Paintings by Mark Rothko are believed to be the most expensive, if compared to other Russian artists. Its White Center (1950) was sold for 72.8 million dollars plus it is the 12th most expensive painting in the world. However, Rothko was a Jew who left Russia at age 10. So, we will cross him out from our list of most expensive paintings by Russian artists.
№ 1. Kazimir Malevich – 60 million dollars.
Suprematist Composition, 1916 (Sotheby’s, 2008)
The painting was created in 1916 and stayed with the artist until June 1927. Malevich exhibited his work in the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung in Berlin, but was soon to leave for the USSR. The painting soon went to German architect Hugo Hering, who then sold it to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. It stayed there for the next 50 years. After 17 years of legal battle over the painting’s ownership, the painting was returned to heirs of the artist. In November, 2008 they sold it at an auction. In 2012, they returned another painting by their prominent ancestor taking it away from a museum in Switzerland.
№ 2. Wassily Kandinsky — 22.9 million dollars.
Fugue, 1914 (Sotheby’s, 1990)
This painting is exposed in a private museum in Switzerland and each person can enjoy it. It was lucky to skip the time when auctions were filled with reckless Russian buyers purchasing paintings for their private collections to never show them anyone.
№ 3. Alexej von Jawlensky — 9. 43 million pounds.
Schokko with Wide-Brimmed Hat, about 1910 (Sotheby’s, 2008)
The painting depicts a country girl living off Munich. Schokko is not her real name. It’s her nickname. She was nicknamed so because the girl who posed for the painting would always ask the artist for a cup of coffee.
№ 4. Marc Chagall — 16.3 million dollars.
Jubileum, 1923 (Sotheby’s, 1990)
It depicts a flight with the artist’s wife, the story which may be found in many paintings by Chagall. The painting dates to 1923. However, in New York, there is a similar painting called Birthday and it was created in 1915.
№ 5. Natalia Goncharova — 6.43 million pounds.
Spaniard, 1916 (Christie’s's, 2010)
The majority of her works are rather expensive (her Flowers was sold for 5.52 million pounds) but we decided to include just one painting of each painter into our list.
Recently, they found over 300 paintings by Goncharova unknown to the public and may be they will be put up for auctions.
№ 6. Nicolai Fechin — 6.95 million pounds.
The Little Cowboy, 1940 (MacDougall’s, 2010)
Born in Kazan, Nicolai immigrated to the USA in 1923. His works are displayed in different countries but the largest collection is situated at the Fechin Center in Kazan. It is unclear why the price for his painting skyrocketed (in spring 2010, this very painting was sold for just 600,000 dollars). Some say that it might have been done on purpose, to artificially inflate prices on his art in general.
№ 7. Ilya Repin — 4.52 million pounds.
Parisian Café, 1875 (Christie’s, 2011)
This painting was exhibited just three times since a collector from Sweden purchased it 95 years ago.
№ 8. Vasily Polenov — 4.07 million pounds.
Who Among You is Without Sin? 1908 (Bonhams, 2011)
This painting might have been lost forever because it was to be transported to the USA by Titanik. Luckily, it didn’t.
№ 9. Konstantin Somov — 3.7 million pounds.
Rainbow, 1927 (Christie’s, 2007)
The painting was purchased for this huge sum in 2007, the year before the economic crisis broke out. It became the most expensive painting bought during Russian Auction Week, several days when auctions sell Russian Art only.
№ 10. Ilya Kabakov — 2.9 million pounds.
Beetle, 1985 (Phillips de Pury, 1998)
Ilya Kabakov is the soul of Moscow conceptualism whose works have become the dream of any collector.
№ 13. Boris Kustodiev — 2.84 million pounds.
Country Fair, 1920 (Sotheby’s, 2009)
This painting sold for 4.5 million dollars saved the face of the artist. The point is that in 2005, at Christie’s, a Russian oligarch purchased another painting by Kustodiev which turned out to be a fake.
№ 12. Alexander Yakovlev — 2.82 million pounds.
Portrait of Vasily Shuhaeva in his Studio, 1928 (Christie’s, 2007)
№ 13. Vladimir Baranov-Rossine — 2.73 million pounds.
Rhythm (Adam and Eve), 1910 (Christie’s, 2008)
Baranov-Rossine lived between Russia and France and died in Auschwitz concentration camp. Rhythm (Adam and Eve) is one of his best creations.
№ 14. Ivan Aivazovsky — 2.7 million pounds.
American vessels at the rock of Gibraltar, 1873 (Christie’s, 2007)
Average price for a painting by Aivazovsky is 1 million dollars. Besides, the artists once mentioned that he had made over 6,000 of them.
№ 15. Vasily Vereshchagin — 2.28 million pounds.
Taj Mahal, Evening, 1874–1876 (Sotheby’s, 2011)
His paintings are always a good investment.
№ 16. Mikhail Larionov — 2.26 million pounds.
Still Life with Jug and Icon, 1910–1912 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
His paintings are less expensive than those of his wife, Natalia Goncharova. She was more talented than her husband in general. They registered their marriage just after 50 years of living together. Nevertheless, their marriage was happy.
№ 17. Mikhail Nesterov — 4.3 million dollars.
The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew, 1922 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
This painting is a reproduction of one of the most prominent paintings of symbolism. It was created in 1890 and is exhibited in the State Tretyakov Gallery. Nesterov’s painting is twice as small and was created almost 30 years after the original one.
№ 18. Boris Grigoriev — 3.72 million dollars.
The Shepherd in the Mountains, 1920 (Sotheby’s, 2008)
He emigrated from Russia just like many other talented artists and died in his mansion in Nice.
№ 19. Konstantin Makovsky — 2.03 million pounds.
From the everyday life of the Russian Boyar in the late XVII, 1868 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
Makovsky has painted a huge number of boyarynias wearing cute hats. His Children Running from a Thunderstorm had been printed on candy boxes for quite a while and his paintings are always in popular demand.
№20. Svyatoslav Roerich — 2.99 million dollars.
Portrait of Nicholas Roerich in a Tibetan, 1933 (Christie’s, 2009)
Nicholas Roerich’s son left Russia at a very young age. He lived in England, the USA and India. He liked philosophy like his father who played a great role in his life. On the whole, Svyatoslav has created over 30 portraits of his father Nicholas.
№ 21. Ivan Shishkin — 1.87 million pounds.
View of Valaam Island. Kukko, 1860 (MacDougall’s, 2010)
The main landscape painter of Russia spent three summers in a raw in Valaam leaving several beautiful paintings of the area.
№ 22. Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin — 1.83 million pounds.
Vasya, 1922 (Christie’s, 2010)
The painting was found in a private collection in Chicago and only experts managed to identify its origin.
№ 23. Nicholas Roerich — 1.76 million pounds.
Coming, 1922 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
Nicholas spent a lot of time in India, creating his paintings many of which he later left there. However, before that he had specialized in Old Russia and this painting belongs to this very period of his life.
№ 24. Lyubov Popova — 1.7 million pounds.
Still Life with Tray, (Sotheby’s, 2007)
Lyubov Popova died when she was young so she left not many paintings after herself and it is very difficult to find one for sale.
№ 25. Aristarkh Lentulov — 1.7 million pounds.
City in Southern Russia, 1914-16 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
Lentulov made history by picturing Saint Basil’s Cathedral which is now exposed in the Tretyakov Gallery.
№ 26. Alexey Bogolyubov — 1.58 million pounds.
View of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior from the Kremlin, 1878 (Christie’s, 2007)
The fact that this painting was sold for this much money indicates the market’s craziness days before the economic crisis.
№ 27. Isaak Levitan — 1.56 million pounds.
The Illumination of the Kremlin, 1896 (Christie”s, 2007)
The painting does not look like typical Levitan’ paintings so it was sold for less than it could have been.
№ 28. Arkhip Kuindzhi — 3 million dollars.
A Birch Grove, 1881 (Sotheby’s, 2007)
There are three similar paintings by Kuindzhi. The first one is exposed in the Tretyakov Gallery, the second one in Belarus and the third one was purchased by an owner of a sugar refinery from Ukraine.
№ 29. Konstantin Korovin — 1.497 million pounds.
View from the Terrace, Gurzuf, 1912 (Sotheby’s, 2008)
Korovin is the main impressionist of Russia and is said to be popular among swindlers. Amount of fake paintings by Korovin sold at auctions reaches 80%.
№ 30. Yuriy Annenkov — 2.26 million dollars.
Portrait of A. Tikhonov, 1922 (Christie’s, 2007)
Annenkov left Russia in 1924 and became rather successful in the West. He was even nominated for Oscar in 1954.
№ 31. Lev Lagorio — 1.47 million pounds.
Moon Night on the Neva. Saint Petersburg, 1881 (Christie’s, 2007)
It is another painting which has been for some reason overestimated. As one of the London bidders said, “Happiness is when two Russian oligarchs compete with each other”.
№ 32. Victor Vasnetsov — 1.1 million pounds.
The Bogatyr, 1920 (Christie’s, 2011)
Bogatyrs became Vasnetsov’s trademark in the 1870s and let him fell needed.
№ 33. Erik Bulatov — 1.084 million pounds.
Glory to the Communist Party of the USSR, 1975 (Phillips de Pury, 2008)
He can make his paintings worth more only by dying.
Bonus: Zinaida Serebryakova – 1.07 million pounds.
Lying Nude, 1929 (Sotheby’s, 2008)
Zinaida liked painting nude women, self-portraits and those of her children. Her paintings are full of harmony and peace which cannot be said about her life though.