11-04 screenshot_2018-11-04-bogdanov-belsky-nikolai-petrovi-figures-sothebys-l12111lot6f6xfen jpg (JPEG Ima[...]
Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky, (1868-1945), Country Boys, signed in Cyrillic and dated 1916 l.l., oil on canvas, 153 by 124cm, 60 1/4 by 48 3/4 in., Source: Sotheby’s. (detail).

Country Character

Bogdanov-Belsky was famously interested in the expressiveness of country children: ‘Perhaps [they] have qualities that will always appeal and catch our attention, unaffected as they are by city culture or those uniform standards of dress which immediately strip away any sense of character from one’s face’. Source: Sotheby’s.

Receding Fence for Depth and Structure

Screenshot_2018-11-04 The Athenaeum - Crossing the Stream (Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky - )
Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The Crossing,(1915), The Athenaeum
According to Sotheby’s, Bogdanov-Belsky used a similar construction in an earlier painting, The Crossing (1915), now at The Riga Museum of Fine Arts.
For example, they describe his use of “receding fencing to create depth features in another strong canvas from the period…”  (See Image, right) Source: Sotheby’s.
Note that Bogdanov-Belsky painted The Crossing a least a year prior to Country Boys.

‘Country Boys’ Repeat

Such was the popularity of [Country Boys] that Bogdanov-Belsky is known to have repeated the composition in the 1930s; a version painted for his 1936 solo exhibition was subsequently acquired by The Riga Museum of Fine Arts. Source: Sotheby’s.

Click for Enlarged Detail:

Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky, (1868-1945), Country Boys, signed in Cyrillic and dated 1916 l.l., oil on canvas, 153 by 124cm, 60 1/4 by 48 3/4 in., Source: Sotheby’s

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