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Flora Yukhnovich, the British artist known for reframing 18th-century Rococo art for a contemporary audience, will show two new works at the Wallace Collection in London this summer inspired by the French artist François Boucher and other Rococo masters.
Yukhnovich’s paintings will temporarily replace two works by Boucher at the top of the grand staircase on the landing of Hertford House, which houses the collection, from June to October. Boucher’s two large-scale works, Pastoral with a Bagpipe Player (1749) and Pastoral with a Couple near a Fountain (1749), will be moved to a display space on the ground floor. “I have been visiting [the Wallace Collection] since I was a student to immerse myself in the 18th century and to study the Boucher paintings,” she says in a statement.
Boucher, who was also a theatre designer, reinvigorated traditional pastoral and mythological scenes, filling his canvases with nymphs, goddesses and shepherdesses. Other leading Rococo artists include Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) whose most famous painting, The Swing (around 1768), is housed at the Wallace Collection.
Victoria Miro, the gallery which co-represents Yukhnovich along with Hauser & Wirth, described the nuanced relationship between her practice and these historical works in a statement. “When viewed from afar, Yukhnovich’s works might be seen to be figurative, their suggestive brushwork carrying echoes of elaborate 18th-century scenes. Yet when approached more closely, the precisely arranged structure gives way to pure texture and colour,” it said.
Describing her approach, the artist says: “I like the idea of combining these two art historical moments which have become highly gendered: the pretty Rococo imagery and the machismo of abstraction. But really abstraction and figuration don’t feel separate to me. They are two different points in the same process, part of a spectrum which ranges from very loose, abstracted marks through to tightly articulated figuration.”
Yukhnovich’s fluid canvases have also been a commercial success. In October 2021, Sotheby’s offered her 2020 painting I’ll Have What She’s Having during its contemporary art evening sale in London, with an estimate of £60,000 to £80,000. After a flurry of bids from Asia and the US, it sold for £2.5m (including fees)—more than 30 times the high estimate. On the secondary market her large canvases command seven-figure sums.
Asked about her stratospheric market rise, she told the Telegraph: “There are certain elements that feel really surreal. But every day, I come in here [to her studio in Bermondsey], and I’m by myself all day. There are times when it feels like a loud noise. But mostly, I just try and keep it as quiet as possible, because all those things, especially in the market, are not in my control.”
The Norwich-born, London-based painter studied portraiture at the Heatherley School of Fine Art and, in 2017, earned her MA from the City & Guilds of London Art School. She had her first solo shows at Brocket Gallery and Parafin in London. An exhibition of her works inspired by Dutch Golden Age still-life paintings is currently on show at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (Ashmolean Now, until 14 January).