Leopold STURZWAGE called SURVAGE (Moscow, 1879 - Paris, 1968)

Eye Hand Fish

60.4 x 81 cm. (23 ¾ x 31 78 in.)
1951. Casein and gouache on canvas. Signed and dated lower right. On verso, several exhibition labels.

· France, Private Collection

1951, Paris, Lucie Weill Gallery, "Au Pont des Arts."
1954, Venice, 17th International Art Biennale, no 401.
1966, Paris, Survage, Retrospective Exhibition, Galliera Museum (cat. Marie-Claude Dane).

Survage received his initial artistic training at the Moscow School of Fine Arts under Constantin Korovine and Leonid Pasternak. The young painter participated in Russian avant-garde exhibitions starting in 1907. Arriving in Paris for the first time in 1908, he settled there definitively two years later, and soon counted among the most original representatives from the School of Paris. Survage’s art can be placed solidly in Cubist trends, even if his very personal questioning of “colored rhythms” differentiates him from the orthodox cubism of Juan Gris or Georges Braques.

Between the two wars, and especially after his discovery of southern France, the artist moved away from Cubist styles to return to more traditional visual language playing with volume, line, and simplification of forms. Survage constructed several works from elements which sometimes were decorative in the tradition of the Russian Ballets for which he worked, and sometimes were symbolic in a surrealist spirit. This is the period of international recognition, monumental painting, and three-dimensional metaphors which were not without recalling Picabia’s “transparencies.” Finally, in 1939, the same elements were incorporated, along with a change in technique (casein emulsion painting), into large philosophical compositions in which some playful fantasy remained.

Our canvas participates in the artist’s post-1940s graphic and painted reflections on complex symbolics, whether Christian or pagan, of objects such as the hand, eye, leaf, fish, bird, water, and sun. One can thus cite Leaf, Hand, Fish from 1951; Hand and Fish from 1953, The Eye and The Hand of 1949, and Composition with Hand and Fish of 1961. Survage never ceased combining these elements, bringing them together and inscribing them one inside the other. He played with rhythms, curves, counter-curves, the juxtaposition of limpid and complementary hues, not to mention large color surfaces and kaleidoscopic brushstrokes, as well as the superposition of tinted layers characteristic of casein painting.

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