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Léopold Survage

Trois baigneuses

Sold for 580.000 SEK at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale 7-10 June 2017.

465. Léopold Survage (France 1897‑1968). Trois baigneuses.
Signed Survage. Oil on relined canvas, 83 x 114 cm.

One of the most fascinating artists of the 20th century movement of modernism is undoubtedly the Finnish-born French painter Léopold Survage (although some sources suggests the place of birth to be Moscow in Russia). By carefully observing the art collections of already established artists such as Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, Survage entered the modern art scene in his early 20’s. At that time, he was enrolled at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and although he first sought to be an architect he soon started to exhibit his works of art with several contemporary Russian artists. Archipenko, Larionov, Pevsner and Sudeikin together with Survage formed the group “The Blue Rose” under which name they exhibited their works in the beginning of the 20th century in Russia.

Like many other young artists at that time, Survage decided on moving to Paris with his later to be wife Hélène Moniuschko a few years after his first exhibitions had taken place. At that time, the vivid city of Paris was a metropolis for art, music and culture with art schools run by several of the most prominent and inspiring artists of the early 1900’s. The art school of Henri Matisse, was considered to be one of the finest educations within art in Paris and Léopold Survage attended the school shortly. It was during this important time in the artist’s life that he truly flourished and began to develop his very unique artistic expression. After an early Fauvist phase, he joined the radical Cubist movement and was applauded by the famous poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire, who subsequently organised a one-man exhibition for works by Léopold Survage in 1917. The famous city scenes, “Paysages cubistes”, were all created during the following years, inspired by contemporary French and Russian artists but created in his characteristic manner with the use of soft and endearing colours.

When Léopold Survage in the early 1920’s decided on leaving Paris for the coast city of Nice, he very much gave up the Cubist movement and once again sought inspiration from the classical masters. Highly structured oils and works on paper was created over the next years and they were all linked together by repeating groups of symbolic elements – man, water, trees and flowers for instance. Starting from 1922, he created structured but freely painted scenes with several nude women sitting by or swimming in the sea. The painting included in this auction, “Trois baigneuses”, was painted in 1925 and is one of the artist’s most astonishing works dating from this interesting period in his life. The artist has depicted three nude women by the waterside, presumably a sand beach in Nice, soaking up the sun and enjoying themselves on a warm summer day. The creation year of the picture has been confirmed by Madame Germaine Survage, the second wife of Léopold Survage, but is also highly indicated by the manner of which this work has been painted in. The female curves are enhanced by their nude voluminous figures, typical features of the women Survage often used in his compositions from the early and mid 1920’s. Positioned seemingly relaxed and natural, the three women are occupied with different matters. In the foreground and most central in the picture, one of the nudes has thrown a towel out on the beach and is leaning backwards on her left arm, gazing directly at the artist whilst the two figures behind her are stretching towards the sun respectively strolling down to the water bridge. Nice, the charming town located on the southeast coast of France in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, clearly became an inspiration to Survage who repeatedly depicted the coastal scene in his impressive and colourful works of art.

Earlier compositions by Survage sold in recent years bears many resemblances to this composition, however in comparison one may suggest that they were intended to be sketches for this larger canvas. The included elements consists of several female figures in different positions situated on a beach by the water, with a tree visible somewhere in the background. In the painting included in this sale, the colours are vivid, bold and stand in deep contrast to many of his earlier works with the baigneuses painted on canvas or paper, also indicating “Trois baigneuses” to be a fully developed version of the composition.

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