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Vera Pagava (1907 - 1988)

Les Pierres (Paysage), 1936

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

From the beginning of her career in Paris, the paintings of Vera Pagava, though rooted in figurative representation, exhibited an affinity for abstract principles. Drawing from a post-cubist aesthetic, the stark simplicity of her early works, characterized by a restrained palette, revealed a quest for natural and essential forms – a precept undoubtedly influenced by her teacher Roger Bissière at the Académidie Ranson, whose directive was: “In front of nature, strive to reduce complex forms to simple forms; the closer you get to the essential: cubes, triangles, cones, pyramids, cylinders, circles… the more expressive your work will be”.

One of Pagava’s main concerns was the integration of the objet in space. Outside of her studio work, she created various compositions out of doors, including “Le Printemps,” (1936), a deserted landscape inhabited by a rock and three bare trees, foreshadowing the series of landscapes she then produced up to the war years.

“Les Pierres (Paysages)”, with its vibrant and luminous simplicity, embraces the unadorned and yet mysterious universe of her paintings.

The surrealist elements of this dreamlike landscape – a spiritual ambiance emphasised by the strong essence of the stones arranged in a ceremonial pattern with dark shadows –  converge to convey a desert-like utopia.

A feeling of melancholy inhabits the painting; perhaps conjuring up Pagava’s exile from her home country?


Les Pierres (Paysage)
x W55cm
Signed Oil on canvas
Pagava, Vera

Vera Pagava (1907 - 1988)

Vera Pagava was 16 when her family fled the Soviet regime in Georgia and went into exile in Paris. In 1929, after training at the School of Decorative Arts, then at André Lhote’s studio, she studied under Roger Bissière’s at the Ranson Academy. There she met artists who would become lifelong friends, including Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Roger Hilton. She began to paint in a post-cubist style, with reduced schematics and a pale and luminous palette that expressed her will to keep her work as pared down as possible. In 1943, Pagava had a joint exhibition with Dora Maar at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery and began to exhibit widely, in France and abroad. In 1966 an entire room at the Venice Biennale was dedicated to her watercolours. In the 1950s, Pagava began to experiment with optical effects achieved through a multiplication of motifs and an intermingling of planes; her series of cities, made up of interlocking coloured rectangles, are reminiscent of the formal explorations of Sonia Delaunay and Piet Mondrian’s pre-war cubist works. After her death in 1988, The “Association culturelle Vera Pagava” ( was founded in Paris to promote and preserve Pagava’s work and archives. Describing her paintings in 2016, the Wall Street International wrote: ‘Vera Pagava whispers, or almost’.

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