Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
As the author of The Canon, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov name the fictitious artist, Charles Rosenthal. Born in Moscow in 1898, Rosenthal emigrated to Paris in 1922, where he died in 1933, Ilya Kabakov’s year of birth. Rosenthal's large, white-grounded canvases are subdivided by a grid of lines into uniform rectangles in portrait format. Like many artists, he seems to work with the square grid to compose his paintings, a method used to make large paintings according to small sketches. The surface of the painting remains largely white; in each one only one field of the grid, or sometimes two, is filled with seemingly impressionist landscapes or with social-realist figurative scenes. Whether in the case of the Canon scenes, it is merely a matter of details in a grid that still has to be filled out, remains an open question. Only the images in which more than one of the fields is filled in a painterly way allow the conclusion to be drawn, because of the congruent scale and subject, that also the remaining white fields still had to be filled. According to Kabakov, with the greater distance from Russia, it became increasingly difficult for Rosenthal to fill in the white patches of his paintings.