Michel Larionov

Nocturne

c.1913–4

Artist
Michel Larionov 1881–1964
Original title
Noktyurn
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 502 x 610 mm
frame: 580 x 692 x 40 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Eugène Mollo and the artist 1953
Reference
N06192

Not on display

Display caption

Around 1912 Larionov and his partner Natalya Goncharova developed an approach to abstract painting called Rayonism. Influenced by Futurism, the style emerged from their attempts to depict the dynamic intersection of rays of light. Nocturne probably originated as an Impressionist landscape which Larionov reworked as a Rayonist composition. ‘This painting was inspired by the dusk at Odessa’, he wrote in 1954. ‘It is a problem of the combination of staircases, interiors and exteriors of houses and represents the pressure of the body of dark colours on the semi-light tones – the conflict of colours if you wish.’

Gallery label, June 2011

Catalogue entry

Michel Larionov 1881-1964

N06192 Nocturne c.1913-14

Inscribed 'M.L. [cyrillic letters] 1910' b.l. and 'M. Larionov' b.r.; 'M. Larionov | "noktyurn" | 1910 g. | Luchizm. | Trekhprudniy | per.d.N2 | 7 | Moskva.' (cyrillic letters) and '"NOCTURNE" | M. Larionov | "Rayonnisme" | 1910.' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 24 (50 x 61)
Presented by Eugene Mollo and the artist 1953
Lit: Peter Vergo, 'A Note on the Chronology of Larionov's Early Work' in Burlington Magazine, CXIV, 1972, pp.476-9; Peter Vergo, 'Larionov 's Early Work' in Burlington Magazine, CXIV, 1972, p.634; John E. Bowlt, 'The Chronology of Larionov's Early Work' in Burlington Magazine, CXIV, 1972, pp.719-20; Angelica Zander Rudenstine, 'The Chronology of Larionov's Early Work' in Burlington Magazine, CXIV, 1972, p.874; Angelica Zander Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945 (New York 1976), Vol.2, pp.447-50

It is now generally accepted that Larionov's first true Rayonist pictures were not executed until well into 1912 and that the earlier dates on some of them must have been added some time afterwards and are not to be relied on. (See the articles listed in the bibliography for a detailed discussion of this). Despite statements by the artist to the contrary, there seems to be no proof that any Rayonist works were exhibited prior to the Union of Youth exhibition in Moscow in December 1912.

Larionov has described N06192 as follows in a letter of 12 January 1954: 'This painting was inspired by the dusk at Odessa. It is a problem of the combination of staircases, interiors and exteriors of houses and represents the pressure of the body of dark colours on the semi-light tones - the conflict of colours if you wish. The problem of this painting is to organise these tones in a certain order. It is the conflict of the semi-light rays with the dark rays'.

Close inspection of the picture surface shows that it was varnished and afterwards extensively reworked. All the Rayonist-type brushstrokes, as well as both signatures and the date 1910, are on top of the varnish. It is hard to make out exactly what the picture must have been like before the reworking, but it is possible that Larionov took an early, basically Impressionist landscape and then turned it into a Rayonist composition. The original state seems to have had light-toned areas on the left and dark on the right, but they were quite thinly painted and without any bold clashes of lines and directions.

The dense structure, with many emphatic lines in parallel, would suggest that it was not one of Larionov's very first Rayonist pictures, as these (such as 'Glass' in the Guggenheim Museum, New York) tend to have clusters of lines fanning out from different points and criss-crossing one another. As it is not included in Eganbury's list of Larionov's works up to the summer of 1913, or at any rate cannot be identified in it, the probability is that the reworking dates from the latter half of 1913 or early in 1914.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.407-8, reproduced p.407

Art Term

Rayonism

An early form of abstract art characterised by interacting linear forms derived from rays of light

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