André LANSKOY (Moscow, 1903 – Paris, 1976)

Abstract Composition

63 x 48 cm. (24 13/16 x 18 7/8 in.)

Gouache on paper
Signed lower right: LANSKOY

• France, Private Collection.

• Jean Grenier, André Lanskoy, F. Hazan, Paris, 1960.
• Lanskoy, exh. cat. Paris, Galliera Museum, May 6th – June 5th, 1966.

“ All the mystery of painting is contained in the brushstroke (…),
It is not what enters the painter’s eye which enriches the picture, but what comes out of his brush.”

The precocious inclination for painting which André Lanskoy displayed in his childhood led him naturally to an artistic career. Lanskoy studied first in Saint Petersburg and then in Kiev in 1918 – where his family had taken refuge – by frequenting Alexandra Exter’s studio (1882-1949). He arrived in Paris in 1921 at the age of only 18 years, and exhibited for the first time in 1923 in La Licorne Gallery along with some other Russian artists, including the famous Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943).

Lanskoy frequented his most famous contemporaries. In the 1930s, he was regularly invited to exhibit his work at the Russian Art Exhibition along with famous artists such as Marc Chagall (1887-1985) and Michel Laronov (1881-1964).

He found artistic fulfillment as his drawing blossomed, and especially excelled in the use of gouache. Starting in 1938, after more than a decade of figurative art, Lanskoy turned towards abstraction and executed series of semi-figurative and then abstract gouaches. During this period he became close to Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) who discovered his work at the exhibition Gouaches et toiles d’André Lanskoy (“André Lanskoy’s Gouaches and Canvases”) at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery in 1944. The two artists exchanged their artistic ideas and rapidly became friends.

The 1940s marked a veritable turning point in his career. Lanskoy became more popular, his work was more and more appreciated by the general public and made it possible for him to exhibit alongside the greatest artists of his time, including Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Miro. In the 1950s, his work could be admired internationally, such as in Antwerp (1952), London (1953), and Stockholm (1955), and many retrospectives were organized in New York (1953, 1957, 1959, 1965), a city in which he encountered such success that the Guggenheim Museum bought his Reading in a Low Voice in 1957.

“I begin by sketching the composition with a few strokes of charcoal or pastel: it’s the picture’s skeleton which becomes more and more precise in the process. The first waves of color modify it, but do not make it disappear completely. Then I deepen the forms and study their relationships by concentrating on technique and color. Sometimes I introduce new graphics, black or white, in relation to the idea that served as my starting point or else following the demands of the rhythm and forms.”

Our work dates to the 1960s, considered the artist’s mature period marked by the collective exhibition, Russian Painters from the School of Paris which met with resounding success. Lanskoy multiplied his works in gouache and his abstract compositions for which he received many requests (ill. 1).

After an initial period which was completely figurative, although he never went as far as a perfect depicture of Nature, the artist gave particular importance to a parallel pictorial reality. His dazzling compositions reflect an unknown universe which was his very own. He perceived his work as therapy for calming his spirit as well as for delighting the viewer’s eyes. With a skillful sense of balance, the lines collide and get mixed up, thus forming a drawing which conveys his sensations and feelings. The use of gouache allows him sometimes to emphasize the work’s depth, and sometimes its intensity. Lanskoy uses colors in our picture that are both dense and luminous and create a composition which is as rich as it is complex. The oeuvre is an invitation for the viewer to exercise his spirit of synthesis.

As he was an excellent colorist, his works also express his desire to organize and master color and the graphic power it can exude. Color is also used for its poetic resonance. It defines the rhythm and limits of the forms in a complex reading which seeks to be enriching.

Lanskoy met with great success in his lifetime. He was among those artists who emigrated from Russia and whose oeuvre participated in the development of contemporary art in Western Europe and in France, in particular, where their activity was of capital importance in the creation and recognition of the Paris School.
transl. chr

See more