Les Eucalyptus by Boris Kalachnikoff after H.F.V. Scales
Still life. Fruit on a plate and a jug on a green oval table with folding legs. Branch of green foliage. Coloured stripes to right and left of table.
LL (in Boris Kalachnikoff’s handwriting) nature morte disparue “Les eucalyptus”
This is a drawing done from memory by Boris Kalachnikoff of a c.1935 oil on canvas painting by Flora Scales which was subsequently destroyed. The description of this painting was written from memory in 1991 by Boris Kalachnikoff who also supplied the location, Ste Geneviève-des-Bois, France, where his wife's parents lived. Kalachnikoff refers to this work as Nature morte disparue which translates to Lost still life.
Kalachnikoff does not supply dimensions for the original painting but refers to it as “large”, in correspondence with B. de Lange, 13.05.1983. Perhaps it was similar in dimensions to Untitled [Flowers in a Green Pot] [BC085], 405 x 470mm. He describes “…a water jug and fruit very carefully placed for the composition. The colours were so beautiful. At this time she dared to use bright colours. The elements of the still life were all brought together into a rigorously recreated composition in the search for a balance of space."
Excerpt from An accompanied solitude, an essay by Boris Kalachnikoff, January 1991, "She painted colourful and structured still-lifes. I remember one of her paintings, a round garden table, made of metal, coloured green with eucalyptus, some striped pink and green Indian material which she was fond of, a terracotta pitcher, some fruit.
Her painting is very studied in its composition, with deliberate deformations of perspective in order to satisfy a strict plastic art, which could be said to be an application of the Cubist experience.
This remarkable still-life was painted around 1935.
My mother who was incapable of understanding such an elaborate painting that was not at all stereotyped or descriptive, a healthy, tonic work from which emanated a “joie de vivre”, a creative interpretation, which replied to questions posed by the requirements of the art of painting, from where we discovered modern art, a masterly application of the thought of Maurice Denis: “A painting, before being a battle horse or a nude woman, is, first of all a space filled with colour, forms, values and a certain composed order.”
Well, my mother used this coloured canvas to repair the underneath of an armchair.
What wealth, lost forever!
Such a lesson in art reduced to the underneath of a chair!
Flora saw this chair, – what sadness. I felt extremely uncomfortable. Flora was appalled."
B. Kalachnikoff letter to B. de Lange, 10.06.1991, “The memory of this still life with eucalyptus of around 1934 (which was destroyed) comes to mind, where Flora had transformed Matisse's lesson. [Her] free flowing colours [are] enhanced by the freedom of the composition. It was [Scales's] colourful era. Delightful, with a masterly ease, at the same time constructed, soaring, in a keen sweeping style, vigorously maintained, uniform shades of coloured fruit.”
An accompanied solitude, an essay by Boris Kalachnikoff (January 1991), kindly translated from French by Jenny Kotlarevsky
Photos by Sam Hartnett