Village Landscape with Tall Trees, signed, c. 1934-35.
Oil on canvas, 90 by 58.5 cm.
Provenance: The collection of A.F. Tchudnovsky, Leningrad. Private collection, Europe.
Exhibited: R. Falk, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 1993, label on the reverse.
Literature: D. Sarabianov, Robert Falk. Dresden, 1974, plate No. 85, illustrated in black-and-white. D. Sarabianov, Yu. Didenko, Robert Falk. Complete Catalogue of Works, Elisium, Moscow, 2006, p. 597, and plate No. 849, pp. 597 and 831, illustrated.
Robert Falk painted Village Landscape with Tall Trees in 1934 during that notable summer when the artist left Paris with his son for Brittany, in the north of France. These few months spent on the coast were extremely fruitful. Dmitri Sarabianov wrote that "just as, a year or two before this, Provence had offered a unique change of direction, revealing something new, so also did Brittany offer Falk the prospect of important discoveries… For example, the subtle, refined Village Landscape with Tall Trees, paint ed in the tradition of the peaceful, contemplative interpretation of nature."
Trees were always one of Falk’s favourite landscape motifs. He painted them throughout his life — in his early Jack of Diamonds period, later when strolling the never-ending Paris boulevards and finally for many years after he returned to Soviet Russia. Wherever he lived, almost every summer the artist travelled to the countryside, captivated by the provincial and rural environment. Falk was fond of motifs which were at first sight unprepossessing, and he consistently sought hidden beauty in external unattractiveness, beauty recognisable only by a perceptive eye. Falk loved such places and chose them specially — inconspicuous, quietly contemplative spots which one might assume the artist had discovered totally by chance. It is no accident that many of his rural scenes resonate with each other. In its composition, in its look of a "cropped" fragment of real life, the picture Village Landscape with Tall Trees relates to Falk’s Cubist canvas Landscape with Tall Trees of 1920 (now in the State Tretyakov Gallery). Both of these belong to the group of his landscapes in which no open spaces are revealed in the background — just a damp, overgrown corner of a garden which appears to over-hang the neighbouring houses, these being deliberately depicted as small, as well as some grey open sky above them. But by his constant transitions and tinges of grey, silver and green, the artist creates a surprising depth and expansiveness which requires the viewer to look for a while, to immerse himself in the painting.
In the present work, though we can see randomness in the composition, the degree of internal structuring remains hidden. The composition seems to be, intentionally, without a centre: the house with its red-tiled roof and the tall trees cling to the edges of the canvas and, cut off by the frame, do not fit within its bounds. The area of grey, windy sky and the small human figure draw our attention at the same time to the top and bottom of the picture. And yet the very principle of figurative painting is entirely opposed to any kind of randomness. Every part of the landscape lives its own life and does not so much reproduce fragments of provincial existence as express the existential meaning of things.