Signed in Cyrillic “F. Zakharov” (lower right) and signed again and inscribed “Fedor Zakharov/Football” (en verso)
Oil on card laid down on panel
This exceptionally rare early work by the celebrated portraitist Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov represents the rare opportunity to own a piece of both art historical and cultural significance. Undoubtedly, football is the most beloved sport in the world, commanding the attention of billions of enthusiasts worldwide. However, the sport has seldom been chosen as a subject for fine art, particularly in its early days. Entitled Football, this dynamic oil, which was once owned by the North Carolina Museum of Art, is one of a select few that highlights the excitement of this international pastime.
The ambitious composition is highly unusual for the artist, who is particularly known for the highly popular portraits of New York society that dominated his later output. Instead, Football offers a glimpse into Zakharov’s early experimentation with reflections, light and shadows. In the present work, the technique contributes to the fervor of the game, which is further intensified by the highly saturated patches of orange-red on the players’ uniforms and in the packed spectator-stands behind them. Overall, the effect is impressive and dynamic, bringing the atmosphere of the match to life.
Zakharov painted the work around 1912, which was an historic year for Russian football. The establishment of the Football Union of Russia took place that year, and a number of teams had emerged, including OLLS Moscow (known today as CSKA Moscow). It is possible they are one of the teams depicted here, as they played in distinctive red and blue stripped uniforms. For the first time, Russia also sent a football team to the Olympic Games in Stockholm, where they played teams from Finland, Germany, Hungary and Norway. In this context, Football represents a significant step taken in the history of Russian sport, and also the country’s emergence onto the world stage.
Born in Astrakhan in 1882, Fedor Zakharov studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1910 until 1916. He began to exhibit as early as 1911, an amazing accomplishment for a young artist. He was invited to be an exhibitor and member of the committee organizing the Russian Art Exhibition planned for New York City in 1924. Football was among the few compositions the artist leant for the exhibition, representing his entrée into New York society. Like many other émigrés who escaped the Russian Revolution, Zakharov subsequently settled in New York, where he opened a studio in Central Park South in 1932.
His paintings soon gained a significant following among affluent society. He received a number of commissions from important patrons, including Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and philanthropist Charles R. Crane. Zakharov exhibited both as a solo artist in cities such as Paris, New York and Philadelphia, and contributed to the International Exhibition of Modern Art held at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh. Enjoying such great success in America, Zakharov thrived as a society portraitist in New York and never return to Russia. He won a number of prizes, and today, his work is exhibited at in number of prestigious collections all over the world.
Panel: 27” high x 36 1/2” wide
Frame: 37 7/8” high x 47 1/4” wide
The Russian Art Exhibition, 1924, New York, Grand Central Palace
Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, 1926, Philadelphia, Department of Fine Arts
Feodor Zakharov: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1965, Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art
Feodor Zakharov: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1965, Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, p. 9, no. 3 (illustrated)
The artist, at least until 1965
Elsie and George Kramer, New York
North Carolina Museum of Fine Art, Raleigh, NC
Private collection, London
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans 2011