Before they fled the country of their birth in 1922, brothers Roman (1900-1987) and Constantin (1904-1993) Chatov were witness to the artistic flourishing in Russia known as the ‘Silver Age’. When the Bolshevik Revolution rocked the country, it led many, including the Chatovs, to seek new lives abroad. Already coming of age in an artistic family of theatre impresarios, Roman and Constantin would find New York City, where they and their parents eventually settled, to be the perfect environment to nurture their innate talents and aesthetic leanings.
Finding their way to the famed Art Students League, where the heavyweight roster of instructors and students would become legendary in the art world, it was Roman who first took up his studies in painting before his brother, who was an accomplished concert pianist, eventually followed. Roman went on to the National Academy of Arts and became known for his period-appropriate murals which combined lush deco aesthetics with an academic sensitivity. His murals could be seen throughout the country, thanks to a commission from the WPA to paint for two pavilions in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Soon Constantin was joining his brother for high profile assignments from Hollywood, painting portraits for actors and actresses of the Golden Age. By 1958, the brothers established a teaching studio in Atlanta and quickly became beloved and decorated members of the local arts community.
If brothers bearing remarkable gifts wasn’t enough for one family, Roman’s son, Marc (b. 1953) also went on to become a celebrated artist known for his realistic, yet romantic, portraiture. As the living link to both his father and uncle’s legacies, Marc first went on to study at Georgia State University before following in his family’s footsteps and attending the Art Students League, where he counted Nelson Shanks as his teacher. Today, Marc is considered one of the top portrait artists in the country, and is a member of both The Salmagundi Club in New York City and the Portrait Society of America. On June 9, 10 and 11, 2017, Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery will be offering, from a private Atlanta collection, four highly distinctive paintings from this artistic legacy.
As distinctive portraiture seems to be the family trademark, the first painting on offer is a radical departure from the realistic still lifes and nudes that populate the elder Chatovs early work. Roman’s cubist leaning ‘Equestrian (Horse Tamer)’ pays homage to themes of circus-life that so fascinated mid-century European artists while honing in on a simple palette rendered in confident brush strokes.
Constantin’s portraits on offer – the first, a dual portrait of two nude youths, recalls Picasso’s blue period, with tones of grey, orange, and of course, a pastel blue to highlight the faces and features of his downcast subjects, radiating a certain sad romance. Setting a lighter tone is Constantin’s second portrait of a beautiful woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat, the empty white background allowing the subject to ethereally float, weighed down only by her raised arm and the fingers on which she rests her chin.
It is Constantin’s style that appeared to resonate more profoundly in Marc’s work, which can be seen in the last portrait on offer of a full-length nude who is captured while adjusting her hair. The soft tones of the background, the gentle brushstrokes and sentimental poses are pure Chatov in this unabashed rendering. How wonderful to see the family ties from painting to painting, much less side by side.
Consider this summer your opportunity to acquire a unique piece from a legendary American family with ties to the great artistic traditions of Europe.