In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, “Ramayana.”
Hailing from Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the little known, but highly respected, Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev (1886-1939). Born in Rybinsk, Grigoriev began his artistic career early in 1903 at the Stroganov Art School, where he quickly excelled and developed a taste for representing the Russian countryside and village life, subjects familiar to the budding painter.
After training for four years at Stroganov, Grigoriev continued his education at the prestigious Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg under notables such as Dmitry Kardovsky and began exhibiting his works in 1909. Over his career, Grigoriev executed several series of paintings and graphic works, each of which displays the artist’s mastery of color in addition to the variety of modern styles that would influence his aesthetic. From 1916 to 1918, he created a series of works titled Russia, where he sought to illuminate the strength of Russian peasantry in the face of poverty. Influential critic Alexandre Benois reviewed the series with acclaim, noting that Grigoriev had captured the soul of Russia during the years leading to the country’s great revolution.
Grigoriev’s work is highly coveted among collectors today and his work frequently demands six-figure numbers. Perhaps due to his friendship with Nikolai Roerich –- who studied extensively the cultures of the East, specifically India –- Grigoriev executed the eclectic “Ramayana” in 1931, a truly extraordinary painting and one of the artist’s most unusual in his oeuvre. Based on the ancient Indian epic Ramayana, the image depicts the mythological heroine Sita in full length and traditional dress. Sita’s brilliant blue dress contrasts sharply with the luminous orange sphere of fields. From this sphere, faces of Soviet boys peek out while a monkey gestures. In Sita’s hands is an elegant veena, a type of classical Indian stringed instrument. As the divine companion of the epic’s main character Rama, Sita represents the ideal of female purity.
Dedicated to the monumental Mahatma Gandhi, who was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1930, the piece is truly one of a kind and sure to draw spirited bidding. “Ramayana” features within Sotheby’s December 1 Russian Pictures sale, with auction estimates between $918,720 and $1,224,960 -– prices worthy of the painting’s allure.    
To view the full catalogue, visit Sotheby’s.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for freeclick here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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