Alice Halicka, “Nature morte au violin,” circa 1922. Oil on canvas, 144 x 114 cm. Signed lower left “A.Halicka” and on the reverse “A. HALICKA nature morte.” Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 25,000 – 30,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.
Was the French term for still-life, “Nature morte,” ever more misleading than for Alice Halicka (1884-1975)’s circa 1922 oil “Nature morte au violin,” on sale at Artcurial’s Impressionism and Modern Paris auction October 18? Inviting the spectator’s active participation, the work offers at least a dozen points for filling in its active life outside the canvas. The pipe posed on the stack of books demands: who’s smoking it? The open place it marks invites the observer to imagine the stories the books relate. The carafe is waiting for you to pick your poison and the ceramic vase for you to choose your flowers; the game on the chess board (which might echo a military battle) to be played, as is the violin. The pen box just needs to be opened, its implements to be freshened in the full ink bottle, with the empty parchment at their mercy. The paint-box below the palette attends the fresh brushes pitched on it, the frame at the left the picture they’ll create, perhaps inspired by the lively beer advertisement on the wall (depicting a denatured scene within a nature morte). And if you still have doubts that this tableau is rife with dramatic potential, check out the lifted curtain in the upper right corner. Action! Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial. — Paul Ben-Itzak