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CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

4-17

Lyudmila Markina

O dolce Napoli.

XIX
O dolce Napoli: Naples through the eyes
of Russian and Italian Artists
of the first half of the 19th Century

18-29

Olga Atroshchenko


..

She lived in the magical world of the fairy tale
The work of Yelena Polenova
at the Tretyakov Gallery

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30-39

Yelena Kashtanova

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Yelena Polenova The artists work
in the collection of the Polenov Museum Reserve

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www.tg-m.ru


3000 .
:
.

19271928
,
63,5 50
,

,



.

77-32787 11 2008 .
, 2011

40-55

Yelena Terkel


..
..
I feel you intimately and deeply
Excerpts from the correspondence
of Maria Yakunchikova and Yelena Polenova
HERITAGE

56-69

Eleonora Paston

:

Vasily Polenov: I love the gospel tales
beyond words

#4 2011

QUARTERLY ART MAGAZINE

FOUNDERS
The State Tretyakov Gallery
Foundation GRANY. ART-CRYSTAL-BRUT
Mr. Vitaly Machitski

EDITORIAL BOARD
Irina Lebedeva Chairman
Mikhail Afanasiev
Marina Elzesser
Lydia Iovleva
Yelena Lavrinenko
Vitaly Machitski
Irena Machitski
Pavel Machitski
Alexander Rozhin
Tair Salakhov
Yekaterina Selezneva
Karen Shakhnazarov
Natalya Tolstaya
Vasily Tsereteli
Natella Voiskounski
Galina Volchek
Tatiana Volkova

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

70-77



Chaim Soutine
The Pain and Beauty of the World

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS

78-89
GENERAL SPONSOR
Vitaly Machitski
PUBLISHER
Foundation "GRANY. ART-CRYSTAL-BRUT"
Founder - Irena Machitski
Director - Natella Voiskounski

Natalya Apchinskaya

Natalja Jevsejeva



A Shared Creativity
Romans Suta and Alexandra Belcova

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alexander Rozhin


CO-EDITOR Natella Voiskounski

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA
CHIEF DESIGNER Dmitry Melnik
CHIEF EDITOR Elisaveta Volkova
EDITORS Anna Ilina, Tatiana Lykova

90-101

LAYOUT Tatiana Lapina



Lucian Freud:
Rebel with a Cause

PRE-PRESS Pavel Popolov


STYLE EDITOR Tom Birchenough
TRANSLATION
A PRIORI Translation Company
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ARTISTIC DYNASTY

WEBSITE DESIGNER Tatiana Uspenskaya


ADDRESS:
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Tel./fax: +7 (499) 241-8291
E-mail: art4cb@gmail.com
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102-113

Tatyana Plastova


The Plastovs - A Family of Artists

Printed by Printing House GRAFFITY


3000 copies

Cover:
Chaim SOUTINE. The Choir Boy
Circa 1927 1928
Oil on canvas
63.5 50 cm

114-115

EVENTS

Alexandra Yuferova

Muse de LOrangerie,
Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection, Paris

The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine, 2011


A Romantic Master

#4 2011

O dolce Napoli

XIX
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28 41
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Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
Waterfront in Naples.
1825
Oil on canvas
28 41 cm
Tropinin Museum, Moscow

.
.
1826
,
45,7 67.

3Sylvester

SHCHEDRIN
A View of Naples
(Riviera di Chiaia).
1826
Oil on canvas
45.7 67 cm
Detail
Tretyakov Gallery


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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Lyudmila Markina

O dolce Napoli:
Naples through the eyes of Russian and Italian
Artists of the first half of the 19th Century
The title of the exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallerys Engineering wing was borrowed from a
Neapolitan folk song and for good reason, since the lines epitomize the special feelings about
this southern city, one unique in Italy. Eternal Rome, which became a recognized academy
of European masters; classic Florence, a refuge of intellectuals and patrons of the arts; carnivalesque Venice each city is enjoyable in its own way. But Naples is special because of its location, mild coastal climate and distinct blissful atmosphere of relaxed do-nothing-ness.



. 1837
,

Waterfronts and streets

Gaetano GIGANTE
View of Spirito Santo
Church and Via
Toledo. 1837
Oil on canvas
Museum San Martino,
Naples

he Russian Empire established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of


Naples, the first state to emerge on the
Apennine Peninsula, in 1777. During the
first half of the 19th century, until 1861,
when the unified Kingdom of Italy was
formed, the two countries maintained
friendly ties. Even during the 1820 revolution in Naples, Alexander I adopted a
wait-and-see approach, as a result of
which Russian troops did not take part in
quashing the revolt. Under the reign of
Tsar Nicholas I, political, economic and
cultural links between Russia and Naples
were strong as never before. Visitors to
Naples, at different times, included the

Shchedrin, Sylvester.
Letters. Moscow, 1978.
P. 33.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

historians Mikhail Pogodin and Stepan


Shevyrev, the writer Nikolai Gogol,
the poets Fyodor Tyutchev and Vasily
Zhukovsky, the composer Mikhail Glinka
and the singer Nikolai Ivanov, and the
Karatygins a family of actors. In
Naples, Russian architects Nikolai Yefimov, Alexei Gornostaev, Mikhail Tomarinsky, and Sergei Ivanov worked on
renovation of the cultural landmarks of
antiquity. Alexander Ivanov, the creator of
historical compositions, lived and worked
near Naples together with his architect
brother. For landscape artist Sylvester
Shchedrin, the city was a place of true
artistic pilgrimage.

Shchedrins Naples. On the Riviera di


Chiaia (Chiaias Riviera) (1819, Tretyakov
Gallery), created shortly after the artists arrival in the city, became the visiting card of
the exhibition. I live in Batyushkovs
place, Shchedrin wrote to Samuil Galberg, by the seaside, in the most beautiful
surroundings with lots of people walking
and driving by every evening1. The composition features one of the main waterfront
areas in Naples, with a magnificent view of
Vesuvius in the background. The foreground is filled with numerous locals:
fishermen hauling nets, a coachman (un
vetturino), boys employed as guides (ciceroni), and a puppeteer with a portable
theatre. This crowd of Neapolitans includes
the artist himself as he bargains with a street
vendor. In this early piece the landscapist
attempted to reach beyond the classicist
canon of painting with its dominance of
local colour. His keenness on rendering the
evening lights betrays some influence from
romanticism.
An image of the same waterfront created by Shchedrin seven years later, during
his second visit to Naples, deserves consideration. In his piece named A View of
Naples (Riviera di Chiaia) (1826,
Tretyakov Gallery) the painter pictures the
locality at a greater distance, and genre
scenes in the foreground are not as important as in the earlier work. The palette is
different, too: his experience painting from
nature gave Shchedrin a high level of mastery in rendering light and air effects.

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

.

1826
,
45,7 67

Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
A View of Naples
(Riviera di Chiaia)
1826
Oil on canvas
45.7 67 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

Along with outstanding paintings by


the Russian master, the exhibition featured
17 gouache pieces (from Moscows Historical Museum) made by Italian amateur
artists in the mid-19th century. Practically
every traveller to Naples wanted to take
away a souvenir: a piece of the lava of
Vesuvius, a shard of pottery from an excavation site in Pompeii, or an image by a
local pittore (painter). The brightlycoloured graphic pieces were effectively
the forerunners of postcards on which
artists imaged the most popular and scenic
spots in Naples. These views include, first
of all, panoramas of the city as viewed
from the Posillipo hill or from the palace
of Capodimonte, views of Vesuvius, often
featured with a smoking summit or during
an eruption, and the islands and shores of
the bay of Naples.

Neapolitans: types and personalities


Views of Naples have a distinct sub-category such as images of the citys residents.
Even the renowned landscape artist

Sylvester Shchedrin took up a completely


new sort of pictures, tableaux de genre,
which [I] began to paint for amusement,
in order to catalogue different costumes of
the local men2. Indeed, the Russian masters had always been interested in the
ethnographic characteristics of different
ethnic groups living in Italy the particular details of their appearance, and the
style and colours of their costume. Ethnic
clothes from such areas as Cosenza,
L'Aquila, Teramo, Prata di Principato
Ultra and Catanzaro are featured in the
pictures of historical and educational nature, such as the watercolour Costumes
of Residents of the Kingdom of Naples
by an unknown Italian artist, and in Consalvo Carellis3 picture Woman With a
Tambourine. Costume of a Resident of
Procida Island (mid-19th century, Historical Museum). Such beautiful pictures with boys shepherding cattle, sweet
teenage girls and pretty lasses, like those in
the compositions Two Italian Girls
Watching Dovelets and Neapolitan
Women Against the Background of Vesu-

vius (1850s, both at the Tretyakov


Gallery), reflect this approach, only at an
artistic level. The pictures feature the usual
Neapolitan combo Vesuvius, grapes,
a tambourine. The natural grace of the
southern beauties is emphasized by their
colourful costumes long skirts, snowwhite blouses with wide sleeves, and shawls
of different styles.
As well as pictures aimed at wealthy
buyers, the Italian artists created realist
images. One such image is a sketch by
Franz Ludwig Catel Two Pifferari
(Pipers) in Catel Institute, Rome. Itinerant musicians (pifferari) playing wind instruments along the lines of the bagpipes
(piffero) were highly respected in Italy.

Quote from: Fedorov-Davydov, Alexei. Sylvester Shchedrin


and Landscape Painting. In: Russian Landscape of the
18th-early 20th centuries. Moscow, 1986. P. 144.

Consalvo Carelli (1818-1900) was an Italian painter and


graphic artist of the Neapolitan school. Due to the patronage of distinguished Neapolitan families, he quickly gained
fame in the citys artistic circles. In 1845 he created two
paintings featuring views of Naples for Emperor Nicholas I.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS


. 1858
,
135,7 99,4

Yevgraf SOROKIN
Rendezvous. 1858
Oil on canvas
135.7 99.4 cm

Tretyakov Gallery


. . 1822
,
43 54,5

Sylvester6
SHCHEDRIN
Italian Shepherds
Family. c. 1822
Oil on canvas
43 54.5 cm

. .

Tropinin Museum, Moscow


,

1841
,
75 54,9

Their music was mostly of religious character, and they performed it near churches
and statues of the Madonna. Most of the
musicians were shepherds from the
Abruzzo region. One of the artists painting
images of the itinerant shepherd musicians
was Filippo Palizzi, a native of Lanciano,
a town in Abruzzo, and a graduate of the
Naples Academy of Fine Arts. His sketch
Peasant and a Boy Playing a Piffero Pipe
(1840, National Gallery of Modern and
Contemporary Art, Rome) reflects the
artists poetic view of his fellow countrymen. My drafts made in Naples, Palizzi
wrote, are the simplest confirmation of
that faith and boundless love which have
invariably accompanied my long and arduous artistic explorations4.
It is interesting to compare the Palizzi piece and Timofei Neffs composition
Neapolitan Shepherd at the Seaside in
the Light of the Rising Sun (1841, Tretyakov Gallery). Both painters tackle the
problem of lighting. The Italian artists
piece painted from nature conveys the atmosphere of real life, as well as subtle nu-

Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea,


le collezioni il XIX secolo. Roma, 2009. P. 158
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Timofei NEFF
Neapolitan Shepherd
at the Seaside in the
Light of the Rising Sun
1841
Oil on canvas
75 54.9 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

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Neapolitan Women
Against the Background
of Vesuvius. 1850s
Oil on canvas
20.6 18.6 cm

Vasily SHTERNBERG
Head of a Young Italian.
First half of the 1840s
Oil on canvas
47.5 37.7 cm

Tretyakov Gallery

Tretyakov Gallery

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

ances of light and colour, better than the


Russian artists composition. The contrasted images of the boy and the old man
are very realistic and true-to-life. Palizzi
faithfully renders the soiled look of their
shirts, their rumpled hats, and tattered
clothes. Neff creates a sweet image of a
young bronzed shepherd in a beautiful
white-and-red costume surrounded, as on
a pastoral picture, with little nanny goats.
Vasily Shternberg in his art treated
the images of Neapolitans in a completely
different fashion. There is nothing so disgusting in a painting as pretty, smiling and
nicely-clad little figures, the artist wrote
to his friend, the architect Nikolai Benois
in 1844. I much more enjoy a dirty beggar
with character5. As the artist Vasily Raev
reminisced, the Ukrainian Shternberg
has been living in Naples for several
months. He painted and drew lovely images of folk scenes.6 Indeed, Playing
Cards in a Neapolitan Osteria (1840s,
Tretyakov Gallery) reflects not so much
the commoners love for easy pickings as
their volcanic character and appetite for
excitement.

Vesuvius
The volcano of Vesuvius is the centrepiece
of the landscape of Naples, the citys symbol and key landmark. After the horrendous eruption in 79 AD, which destroyed
the city of Pompeii, Vesuvius was dormant
for long, and its lower levels became gardens and vineyards. Even the inside of the
crater was densely overgrown with shrubs.
Yet, as time went by, the volcano became
active again. During the period of monitoring, Vesuvius erupted more than 30
times7. Yemelian Korneevs watercolour
The Eruption of Vesuvius on August 18
10

1805 (Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts) and


an unknown artists piece The Eruption
of Vesuvius on February 5 1846 (in the
Historical Museum) are documentary evidence of the natural disaster. A good illustration of the events can be found in
Alexander Bulgakovs letter: I already described to you the capers of our Vesuvius.
On the 30th of August (in the evening) the
lava flew; its pace is one mile per day because it advances very slowly I drove to
see it and walked so close to it that I could
touch it with a cane. It looked as if it was
not lava streaming down but Vesuvius itself, from the very top to the bottom. The
lava caused a lot of harm, engulfing many
kitchen gardens and orchards that stood in
its way.8
Vesuvius in rebellion inspired
many poets, composers and artists. The
most stunning example is the historical
composition The Last Day of Pompeii
(1830-1833) by Karl Briullov, who visited
Naples in the summer of 1827. The sight
of the ancient city opened up after excavation staggered the impressionable artist.
Like Batyushkov, he could have cried out:
I know all the rocks in Pompeii by
heart. A marvellous, unfathomable sight,
the ashes with so many tales to tell!9
Briullovs painting, in a romantic vein, was
not only a reflection of the real historical
event: for his Russian contemporaries,
who witnessed the execution of the Decembrists, the image evoked the eternal
conflict between the untamed forces of
state authority and the people. Batyushkov
wrote to the historian Nikolai Karamzin:
Our Vesuvius changes every instant, like
a sea or like the world of politics. Its horrible and fascinating.10 Revealingly, a
notebook of the Decembrist Nikolai
Kryukov, Pavel Pestels friend, contains an

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

18 1805 .
1805
,
24 32,3

Yemelian KORNEEV
The Eruption
of Vesuvius on
August 18 1805.
1805
Watercolour on paper
24 32.3 cm
Pushkin Museum
of Fine Arts

amateur picture of an eruption of Vesuvius.


Researchers see in it a symbolical representation of the political conflicts in Russia at that time11.
In late 1824, Alexander Briullov settled in Naples, in a house by the bay, in an
apartment looking out on the waterfront
neighbourhood, Santa Lucia. The Russian
ambassadors widow Yelizaveta Khitrovo
attracted the attention of the Queen of
Naples to the watercolour painters exceptional talent. This distinguished patronage secured for the artist a lucrative
commission: I was offered to create portraits of the royal family, he wrote to his
parents on April 19 1825. I have already
finished them, everyone was highly satisfied; so far, Ive made only three: the
King, the Queen and the Princess, their
elder daughter full-size images on Bristol paper; I was paid quite handsomely
and the Queen also presented me with a
watch and asked to have these portraits
printed.12 The exhibition featured these
rarely seen images of Francis I, King of
Naples and the Two Sicilies, and his
spouse (1825, collection of Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky, Moscow). Once installed on the throne, the young Francis I
(1777-1830) largely abstained from regal
duties, letting his ministers take care of
matters instead. He preferred to spend
time in the company of his mistresses,
carousing and feasting, surrounding himself with soldiers for fear of an attempt on
his life. After fleeing in 1820 when revolt
broke out in Naples, Francis I changed his
life style: Alexander Briullov depicted the
king in an elegant tailcoat, awards on his
chest, with a black silk hat in his hands.
However, despite the obvious mission to
create a full-size gala portrait, the portraitist faithfully rendered the aged
monarchs ungainly stooped figure and
unappealing facial features (the spiteful
look in his eyes, and pursed lips). Mara
Isabella (1789-1848), Infanta of Spain
and the kings cousin, married him after
his first wifes death. The watercolour features the lady in a luxurious white dress
against a background of countryside. The

Stasov, Vladimir. Painter Shternberg. In: Vestnik izyashchnykh iskusstv (Messenger of Fine Arts). 1887. Vol. 5, issue 5.
P. 409.

Rayev, Vasily. Memories From My Life. Moscow, 1993.


P. 173.

In the first half of the 19th century the volcano erupted in


1805, 1822, 1834, 1839, 1850, 1855 and 1861.

Bulgakov, Alexander; Bulgakov, Konstantin. Letters in


3 Volumes. Moscow, 2010. Vol. 1. Letters from 1802
through 1820. P. 59.

Konstantin Batyushkov to Sergei Uvarov. May 1819. Naples.


In: Batyushkov, Konstantin. Works in 3 Volumes. Vol. 3.
St.Petersburg, 1886. P. 552.

10

Konstantin Batyushkov to Nikolai Karamzin. May 24, 1819.


Naples. Ibid., p. 557.

11

Nechkina, Militsa. The Decembrists. Moscow, 1982.

12

The Briullov familys archive belonging to V. Briullov.


St. Petersburg, 1900. Pp. 74-75.


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Nikolai BRIULLOV
Sea View of Naples
1857
Watercolour,
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20.5 27.2 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

11

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

.
18271828
,
44 61,5

Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
View of Amalfi.
1827-1828
Oil on canvas
44 61.5 cm

Tretyakov Gallery


.
. 1844.
,
28 41,5

,

12

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Giacinto GIGANTE
View of the Waterfront
in Posillipo.
c. 1844
Oil on canvas
28 41.5 cm
National Gallery
of Modern Art, Rome

mother of a large family (with 12 children),


she had a good nature and love of life.
When Alexander Briullov lived in
Naples, there was an incursion of foreigners many of whom were Russians, and when
they saw several portraits I made in my
spare time, almost jokingly, they said, they
wanted me to make their portraits as
well,13 he informed his parents. Briullov
created several splendid watercolour portraits of Russian aristocrats against the
backdrop of Vesuvius. These pieces include finely-crafted compositions such as
the portraits of the Shuvalov children, Andrei and Pyotr (1825), the portraits of Yekaterina Vorontsova and Yelena Golitsina
(1824-1825, Tretyakov Gallery), and images of Alexander Pushkins good friends
Natalya Golitsina (1824-1825, Museum of
Private Collections at the Pushkin Museum
of Fine Arts), Yekaterina Tiesenhausen and
Darya Ficquelmont (1825, Alexander
Pushkin Museum). Each of the sitters is depicted on an open terrace with a view of the
Bay of Naples, the waterfront, and the
smoking Vesuvius in the distance. This particular background is repeated time and
again because the clients wished to have
themselves represented in surroundings
they remembered. Vesuvius is featured in
Vasily Tropinins Portrait of Karl
Pavlovich Briullov (1836, Tretyakov
Gallery). Although the serf-artist never visited Italy, he portrayed Great Karl holding a folder for drawings and a pencil
against the backdrop of the smoking volcano. The artist Pimen Orlov, too, imaged
himself against the background of Vesuvius.
His Self-portrait (1851, Tretyakov
Gallery), completed in Rome (as shown by
the inscription on the canvas), is distinguished by its cheerfulness and appreciation
of the fullness of life in Italy.
Any sightseeing tour of Naples invariably included a climb to the crater of Vesuvius. Yet, the ascent of the mount by foot
was a long and difficult enterprise, because
the cinders come off in flakes under the
feet. The further and the higher, the hotter
the cinders are. Bronnikov, as the most judicious among us, stopped and said: Well,
gentlemen, what are we going to see up
there on the crater? Even here we can
hardly breathe because of the sulphurous
smoke, and higher up itll get even worse.
At that moment we were hit from above
with a blast of heated sand, and suddenly
darkness fell all around us. The next thing
we saw, our guides were off running down
the slope, and we followed them.14 This
passage is the artist Alexei Bogolyubovs
emotional description of his climb to Vesuvius. At the service of people wishing to attempt the risky ascent were guides,
lazzaroni, who carried rich travellers on
special sedan chairs. Alexander Briullov

13

Op.cit., p. 74.

14

Bogolyubov, Alexei. Journal of the Seaman and Artist. Volga


magazine. Special issue (2-3). Saratov, 1996. P. 57.

. 1828
,
61 87

Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
View of Vico between
Castellammare
and Sorrento. 1828
Oil on canvas
61 87 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

13

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

genre elements blend in the harmony of


serene nature and quiet, calm human existence. All these images are full of light, air,
and fresh sea-winds. Shchedrins contemporaries admired his compositions a reviewer of the 1836 academic exhibition in
St. Petersburg, where the Russian public
saw these works, noted: The fascinating
Shchedrin, who captured for us so sweetly
and faithfully the neighbourhoods around
Naples, the city which, as an Italian proverb
goes, lets the lucky man who has seen its
paradisiacal splendours die in peace.17
These words echo the belief of
Shchedrin himself: Ill live in Naples until
the last carlino [a coin], he wrote to the
sculptor Galberg, even if it lasts for more
than a year, unless some special circumstances force me to do this. Vedi Napoli et
poi mori [See Naples and die. L.M.]. The
citys location is most alluring, the environs
are singular, the city is noisy, people are
aplenty, plenty of theatres and puppeteers,
what else you can wish for?18

Sylvester Shchedrin
and Franz Catel

captured this scene in a watercolour The


Ascension of Baron Shilling (1824, Russian Museum). A baron of Baltic German
descent, Pavel Schilling (the inventor of the
worlds first electromagnetic telegraph) was
a translator at the Russian embassy in
Naples. Briullov, with his characteristic
irony, imaged a dozen or so Italians carrying
the elephantine foreigner like ants. The
artist chose a diagonal arrangement, artfully
placing the figures and vividly conveying
their movement. Walking on foot was the
only available transportation until 1880,
when cable cars were put in place15.


. 1827
,
35,5 46,2

Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
Matromanio Grotto
on the Island
of Capri. 1827
Oil on canvas
35.5 46.2 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

Amalfi, Sorrento and other spots


As a counterweight to the volcano-torn
image of the city and the disruption of the
world order on its terrain, the landscape
artists painting Naples began to work with
alternative motifs such as its surrounding islands, bays and harbours. The entire Amalfi
coast, from Salerno to Sorrento, astounds
with its singular appearance and landmarks
whimsically combining the features of
Roman, Byzantine and Arab architecture.
Buildings on the hill slopes are linked together by stairways, passages and little stone
bridges. Cliffs hanging over the sea and irregularly-scattered houses with patches of
Mediterranean vegetation between them
create an impressive interplay of colours
and forms. The scenic beauties of the coast
deservedly attracted the masters of landscape painting.
The following passage from a journal
of the sailor and artist Alexei Bogolyubov
reflects this ecstatic delight: How can one
not admire Sorrento! This is the birthplace
of folk songs. Here Torquato Tassos house
14

stands and the spectre of Eleonora roams


about every now and then. Here Shchedrin
lived the Sylvester! <> Here Lebedev,
Shternberg, Alexander Ivanov worked. <>
Oh well, you can hardly find anyone who
hadnt worked here to their hearts content!
And then the sinful me occupied the same
spot which Shchedrin once occupied and
began to frenetically paint a composition
directly from nature, in a morning. It was
very daring, but I always adored this master
and lovingly copied his sketches in our
Academy.16
Indeed, the pieces created by
Sylvester Shchedrin during his second stay
in Naples from 1825 to 1830 can be ranked
among his true masterpieces. The artist
loved this city so much that he signed his
letters to Samuil Galberg in Rome: Your
Neapolitan friend and companion.
Shchedrin would spend the full summer in
the environs of the city, on Capri, in Sorrento. The coastal views replaced the previously-favoured vedute in his artwork. He
produced a series titled Harbours in Sorrento. In these pieces, landscape and

15

The song Funicul, Funicul (music by Luigi Denza, lyrics by Guiseppe Turco) was composed to advertise the new service. Because of frequent crashes, in 1944 the funicular was
closed.

16

Bogolyubov, Alexei. Journal of the Seaman and Artist. Volga Magazine. Special issue (2-3).
Saratov, 1996. P. 60.

17

Exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts. In: Khudozhestvennaya gazeta (Arts Newspaper).
1836. December. Nos. 11-12. P. 177.

18

Shchedrin, Sylvester. Letters. Moscow, 1978. P. 40.

19

Fedorov-Davydov, Alexei. Sylvester Shchedrin and Landscape Painting. In: Russian Landscape of the 18th-early 20th centuries. Moscow, 1986. P. 140.

20

Shchedrin, Sylvester. Letters. Moscow, 1978. P. 69.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

In the opinion of the scholar of Russian


landscape painting Alexei Fedorov-Davydov, Shchedrin was superior to other landscapists of the Neapolitan school close to
him19. The Posillipo School (the name
coming from the name of a hill on the outskirts of Naples) emerged as an antidote to
Italian classicism, whose exponents depicted nature in landscapes adhering to a set
of conventions and in a decorative vein. The
Posillipo painters (Antonie Pitloo, Giacinto
Gigante, the Palizzi brothers, Consalvo
Carelli) preferred plain motifs and views.
In Naples Shchedrin often visited the
workshops of these landscape painters.
Most frequently, he visited the Dutch
painter Antonie Sminck Pitloo, who settled
in Naples in 1815 and lived there until his
death. The Dutchman successfully taught
landscape painting at the Naples Institute
of Fine Arts and in his private studio. Pitloo
was regarded as the founder of the Posillipo School. According to Shchedrin, the
Dutchmans style is casual but so agreeable that he spent as much as an hour
watching him create one of his compositions. The Russian landscape painter also
singled out the works of the German artist
Wilhelm Walkhof, who made in 1817-1820
a series of Sicilian drawings that deserve
every accolade20.
Shchedrins own comments about his
contemporaries are revealing: Ive found
the Neapolitan artists not as unsatisfactory
as they are presumed to be, he wrote about
his impressions of a show in Naples in Autumn 1827, although the best of the works
have been created by foreigners. The best
among the landscapes and one can say
the best at the entire exhibition are the
Pitloo pieces, one featuring a view of Eboli,
another, temples in Paestum. Sweatless
brushwork, agreeable colours, good proportions of the temples do him credit. Next to

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

15

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

these hangs a small piece by Catel: you look


at it and think its good, you look at it again
and it seems not quite as good, you look at
it for the third time, it seems worse still, and
so on, worse and worse, and this is what remains with you when you walk away.21 For
reasons easy to imagine, Shchedrin disliked
Catels unemotional compositions filled
with architectural motifs and surrounding
background figures, fashioned along classicist lines. Paradoxical though it may seem,
later viewers would confuse the two masters artwork. Thus, the Irkutsk Art Museum holds a composition called A View
in Italy (previously owned by a Moscow
collector, Felix Vishnevsky), which is attributed to Shchedrin mistakenly, as this
writer believes. Comparing it with Catels
Neapolitan Landscape by Night (18211822, Catel Institute, Rome), one clearly
sees resemblance between the compositional arrangements, treatment of human
figures and colour schemes.
The genre and landscape painter from
Germany, Franz Ludwig Catel, who had
lived in Rome since 1811, travelled in 1824
together with the French archaeologist A.
Mailain to Pompeii, Paestum, Salerno and
Naples. The purpose of their visit was producing pictures for a publication devoted to
the landmarks of Pompeii22. A convert to
Catholicism, Catel made a financially beneficial marriage his wife was a rich Italian
lady, Margarita Prunetti. The couples hospitable home, on the Piazza di Spagna
(Spanish Steps), was open to musicians and
artists from different countries (Russian
guests included Karl Briullov, Pyotr Basin,
Alexander Ivanov, and Vasily Raev). The
painter Pyotr Basin used to say that Catel
was a landscape painter of great abilities
and that he was famous for his talent.
Many of the generous hosts colleagues, on
their visits, presented him with their watercolour pieces, drawings, and prints. The
collection features a profile portrait of an
unknown man by Karl Briullov in Italian
pencil. In 1830 the outstanding Russian
painter began a portrait of Catel and his
wife (Portrait of Franz Catel and Margarita Prunetti, Catel Institute, Rome),
which remained unfinished23. It had never
left Rome before, so the work was shown to
Russian viewers at the Moscow exhibition
for the first time.
In Naples Catel made friends with
Giacinto Gigante and experienced the influence of other artists of the Posillipo
School. In 1826, together with Gigante,
the German artist worked on a series of
graphic landscapes Journey to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Pictures,
published by R. Liberatore in Naples in
1834. The Neapolitan vedute of Catel
gained wide popularity and society ladies
and gentlemen, including those from Russia, bought them up with enthusiasm. In
Russia his artwork was well known and in
great demand. For instance, Grand Duke
Alexander Nikolaevich, visiting Naples in
January 1839, expressed the wish to obtain
views of the city by Catel.
16


. 1828
,
42,5 59,6

Sylvester
SHCHEDRIN
Moonlit Night
in Naples. 1828
Oil on canvas
42.5 59.6 cm

. 1827
,
29 20,5

Sylvester6
SHCHEDRIN
Neapolitan Scene.
1827
Oil on canvas
29 20.5 cm

Tretyakov Gallery

Tretyakov Gallery

Such imagery of Naples was created


not only by local Italian masters but also by
nearly all of the foreign artists who visited
the city Germans, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, and Russians among them. At the
Tretyakov Gallery, the display of their works
from Moscows museums and private collections alongside works by their contemporaries that came from Rome for the show
afforded an excellent chance to identify distinctive features of each countrys national
outlook and original traditions. The talented artists sensitively captured the clamour of the seaport town and the peace and
quiet of its surrounding regions, and the
distinct character of the Neapolitan temperament, the life of which goes on literally
under a volcano. The painted compositions and sketches, bright gouache pieces
and delicate watercolours, drawings in
travel sketchbooks all these works provide
the modern viewer with an opportunity to
see and feel the miraculous Naples where
the canopy of heaven smiles.

21

Shchedrin, Sylvester. Letters. Moscow, 1978. P. 159.

22

Descriptions des tombeaux qui ont t dcouverts


Pompei dans lanne 1812. Naples. 1813.

23

Stolzenburg A. Der Landschafts - und Genremaler


Franz Ludwig Catel (1778-1856). Rom. 2007. P. 131.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

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Two Pifferari (Pipers)
Oil on canvas
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Catel Institute, Rome

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Stolzenburg A. Der Landschafts- und Genremaler Franz


Ludwig Catel (17781856). Rom, 2007. S. 131.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

17


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Tretyakov Gallery

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

19

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Olga Atroshchenko

She lived in the magical world of the fairy tale


The work of Yelena Polenova at the Tretyakov Gallery
November 27 2010 marked the 160th anniversary of the birth of the remarkable Russian artist
Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova (1850-1898), the sister of the famous landscape painter Vasily
Polenov. To mark the artists anniversary, the Tretyakov Gallery prepared the exhibition titled
She lived in the magical world of the fairy tale, which presented the most original and innovative of Polenovas works, alongside archive documents, memorial photographs, books and
magazines which revealed the artists singular social and artistic efforts.
,
. 1890-

-
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31,2 22

The Fool and


the Foolish Girl,
rhyme, 1890s
A boy and a girl are
playing:
Chiki-chiki
chikalochki, / The fool
is riding a stick; /
And the foolish girl is
in the carriage / Cracking nuts.
Watercolour, varnish,
graphite pencil
on paper.
31.2 22 cm
Russian Museum

20

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

mong the museums that loaned Polenovas work from their collections to
the exhibition were the Polenov Memorial
History, Art and Nature Museum Reserve,
and the Memorial Art and Literature
Museum Reserve at Abramtsevo (most of
the artists work is in the collections of these
institutions); the Russian Museum, Historical Museum, All-Russian Decorative Art
Museum, Literature Museum, Historical,
Architectural, and the Art and Nature Museum Reserve at Tsaritsyno also contributed work. The exhibition at the Tretyakov
Gallery was the first where Polenovas
graphics were shown almost in their entirety.
Yelena Polenova was one of the pioneers of the national-romantic movement
in Russian modern art and of the beginnings of symbolism. As an active member
of the Mamontov circle of artists, she was
among the founders of the museum of folk
art at Abramtsevo, as well as the ceramics,
woodwork and carving workshops there.
Polenova was one of the first artists to turn
to book illustrations over a relatively short
period of time, from the end of the 1880s to
the 1890s, she created illustrations for and
adapted more than 20 collections of Russian folk fairy tales and proverbs.
The artists contemporaries thought
that her work in watercolour was her
strongest, and in this genre she remains unsurpassed. During her later years, she
turned to oil painting and showed her work
at the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) group
exhibitions; however, her watercolours remain her best achievement. She painted
landscapes and the so-called flower portraits, illustrations to Russian fairy tales
and exquisite ornamental patterns, and created designs for furniture and wooden
household objects. The challenges of exhibiting watercolour paintings and the special requirements for light and micro-

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

climate conditions in storing them explains


why there are almost none of Polenovas
watercolours on display in Russian museums. Thus, her oeuvre, so highly praised by
Vladimir Stasov, Alexander Benois, Sergei
Diaghilev, Sergei Makovsky, Pavel Chistiakov, and Ilya Repin, remains largely unknown to the general public.
It was the first personal exhibition of
the artists work in Moscow since the
posthumous show organized in 1902 presented by the Moscow Society of Artists.
It is not surprising that the society set up
the 1902 exhibition (even though all the
arrangements were made by Natalya Polenova, Vasily Polenovs wife), since Yelena
Polenova had been involved in the societys
creation. The artist Leonid Pasternak remembered: Yelena Dmitrievna and I
shared many undertakings that are only
taking shape now. Abundantly gifted, welleducated, with wide-ranging interests and
a strong artistic temperament, big-hearted
and generous, she brought us, young artists,
together. Her home became our headquarters; she cultivated every breath of true
art. Yelena Dmitrievna, who spoke many
languages, subscribed to foreign magazines
that represented new tendencies and movements in art emerging everywhere abroad,
and we all read them in our circle.1
Yekaterina Junge had similar recollections: While she was above most young
artists in her education and intellect, she
treated them as equals and guided them imperceptibly towards acquiring the necessary
knowledge and refining their skills.2 Yelena Polenova returned the affection of the
youth that surrounded her. In a letter to Natalya Polenova, she wrote: The more I get
to know the young members of our society,
the more I like them. I have become quite
close to many and have found that very idealism in them which is always so appealing
in an artist.3
Even though Polenova soon had to
leave the society due to disagreements with
its leadership, she remained as the head of
its Folk Art and Historical Exhibitions department, which had been created on her
initiative. Not only did she develop its programme and select its participants, she also
painted three pieces for it Berendei Celebrating Shrovetide (Shrovetide in the
Wooden City) (1895, in the Tretyakov
Gallery), The Appearance of Boris and
Gleb to the Warriors of Alexander Nevsky
(1895-1896, Orel Regional Museum of
Fine Arts) and Prince Boris Before He
Was Slaughtered (1896, in the Russian
Museum). The first of these paintings was
shown at the exhibition.
Judging by its catalogue, the posthumous exhibition of Polenovas work was
substantial and comprehensive. It opened
in St. Petersburg on January 15 1902 in the
halls of the Academy of Arts and remained
open to the public until January 10 1903.
Sergei Diaghilev wrote an enthusiastic review in the Mir Isskusstva (World of Art)
magazine, where he pointed out that the
exhibition was arranged with a great deal


-.
18961897
, ,
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.
30,8 22,3

Ducks Saving Philipko


Illustrations for
the fairy tale Son
Philipko 1896-1897
Watercolour, whitewash,
ink, brush, graphite
pencil on paper
30.8 22.3 cm
The picture is outlined.
Tretyakov Gallery

.
18861887
,
, .
17,2 11,2 ();
17,2 26,7 ()
-

Wolf over an Ice-Hole.


Illustration for the fairy
tale The Wolf and the
Fox. 1886-1887
Watercolour on paper
glued on cardboard
17.2 11.2 cm
(paper);
17.2 26.7 cm
(cardboard)
Polenov Museum Reserve

of taste4 ; he also mentioned that at the beginning of 1903, the exhibition moved to
Moscow, to the Imperial Historical Museum. A detailed article about it, completed
with photographic illustrations, was published in Niva (Field) magazine. Some of
the pieces shown at the posthumous exhibition, as we can see from the photographs,
were in museum collections and are on display at the recent exhibition, including a
bench (end of the 19th century) and small
table for needlework from the Abramtsevo
Museum Reserve.
Even back then Polenovas work was
already largely in private hands, principally
with Savva Mamontovs family and at his
estate, and in the collections of Maria
Tenischeva, Ilya Ostroukhov, Praskovia Antipova, Pavel Tretyakov, and others. It took
considerable effort on the part of Natalya
Polenova to bring them together. She wrote

Pasternak L.O. On the Russian Artists Society. Quote


from Zapiski raznyh let (Notes from various years).
Moscow, 1975, p. 215.

Junge, E.F. Remembering Ye.D. Polenova. Russkaya


Starina [Russian Antiquity], 1912. Volume 1. VI . P. 532.
Further: Junge, E.F.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to N.V. Polenova. February 4,


1895. Sakharova, Ye.V. Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov. Yelena
Dmitrievna Polenova. A chronicle of the artists lives. 1964.
Moscow, Leningrad, p. 521. Further: Sakharova, Ye.V. 1964.

Mir Isskusstva [World of Art]. 1902, #7-12, pp. 67-68

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

21

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

...
19021903

Posthumous
exhibition of Yelena
Polenovas oeuvre.
1902-1903
Photographs

to Alexandra Botkina: I am very hopeful


that you and Sergei Sergeevich will loan us
the The Beast and small watercolours, especially The Last Flower and Thistle...
Masha Fyodorovna [Yakunchikova] will, of
course, be loaning us her entire collection
of ornamental patterns, and she also prepared quite a few embroideries based on Yelena Dmitrievnas drawings.5
Currently, most of Polenovas work
from the private collections of the Polenovs
and the Mamontovs is housed respectively
at the Polenov Museum Reserve and the
Abramtsevo Museum Reserve. The latter
has a large number of ornament drawings,
which were apparently turned over to Mamontovs descendants by Maria Yakunchikova before she left Russia6. Her illustrations for Russian folk tales, which belonged
to Maria Tenischeva, as well as the lovely
watercolours from the collections of
Alexandra and Sergei Botkin, found a home
at the Russian Museum. A wonderful series
of watercolour landscapes which the artist
painted during a trip along the Volga and
the Don rivers, to the Caucasus and
Crimea, and gifted to Praskovia Antipova,
is now housed at the Yaroslavl Museum of
Fine Arts. A significant number of Polenovas architectural sketches are at the Historical Museum; this collection also
includes her working materials, such as rubbings from carved objects of folk art, which
were gifted to the museum by Vasily
Polenov in 1921.
22

Only a small number of the abovementioned works became part of the exhibition the rest were reproduced in the
catalogue prepared specifically for this
project. Reproductions of Polenovas work
from the museums of Kaluga, Kostroma,
Nizhny Novgorod, Astrakhan, Saratov,
Ufa, Orel, Kursk, Chelyabinsk, Alupka
and Ivanovo were included in this album.
Apart from numerous illustrations, the
publication has many articles which give
detailed information about the artists creative path, her characteristic style, as well
as her place in Russian artistic life at the
end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th
century. Archival publications form an especially interesting section, as the artists
previously unpublished correspondence
and reminiscences of her contemporaries
from the Manuscripts Department of the
Tretyakov Gallery are included. All expert
articles are abundantly illustrated with
photographs, most of which are published
for the first time.
Yelena Polenova was born in St. Petersburg, into the family of an hereditary
nobleman Dmitry Polenov and his wife
Maria. Yelenas personality was very much
influenced by the artistic atmosphere of her
family. The future artists father, a

Letter from N.V. Polenova to A.P. Botkina.


Moscow. November 27,
1902. Manuscripts
Department, State
Tretyakov Gallery.
F. 48, item 760, sheet 1.

While preparing the


exhibition, we were
unfortunately unable
to locate the numerous
pieces of embroidery
which had been crafted
to Polenovas designs in
the workshop of the
village of Solomenki (in
the Tambov region); the
workshop was set up by
Maria Yakunchikova in
1891, during the countrywide famine due to crop
failure.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

renowned archaeologist, bibliographer, historian, and the author of many publications


on ancient Russian manuscripts and the
history of Russian law, was able to interest
his daughter in world history. Later it allowed her to successfully pass the examination to receive the diploma of a teacher of
history. Yelenas mother, the granddaughter
of Nikolai Lvov, a famous architect at the
time of Catherine II, was gifted in literature
and art. When she noticed that her younger
daughter had an aptitude for drawing, she
began to practice with her, and later hired a
tutor, Pavel Chistyakov, who was to become
famous as a teacher of art. From the age of
nine, along with her other siblings, Yelena
took drawing classes from him. From that
time through to 1880, with small breaks,
she studied drawing and watercolour at his
studio. It was only while Chistyakov was living abroad (on a scholarship) that she attended Ivan Kramskois classes at the
drawing school at the Society for the Support of Artists.
In 1879 Yelena Polenova joined the
ceramics class at the drawing school and
graduated a year later; she was awarded a
grand silver medal (no gold medals were
granted) for her panel A Feast with Ivan
the Terrible, based on the drawing by

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of the Skazochnaya
[Fairy tale] door for
the carpentry workshop in Abramtsevo.
Watercolour on paper.
32 17 cm
V. Vasnetsov Industrial and
Art College at Abramtsevo.
Khotkovo, Moscow Region

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. .., ,

Sketch for the interior


of the Skazochnaya
[Fairy tale] door for
the carpentry
workshop
in Abramtsevo.
Watercolour on paper
29 12.5 cm


.
.., ,
.
, ,

Vasnetsov Industrial and Art


College at Abramtsevo.
Khotkovo, Moscow Region

.. ..
// .
1912. . 1. VI. . 532.
: ..

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4 1895 .
. : ..

. .
. .; .,
1964. . 521. : , 1964.

. 1902.
7-12. . 67-68.

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. 27
1902 . . .
48. . . 760. . 1.



,

.. .
,

..
1891

.
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

23

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS


... 1889
, .
11,6 19
-

Artists Attending an
Evening of Painting at
Vasily Polenovs. 1889
Watercolour on paper.
11.6 19 cm
Polenov Museum Reserve

Vyacheslav Schwarz. She was the first student in the history of the drawing school to
be sent to France to perfect her skills in the
art of ceramics; subsequently, she assumed
the post of porcelain and earthenware
painting teacher at the school. In Paris she
was able to consult with the leading specialists in ceramics, Lieffert and Sieffert and
even visit Joseph-Thodore Decks factory,
examine the manufacturing process, and
receive advice. She described this in her letter to Grigorovich, the schools director: I
secured a letter of recommendation to one
of the best local artists, a specialist in genre
Limousen Cieffery; unfortunately, his atelier was closed as the classes had not started
yet. I tried studying by myself, but it turned
out that this style, more than any other, required a good mentor. It was only yesterday
that Lieffert came back to Paris; his courses
start at the end of this month, but he agreed
to accept me a bit earlier, so I will start
working with him next Monday (October
6/18). So far, I have been exclusively working with relief and barbotine. As to Decks
studio, I cannot even hope to study there, I
know well that it is not possible; even less
so, to learn the secrets of his manufacturing
process however, I greatly benefited from
visiting his factory. Indeed, Deck remembers your treatment of him well, and upon
hearing that I was sent by the Society for the

24

Support of Artists, he took great pains to


show me his workshops in detail and explained a lot of things that had been unclear
to me before that.7
Grigorovichs plans for a teaching career for Polenova were not to materialise
fully. Polenova taught porcelain and earthenware painting in a Maiolica class she had
created only for a short period. In the autumn of 1882, after the death of her father
and sister, Yelena and her mother had to
move to Moscow to live with her brother
Vasily, who had settled there previously.
Soon she became an active member of the
Mamontov artistic circle, taking part in designing decorations for home theatrical
productions, and later creating costumes
for performances of Mamontovs Private
Opera House in 1885.
Polenova was able to interest many
artists from Mamontovs circle with painting on porcelain and earthenware. At the
ceramics Thursdays, which replaced the
drawing Thursdays at the Polenov residence, her new friends enthusiastically
painted earthenware dishes. It turned out
to be a great activity, she wrote to Antipova, better than painting with the quill,
because it is easier, less serious exactly
what is needed for people who have worked
seriously all day and are looking to resting
and doing something different.8

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

.
.

1889
,
24,5 35,9

Reading. Nelshevka.
At the Antipovs Dacha
1889
Oil on canvas
24.5 35.9 cm
Yaroslavl Art Museum

Letter from E.D Polenova


to D.V. Grigorovich.
Paris. October 2/14, 1880.
Manuscripts Department,
State Russian Museum.
F. 71, item 69, sheets 1-2.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to P.D. Antipova.


Moscow. December 14
1885. Manuscripts Department, State Tretyakov
Gallery. F. 54, item 6861,
sheet 96

Kisselev, M.F. Memoir of


E.V. Sakharova. Povest
mojei zhizni [My lifes
story]. Pamiatniki kultiry. Novije otkritija
[Cultural heritage. New
findings] Annual publication. 2001. Compiled by
T.B. Kniazevskaya.
Moscow, 2002, p. 38.
Further: Kisselev, M.F.

10

Art and art industry,


1899. #13, p. 36.

Polenovas porcelain is preserved at


the Polenov Museum Reserve and at the
Historical Museum. A series of small plates
titled The Four Seasons (from the 1880s,
in the Polenov museum) is especially interesting each month of the year is represented with a typical landscape. At the end
of 1882, at the All-Russian Industrial and
Art Exhibition in Moscow Yelena Polenova
was awarded a bronze medal for painting on
porcelain and earthenware. It was not without her influence that in 1890 a pottery
workshop, Mamontovs pet project, was established in Abramtsevo.
In 1882 Polenova graduated with a silver medal from the watercolour courses of
the Drawing School, where she had studied
since 1880. From then on, the artist always
took part in the exhibitions of the Society
of Russian Watercolourists and the Moscow
Society of Art Lovers. Chistyakov thought
that any male artist would be honoured to
be the author of her watercolours. Polenova
painted many of her landscapes in Abramtsevo, where she was drawn by her friendship
with Yelizaveta Mamontova, a friendship
that was based on shared creative aspirations. Polenovas heartfelt description of
Abramtsevos surroundings survives in the
memoirs of her niece Yekaterina Sakharova:
The Khotkovsky road, the spring sun, blue
shadows on the snow, the snow-covered
plains and the banks of the Vor River, little
yellow globeflowers underneath the pines,
Yelizaveta Grigorievnas favourite watercolour, always hanging by the window in
her study, the road to the village of Bykovo
surrounded by rye spikes and wild flowers
in the fields all these were like pearls you
could admire forever.9
In 1885 Polenova and Mamontova
started enthusiastically studying folk art and
collecting the best samples for the house
museum in Abramtsevo. The artist wrote to
the critic Vladimir Stasov about her passion:
As long as we could, we bought carved objects which we were able to find during our
trips salt cellars, boxes, donets, shveikas,
rollers (spindles), linen rollers, spinningwheels, beaters (swingles); front parts of
carts and sleds; childrens wooden chairs
and benches. I sketched or photographed
larger objects, such as tables, hanging wall
cabinets, arks, benches (mostly not the
hanging kind but the ones that are built into
the wall and are part of the inner architecture of the izba [peasant house in rural Russia].) Thus, we ended up with a rather
inclusive collection at Abramtsevo, and a
whole lot of notebooks with sketches and
photographs.10
In the same year, a woodwork and
carving workshop was set up on Mamontovs estate to teach local boys the craft.
One had to hear the delight in Yelena
Dmitrievnas voice when she spoke about
the successes of Abramtsevos apprentices,
as well as the distribution of their work
through sales, to understand how passionate she was about her beloved work. It was
not just an artists satisfaction upon creating
beautiful images, but also the need to bring

...

.
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10

. 1899.
13. . 36.


( )


, .
15 13
-
. .., ,

Sketch of a table
(Table with cabinet)
for the carpentry
workshop in
Abramtsevo.
Watercolour on paper
15 13 cm
Vasnetsov Industrial and Art
College at Abramtsevo.
Khotkovo, Moscow Region




..

.
18971898
,
,

, .
20,3 23,2
-

Wall with a door.


Sketch of dining room
design for
M.F. Yakunchikovas
country house in
Nara, Moscow region.
1897-1898
Watercolour, graphite
pencil on paper glued
on cardboard.
20.3 23.2 cm
Polenov Museum Reserve

, , ,

,
9.
1885 ..
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-

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

25

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

. 1894
,
36,5 25

Cichorium. 1894
Watercolour on paper
36.5 25 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

those images to life, to give them out to


the people,11 the artist Yekaterina Junge
would later write.
Yelena Polenova acted as the workshops artistic director until 1892; she designed more than 100 pieces of furniture
and household objects. She aspired to reach
such continuity in her designs that it
would be hard to tell where the folk elements end, and my own creativity starts.12
Furniture manufactured in Abramtsevo was much appreciated and sought
after. A certain cabinet with a column,
which came in different sizes, was especially popular. Natalya Polenova described
in detail the process of its creation: Inspiration for its shape came from one cabinet
V.D. Polenov had made, and the details
were designed by Yelena Dm[itrievna]
based on the museum pieces and her own
sketches. The lower part with a pullout handle was copied from a small shelf from the
village of Komyagino; the handle was taken
from a donets we had found in the village of
Valischevo in the Podolsk region; the top
shutter came from the front part of a cart;

26

(
). 1881
,
28,3 21,9

Flowers
(Wild Mallow). 1881
Watercolour on paper
28.3 21.9 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

11

Junge, Ye.F., p. 538.

12

Letter from V.D. Polenova to V.V. Stasov.


Moscow, November1,
1894. Sakharova, Ye.V.
1964, p. 508.

13

Polenova, N.V.
Abramtsevo. Moscow,
1922, pp. 56-58.

14

Letter from V.V. Stasov to


E.D. Polenova. St. Petersburg, October 24, 1894.
Sakharova, Ye.V. 1964,
p. 507.

15

Ibid.

16

Letter from E.D. Polenova to P.D. Antipova.


[Moscow] December 11,
1888. Sakharova, Ye.V.
1964, p. 405.

17

Letter from E.D. Polenova to P.D. Antipova.


[Moscow] October 25,
1886. Sakharova, Ye.V.
1964, p. 373.

18

Vera Voiekova, after the


death of her mother
Maria Lvova (nee
Diakova, 1755-1807),
was raised by Gavriil
Derzhavins second wife,
Darya Derzhavina
(1766-1842).

19

Junge, Ye.F. P. 539.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

the column was based on one found in the


village of Bogoslov in the Yaroslavl region;
the vase with a rose pictured on the first
cabinet was copied from a sketch in V.D.
Polenovs album, originally found on a
swing in Devichie Pole.13
At the beginning of the 1890s Polenova
created one of her best pieces (now at
Abramtsevo), a door reminiscent of the entrance to the enchanted izba of Baba-Yaga
[the witch in Russian folklore], guarded by
owls, the midnight birds of Russian fairy
tales.14 Vladimir Stasov, with his typical fervour, exclaimed: What a unique and original talent to reveal the Russian style which is
not recognized and very often despised and
dragged into mud!!15
Yelena Polenovas creative life was
quite intense at this time, as witnessed by
many of her letters: My work day is separated into morning and afternoon activities.
In the morning I work on my oil painting...
Fairy tales are part of my morning, too. I
take care of the workshop business in the afternoon. I work on the creative issues in the
evenings, and the administrative side at
dusk; once a week I go to Abramtsevo.16
Apart from all this, she hosted her ceramics
Thursdays, which were attended by numerous young artists, and attended Saturday
watercolour classes at the Moscow School
of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.
The mid-1880s were the time when
Polenovas art grew independent and mature. It was then that she challenged herself
to a task quite elusive for the visual arts
in a series of watercolours, to convey the
Russian peoples poetic view of Russian nature, to determine for both myself and others how Russian landscape influenced and
found expression in Russian folk poetry,
both epic and lyrical.17 She successfully
fulfilled this task in a series of illustrations
to Russian fairy tales.
The artists interest in folklore and
folk culture in general developed from her
grandmothers influence: Vera Voeikova 18
had a vast knowledge of Russian history,
folk poetry and fairy tales. Sometimes in the
summer Voeikova took Yelena and her other
granddaughter Olga to her country estate in
Olshanka in the Tambov region. Later the
artist often recalled the long carriage rides,
when she admired the beautiful landscapes
and listened to her grandmothers rendition
of the folk tale War of the Mushrooms.
This fairy tale became the first one that
Polenova illustrated and published as a phototype edition in 1889 at the publishing
house of Thiele. She personally created the
layout, ornamental decorative inserts, and
the script.
Polenova painted her illustrations for
War of the Mushrooms in a realist style
(in the tradition of genre painting), like her
other illustrations of the Abramtsevo period
1886 to 1889, for the fairy tales Ded
Moroz (Father Frost), The Wolf and the
Fox, Ivanushka the Fool, Izbushka na
Kuriikh Nozhkakh (Cabin on Chicken
Legs). These stories usually develop against
the background of the distinctive land-

scapes of Abramtsevo and its surroundings.


The wooded road up to the Khotkovsky
monastery Polenova painted it from the
veranda of the house in Abramtsevo became the setting for her last composition for
War of the Mushrooms: the milk-caps,
their rifles drawn, are starting on their campaign. Numerous pages of the artists album
preserved her watercolour sketches of
honey fungus, red-pine mushrooms,
bearded milk-caps, death caps, edges and
clearings in the woods, painted both close
up and from a distance.
The mysterious garden and pond of
the Tolstoy family house in Bozhedomka in
Moscow, where the Polenovs lived at the
beginning of the 1880s, inspired the illustrations for the fairy tale The White
Duck. The scenery, the ducks swimming
in the pond, and even Vasily Polenovs infant first son Fedya (he was painted sitting
in a nest) all served as models for the illustrations. The background landscape carried considerable meaning in this work; the
artist aspired to find motifs that would help
fully express strong poetic feelings.
Yelena Polenova started working on
her second Kostroma series of fairy tales
(1889-1898) after she had spent the summer of 1889 at the Nelshevka country estate
of her good friend Praskovia Antipova, in
the Kostroma region. She left there with
numerous sketches of northern architecture
and household objects adorned with paintings and carvings, as well as new fairy tales
she had heard from the locals. Yekaterina
Junge wrote about Yelenas surprising ability to find common language with rural
folk: ... she knew how to extract traditional
tales from the people, how to make old
women find and give her the almost forgotten old scrap; as she travelled through Russia, children gathered around her, sang and
told her fairy tales, and she wrote them all
down; she was already thinking about making them into those illustrated Russian fairy
tales for which she later painted a series of
magnificent watercolours.19
Polenova wanted to see her books
published and affordable for the widest segment of the population, and unlike War of
the Mushrooms, with colour illustrations;
to achieve that, she drastically changed her
painting style. The Kostroma series is
stylistically different from the illustrations
created previously in Abramtsevo. It is executed in a typically modernist manner, with
strong emphasis on clear lines, bright spots
of colour, and expressive silhouette. A
sharpness and definition in the stylized
drawing and application of local colour was
achieved, which allowed for preserving a
good quality of the reproduction in print.
However, the fairy tales which were prepared for publication at that time (Son
Philipko, How the Bear Lost His Tail,
Chiki-chikalochki, The Thieving
Magpie, Nikolashka-Trebukhashka,
The Fool and the Foolish Girl, The
Greedy Man and others) were only published after Polenovas death in 1906 under
the title Russian Folk Tales and Rhymes.

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. 1888
,
25,5 16
-

Slough
in Abramtsevo. 1888
Watercolour on paper
25.5 16 cm
Polenov Museum Reserve

11

.. . 538

12

.. ...
. 1 1894
. . : ,
1964. . 508.

13

.. . ., 1922. . 5658.

14

.. ...
. 24
1894 . . :
, 1964. .507.

15

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

27

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Adapted for children and illustrated by


Ye.D. Polenova. The publishing house of
Grossman & Knebel produced three editions of the book; they are now a bibliographical rarity. The artist worked on some
of those during the autumn of 1894, when
she stayed at Vasily Polenovs estate Borok.
Yekaterina Sakharova, who observed her
aunt and godmother at work, thought that,
Yelena Dmitrievnas watercolours and
fairy tales brought us (Vasily Polenovs children) a plentiful world of childrens creativity.20
In 1895 Polenova started painting a
picture on a motif she had thought of herself. It was based on the image of a young
girl who is picking fruit from a tree; carefree, she does not notice a monstrous serpent creeping up on her. The canvas was
called The Beast. (Serpent. Fairy Tale)
(1895-1898, at Abramtsevo). Natalya
Polenova thought that the painting was autobiographical, because in it the artist unwittingly predicted her untimely death:
Living in the magical world of art, picking
its flowers, she did not see the hideous beast
which had already crawled close to her and
was to savagely snatch her.21
During her final years Yelena Polenova
was very much taken with symbolism, an interest largely due to Maria Yakunchikovas
influence Polenova met Maria in 1887 at
her family dacha in Zhukovka. Vasily
Polenov and his family spent a few summers
there, to paint en plein air with friends and
talented students. Among the visitors to
Zhukovka were Konstantin Korovin, Isaac
Levitan, Mikhail Nesterov, Valentin Serov,
28

. 1888
,
17 12,5


. ..

Winter. 1888
Watercolour on paper,
17 12.5 cm
Savitsky Regional Art gallery,
Penza

20

Kisselev, M.F. P. 26.

21

Sakharova Ye.V., 1964,


p. 774.

22

Letter from V.S. Mamontov to I.S. Ostroukhov.


Abramtsevo. Dated August 3, 1887. Manuscripts
Department, State
Tretyakov Gallery. F. 10,
item 1991, sheet 2.

23

Letter from E.D. Polenova to E.G. Mamontova.


[Nelshevka]. August 4,
1889. Sakharova, Ye.V.,
1964, p. 433.

24

Tatevosian, E.M. Remembering E.D. Polenova. Manuscripts


Department, State
Tretyakov Gallery. F. 54,
item 12550, sheet 35.

25

Benois, A.N. Russkaja


shkola zhivopisi
[Russian school of
painting]. Moscow, 1997,
p. 106-107.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Ilya Ostroukhov, and Maria Yakunchikova.


In his letter to Ilya Ostroukhov, Vsevolod
Mamontov wrote about the fun and friendly
mood there: All of us, including Dryusha
visited the Polenovs in Zhukovka. We went
fishing, strung and launched fireworks, went
swimming and then left to see the Sapozhnikovs in Lyubimovka.22
Surrounded by such gifted young
artists, Polenova turned to oil painting herself. She first painted small genre scenes,
and then gradually moved on to more challenging allegorical, symbolic work. I am
working on a painting inspired by Fofanovs
poem Bright Stars, she wrote to Yelizaveta Mamontova. Therefore, I have to
paint the night, the stars, the night air and
light, the night colours in short, all the
lovely poetry of a summer night.23 During
the Zhukovka period, Polenova and
Yakunchikova developed a strong spiritual
bond which filled their lives with warmth
and helped them creatively.
Maria Yakunchikova, who for health
reasons moved to Europe in 1889, felt an intense need to be in contact with Polenova.
She constantly wrote to her, shared her
artistic plans, and brought her up to date
with news from Europe; sometimes she sent
her catalogues from exhibitions of artists of
the symbolist movement whose aim was to
introduce an element of mysticism into
art. In turn, Polenova stayed with her on
her long trips to Paris. Thanks to Polenova
Maria became seriously interested in folk
art. In Marias studio, they talked at length
about their plans to take part together in the
1900 World Exhibition in Paris. After Polenovas death, Maria came to Moscow and
created sketches for an open-shelf cabinet
for the Russian Artisan Division and The
Girl and the Forest Spirit, an embroidered
panel (now in a private collection, Switzerland). She oversaw its embroidering, as well
as that of Polenovas Ivanushka-the-fool
and the Firebird while living in M.F.

Yakunchikovas house on the Nara river.


It was for this house that Polenova designed a Russian-style dining room in 1897,
as well as another version of her panel The
Firebird (1897, Tretyakov Gallery), that is
conceptually powerful and close to symbolist. Similar to The Beast, ornamental
patterns of fantastical vegetation played a
major role in this last work by Polenova. According to the artists contemporaries, inspiration for her ornamental patterns came
in extraordinary ways: from music she had
heard, or in her dreams. Yegishe Tatavosian
wrote: Yelena Dmitrievnas ornamental
patterns have a special flavour; their colours
are glorious, and they are quite fantastical.
I have seen some of Vrubels designs his
style was similar at that time. His patterns
were decorative, and severe, compared to
hers. Hers are such an intricate combination of colours and lines that one could admire them just like good paintings. They are
not just patterns, it feels as if mysterious
thoughts are infused in them, their colours
sing, if one can put it this way.24
Polenovas quest to embrace different
areas of artistic expression was characteristic of the versatile artist who applied himor herself to various genres, typical of the
art nouveau era. Alexander Benois wrote
about her in 1904: Her [Polenovas] work
laid the foundation for all the industrial and
art-related efforts of our local governments;
she inspired the ceramic workshop in
Abramtsevo, the Stroganov Arts and Industry School, and the Choglova carpet enterprise; she was also the main inspiration for
other artists, such as Yakunchikova, Malutin, Davydova, Roerich, Korovin, Golovin, and Bilibin.25
.
1880-
, ,

31,7 38,4

Landscape with Crows.


1880s
Watercolour,
whitewash on paper
31.7 38.4 cm

Tretyakov Gallery

.
1894
.. . ..,
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13,8 16,8
-

A Town with
Snow-covered
Mountaintops
in the Background
Watercolour on
paper,13.8 16.8 cm
Polenov Museum Reserve

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. 106107.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

29


,

.. .. . 1883

..

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, , , , , , ,
.
. 1898
,
19,2 21
Serpent. 1898
Watercolour on paper
19.2 21 cm


. 18891898
, ,

35,5 22
3Milkcap Settlement
Illustration to the
fairy tale War of the
Mushrooms.
1889-1898
Watercolour, lead
pencil on paper
35.5 22 cm

. XIX
. ., 1902. . 254.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

31

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

God forbid you worry that the subjects of your art are interesting
to the public, or think about the public at all while working
only then can you be worthy of being called an artist.
Yelena Polenova to Praskovia Antipova. 1883.

Yelena Kashtanova

Yelena Polenova
The artists work in the collection
of the Polenov Museum Reserve
Yelena Polenova was gifted in graphics and drawing, painting,
ceramics, and the decorative arts, as well as an accomplished
collector, researcher and educator... Her diverse personality and
creative quest has always posed certain challenges for scholars.
-. 1897


The Artist
, ,
39,2 32,8
The Firebird. 1897
Study for an illustration for the British
magazine The Artist
Sepia, ink on paper
39.2 32.8 cm

-.4

.
-. 1897
, , ,

32,6 29,9
Bird-serpent.4
Ornamental pattern
for wood carving.
A study. 1897
Ink, brush, lead pencil
on paper
32.6 29.9 cm

Benois, Alexander.
A History of Russian
Art in the 19th Century.
St. Petersburg, Znanie
Publishing House. 1902,
p. 254.

32

he did not find due recognition in her


lifetime, even though her art was highly
regarded by her colleagues and the public
the watercolours she exhibited sold well,
she was in demand as a ceramics master,
and the articles manufactured by the workshop in Abramtsevo proved very popular.
However, it was only in 1902, when Natalya and Vasily Polenov organised the
posthumous exhibition of the artists work,
that her oeuvre was recognized as signifi-

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

cant and broad, and her place in Russian


art as exceptional. A sharp and accurate assessment of Polenovas art came from
Alexander Benois: Yelena Polenova was a
profoundly artistic person; all her life she
looked deep into the mysteries of her own
soul, hoping to find there the answers to
the essence of art.1
In 1902 Natalya Polenova wrote a
short book Ye.D. Polenova, that became
the first and, for many years to come, the

only attempt to give a comprehensive story


of Polenovas life in art.
There are only a few paintings by
Polenova housed at the museum; however,
her drawings and sketches form a third of
the museums graphic arts collection. Most
of them come from the private collection
of the Polenov family according to the
artists will, her brothers Vasily and Alexei
and her sister-in-law Natalya became the
executors of her estate. In 1939, the
Polenov heirs gifted the family art collections, including Yelena Polenovas works,
to the state. Sketches, rough drawings and
notes from the funds of the Polenov Museum allow us to trace the artists path from
apprenticeship to mastery, and her creative
development; they help to fully understand
the artists multi-faceted talent. Even more
importantly, sometimes they become instrumental in determining the proper
meaning of her art without having to resort
to guesswork for example, the watercolour study The Serpent appears to be
the conclusion, a full stop that the artist
reached in developing the plot of her painting The Beast. (Serpent).
As an artist, Polenova was cast from a
special mould. Her work was born of reflection and deep feelings. Extraordinarily
emotional by nature but also quite reserved, she did not show her emotions in
her everyday life, and kept everything deep
inside she was only open in her art.
The artists personality was influenced by her large and talented family, the
domestic atmosphere of which was very
special everyone was in some way involved in science or art. The familys life
was steeped in the most enlightened interests the highest purpose of art, the artists
noble mission, and the value of the classical
heritage.
The artists father, Dmitry Polenov, a
lawyer and historian, was devoted to science; a bibliographer and scholar of ancient
Russian chronicles, he became his daughters first history tutor. He singled her out as
gifted and knowledgeable on the subject. Yelena was interested in her brothers univer-

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

sity courses and studied law and mathematics; later her education was supplemented
with courses in geology, mineralogy, ethnography, archaeology and literature.
Maria Polenova, Yelenas mother,
was fond of drawing; in her youth, she had
taken classes from Konstantin Moldavsky,
a member of the Academy of Art, and became her childrens first art teacher. The
parents encouraged their childrens interest
in drawing. Yelena was nine when she and
her siblings started taking classes from
Pavel Chistyakov. Five years later, she became a student of Ivan Kramskoi at the
Drawing School of the Society for the Support of Artists. Elena became more and
more interested in drawing; she took private lessons from Kramskoi and continued
(intermittently) studying at Chistyakovs
studio at the Drawing School.
In 1869-1870 Polenova studied in the
Paris studio of the artist Charles Chaplin,
who formed a high opinion of her aptitude:
You are gifted. <...> You have substance,
which is more important, but your technical skills are lacking, and it is those skills
that you need to acquire.2 However, the
portrait of her mother Maria, which Polenova painted at the age of 15, is a testament
to her masterful skill, not just talent.
In Polenovas own words, even when
she was already a master in her own right,
she continued to feel the lack of sound,
timely instruction: What a great thing

sound schooling is. I constantly feel the


same about my art. I received my own instruction in art like a handout, for Christs
sake, from one teacher or another. I desperately lack what one gets from welltimed education.3
Having made the decision to paint
precisely, seriously and from nature,
Polenova never left her album behind. She
spent considerable time around Russia,
visiting villages like Imochentsy in Karelia,
and Olshanka in the Tambov region. Years
later, Polenova would call her life that of a
gypsy, a nomad. Her sketches and studies were filled with real-life images of the
poetic, charming life of an old country estate that held so much value for her; she
captured this much-loved world on the
pages of her albums. Polenovas water-


. 1897

, ,

35,2 46,9
Flowers Saluting the
Rising Sun. 1897
Sketch
Whitewash, watercolour on paper
35.2 46.9 cm

Letter from V.D. Khruschova to V.D. Polenov.


Paris, June 29 1870.
Ye.V. Sakharova. Vasily
Dmitrievich Polenov.
Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova. A chronicle of the
artists lives. Moscow,
Isskustvo Publishing
House. 1964, p. 65.

Ibid, p. 515.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to V.D. Polenov.


March 27 1887. Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery. F. 54,
item 1, file 3927.

colours do not depict obviously striking


landscapes; they are free of any exaggerated prettiness. Her art is a whole world
in itself; her trusting, intense delight in the
details creates the atmosphere of the paintings.
In 1877, during the Serbian-Turkish
War, Polenova quit all her studies, went to
Kiev, where her sister was in charge of the
temporary Hospital of the Round Tower
for the wounded, studied medicine, and
worked long hours.
It was in Kiev that Elena met
A. Shkliarevsky a medical doctor and
professor at the University of Kiev. Their
closeness was shared, but Yelenas parents
did not approve of her choice, and the expected marriage was called off. Polenovas
only salvation was her art: Yes, a profession is a good thing; happiness is even better. Well, it was not meant to be, so it is
Gods will...4
Her personal drama ruined her life
the only thing left was her art; so she took
the road of self-sacrifice, devoted her life
to her craft, and carried on as a master
artist.
Polenova was more than sincere in
her approach to art. Her personal experiences were inseparably intertwined with
her poetic, creative thought. When studying her art, it is imperative to have a feeling
for her personality, her thoughts, emotions
and moods, all of which influenced her

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

33

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

,
. .
1870
1880-
, ,
5,4 3,5

. 18956


(18951898)
, ,
,
67 52

A Boy Carrying Food


to the Field. Olshanka.
End of 1870searly 1880s
Pen, ink on paper
5.4 3.5 cm


. 1878
,
. 11 14,5

A Young Girl. 18956


Studies for the figure of the
young girl in the painting
The Beast (1895-1898)
Gouache, watercolour,
charcoal on paper
67 52 cm

artistic outlook. Polenova did not keep a


diary, to our great regret. What survives is
her correspondence with those close to her,
as well as some, albeit few, recollections of
her. They allow us to come closer to appreciating her personality, to attempt to understand her as a human being and a
creative individual, with all the challenges
of her lot in life.
There is a very interesting document
in the museums collection Polenovas
handwritten translation of a parable (originally in English) by Olive Schreiner about
a woman expecting a child. The translation
is only a draft, but the parables ending allows us to understand why the artist found
it so appealing, as well as why Polenova
made the life choices that she did. Let me
touch the baby. I am Love. If I touch him,
he will not live his life alone. In the deepest
darkness he will stretch out his hand and
meet another hand reaching out to him. If
the entire world persecutes him, another
will say to him: you and I. And the baby
stirred. <...> Around the mothers head
bees were flying and touching her lightly
with their long bodies; and in her imagination, another creature came out of the dark
depths of the room: his expression was
grave, his features defined, his cheeks
sunken; there was a smile trembling on his
face. He reached for her, and she recoiled
34

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

In a Hospital Tent
1878
Lead pencil on paper
11 14.5 cm

and cried: Who are you? He did not answer, and she raised his eyes to him: What
can you give to the baby? Whoever I touch
will develop a burning fever in his blood,
and it will burn his blood out, like ozone.
This fever will last as long as his life lasts.5
Back in 1875 Polenova passed the rigorous examinations at the St. Petersburg
education district (her preparation took
much time and effort) and obtained the
diploma of a home tutor.
The artist opened drawing classes at
her house in St. Petersburg, taught at
Princess Obolenskys grammar school and
at the Liteino-Tavrichesky courses of the
Society to Support Impoverished Women.
She also re-enrolled in the Drawing School
at the Society for the Support of Artists
(1878-1880) and took two classes at this
time in watercolour and ceramics. Captivated by the ceramics course, Polenova
was very successful: she was granted a
minor gold medal at her first examination (gold medals were not awarded); at
her second examination, she received a
grand silver medal and an offer to go to
Paris for further training: What a scandal,
Vasya! she wrote to her brother. The

Fund 1. Museum Documents at Polenov Museum Reserve.


Item 434, pp. 4-6.

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24,1 30,8
Portrait of Maria
Polenova. 1865
Watercolour, lead
pencil on paper
24.1 30.8 cm


.
1879
,
. 10,9 17,2
Old Water Mill.
Voieikovo. 1879
Lead pencil on paper
10.9 17.2 cm

.. .. .
. 29
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.; ., 1964. . 65.
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1964. . 515.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

35

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

.
18851889

,
12,5 18
An Alley in Early
Spring. 1885-1889
Study
Watercolour on paper
12.5 18 cm

Society is sending me abroad for training.


I think it is the first example in history, at
least in Russian history, that a person of our
female class is given a task and sent
abroad to study, etc.6
Polenovas studies in Paris were serious and useful: over five months the artist
gained considerable knowledge of painting
on ceramic, as well as enamels; she had a
chance to work in A. Egorovs workshop,
as well as Thodore Decks factory and
Siefferts studio. Polenovas outstanding
professional skills allowed her to answer her
older brother Vasilys request to help him
write an article on ceramics.
In the future Polenova would travel
extensively, and her series of watercolours
Journey to the West, 1895, with their exquisite palette, delicate sentiment and
masterful implementation, proved a special
chapter in the history of Russian watercolour painting.
The artist fell in love with Paris forever: ... anyhow, there is no other place so
favourable for work, as in studying something. And the country is really good for
painting en plein air. To work in Imochentsy,
in Voieikovo, to study in Paris, to live in
Moscow... What a shame that the year does
not have just three autumns for the seasons!
One to study in Paris, another to enjoy
working in the country, and the third to
apply ones knowledge to practice!7
Due to her family circumstances,
Polenova had to move to Moscow in 1882.
She was very emotional over having to part
with her friends, as well as having to abandon her professional plans (she had been
offered to head the ceramics class at the
36

Society for the Support of Artists); she was


also apprehensive of her brothers artistic
influence. However, in her letter from Paris
she had anticipated that the move would
mark the end of the period of apprenticeship; that it was Moscow where all her accumulated artistic experience was to be
realised. She found herself surrounded by
young artists, friends and students of her
brother Vasily; Vasilys wife Natalya became her closest friend for the rest of her
life. Polenova also became close to the Mamontov family and for many years found
inspiration at their estate at Abramtsevo.
She also found a good friend in Yelizaveta
Mamontova, who was able to somewhat
soften the artists suspicion and distrust of
the world and people.
From that time on, Polenova went to
Abramtsevo almost every week. Landscape painting has its challenges compared
to painting in your own studio, but what
poetry, how alive you feel as you are having
this fascinating conversation with nature!
Isnt it so?8
There was the company of friends,
working together with such different but
such talented artists, the tender charm of
the Abramtsevo landscapes, productions at
the home theatre (for which Polenova created the costumes), and finally, the
Abramtsevo carpentry workshop, where
she began serving as artistic director in
1885... Polenova was very taken with this
work. She herself mentioned that she created more than 100 designs for furniture in
the Russian folk style. One is tempted to
say it was a Polenova style as she was
guided by her goal to pick up all the living

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

folk creations, the artist treated the original sources with such care (as well as passion) that she was able to not only follow
her own imagination but also preserve the
folk masters canons of beauty. It was no
accident that at the same time Polenova
started working on her illustrations for
Russian fairy tales: <...> started with the
fairy tale motifs from Afanasievs collection; to be honest, I was drawing them
without a particular aim in mind, I just like
Russian fairy tales (I have always been fond
of Russian life of the past.) <...> somebody
mentioned publishing them, and I welcomed the thought and began painting illustrations for Afanasievs The White
Duck.9
The artist created numerous illustrations that are conventionally divided into
two periods, titled Abramtsevo and
Kostroma. They are united by one idea
that Polenova cherished: very daring but
also terribly tempting: in a series of watercolours, I want to convey the Russian peoples poetic view of Russian nature, to
determine for both myself and others how
Russian landscape influenced and found
expression in Russian folk poetry...10
At the same time as she was working
on furniture designs for the carpentry workshop and illustrations, Polenova was creating ornamental patterns an art in which
she remains unsurpassed to this day. Captivating colours, oddly-shaped vegetation
weaving in luxurious pattern, beautiful magical birds and animals flocking and dancing
to music we cannot hear... Polenova admitted that she often saw new patterns and
colour combinations in her dreams, which

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to V.D. Polenov. St.


Petersburg, February 15
1880. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov
Gallery. F. 54, item 1,
file 3947.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to V.D. Polenov. Paris,


November 12/24 1880.
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery. F. 54,
item 1, file 3949.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to P.D. Antipova.


Moscow, June 22 1883.
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery. Item 1,
file 6860, p. 18.

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to V.V. Stasov.


Moscow, April 2 1894.
Ye.V. Sakharova. Vasily
Dmitrievich Polenov.
Elena Dmitrievna Polenova. A chronicle of the
artists lives. Moscow,
Isskustvo Publishing
House. 1964, p. 497.

10

Letter from Ye.D. Polenova to P.D. Antipova.


Moscow, October 25
1896. Ye.V. Sakharova.
Vasily Dmitrievich
Polenov. Elena
Dmitrievna Polenova.
A chronicle of the artists
lives. Moscow, Isskustvo Publishing House.
1964, p. 373.

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Water Lilies
Oil on canvas
on cardboard
35.5 19 cm

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,
13,3 9,6
Sketches of designs
for carpentry manufacturing. 1885-1892
Watercolour on paper
13.3 9.6 cm

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

37

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

. 1880
,
17,2 28,4
Paris. 1880
Watercolour on paper
17.2 28.4 cm

she would sketch when she woke up, <...>


that she had colour hearing, and that many
patterns revealed themselves to her while she
was listening to music.11
It is worth noting that Polenovas decorative patterns became an integral part
both of her fairy tale illustrations and other
artwork. In her designs for carpentry, in her
illustrations, and in her decorative patterns,
the artist created the style which would
later be called Russian art nouveau.
One of Polenovas last projects, for
the dining room design for Maria Yakunchikovas house in Nara, created in cooperation with Alexander Golovin, was as conceptually brilliant (judging from the surviving sketches) as it was beautifully executed

although we can only see it in an old photograph. The artist valued it greatly and
mentioned it when she was close to death,
although still conscious: 2. To support the
publication of Mir Iskusstva [The World of
Art] by S.P. Diaghilev, provide him at no
charge with some of Yelena Dmitrievnas art
to be used in this publication, at our discretion. Also, in consideration of the support
the deceased expressed for Mr. Diaghilevs
efforts in organizing art exhibitions, to hand
over the collection of her art to him for a
planned exhibition in St. Petersburg. 3. To
ask A.Y. Golovin to finish decorative art
based on drawings by Ye.D. [Polenova]
which he had started working on for on
commission from M.F. Yakunchikova.12

Such freedom of imagination, such


refined artistic taste and style was unprecedented in Russian art before Polenova. As we contemplate Yelena Polenovas
heritage today, the impact of her art, especially her drawings and decorative objects, is remarkable.
She was a patient student; for a
long time she looked for her way, doubted herself, switched styles, moved from
ceramics and wood burning to genre
and oil painting, from illustrations to drawings for furniture making, and to embroidery. It was too early that death took
her. Much remains unfinished. But everything she created is unique and intelligent.13



. 1890-
,
6,4 11,3
Ornamental Motif
with Yellow Daffodil
Flower. 1890s
Watercolour on paper
6.4 11.3 cm

38

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

11

Ye.F. Junge. Remembering Ye.D. Polenova.


Russian Antiquity.
June 1912, p. 37.

12

Draft statement of
wishes of the deceased
Ye.D. Polenova compiled
by her relatives
December 1899. Fund 1.
Museum Documents
at Polenov Museum
Reserve. Item 438.

13

Sergei Makovsky.
Profiles of Russian artists.
Moscow, 1999. Respublika Publishing House;
pp. 156-157.

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1880-
,
11,5 14,3
A Thistle against
Blue Sky. Olshanka
End of 1870searly 1880s
Watercolour on paper
11.5 14.3 cm

.

. 1886
,
12,7 11,2
The White Duck.
Study for the illustration for the fairy tale
The White Duck.
1886
Watercolour on paper
12.7 11.2 cm

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

39


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Department of Manuscripts,
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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

41

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

Yelena Terkel

I feel you intimately and deeply


Excerpts from the correspondence
of Maria Yakunchikova and Yelena Polenova
The names of Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova1 and Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova-Weber2 are
closely connected in the history of Russian art, and are linked to the origin and rise of the
modernist style. A search for new experience brought the two women artists together. Their
companionship, reflected in their correspondence, helped each to develop as an artist and was
mutually enriching. Their letters show how this bonding gradually grew in importance. Reserved by nature, Yelena expressed her concern pithily: It has been long since I last heard
from Masha I wrote to her already several times and received only one letter in reply3. Maria
wrote: I feel you intimately, and deeply and humbly hope to hear from you sometime4.
Stasov and Natalya Polenova, who
emphasized the importance of the artists
correspondence not only for biographers
but also for anyone trying to understand
their artistic beliefs, were the first publishers of the letters. Natalya Polenova made
an especially valuable contribution, tracing
the formation and development of
Yakunchikovas talent using the legacy of
the letters between the two. Selected letters
of the artists to one another were included
in a book compiled by Yelena Polenovas
niece Yekaterina Sakharova, Vasily
Dmitrievich Polenov. Yelena Dmitrievna
Polenova. A Chronicle of the Family of
Artists7. This correspondence is likewise
prominently featured in Mikhail Kiselevs

..


e.
:
..,
..,
..,
..;
:
..,
..,
..,
..,
..
. 1883
.

Yelena Polenova
with her friends and
family in Abramtsevo.
Standing:
Savva Mamontov,
Pyotr Spiro,
Ilya Ostroukhov,
Yelena Polenova.
Sitting:
Valentin Serov,
Mark Antokolsky,
Yelizaveta
Mamontova,
Maria Polenova,
Natalya Polenova.
Photo. 1883
Department of Manuscripts,
Tretyakov Gallery

42

he artists first biographers Vladimir


Stasov and Natalya Polenova saw the
correspondence as an important element
of their intimate communion. Stasov,
whose attitude to Polenovas spiritual explorations in the last period of her life
was cautious and somewhat hostile, only
stated that the correspondence with
Yakunchikova had, in his view, a negative
impact on Polenovas realism that he found
so endearing. He noted: We now know the
fragments of her letters of the [18]90s to
her women friends, in which she unerringly, keenly and circumstantially describes

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

her incipient new tastes and aspirations.


Symbolism and idealism were taking hold
of her gradually and began to imbue her
every thought.5 Natalya Polenova in her
memoirs about Yakunchikova stated that
Polenovas personality and letters had an
immense influence on her sisters art:
Polenova was much older than Yakunchikova but they formed a close friendship rooted in art; this explains numerous
references to Yakunchikovas correspondence with Polenova in the biographical article about Yakunchikova.6

Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova (1850-1898) was an artist and


sister of Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov.

Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova (1870-1902, married name


Weber), was an artist.

Yelena Polenovas letter to Natalya Polenova, July 14 1898.


Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 7309. Sheet 2.

Maria Yakunchikova-Webers letter to Yelena Polenova


[1896]. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery.
Fund 54. Item 9704. Sheet 1.

Stasov, Vladimir. Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova: a biographical essay. In: Art and Arts Industry (Iskusstvo i khudozhestvennaya promyshlennost) magazine. 1899. No. 13. P. 47.

Borok, Natalya (Polenova, Natalya). Maria Vasilievna


Yakunchikova. In: World of Art magazine.1904. No. 3.
P. 105.

Sakharova, Yekaterina. Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov. Yelena


Dmitrievna Polenova. A Chronicle of the Family of Artists.
Moscow, 1954.

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

monograph Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova8, where some of the letters are


quoted quite extensively. However, this correspondence has not yet been published in
full. To partly fill in this gap, we print here
mostly unpublished correspondence, including only those previously published
fragments that are needed to preserve a
sense of the coherence of the dialogue.
The two artists were introduced to
one another in the early 1880s. Despite a
20-year difference in age, their acquaintance gradually developed into a true
friendship. In 1882 Marias sister Natalya
married the artist Vasily Polenov, Yelenas
brother. The young Masha Yakunchikova
was spending more and more time in
Vasilys sisters home. Natalya Polenova recalled: In 1886 M.V. [Yakunchikova] became close with the Polenovs. This
acquaintance ushered a new era in her life.
Yelena Polenova had a special ability to
awaken people to their potential, to help
them gain self-confidence, to direct and
inspire them to work. M.V. sensed this influence acutely and always remained aware
of and sensitive to it later.9
When the 16-year-old Maria Yakunchikova found herself involved in the currents of creativity in the Polenov clan, she
immediately spotted Yelena. To some degree, Yelena became Yakunchikovas mentor for many years to come. Most of all,
they were united by common interests: the
more experienced Yelena shared her
thoughts and observations and aroused
Marias interest in the new ideas.
Yelenas fascination for Russian folk
art infected Yakunchikova, who became an
avid collector and student of objects of folk
crafts, and began drawing and sketching.
Yelizaveta Mamontova, the hostess at the
famous country house of Abramtsevo, later
wrote about Yelena Polenovas extraordinary inspiring influence: While working,
she always had the ability to create a little
world full of poetry in which everyone felt
well, even children. Everyone found something of interest in her orbit she had so
much inside her. That was the rich content
she lived by, alluring others into that realm,
stimulating them to work. She disliked and
shunned big and noisy gatherings, but people who became her close friends received
from her a great deal.10
One such friendship, with Maria
Yakunchikova, was to last many years.
Yakunchikova did not like writing letters
and often apologised to Yelena for her long
silences: I write to you so rarely because I
cannot write uncaring letters, I need to give
you a thorough account of everything, and
you know how rarely one can succeed in
this11. Marias letters are indeed rich in
substance and interesting, often imbued
with some inner light and finely conveyed
feelings. It was not without reason that Yelena in one of her letters to her young
friend noticed: You were created to write
notes. Its a great pity that you dislike it...12
The artists correspondence is a most
valuable source for tracing their artistic

lives. Sharing their impressions, sometimes both did more than just write and included sketches in their letters. Usually
these pictures are watercolour images
vividly conveying an immediate impression from things they have seen, and above
all characterize the artists themselves. One
can never confuse the slightly fuzzy, exciting, true-to-life and larger-than-life
sketches made by Yakunchikova with the
rather more restrained, crisp but also poetically inspired drawings by Polenova.
And whereas Marias early missives with
richly detailed drawings still exhibit her
older friends influence, the sketches in
her later messages are altogether different.
Besides travel experiences, they discuss the
art scene in Russia and France, their own
work, and nuances of the pieces they are
working on and those they have finished.
The correspondents almost never delved
into details of their everyday life (unless it
was related to their artistic plans), and the
lives of family and friends are touched
upon only in the last lines of the letters.
Stricken with tuberculosis, Yakunchikova spent long periods of time abroad
undergoing medical treatment, from where
she sent her letters relating her impressions
of what she has seen and felt. On her visits
to Russia, Maria tried to spend as much
time as possible with Yelena Polenova, literally soaking up their contact like a sponge
before their next separation. Yelena describes their time together: On Saturday
Masha Yakunchikova (Vasilievna) visited,
she spent the whole day and dined with us.
Next day we went together to the Tretyakov
Gallery.13 Coming to Paris, Polenova
spent much time in the company of
Yakunchikova, which is reflected in the latters communications: What a marvellous
exhibition of pastels. Yelena Dmitrievna
and I tried to recall perfect paintings anywhere I am so delighted that my heart is
beating wildly.14
Yelena Polenova inspired Yakunchikova to participate in the organisation
of Peoples Exhibitions arranged by the
Moscow Fellowship of Artists with the purpose of bringing the light of culture to the
provinces. The plan was to create several
compositions on subjects from Russian history and the Bible; these pieces were to
form the basis of shows targeted at ordinary
people all across Russia. Maria chose the
subject of the northern monasteries and
wanted to work together with Polenova: I
count on you to provide me with a nook in
your studio where Ill work on my
monastery composition15. Yelena was
pleased and wrote to Natalya Polenova:
Ill now wait with great pleasure for
Masha Vasilievna, weve seen each other a
lot in Paris and decided to meet often in
Moscow, especially since shes keen on the
peoples exhibitions, and it will be a pleasure to keep company with her doing a
work16. Why these plans were not fulfilled
is a matter of speculation, but the composition Northern Monasteries was never
made.

..
, .. 24 1887

.

Maria Yakunchikovas
letter to her sister
Natalya Polenova.
June 24 1887
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

..
,
..
(
..
.. ).
16 1888

.

Maria Yakunchikovas
letter to her sister
Natalya Polenova
(with an invitation
to Yelena and Vasily
Polenov to visit her).
August 16 1888
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Kiselev, Mikhail. Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova.


Moscow, 1979.

Borok, N. Op.cit., p. 107.

10

Stasov, Vladimir. Op.cit., p. 21.

11

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.


Item 9697. Sheet 1.

12

Borok, N. Op.cit., p. 110.

13

Yelena Polenovas letter to Natalya Polenova, June 28 1893.


Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 7231. Sheet 1.

14

Maria Yakunchikovas letter to Natalya Polenova. [1889].


Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 12215. Sheet 26.

15

Maria Yakunchikova-Webers letter to Yelena Polenova,


July 2 [1895]. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery.
Fund 54. Item 9700. Sheet 2.

16

Yelena Polenovas letter to Natalya Polenova, June 1 1895.


Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 7254. Sheet 3.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

43

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

..
,
..,

4/16 1895.
.

Yelena Polenovas
drawing in her letter
from Paris
to her mother,
Maria Polenova
May 4 (16), 1895
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery.
First publication

13, 1899

..

A sheet from the Art


and Arts Industry
[Iskusstvo i khudozhestvennaya promyshlennost] magazine,
No. 13 (October),
1899
Beginning of Vladimir
Stasovs article Yelena
Dmitrievna Polenova

44

In 1896 Maria Yakunchikova married


Leon Weber and began to visit Russia even
less frequently, while always remaining
nostalgic for her homeland. Her illness
grew worse whenever she had to travel. The
natural environment of Haute-Savoie,
where the artist underwent treatment, was
reminiscent of Russia, and Yelena Polenova wrote about it: Here I suddenly found
myself in a heavenly solitude, amidst the
moss, blueberry, strawberry, fir trees, and
thick grass of Russias autumnal smell,
without any alien associations with
Frances nature17 The artists last worked
together in Paris from the autumn of 1897
until the spring of 1898.
Despite Yelenas serious illness,
which developed after an accident in 1896,
and the weak health of Maria Yakunchikova-Weber, who was pregnant, both
artists were full of hopes. Marias husband,
the doctor Leon Weber, treated not only his
wife but Yelena as well, and the latter communicated to Natalya Polenova: Tomorrow Masha with her husband are going to
Mont St.Michel for the Easter week. She
has been very cheerful lately and her hopes
hold on.18
After Polenovas departure to Russia
in spring, the artists resumed correspondence again hopes of working together,
and plans for the future. Commissions
from Diaghilev become a separate theme.
Both artists understood the importance of
his undertakings and were determined to
help. Yakunchikova-Weber wrote to her
older friend: How happy I am, how delighted that Diaghilev softened you19, because Im anxious over a promise I made to
him that youll accomplish seven (or five?)
pieces for him20 Yelena herself tried to

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

persuade Maria to accept, rather than reject, Diaghilevs request to design a cover
for the World of Art magazine. Ultimately, Yakunchikova-Weber created the
cover with its image of a swan, which became a landmark of sorts in the history of
Russian book design. Yelena, who died in
December 1898, did not live to see the
magazine published. Maria survived her by
four years. Diaghilev wrote: On the day
the posthumous exhibition of Polenovas
paintings opened in St. Petersburg, Yakunchikova died in Switzerland. There is
something fatal in this coincidence, some
oppressive consistency. Yakunchikova survived her closest friend, her passionate
mentor by a short while.21
Maria was devastated by Yelena
Polenovas death, believing it was her duty
to bring Yelenas art projects to fruition. In
particular, she completed a piece Polenova
had conceived and begun shortly before her
death a large piece of embroidery on a
panel for an international exhibition in
Paris. Alexander Benois, reviewing the exhibition, noted: This carpet is infinitely
more powerful and beautiful than the original: the great stylistic abilities of
Mrs.Yakunchikova lends to it an extraordinary magnitude and restraint22. This piece
can be regarded as a natural result of the
two artists creative collaboration. Natalya
Polenova deservedly wrote about the last
period of Marias life in art: That inspirational ghost which appeared, in turn, to Yelena and to her, now remained with her
alone, and she felt a double responsibility.
She must carry on alone the undertakings
initiated by the two of them.23
Yelena continued to live inside Maria
Yakunchikova-Webers soul, which is reflected in the lines written by the latter:
All things dearest to me are so closely
connected with her that I cannot but remember her with every step I take24
Her older companion was no longer
by her side, and there were no more letters,
either those brilliant, kindly letters which
inspired even with their dreams. What was
left was the impalpable connection formed
during the years when Maria wrote to Yelena: Ive recently heard such a phrase: Il
faut attendre et aprs on fini toujours par
crer son milieu25. I firmly believe in this.
Less good people disappear without anyones notice, and worthy people who complement you become closer. Fortuities and
different artifices only accelerate or slow
down rapprochement or estrangement;
overall, though, everything revolves around
some main considerations.26 The artists
rapprochement and friendship was
grounded not only in their personal qualities but also in a general direction of their
creative explorations, artistic tastes, and a
deep understanding of their missions. As
Mikhail Kiselev rightly remarked, to a
large extent it was Yelena Polenova who inspired Yakunchikovas transition towards
the modern27. And although Yelena
Polenovas art had a great impact on the
development of Yakunchikovas talent, the

reverse flow was nonetheless important, especially in the last years.


The correspondence printed here
conveys the depth of their mutual interaction, as well as the unity of the spiritual explorations of the two painters whose artistic
legacy still has to be studied. The letters
from the Tretyakov Gallerys collection are
published in conformity with modern rules
of orthography and punctuation, with the
letter writers style intact.

17

Maria Yakunchikova-Webers letter to Yelena Polenova,


June 18 1898. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery.
Fund 54. Item 9707. Sheet 1.

18

Yelena Polenovas letter to Natalya Polenova [1896].


Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 7315. Sheets 1 (reverse) - 2.

19

Reference to Diaghilevs work on publication of the World


of Art magazine. On May 22 1898 Yelena Polenova wrote
to Vladimir Stasov: I promised my collaboration, also in
Paris, to Diaghilev, to whom I was introduced there. Ive
seen little of him and dont know him well, but his artistic
tastes, the direction of his magazine and the character of his
exhibitions seem appealing to me.

20

Maria Yakunchikova-Webers letter to Yelena Polenova,


June 18 1898. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery.
Fund 54. Item 9707. Sheet 2 (reverse).

21

S.D. [Sergei Diaghilev]. M.V. [Maria Vasilievna]


Yakunchikova. In: World of Art. 1902. No. 12. P. 363.

22

Benois, Alexander. Letters from the world fair.


In: World of Art. 1900. No. 17/18. P. 109.

23

Borok, N. Op. cit., p. 121.

24

Sakharova, Yekaterina. Op.cit., p. 583.

25

You have to wait, and youll end up creating an environment of your own (French).

26

Maria Yakunchikova-Webers letter to Yelena Polenova,


December 4 1894. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov
Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9698. Sheet 5.

27

Kiselev, Mikhail. The circle of Vasily Polenov. Artwork of


Maria Yakunchikova. In: Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov and
Russian Artistic Culture of the Second Half of the 19th-first
Quarter of the 20th Centuries: Collection of Essays and
Documents. Moscow St. Petersburg, 2001. P. 99.


18.

:
,
.
.
. - :
, ,
19, , 7 ( 5?)
20. ,

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,
.

, 1898
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. .
;
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3, 1904

.
(..)
..

A sheet from the


World of Art
[Mir iskusstva] magazine, No. 3, 1904
Beginning of Natalya
Boroks (Polenovas)
article Maria
Yakunchikova

,
.
.., ..

27.



-,
, .

, .

, .
18

..

.. .
[18971898]

Maria
Yakunchikova-Weber
An amateur photo
taken by Leon Weber
[1897-1898]
Department of Manuscripts,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

.. .. [1896 ]. . . 54. . . 7315.


. 1 . 2.

19

.. . 22
1898 . .. ..: , , , .
, ,
.

20

..- .. 18 1898 . . . 54.


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22

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23

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24

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25

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26

.. .. 4 1894 . . . 54.
. . 9698. . 5.

27

.. . .. //
XIX
: . ., ., 2001. . 99.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

45

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


April 27/May 9, 1889. Biarritz28
Hotel Continental
Dear Yelena Dmitrievna!
What will you say about my not having written to you for so long? Oh well, its better
not to think about your reaction but just write. So far, every letter to you I began to write
after Moscow contained only requests that you write to me, and although theres probably nothing interesting in what Im going to tell you, I still succumb to a desire which,
though egoistic, is not altogether criminal.
When youre stuck here for a fifth day, with this mean view always before your eyes,
theres no wonder that your inventiveness starts to run dry and your not-so-green
thoughts to multiply. When youll need to gather your thoughts, go to Biarritz, where
naught and nothing will disturb you, you can even study Darwin and see a perfect proof
of his theory at the table d'hte.
I hope youll write to me a couple of words about you and our sleepy sweet Russia.
In return, I promise you anything you may ask for. <>
Yours, Maria Yakunchikova
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9682. Sheets 1-2 (reverse).

Yelena Polenova to Maria Yakunchikova


May 3/15, 1889. Moscow
I received your letter with a drawing, dear Masha, and it made me feel so happy.
Im replying to you in kind: what you saw here is the theme of my present picture. Like
Ivanov cannot abandon his settlers29, I cannot abandon barrel organ players. <>
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7346. Sheet 1.

..
.. .
27 /9 1889

Maria Yakunchikovas
letter to Yelena Polenova.
April 27 / May 9 1889
Biarritz
Department of Manuscripts,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


May 9/21, 1889. Biarritz
2 p.m.
..

:
. 1905. 1
Maria
YAKUNCHIKOVA
Unpublished sketch
Reprinted from:
Scales [Vesy] [magazine]
1905. No. 1

Dear Yelena Dmitrievna.


Your letter has bouleversed30 me so much that, to be frank, Im at a loss for words
and want to tell everything in one sitting.
Imagine Biarritz: turbid hot sunny weather, dusty roads, mowed grass, the labourers
carting sand, the sea, light-green, rumbles quietly and no ones paying attention, we are
cruising shops, buying matches and soap, the dust flies into the eyes and there is a smell
of mowed grass. Then, at 12:30, there is breakfast and a dull conversation with two Englishmen the only leftovers from the winter season in the hotel. I walk upstairs and think
mechanically in English: What shall I do next?31 Lo, on the door handle is your letter.
You know, your letter to me is so good, much, much better than what I needed. I like
immensely your little picture it feels like a morning, you dont want to do serious dull
things, the wallflower has a very strong smell (as do the flowers now on my table). Suddenly the barrel-organ, which was playing in a neighbouring courtyard a quarter of an
hour ago, can now be heard very close, by your window, and against your will you stop
doing what youve been doing and walk to the window. Its very good that the boy doesnt
look at or address the spectator, for if he did, the spectator would become involved in the
action and this would have ruined the whole thing, its more agreeable to suspect some
other person in another window, only below or above. What do you think: should the
boys legs be kept above or below the frame?
I envy you because you have a serious work interesting for you and unrelated to acquaintances, whereas here I feel nothing but their yoke; certainly, when they badger me,
I am lucky enough to be able to answer that the doctors prohibit me from overexerting
myself, etc. <>
Im so eager to go on philosophising in this letter, but this would be better postponed
until some other time, and besides, these things interest only me.
Your M[aria] Yakunchikova
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9683. Sheets 1-3.

46

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

28

Maria Yakunchikova was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the lungs and her doctors recommended her therapy in the south of
France. In March 1889 she left for Biarritz.

29

Sergei Vasilievich Ivanov (1864-1910) was an artist specializing in historical and genre paintings and Vasily Polenovs student.
In 1889 the 17th Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) show featured his composition On the Road. Death of a Settler.

30

From the French bouleverser to turn something on its head; to cause great excitement, to astound.

31

What shall I do next? (The English phrase in the Russian text)

.. ..
27 /9 1889. 28
Hotel Continental
!
, 29? , ,
, , . ,
, , ,
, - , , .

, , ,
. ,
, ,
.
, , - -
. , . <>

. . 54. . . 9682. . 1-2 .

.. ..
3/15 1889.
, , . : , ,
. 30 , . <>

..

..
1884

Yelena Polenova
Ilya Ostroukhovs
drawing. 1884

Printed from a photocopy


held at the Manuscripts
Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

Yelena Polenovas
letter to Maria
Yakunchikova
May 3/15 1889
Moscow
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

. . 54. . . 7346. . 1.

.. ..
9 / 21 1889.
2
,
boulevers31, , , ,
, .
: , ,
, , -
, , , ,
. 12
.
-: What shall I do
next?32 . , ,
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28

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. 1889 .

29

, .

30

(18641910) , ... 1889


XVII- . .

..
.. .
3/15 1889

31

bouleverser ; , .

32

? (.)
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

47

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

..
,
..,

23 1888

Maria Yakunchikovas
drawing in her letter
from Morevo
to her sister
Natalya Polenova
August 23 1888
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery.
First publication

1890-
1900-.

Moscow.
Kuznetsky Most street
Photo
Late 1890searly 1900s

Department of Manuscripts,
Tretyakov Gallery

Yelena Polenova to Maria Yakunchikova


[June 1890]. Moscow
<> Id be very curious to know at what period you worked well and lived meaningfully. I am certain that youre astonishingly filled with inspiration at the moment when
Im writing this letter to you because I simply cannot string two words together in my
head. If you and I are still on the same wavelength and the same ghost helps us to live
and to act, then inspiration, which stayed with you from December until March, betrayed
you early in March, left you altogether in late March and didnt return until mid-May.
But now you should be overflowing with it. Is that so? In essence, thats a shallow and
nonsensical superstition. But, you know, when I begin to feel the first symptoms of the
ghosts absence a dryness in my throat, an emptiness in my head, and then the most
horrible despondency naturally Im feeling awfully sad when I think that my inspiration
evaporates, but I always find comfort imagining how happy you are when it comes to you
and how well you work with it up to a certain time.
As Im writing this letter to you, suddenly I receive yours of course it made me
terribly happy, as any message from you does, and Im very, very thankful for the details.
I just want to know what you personally are doing, you say almost nothing about it.
<>
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7348. Sheets 2-2 reverse.

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


January 1 1892. Paris
Dear Yelena Dmitrievna!

..



1900
:
.
1900. 2122

48

Maria
YAKUNCHIKOVA
A store in the Russian
pavilion at the World
Fair in Paris. 1900
Reprinted from:
World of Art [Mir
iskusstva] [magazine]
1900. Nos. 21-22

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

A new year is coming, I dont know if its beginning means anything to you, I believe
that its agreeable to look forward to it expecting the fulfilment of all of ones dreams.
Anyway, I wish you the same thing which I wished myself writing on a piece of paper at
midnight the ghost who never leaves and sympathy for it on the part of people around.
This ghost is our most favourite friend, and a shared one at that, isnt it?
Ive been very pleased to hear from you. And only thinking of Moscow made me
sad. God, how little I want to return there! Here Ive been so overwhelmed by things to
do that Im even afraid that all these streams will swamp one another and the result will
be unsatisfactory. <>
The street (only in Paris) along which you run four times a day in different moods
and whose different moods, in turn, are beholden to you acquires a great charme. Every
corner, every lantern, playbill, window, and booth becomes associated with a particular
thought, a particular feeling. Most of all I love the Champs lyses in the morning, between seven and eight oclock. At the end of the avenue, low above the Place de la Concorde, is the red ball of the winter sun sending off pink misty glints across the entire
immense deserted thoroughfare dominated by a dead silence of morning, and only the
concierges are waking up, as cleaners with brooms drive the water along the sidewalks,
and on some of the stalls, newspapers are being laid out. In an empty sleepy caf serving
cabmen, the door is open. <>
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9690. Sheets 1-2.

.. ..
[ 1890].
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. . 54. . . 7348. . 2-2 .

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1 1892.

.
.
1890- 1900-

Moscow. Polytechnical Museum


Photo
Late 1890s-early 1900s

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov


Gallery

..

.:

. 1899. 13

Yelena POLENOVA
A lid for a well-hole and a bench
Reprinted from: Art and Arts
Industry [Iskusstvo i khudozhestvennaya promyshlennost]
magazine. 1899. No. 13

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33

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34

, .. .
1893 . .. .
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

49

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS


..
.

Yelena Polenovas
visiting card
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


[January 1893. Moscow]
As it turns out, my sweet Yelena Dmitrievna, I cannot come to you today Ive
caught a cold and am stuck at home, if the visit to Morevo32 is postponed, please let me
call by tomorrow. Your Masha.
I dont have a white paint for copying your little piece33 so, please, dont be hard
on me if the colour comes out weak.
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9695. Sheet 1.

Yelena Polenova to Maria Yakunchikova


[January 9 1893. Moscow]

.. .
. 1866

Yelena Polenova
Photo. 1866
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

Dear Masha, my mornings tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are busy. If Thursday suits you, I can make it, but I think its better to have a meeting at the Historical
Museum, its closer to the underground [vault] and besides I was told yesterday that the
museum bought a new carved spinning bench of extraordinary beauty. Lets meet there
at half past one. Until then.
Yours, Yelena Polenova
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7349. Sheet 1.

..
,
..,
.
11 1888

Maria Yakunchikovas
drawing in her letter
from Moscow
to her sister
Natalya Polenova.
April 11 1888
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


May 9-15 1894. Avenue de Wagram, Paris
You horrible Yelena Dmitrievna, were things really so bad that you couldnt have
made arrangements for coming here? It would have been so, oh so good! And now I have
to write to you instead of plunging with you, living, into Pariss vernal whirlwind.
I write to you so rarely because I cannot write uncaring letters, I need to give you a
thorough account of everything, and you know how rarely one can succeed at this. <>
Perhaps you expect from me surprising news. Well, I dont know what to tell you,
everything I see in paintings Ive been taking personally lately, one or another stimulating
impression is digested to help my own development, and I cannot sufficiently externalize
things in order to relate to another person whats going on. Ah, I wish you were here!
Maybe Im one-sided, but artistically Im helped a lot by the present spring in Paris which
has been swarming with exhibitions. <>
Ive written a lot, but there is little sense in it. Now about my plans. Ill rest here
for another month, a little painting has to be done. Then a journey to Moscow. First well
have a jolly good get-together, then Ill perhaps go to Morevo theres bound to be a
good environment for work there. Veras visit34 is conducive to my productivity, but there
are doubts. If you go to Bekhovo35, then should it be Bekhovo or Morevo? My dream is
to visit you regularly in Moscow during the first part of the summer. To live in Morevo,
to go painting in Vvedenskoe36 (I would work miracles there), then to Bekhovo.
Goodbye. Your Masha.
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9697. Sheets 1, 2; 4-4 (reverse)

50

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

32

Morevo, near Moscow, was the estate of Maria Yakunchikova-Webers parents.

33

Perhaps, reference to copying one of Yelena Polenovas works in the summer of 1893 Maria Yakunchikova worked together
with Yelena Polenova in Russia.

34

Reference to Vera Vasilievna Yakunchikova (1871-1923, married name Wolf), Maria Yakunchikovas sister.

35

Bekhovo was Vasily Polenovs estate by the Oka River, close to Tarusa.

36

Vvedenskoe was an estate near Moscow where Maria Yakunchikova lived as a child until 1884. A property of her father, Vasily
Yakunchikov, Vvedenskoe was later sold to S. Sheremetev.

.. ..
9-15 1894. 23 Avenue de Wagram, Paris
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1890-
1900-

..
.. .
9 1894.

Paris. Boulevard
des Italiens
A postcard
Late 1890s-early 1900s

Maria Yakunchikovas
letter to Yelena
Polenova
May 9 1894. Paris

Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

. . 54. . . 9697. . 1-2; 4-4 .

35

(18711923), , ...

36

.. , .

37

, .., 1884
.., .. .

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

51

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

..

..
1898.

.

..
,
..,

10/22 1895

Maria
Yakunchikova-Weber.
Amateur photo
by Leon Weber
1898. Paris
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Yelena Polenovas
drawing in her letter
from Vienna
to her mother,
Maria Polenova
April 10/22 1895
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


July 2/June 20 [1895, Paris]
Dear Yelena Dmitrievna!
Now Im back from London, to find a big pile of your letters, I dont even know
which should be answered first. Lets start by detour. I didnt expect to be affected so
strongly by your departure. Vide37 proved so huge that I was simply astounded. Soon I
left for London. Well, what should I tell you about it? It won me over completely, but not
at once. My first impression was strange. I first came there from a vernal Paris. The contrast bewildered me. Accustomed to the ubiquitous elegance of the French, we become
aware of it only when we see a different, coarse and strong race not easily yielding to culture. At first glance this offends. Recollections about sea-sickness and the exhausting
voyage do little to help you embrace the good sides of the noisy hot dusty black streets
and the graceless motley crowds full of contrasts. But living, thinking, watching, you develop38 a liking for the luscious vivid strong original people. Nothing just for appearances
sake or for the sake of a witty remark (except the protracted and tedious decorum, but
its not a bad thing), awesome simplicity in everything. Everything matches an immediate
purpose. Residential houses dont call for false adornments, there are no entangled iron
grids in windows, no pseudo-Renaissance empiresque rococo-esque fruit garlands cast
of gypsum and stone, and the like just smooth, and whenever there are adornments,
theres creativity in it vivid, luscious, real. In all the windows looking on to a street,
there are these flower pots39, which I brought back with me in large quantities, for inspiration.
Well, this is hard to describe.
The museums are fascinating, you can reap from them so much that itll simply
swamp you. <>
Your Masha
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9700. Sheets 1-2 (reverse).



.
1890-
1900-

37

Vacuum (French).

38

The next word is crossed out.

39

The letter contains a colour drawing.

52

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Paris
Place du Carrousel
and the Louvre
A postcard
Late 1890s-early 1900s
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

.. ..
2 / 20 [1895. ]
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. 1895

..

Maria Yakunchikova
Paris. 1895
An amateur photo
taken by Leon Weber
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

..
..
2 /20
[1895. ]

Maria Yakunchikovas
letter to Yelena Polenova
June 20/July 2
[1895. Paris]
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

38

(.).

39

40

.
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

53

EXCLUSIVE PUBLICATIONS

Maria Yakunchikova-Weber to Yelena Polenova


June 18 1898. France
Htel des Montes
Par Chamonix
(Haute Savoie)


..

Maria YakunchikovaWebers visiting card


Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

..
,
..,

4 1890

Maria Yakunchikovas
drawing in her letter
from Paris to her sister
Natalya Polenova.
April 4, 1890
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery
First publication

Oh, Allaina, Allaina40, there are so many interesting things to relate to you, but your
letter sent disturbed ripples across my water (as much water as possible, etc.) and I dont
know where to start. And essentially there is nothing of interest for you, only for me. As
soon as I resolved not to come to Russia (this proved impossible, I barely survived my
journey here), I wanted to let you know, but the prose of the packing took the water off
the letters.
Here I suddenly found myself in a heavenly solitude, amidst the moss, blueberry,
strawberry, fir trees, and thick grass of Russias autumnal smell, without any alien associations with Frances nature and with the entire uncut thread of this winter. Perhaps
you dont know yourself how important your visit to Paris was in moving me towards ultimate balance. My head is healed completely (I wish you to heal your head the soonest
possible and the next winter to be like this one, for this purpose).
Im here as a patient after a treatment with sulphurous baths at the seaside, finishing
my therapy. I dont know why, but it seems to me that for the first time in my life Im beginning to articulate, in my mind, what to do in order to walk along lifes path and arts
path without straying too far into dead-ends. (By the way, do you remember Vypolzov
Lane41?) I feel a strange influx of energy, I came to love words as a buttress of my evolution, Im reading with an interest long-forgotten. I see that words arent such an enemy
of painting if there is a vacant corner where to attach them.
Its very good that my health prohibits me from spending all day long patant42 with
my artistic endeavours, that Im not obliged to do anything for my acquaintances (this
phrase ought to be replaced now) and, therefore, the little Im doing I do with gusto. My
only regret is that without you and without Russia, making playthings isnt so interesting,
so they are relegated to the back of the waiting line: the book, the cover and also everything that will fit in. How happy I am, how delighted that Diaghilev softened you43, because Im concerned that I promised him seven (or five?) pieces from you but Im not
going to be present in Russia. I dont know why but I feel that your visit to Paris will become a matter of reality. <>
Your Masha
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9707. Sheets 1-3 (reverse)

Yelena Polenova to Maria Yakunchikova-Weber


[Summer 1898. Moscow]
How pleased I was to receive your letter yesterday, my dear, marvellous Masha, I
never knew I would be that pleased. I envy you because now youre doing with gusto what
you like. My situation is the opposite of yours after my Parisian departure Im doing
work to which Im bound by commitment. Yet, Im doing it with pleasure and without
exhaustion. Im talking about Maria Fyodorovnas room44. During minutes of rest during intermissions, so to say I ask Annushka (the laundrywoman) to tell fairy tales and
revel in it So much juice, so much inspiration in Russia, and how much more colourful
and vibrant it appears to you after a long absence its such a delight. <>
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item. Sheets 1-2 (reverse).

Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova


[1890s]
40

In the letter, Alyona, Alyona is corrected to read Allaina, Allaina; Yelena


Polenova signed one of her letters as Alain Vanden perhaps this mock signature
was related to a Mr. Vanden, an opera singer (bass) who performed in the 1880s in
Savva Mamontovs private opera house.

41

Vypolzov Lane is in the centre of Moscow, in the Samotyoka neighbourhood.

42

Perhaps Yakunchikova meant pater (to provoke, French).

43

Reference to Diaghilevs work on publication of the World of Art magazine.


See footnote 19.

44

Reference to a commission, from Maria Fyodorovna Yakunchikova (the wife


of Maria Yakunchikovas brother), to decorate a dining room in the Yakunchikovs
home near Moscow, by the Nara River.

54

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

My sweet Yelena Dmitrievna, Im longing to see you! To live with you now for a
while I was seriously thinking how to do this, but its impossible I feel you intimately
and deeply and humbly hope to hear from you sometime.
Goodbye, shall we see each other anytime soon?
Yours with all my soul Masha.
Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9704. Sheet 1.

Editing, commentary by Natalya Iljina, Yelena Terkel

..- ..
18 1898.
Htel des Montes
Par Chamonix
(Haute Savoie)
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. . 54. . . 9707. . 1-3 .

Maria Yakunchikova-Weber
An amateur photo taken
by Leon Weber [1897-1898]
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

55

:


.
, ,
(18901900-)
(1908) (1906). ,
Bonhams .
3




( 1890-
1900-)

3He

That Is Without
Sin Among You
From the series
Scenes From
Christs Life
(late 1890s-1900s)
Detail

. 1880-.

,
42,5 32,7 ()

Christ. 1880s.
A study
Oil on canvas
42.5 32.7 cm (oval)
Tretyakov Gallery



1.
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1994
, 150- ,
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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

57

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

HERITAGE

Eleonora Paston

Vasily Polenov:
I love the gospel tales beyond words

58

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

HERITAGE

In October 2011 the Tretyakov Gallery hosted a remarkable event. In the


room featuring Vasily Polenovs works the museum put on view his two compositions He That Is Without Sin Among You (1908) and Guilty to
Death (1906), from his series of paintings Scenes from Christs Life
(1890s-1900s). Found by chance at a North American educational institution,
the pieces were displayed by Bonhams auction house at a pre-sale exhibition.





( 1890-
1900-)
,
118 238

He That Is Without
Sin Among You
From the series
Scenes From
Christs Life
(late 1890s-1900s)
Oil on canvas
118 238 cm

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

59

HERITAGE

--.
. 1882
,
30,5 46,5

Al-Haram ash-Sharif
[Noble Sanctuary].
A Detail
of the Courtyard. 1882
Oil on canvas
30.5 46.5 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

olenov regarded Scenes from Christs


Life as the central undertaking of my
life1. This circumstance alone has made researchers pay special attention to biblical
themes in the artists oeuvre. Yet, in its entirety this series is known only from prints in
the album Scenes from Christs Life,
which was published by Polenov, and became a rarity immediately after release2.
In 1994 organizers of Polenovs solo
show dedicated to the 150th anniversary of
his birth, eager to showcase the artists
work in its full variety, as well as the diversity of his talents and directions, tried to
bring together all of his works from the
Christs Life series. This proved to be no
easy task since only a handful of pieces
from the series, which numbered 65 works
in 1909, survived in Russias museums and
private collections. The organizers of the
memorial show were able to exhibit
Christ in the Wilderness (In the

.
1876

(1888, ).
,
22,2 34,7

Christ and the Woman


Taken in Adultery.
1876
A draft of the painting
of the same name
(1888, Russian
Museum)
Oil on wood
22.2 34.7 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

60

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Wilderness with the Wild Beasts) and


Calvary (He Gave Up the Ghost), the
compositions Polenov donated to Vyatka
Art Museum on its opening in 1911; a new
version of the composition A Dream
(1894, Museum of Private Collections at
the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts);
gospel-themed pictures, whose smallersized counterparts were included in
Christs Life, such as On Lake Gennesaret (1888) and Among the Teachers (1896, both at the Tretyakov Gallery);
drafts of preparatory compositions And
He Was There, Martha Received Him
into Her House, Jacob and John (all at
the Russian Museum), He Returned to
Nazareth, Jesus Increased in Wisdom,
They Brought Children to Him (all at
the Tretyakov Gallery), He Taught
(Krasnodar Art Museum), The Last Supper (Tyumen Picture Gallery), and other
works.

It was believed that most pictures in


the series had been taken to America and
their present location was unknown.
Considering this, one can easily understand the excitement caused by the
Tretyakov Gallerys display of the compositions He That Is Without Sin Among You
and Guilty to Death, which were parts of
the series Christs Life. The display inspired this researcher to look again into the
materials related to the history of the creation and subsequent fates of the pieces that
comprised the series.
Polenov spent about 40 years working
on his gospel-themed pictures. In a letter to
Sofia Tolstaya, the artist, inviting her to visit
his studio in Moscow and see his paintings,
wrote: I will be immensely pleased to show
you my scenes from Christs life, my
Gospel Cycle, as I call them. Ive been
working on them for nearly 40 years I ask
you to look at the work to which I have
dedicated nearly all of my life.3
While still young, impressed by
Alexander Ivanovs grandiose composition
The Appearance of Christ to the People
(1857, Tretyakov Gallery)4, Polenov started
to dream about succeeding him and creating a Christ who is not only expected but
who has already come into this world and
making his way among the people5. Studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, the artist
began to develop this idea in 1868, when he
conceived the composition Christ and the
Woman Taken in Adultery. He made initial
drafts and sketches for it in 1872 and 1876,
travelling on a fellowship in Italy and
France. In 1881 Polenov set about working
on the painting, and this work became central to his life for the next six years. The most
considerable influence on his interpretation
of the gospel story was Ernest Renans Life
of Jesus (Vie de Jsus). Regarding Christ,
like Renan, as a historical figure, Polenov

Polenov, Vasily. My Artistic Testament. In: Vasily


Dmitrievich Polenov. On the Occasion of His 150th
Anniversary. Catalogue of the Exhibition. Moscow:
GALART, 1994. P. 25.

Scenes from Christs Life. By Vasily Polenov. Prague, 1912.

Vasily Polenov to Sofia Tolstaya. (Borok), September 29


1908. In: Sakharova, Yekaterina. Polenov, Vasily; Polenova,
Yelena. A Chronicle of the Family of Artists. Moscow,
1964. P. 661.

Dmitry Polenov, the artists father, wrote in 1858: Masha


[Maria Alexeevna, the artists mother. E.P.] with the children often goes to the Academy only to see [Alexander]
Ivanovs painting, and the children, I mean older children,
grasp and make judgments very competently. They understand and adore. (Sakharova et al. Op. cit., p. 50).

Ostroukhov, Ilya. Excerpts from an article about Polenov.


Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Fund 822.
Catalogue 1. Item 1523.

.

1872 1876

. 1881
, .
.
.
, , ,

, 6.

,
, , 1881
1882 ,

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: 1883/84 . . ,
1885 , ,
, .


. 1884

,
28,3 21,7

The Head of a Jew


from the Ghetto. 1884
A study
Oil on canvas
28.3 21.7cm

Tretyakov Gallery

, 18861887
,
. ,
.

15-
1887 .
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( ?). .: . XVIII XX :
. ., 1980. . 233.

10


. 1884

,
44,3 31,1

The Head of a Jew


from the Ghetto. 1884
A study
Oil on canvas
44.3 31.1 cm

. : .. . . 393.

Tretyakov Gallery
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

61

HERITAGE

sought out the historical truth believing


that it was necessary to present his lively
image in visual art, too, to present him such
as he was in reality6.
To ensure the authenticity of the
settings in which Christ lived Polenov travelled in Egypt, Syria and Palestine in 18811882, paying en route a short visit to
Greece. The artist created many sketches
exploring the area and local people, as well
as the architectural heritage and its relation
with the surroundings. He could absorb
and convey in the sketches that uniqueness
of the light and air of the Orient which
would have a natural presence in his painting, noticed by almost every critic who
would write about it. Polenov exhibited his
sketches as a single set in 1885 at the 13th
exhibition of the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) movement. Ilya Ostroukhov wrote
recalling his impressions of the artists
works: This was something full of earnest
admiration for the colourful beauty and at
the same time addressing the problems of
colour in a fashion completely novel and
unusual for a Russian artist. Polenov in
these sketches discovered for Russian
artists the mystery of the new power of
colour and excited them to apply paints in
a manner he never dared before7. The entire set was bought by Pavel Tretyakov directly at the show.
Work continued: in the winter of
1883-1884 the artist lived in Rome, creating a great number of sketches of Roman
Jews and polishing his drafts. In 1885, on
the estate near Podolsk where he summered, Polenov finished a charcoal drawing on a canvas the size of the future
composition. He created the painting itself
during 1886 and 1887 in Moscow, in the
study of Savva Mamontov in his house on
62

Sadovaya-Spasskaya street. Thus, 15 years


elapsed between the initial sketches and the
completed composition.
The picture Christ and the Woman
Taken in Adultery was shown at the 15th
Peredvizhniki exhibition in 1887. Viewers were presented with a scene whose
message, as the artist perceived it, was
teaching people the ideas of kindness and
forgiveness. He that is without sin among
you, let him first cast a stone at her,
Christ said to the angered crowd when
asked how to treat a woman taken in adultery (according to Mosess commandment, she should be stoned). According to
the gospel, people, convicted by their
conscience, went out. Where are those
thine accusers? Christ asked the woman.
Hath no man condemned thee? She
replied, No man, Lord. Jesus said unto
her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and
sin no more.
The story at the centre of the composition allowed Polenov to engage with
moral issues addressed in the gospels that
were important for him the idea of
Christian love for ones neighbours and
moral self-improvement and for this reason the name of the painting was a matter
of great significance for him. Later he
wrote sadly in a letter: I called this painting He That Is Without Sin Among You.
That was its message. But the censor prohibited me from printing these words in the
catalogue they consented only to Christ
and the Woman Taken in Adultery.8
Polenovs composition was purchased
by Alexander III at the Peredvizhniki
show in St. Petersburg, and he subsequently allowed the painting to be brought
to Moscow when the exhibition moved
there. In Moscow the artist retouched the

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

. 1885

,
26 48

Christ and the Woman


Taken in Adultery.
1885. Study
Oil on canvas
26 48 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

painting and put a new date on it 1888.


In 1897 Christ and the Woman Taken in
Adultery was acquired by the Museum of
Alexander III (the Russian Museum)9.
Polenovs majestic composition received numerous reviews in the press. To
my great joy, wrote the artist, many understood what I wanted to convey and responded sympathetically. This encourages
me to speak up, for as long as my own
strength would suffice.10 He decided to
start working on the series of pictures
Scenes from Christs Life during the
preparation for the painting Christ and the
Woman Taken in Adultery in 1884.
I love the gospel tales beyond words,
wrote Polenov in 1897 shortly before embarking on the project, I love this nave and
honest story, love this pure and lofty ethics,
love this singular humanity which permeates
the entire teaching, finally, I love this tragic,
horrid but also grandiose finale.11
In 1899 Polenov travelled to the Orient
for a second time to gather material. Like
the first visit, the second one yielded mostly
landscape sketches. They were shown in
1903, again at a Peredvizhniki exhibition.
The sketches impressed viewers with their

Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 619.

Ostroukhov, Ilya. Excerpts from an article about Polenov. Russian State Archive of Literature
and Art. Fund 822. Catalogue 1. Item 1523.

Vasily Polenov to Vsevolod Voinov. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54.
Item 72. Sheet 1.

Presently the Polenov painting is catalogued at the Russian Museum as Christ and the
Woman Taken in Adultery (He That Is Without Sin Among You). Russian Museum.
Paintings of the 18th-early 20th century. Catalogue. Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1980. P. 233.

10

Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 393.

11

Ibid., p. 619.

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of the Holy Sepulchre
1882
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Tretyakov Gallery

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.
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

63

HERITAGE

freshness and power of colour as


strongly as Polenovs works of the early
1880s. The importance of sketches for
paintings was now more visible than had
been the case with Christ and the Woman
Taken in Adultery; moreover, the artist
sometimes seems to be consciously destroying the boundaries between sketch and
painting. Not without reason, he called his
sketches The Path of Christ in Landscapes12.
Polenov would include in the
Scenes his new version of the Christ
and the Woman Taken in Adultery, giving, finally, to this new image the title epitomizing its message He That Is Without
Sin Among You (1908). It was this picture
that the Tretyakov Gallery exhibited in October 2011.
In the new version, the artist not only
used a canvas of a smaller size but, while


. 1882
,
30,1 23,7

Olive Tree
in Gethsemane. 1882
Oil on canvas
30.1 23.7cm
Tretyakov Gallery

12

Ibid., p. 783.

13

See Vasily Polenovs letter to Anna Goryainova (Polenovs second cousin). [Moscow], March
22, [18]97. Sakharova et al. Op. cit., pp. 618619.

14

Polenov, Vasily. My Artistic Testament. In: Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov. On the Occastion of
His 150th Anniversary. Catalogue of the Exhibition. Moscow: GALART, 1994. P. 25.

15

Polenov wrote to Leo Tolstoy about that manuscript: Beside working on a painting, Im also
working on a piece of writing, or literature; its called Jesus From Galilee. This is a compilation of the stories from the gospels and other New Testament legends about Christ, supplied
with my commentaries. Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 667.

16

Polenov, Vasily. My Artistic Testament. Op.cit., p. 25.

17

Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 666.

18

Natalya Polenova to Ilya Ostroukhov. July 12, 1927. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov
Gallery. Fund 10. Item 5194. Sheet 1.

19

Ibid. The listing taken from Natalya Polenovas letter.

20

Grabar, Igor. Letters: 1917-1941. Moscow: Nauka, 1977. P. 119.

21

Zemlyakova, Olga; Leonidov, Viktor. Triumph in America. Russian Art. 2004, No. 1. P. 35.

64

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

leaving the essentials of the composition intact, changed the structure of certain elements and the palette of the picture. Its two
parts the left one, with Christ and the
group of his disciples, and the right one,
with the group of scribes and Pharisees dragging the woman became more compact.
The colours of the garments of Christ, his
disciples and other figures were changed as
well, while the palette acquired a harmony
of more subdued colours.
Another painting on view last year was
Guilty to Death (1906), focused on the
drama of the Sanhedrin trial, presided over
by the high priest, with the court composed
of the elders and scribes. The trial took place
in the house of Caiaphas and its purpose was
to incriminate Christ.
The gospels provide a coherent account of the events during the trial the
false witnesses, the high priest renting his
clothes, the Sanhedrins resolution Guilty
and must die. Unfolding gradually in the
text, in the painting the events are compositionally knit together by to the images
circular structure from the false witness
far off to the right, to the high priest and
then to the elders making their resolution
known with the gesture of a lifted arm. The
figures of the other members of the Sanhedrin agreeing with the resolution are
drawn into this circular motion as into a
whirlpool. Polenovs picture weaves the
events related in the gospels into a single
narrative: viewers knew the sequence of
events well from the Bible.
Both compositions, He That Is Without Sin Among You and Guilty to
Death, are an element of the grandiose
mission upon which Polenov embarked to
represent the gospel accounts with historical
authenticity, to seek out the historical
truth, to create a lively image of Christ
such as he was in reality, and to show the
grandeur of the spirit13 of this man.
Polenovs attitude to his work on the
Scenes was so reverent that in 1906, even
before completing the project, he wrote an
Artistic Testament. In particular, he
wrote: Now close to a final stage of the
main undertaking of my life the depiction of the tales from the gospels in a coherent set of pictures but uncertain that
I will succeed in accomplishing my further
plans related to it, I ask people close to me
to bring to completion my enterprise by
fulfilling the following14 He continued,
giving instructions about exhibitions, publication of his manuscript with the text
related to the story from the gospels15,
and so on. In paragraph 12 we read: My
artistic testament would be incomplete if
I didnt mention my unfinished pieces
of music. Working on the gospel cycle in
image and in word, I have tried to convey
my mood with sounds as well. From this
were born several of my opera which I intended to make public as well.16 The
gospel series thus completely reflected
Polenovs universalism.
In 1908, the series essentially completed, 58 compositions were shown in St.

Petersburg, and in 1909, 64 works were displayed in Moscow and other cities. The exhibitions were a great success. The artist
Leonid Pasternak wrote to Polenov in May
1909: The public (and a huge one!) looked
avidly and experienced a sublime feeling
it has been long since I last witnessed attention and interest so focused17.
In 1923 Polenov was invited to take
part in an exhibition of Russian art organized by the Peoples Commissariat of Education (NARKOMPROS) in New York.
The exhibition was expected to present
about 1,000 pieces by 100 contemporary
artists reflecting the entire variety of Russian visual art of the 1880s-1925. The organizers pursued the goal of financial gain as
well, offering the exhibits for sale. Polenov
loaned for that show 12 pieces from the
Christs Life series. For a long time the
proposal to participate in the exhibition
was a matter of dispute in the artists family,
as the venture seemed risky, but since
[Polenov] has long dreamed about showing
his Christs Life pictures in America we
made up our mind too,18 wrote Natalya
Polenova, the artists wife. It was decided
to send the following paintings: Mary
Went Into the Hill Country, Among the
Teachers, Seeking Him, He Taught,
The Woman Taken in Adultery, Guilty
to Death, The Agony in the Garden,
Gethsemane, Looking On Afar Off,
Watching Jesus,, Mary Stood at the
Sepulchre, Mary Magdalene Told Them
That Had Been With Him, As They
Wept19.
The show opened on March 8 1924 in
New York at the Grand Central Palace
hotel, and was on view until April 20. It was
a great success. One of its organizers, Igor
Grabar, wrote: The unequivocal success of
our exhibition in New York is by far greater
and more sensational than the success of the
famed Diaghilev exhibition at the Salon
d'Automne [Autumn Salon] in 1905. I can
definitely say this because I was deeply involved with the preparation of both.20
Commercially, though, the exhibition
fared worse. Its organizers Igor Grabar,
Sergei Vinogradov, Ye. Somov, and Fyodor
Zakharov in their letter to Moscow said that
despite the success so immense, the shows
position is very precarious21. Contrary to
expectations, Americans were not very interested in buying the Russian artists works,
a fact that makes the popularity of Polenovs
gospel-themed compositions among buyers
all the more astonishing. Four pieces were
bought during the first several days after the
opening.
Mikhail Nesterov wrote about this in
one of his letters: The week before last my
American friends called on me. One of them
was fresh from New York, after visiting our
exhibition the day before the preview. He
thinks the exhibition is elegant and interesting and believes that it will be a success.
News coming from the exhibition, though,
has not been very encouraging yet: during
the first week, only 21 pieces were sold, out
of 914. Among the sold pieces, four are

20
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,
22,7 32

Spring of
the Mother of God
in Nazareth. 1882
Oil on canvas
22.7 32 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

1924
626 .
. 3000
637 3500
632 3500
1924
628 3000
624 750
635 2000
1924
629 750
631 3000
634 2000

,

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21

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

65

HERITAGE




( 1890-
1900-)
,
113 221
Guilty to Death
From the series
Scenes From
Christs Life
(late 1890s-1900s)
Oil on canvas
113 221 cm

66

Polenovs (12,000 dollars). About 8,000


people came to the preview, on the following
days the visitors numbered from 150 to
900 Ive been told by the Americans that
they have a custom of waiting for the newspapers and only then buying well see.22
The press reviews were highly enthusiastic
the show was characterized as a stunning
event giving the chance to feel the true
Russian soul23. Grabar wrote at that time:
As they say in such circumstances, we have
not just good reviews but excellent reviews.24
Later, in April Nesterov wrote to
Alexandra Ostroumova-Lebedeva: Now
the prices in America are low, the buyers

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

part with 200 or 300 dollars without much


hesitation, but when the sum involved is
more like 1,000, theyre less and less willing
to part with it Among the Muscovites,
Polenov with his 12 gospel pieces enjoys the
greatest success. Four of them were sold.
Polenov is the hit of the exhibition.25
The file Materials relating to the organization of the Russian Art Exhibition in
New York (November 28-December 12
1924) at the Tretyakov Gallerys department of manuscripts contains a Listing of
pictures sold by Nikolai Grishkovsky26 at the
Russian Art Exhibition27. Here is an excerpt from the listing related to Polenovs
pictures:

22

Nesterov, Mikhail. Letters. Selected Writings. Leningrad:


Iskusstvo, 1988. P. 297.

23

Zemlyakova, Olga; Leonidov, Viktor. Triumph in America.


Russian Art. 2004, No. 1. P. 35.

24

Grabar, Igor. Letters: 1917-1941. Moscow: Nauka, 1977.


P. 115.

25

Nesterov, Mikhail. Letters. Selected Writings. Leningrad:


Iskusstvo, 1988. P. 298.

26

Nikolai Grishkovsky helped Grabar, Vinogradov and Somov to


organize the exhibition and further showings of the paintings in
America. See: Zemlyakova, Olga; Leonidov, Viktor. Triumph in
America. Russian Art. 2004, No. 1. P. 33.

27

Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 11.


Item 872. Sheet 7.

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35

. . 700701.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

67

HERITAGE

March 1924
No. 626 Among the Teachers
by V. Polenov $ 3000
No. 637 And He Taught Them 3500
No. 632 Looking On Afar Off 3500
April 1924
No. 628 The Woman Taken in Adultery 3000
No. 624 Mary Went Into the Hill Country 750
No. 635 Mary Magdalene Told Them That Had
Been With Him, As They Wept 2000
May 1924
No. 629 Near Gethsemane 750
No. 631 Guilty to Death 3000
No. 634 Mary Stood at the Sepulchre 2000

Thus, Polenov was the most priced


artist at the show. However, ultimately he
was given only $6,000 for the first four pictures sold, with half of the fees withheld for
the benefit of the state. After the end of the
American epic, the authorities in charge
stopped answering Polenovs letters in
which he asked and demanded that they pay
the money owed and return to him the unsold pictures, about which no one knew
anything except the fact that they had been
sent back to Russia. The history of these unsold works cannot be traced beyond this
stage. Polenov queried D. Dubrovsky28 as to
who, when and at what price had bought his

28

From November 1924, chairman of the Committee for Organization of the American Exhibition.

29

Natalya Polenova to Ilya Ostroukhov. July 12, 1927. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov
Gallery. Fund 10. Item 5194. Sheet 2.

30

In July 1927 Polenov was very sick and urgently needed medical attention. Its difficult to accept handouts and to beg for them when it could have been ones earned money, money gained
by ones own hard work, wrote Natalya Polenova (letter mentioned above, sheet 3).

31

Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 700.

32

Alexei Langovois memoir about Vasily Polenov. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov


Gallery. Fund 54. Item 2574. Sheet 2.

33

Vinogradov, Sergei. Moscow As It Was. A Memoir. Ed.: Lapidus, Nina. Riga, 2001. P. 78.

34

Sakharova Ye. Op. cit., p. 149.

35

Ibid., pp. 700701.

36

Ibid., p. 393.

68

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

works, and the latter sent a reply from which


it can be inferred that Sergei Vinogradovs
and D. Dubrovskys listings of the pictures
sold dont match, and overall things are
chaotic29.
Very likely, the show organizers responsible for commercial questions, aware
of Polenovs utter lack of self-interest, believed that the artist would not stand up for
his rights, despite the privations suffered by
him and his family at that time30.
In 1924, after the end of the show in
New York, Ivan Troyanovsky, a renowned
doctor, entrepreneur and publisher who was
also an enthusiastic art collector and an initiator of the American exhibition, congratulated Polenov on his 80th birthday: How
long gone is that wonderful time when I,
with my incipient but already passionate admiration, reverently and timidly rung the
bell at your door, coming to you, then already a celebrated master, with a pinch of
hard-earned money, after a long and anguished deliberation And I was received by
a plain, nervous, sensitive, gentle and delicate, nearly shy man, who understood
everything at once, encouraged me and
endowed me with treasures.31 There were
very many similarly fortunate people to
whom Polenov sold his pieces at prices so
low that the sale looked more like a gift disguised in the most delicate fashion32.
Even more often he would simply give his
works away as presents.
The mission of serving the people was
the central direction of his artistic pursuits
this applies to the museum Polenov created on his Borok estate, near the Oka River,
which became a cultural centre for the entire neighbourhood (in 1902), as well as to
the House of Theatre Education (in 1905),
which he built, mostly with his own funds,
to introduce the masses to art. Polenovs activities as an aesthetic missionary sometimes
led to unexpected results. Sergei Vinogradov, Polenovs student and one of the
main organizers of the American exhibition,
related in his memoir where the artists ambition to bring true art closer to the people,
or, the other way round, to bring the people
closer to art occasionally took him: This
is what happened once: displaying a large
series of his pictures, he put absolutely
ridiculous price tags on them, barely exceeding the cost of the needed materials, in
the hopes of making the pictures accessible
to the common folk. The pictures, however,
were bought in bulk by a profiteer who then
re-sold them at the normal Polenov prices.
So, Polenovs experiment was purely a rich
mans whim, as impractical as rich mens
whims go.33
Polenov never had anything of the rich
man about him, however. He said about
himself as early as the beginning of his artistic career in 1874: I dont feel at all I have
gentlemanly qualities. I constantly work and
I love work above all. Any work; painting
most of all of course. Although sometimes
this is hard work or, rather, toil. The people
close to me are all workers.34 Late in life he
confided, in a letter, to a friend: I used this

sunny week it was like summer, but a


gilded summer and turned out a great
number of sketches, as Natalya used to say
in her youth. I want to have presents to give
to my friends as keepsakes on New Year
Ive always loved work more than all other
things, and I loved it in different forms in
a kitchen garden, in a joinery, on a river, in
a workshop. Because of this Im so keen to
leave to both my big and small friends pieces
of my work.35
In America, Polenov left quite a big
piece of his work. But the paintings He
That Is Without Sin Among You and
Guilty to Death were especially fortunate.
They were bought at the exhibition by
Charles Crane, a prominent industrialist
and businessman, an influential public figure, well-known patron of arts, and collector of Russian art. He was a member of the
exhibitions organizing committee and donated a considerable sum to cover its organizational costs. In the same year 1924
he gifted both pictures to a North American
educational institution. Polenovs compositions for a long period graced the walls of an
academic library, and later, a picture gallery,
and were accessible to a wide public, as the
artist wished.
Many years later the paintings He
That Is Without Sin Among You and
Guilty to Death came to Moscow. Hundreds of visitors could see them in the
Polenov room at the gallery. In the opinion
of many viewers, the paintings He That Is
Without Sin Among You and Guilty to
Death, displayed alongside other Polenov
works Among the Teachers, On Lake
Gennesaret, The Last Supper, The
Child Grew Filled With Wisdom seemed
to have always been in this room, so well did
they blend in.
In all his creative undertakings
Polenov, a man of singular nobility of mind
and delicacy of soul, always wanted to bring
joy to the people, to make their life a little
happier, brighter and richer through their
encounter with beauty. Not without reason
did he write in 1888, soon after the completion of Christ and the Woman Taken in
Adultery: I believe that art must give happiness and joy, otherwise its worth nothing.
There is so much misery, so much vulgarity
and filth in life that if art drenches you in
horror and villainy, living would become too
difficult.36
The gospel-themed pictures enabled
Polenov to address moral issues woven into
the gospels that were important to him the
idea of Christian love for ones neighbours
and moral self-perfection. Guided throughout his life by the idea of the necessity of educating people through art, as well as by the
beauty and harmony to be found in it,
Polenov in the Scenes from Christs Life
reproduced the imagery of the patriarchal
golden age of Galilee and the majestic and
vivid image of Christ, the Son of Man.
Perhaps that was the reason why Polenov regarded his work on the Scenes, to which
he dedicated nearly all his life, as the
main undertaking of his life.


.
-. 1924

General view
of the exposition
at the Exhibition
of Russian Art
in New York. 1924
Manuscripts Department,
Tretyakov Gallery



.
1908


.

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,
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.
1888 ,
:
,
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,
,
36.

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,
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. , ,
,
.

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.

Polenov in his studio


on Borok estate. 1908
Private collection, Moscow.

36

. : .. . . 393.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

69


19231924
,
83 65
,

3Portrait

of the Sculptor
Oscar Miestchaninoff
1923-1924
Oil on canvas
83 65 cm

Centre Georges Pompidou,


Paris

I .
.
, , ,
.
. , 2011
. .. ,
(18931943).

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Chaim Soutine
and Chana Orloff
in Orloffs apartment


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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

71

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Natalya Apchinskaya

Chaim Soutine
The Pain and Beauty of the World
Throughout the 19th century Paris was the artistic capital of
the world, and it was there at the beginning of the 20th century
that the art of the new era took shape. Marc Chagall wrote that
... back then, the sun of Art was only shining over Paris, and
young artists from different countries, mostly from Eastern
Europe, flocked there. That international community of outstanding artists became known as the cole de Paris (the
Paris School). Among the highlights of the Paris School exhibition at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Autumn 2011
was the work of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943).

Chaim Soutine


19221923
,
73 54
,
,

The Little Pastry Cook


Circa 1922-1923
Oil on canvas
73 54 cm
Muse de LOrangerie, Jean
Walter and Paul Guillaume
collection, Paris

72

native of the remote shtetl of


Smilovichi (Smilovitz) outside Minsk,
Soutine was born into the family of a poor
tailor with 11 children; given the orthodox
Jewish system of belief it was an environment hostile to the visual arts. As a child,
he experienced hunger, beatings and humiliation, which proved the source of the
tragic expressiveness of his future imagery.
From his early youth, Soutine was determined to follow his calling, against all
odds. When he moved to Minsk in 1909, he
started his career as a photographers apprentice and retouching artist, like Chagall; his first painting was a portrait of a
butcher, the son of the local rabbi.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Indignant that the artist had broken


the prohibition against depicting human
form, and even more so by the way his
image was interpreted in the painting, the
butcher beat Soutine brutally. The artist
ended up in a hospital, but his offender was
forced to pay a fine, a factor that allowed
the young artist to move to Vilno (now Vilnius) and begin attending the local school
of fine arts. He did not, however, stay there
long just like Chagall and other future
masters of the avant-garde movement, he
was irresistibly drawn to the Mecca of
modern art, Paris. In 1911 Soutine was admitted to the Paris School of Fine Arts, to
the Atelier Cormon, but his main education came from the halls of the Louvre
and the Luxembourg Museum as he reflected over canvases by Rembrandt,
Courbet, and Czanne. He lived in Montparnasse, first at the famous La Ruche
(the Beehive), near to Marc Chagall,
Amedeo Modigliani, Ossip Zadkine, Fernand Lger and Alexander Archipenko,
and later in another well-known artists
residence, La Cit Falguire. As he became part of the international artistic bohme, Soutine still remained an outsider.
His only kindred spirit was Modigliani,
who, notwithstanding their deep differences in style, shared his understanding of
arts objectives.
Soutines earliest surviving paintings
depict a scant still-life on a kitchen table
(1916-1917). A distinguishing feature of
this series of paintings is their constructivist

composition, evocative of Paul Czanne,


alongside Soutines signature plasticity, integrity and energy of composition created
as if on a single impulse. Another unique
feature of these early paintings that remains
in all his later work is the highly dramatic
quality of his imagery. In his Still-life with
Two Forks, the central image is an orange-yellow plate with herrings contorted
as if in pain, with two forks reaching for
them like the hands of a starving human
being.
At the end of the 1910s, Leopold
Zborovski, a friend of Modiglianis and an
art connoisseur and collector, came to appreciate Soutines talent; Zborovskis modest financial help allowed the artist to spend
close to three years on the Mediterranean
coast. His art went through some significant
changes at the time his images are more
vivid, and became more ambitious.
The Mediterranean landscapes which
were part of the Moscow exhibition
Cret Landscape (1919), Houses
(1920-1921), Cagnes-sur-Mer (1923)
portray buildings and nature as if dancing,
or rather bending, swept by a fierce hurricane. Their exceptional intensity and richness of colour convey the beauty of
southern nature; the artists palette has
moved far beyond the ascetic colours of his
earlier work. Everything in these paintings
comes together in a complete compositional accord; but the divine balance of existence embodied in Czannes work gives
way to a destructive impulse, maybe as a
premonition of approaching historical cataclysms.
The beauty and tragedy of creation remained side by side in Soutines art of the
1920s, in his landscapes (no longer as expressive or visionary as the ones painted
around the Mediterranean), still-lifes and
portraits. The animals in his still-lifes are
not just dead (natural for the genre, nature
morte), but brutally killed; such is his famous series of paintings Carcass of Beef,
reminiscent of Rembrandts famous canvas, as well as his fish gasping for air, and the
two still-lifes depicting a hare and a turkey
(from the mid-1920s) which were shown at
the exhibition. A golden-coloured hare is

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

hanging on a green panel, which looks as if


streaming paint had just been poured on it;
a harmonious and beautiful composition, it
contrasts with the slaughtered animals features, full of suffering. Even more impressive is Soutines still-life with a turkey; like
Czanne in some of his paintings, Soutine
paints the turkey lying on a slanted table,
with its insides visible, aflame with golden
and dark blue colours, and surrounded with
a wreath of red apples and other objects
again, reminiscent of Czanne; the artist
creates a powerful and positive-sounding
visual composition. At the same time, with
equal creative force he paints the birds
beak, open in its dying cry an image that
deeply touches the viewers soul.
In the 1920s Soutine painted many
portraits of women, children, clerks, choir
boys and artists, which are amazingly psychological and expressive, masterfully conveying the drama of human existence.
There were four portraits from the 1920s at
the Moscow exhibition, each striking in its
own right. The Choir Boy in white-andred church attire (1927-1928) does not resemble the angelic singing children from
Renaissance paintings the boys face is
not child-like at all, his expression questioning and sad. Like the artist himself, he
seems dispirited with the tragic conflicts of
existence. The Bellhop (1927), dressed in
a white shirt and red vest, is dynamically
positioned against an emerald green background his left eye glaring, he is full of
dignity... The same energy fills The Little
Pastry Cook. Best Man is painted sitting, his body turned towards the viewer;
74

unlike others, he is deep in his thoughts.


The sculptor Oscar Miestchaninoff, with
his distinctive Jewish features and a
squeamish, haughty expression, appears in
the full force of his extraordinary personality. In the portrait of another artist, mile
Lejeune, numerous shifts of shape communicate the expressiveness and edginess of a
creative spirit.
Throughout the 1920s, Soutine gradually gained recognition and financial success. However, having left poverty behind,
he did not change the way he lived his life
with no mundane attachments, he remained fully absorbed in his art, and retained his tragic view of life. Robert Falk,
who knew Soutine later, wrote: He is quite
an eccentric; a strange man. Tall, with an
enormous, thick nose, low brow and wonderful eyes. Beautiful, burning, human
[eyes]. When I saw those eyes, I knew why
he painted like he did.1
As already mentioned, among the
masters of the Paris School, Modigliani
was closest to Soutine. (A few of
Modiglianis works were displayed in the
Soutine Hall of the Pushkin Museum of
Fine Arts exhibition). They shared a lyricism, compassion and resolute attention to
mans inner world, as well as principles of
composition flattened shapes with no
seeming distance from the background.
However, where Modiglianis expressiveness was always combined with harmony
and colour with lines as they carried
their own tunes Soutine is primarily an
expressionist and a pure painter. His best
work was done in one breath, without

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

19201921
,
58 92
,
,

Houses
Circa 1920-1921
Oil on canvas
58 92 cm
Muse de LOrangerie, Jean
Walter and Paul Guillaume
collection, Paris

Robert Falk. Conversations about art. Letters.


Remembering an artist.
Moscow, 1981, p. 61

any preliminary sketches, with the utmost


straining of his creative power. The artist
often went back to the same motif, working
on faithful implementation of his concept
and constantly destroying what he saw as
imperfect work. There were 40 colours in
his palette, and he used a separate brush for
each of them. The master from Smilovichi
used colour to elevate his subjects, crushed
by existence, and transform the crude substance of life into the realm of the spirit.
In the 1930s Soutine spent much time
away from Paris, living mostly at the residence of his patrons outside Chartres. At
the beginning of the 1930s, he painted a
dramatic image of Chartres cathedral,
awash with an anxious, mystical feeling, an
image that fuses architecture and its surroundings, the visual impression and the
artists feelings. Images of trees have a special place in his art of that time they become even more massive and frighteningly
disproportionate to people than in the previous years. As always, nature in Soutines
paintings is not indifferent and seems
capable of reacting to social catastrophe.
During World War II the artist, who
refused to leave France, was in hiding from
the Nazi round-ups of Jews in the villages
of le-de-France; at that time, he often
painted images on the mother and child
theme. One of those paintings reminds the
viewer of the lamentation of Christ and is
filled with the sense of impending disaster.
Soutine died in 1943 in occupied
Paris. According to legend, among the few
people in the funeral procession was Pablo
Picasso.

. 1926
,
54 81
,

Still-life with
a Turkey. 1926
Oil on canvas
54 81 cm
Centre Georges Pompidou,
Paris

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

75

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

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Hare
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Circa 1924-1925
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Centre Georges Pompidou,
Paris

19241925
,
100 81
,
,
3Best

Man
Circa 1924-1925
Oil on canvas
100 81 cm

Muse de LOrangerie, Jean


Walter and Paul Guillaume
collection, Paris

. 1919
,
55 65

.

Cret
Landscape. 1919
Oil on canvas
55 65 cm
Muse dArt et
dHistoire de Judaisme,
Paris
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

77



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. 1923
,
59,5 51

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,

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SUTA
Still-life with
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Oil on canvas
59.5 51 cm
Museum of Romans Suta
and Alexandra Belcova.
Riga, Latvia


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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

79

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS

Natalja Jevsejeva

A Shared Creativity
Romans Suta and Alexandra Belcova
There are a number of successful artistic couples in 20th-century Russian art: Robert and Sonia
Delaunay, Mikhail Matyushin and Yelena Guro, Natalya Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov,
Alexander Drevin and Nadezhda Udaltsova, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova.
Latvian art had Alexandra Belcova (Aleksandra Beltsova) (1892-1981) and Romans (Roman)
Suta (1896-1944). Three years ago, in October 2008, their former apartment in Riga became
a museum due to the efforts of their daughter, Tatiana Suta, who preserved her parents art
and, with the participation of the Latvian National Museum of Art, their vast collection of
paintings, drawings and decorative porcelain can now be seen by the art-loving public.

.
. 1920
, . 69 48

.
,

Alexandra BELCOVA
Nastya. Girl with
a Fan. 1920
Oil on canvas
69 48 cm
Museum of Romans Suta
and Alexandra Belcova.
Riga, Latvia

1 Suta and Belcovas teachers were Nikolai Petrov, at


the time the school director and instructor in drawing; Alexander Sturman,
instructor in painting, the
only figure that Suta and
Belcova remembered with
extreme gratitude; and
Ivan Goryushkin-Sorokopudov, the instructor in
painting during their
senior years.
2

Alexandra worked as a
draftsperson for the Department of Roads (from
the artists autobiography.
Museum of Romans Suta
and Alexandra Belcova,
article #SB/D-440.)

The name given in 1918


(Scientific Archive, St. Petersburg Russian Academy
of Arts. Fund 7, Inv. 8,
sheet 240). Belcova entered
the studios in November
1918 and left in May 1919.

Belcova left for Petrograd


in summer 1917, leaving
all her works in Penza. She
did not take her works with
her to Riga either when
she moved there from
Petrograd in May 1919.

80

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

t was Penza Art School that became the


starting point for Sutas and Belcovas
artistic careers. Suta and a few of his classmates from Riga Art School were transferred to Penza in 1915 to continue their
education as the fronts of World War I approached Riga. Belcova had come to Penza
from the Russian town of Novozybkov
three years earlier. Art instruction in the
school in Penza was based on principles of
Academicism and the tradition of the
Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) movement.
Students, however, were burning with an
enthusiasm for contemporary French art,
and often expressed their scepticism toward
their teachers1. Among the milestones in
Sutas and his young fellow Latvian artists
creative development were their excursions
organized to see Sergei Shchukins collection in Moscow and the Hermitage in St.
Petersburg.
After graduation, Suta and Belcova
went to St. Petersburg hoping to continue
their studies at the Academy of Arts. However, soon Romans had to return to Latvia,
while Alexandra stayed and found a way to
work2 and study at the same time. For about
a year she attended Natan Altmans studio
at the Petrograd State Free Art and Technical Studios3. Later the artist herself remembered that Altman (1889-1970) did not
have much time for his students busy with
politics and community work, he did not
often show up in class.
Since the work she had done in Penza
and St. Petersburg has not survived, it is hard
to form an opinion about Belcovas art of
this time4. However, some examples prove
that her teachers art left a certain mark on
the development of her own creative style

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS


. 1926
,


37

Romans SUTA
Wedding. 1926
Pottery, painting
on glaze
Diameter: 37 cm
Latvian Museum
of Decorative Arts
and Design

Alexei Tolstoy. Artists of


the Russian Emigration.
Moscow, 2005. P. 81

Romans Suta first met


Ivan Puni in Berlin
in summer 1922.
In winter 1922-1923
he and Belcova met
the couple very often.

Viktor Shklovsky. Ivan


Puni // Shklovski V.
The Hamburg Score.
Articles, Memoirs,
Essays. Moscow, 1990,
pp. 101-102.

Published in 1923 by
L.D. Frenkel, Berlin.

Now in the collection


of the Museum of
Romans Suta and
Alexandra Belcova.

in particular, a number of portraits Belcova


painted at the beginning of the 1920s show
clear parallels in shape modelling. (Compare her Nastya. Girl with a Fan from
1920 with Altmans Portrait of M. Yasnaya from 1918. The latter work was published in the first issue of Visual Arts
Magazine, and the copy remains in Belcovas archive).
It is difficult to imagine how Belcovas talent would have developed had she
stayed in the Soviet Union. In May 1919
she accepted Sutas invitation and moved
to Latvia, where she found herself at the
epicentre of local cultural life. Some of her
Latvian former classmates from Penza
were also there Jekab Kazak, Valdemar
Tone, and Conrad Uban; they all joined
the Riga Artists Group. The creative ac-

tivity of this artistic community, which became synonymous with Latvian modernism, became one of the most exciting
periods in Latvian art.
Even as a schoolgirl, Belcova had
dreamed of visiting Paris, the Mecca of
modern art. When she moved to Latvia,
she thought that Riga would be a short stop
on her way to France; however, as destiny
had it, she reached Paris only three years
later, in 1922, and by then she went as
Sutas wife.
On their way to Paris, the couple
stayed in Berlin for a few months. For that
brief period, Berlin rivalled Paris as a vibrant cultural centre; its artists colony was
as considerable as that of Paris, and it was
justly considered the European capital of
the avant-garde. The extraordinary number

of Russian artists living there at the time,


who were in touch with Moscow and St.
Petersburg, was the reason that art experts
were even talking about the cultural phenomenon of Russian Berlin5.
The two artists were good friends with
Ivan Puni and his wife, Kseniya Boguslavskaya6. At that time, Puni was a notable and significant cultural figure in
Berlins art world.7 Belcova and Suta did
not have the chance to attend presentations
by Puni and his associates at the famous
World Congress of Progressive Artists in
Dusseldorf in 1922; however, we can easily
assume that they were very well acquainted
with the theoretical views of their Russian
fellow artist. They kept Punis book Modern Art8 in their private library.9 It looks
like it was due to the couples contacts with

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

81

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS

Puni that Belcova, as well as some other


young Latvian artists, were able to participate in the show of the November group
during the Great Berlin Art Exhibition of
1923.
Having spent about three months in
Berlin, Belcova and Suta continued their
journey to Paris. It was there that Suta met
Amde Ozenfant and douard Jeanneret,
later known as Le Corbusier. A few years
before, with the help of other Latvian
artists, Suta had published his article about
modern art in Latvia in Ozenfant and Le
Corbusiers magazine LEsprit Nouveau
(published from 1920 to 1925).10
Some of Sutas works from the period
of 1923 to 1927 clearly reflect the influence
of Purism, the style of art started by Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. Static, precise and
balanced composition, the use of architectural elements (a fragment of a column)
and concise shapes are all common in
many of his still-life paintings.
82

While in Paris, Suta also came to


know Louis Marcoussis. This artists technique of painting on glass inspired Romans
to experiment with similar media, as in
Sutas City Motif, from 1927-1928.
It is only natural that Sutas creative
quest would come to include Cubism, a
movement that was still relevant at the beginning of the 1920s: Juan Gris, Georges
Braque and Pablo Picasso were all painting
Cubist compositions at the time. In his
own art, Suta skilfully puts together the visual experiences of Paris as he turns to the
heritage of certain French artists. One good
example is his Still Life with a Pipe from
1923. Its spatial composition, sharp contours and placement of elements, as well as
that special aesthetic mysticism so characteristic of Spanish art11 remind the viewer
of the work of Gris. As time went on, Suta
began to create still-lifes that are distinctly
his own and independent interpretations of
the techniques he had learned from his

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Parisian fellow artists (Still-life with a


Chessboard, 1927).
In 1923, Suta and Belcova presented
some of their paintings at the LArt dAujourdhui exhibition, alongside Ozenfant
and Fernand Lger, as well as Picasso,
Gris, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jaques Lipchitz, Joan Mir and others. Belcova did
not see the exhibition or her own work that
was shown there: her stay in Paris was not
so full of socializing with other artists, and
it was there that she gave birth to the couples daughter. The birth was somewhat
premature, and she ended up spending
most of her time in hospital with the child.
She did, however, have the chance at the
beginning and end of their stay to enjoy
walks in the French capital and visit art galleries and museums.
At the beginning of the 1920s Belcova
painted a series of Cubist compositions, the
best-known of which is Sucub, a decorative panel she created for the cafe of the

. 1925
,
100 120

Alexandra
BELCOVA
White and Black. 1925
Oil on canvas
100 120 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

10

The article LArt en


Lettonie. La jeune cole
de peinture was published in the magazines
25th edition in 1921.

11

Robert Rosenblum.
Cubism and 20th-century
Art. Henry N. Abrams,
Inc. Publishers. New
York, 1960, p.109.

. 1927
,
40,5 40,5

Alexandra
BELCOVA
The Tennis
Player. 1927
Oil on canvas
40.5 40.5 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

,
1917
,
.
,
1919 .

.
.
., 2005. . 81.

.
.,

1922 .
19221923
.

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:
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. ., 1990. . 101102.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

83

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS

. 1929
,
30 39,5

Romans SUTA
At the Port.
From the series
Daily Life. 1929
Ink on paper
30 39.5 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

,
24.1 32.2

Romans SUTA
Winter
Ink on paper
24.1 32.2 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

same name. The cafe, which belonged to


Sutas mother, Natalya Suta, became a
favourite spot for the Latvian creative intelligentsia and bohemians. It was Romans
who came up with the original name, in an
attempt to combine the names of the two
movements of modern art Suprematism
and Cubism. Other members of Riga
Group also took part in decorating the
venue. Belcovas panel is marked by its
measured composition and delicate, keen
colour choices. This still-life stands out
among the artists Cubist work, and was the
most reproduced of her works in the 1920s,
as well as in later decades, and became a
kind of signature example of Belcovas
style.
At the end of 1924, Suta, Belcova and
Sigismund Vidberg, their colleague from
the Riga Group, started a decorative
porcelain-painting studio Baltars12. The
84

artists used porcelain from German, Polish


and Czech manufacturers, as well as from
the Kuznetsov factory in Riga. Each pattern was painted in no more than ten variations.
Belcova and Suta used recurring
themes for their porcelain: he favoured
Latvian folk themes festivals, weddings,
genre scenes from rural life (Wedding,
1926, and Engagement, 1922). Belcova
drew on themes from Russian folklore,
Russian Orthodox iconography and exotic
motifs (Urn, 1922, and A Fantasy.
African Motif, 1926).
Baltars porcelain was displayed at
the International Paris Exhibition of Decorative Art in 1925, and was awarded one
bronze and two gold medals, after which
some pieces of Baltars tableware went to
the Svres Museum of Porcelain near Paris.
However, at the end of the 1920s, Baltars

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

12

From Latin Ars Baltica


Baltic Art.

13

In 1931 Suta started


working as a design artist
for shape and paintings of
porcelain at the Kuznetsov
porcelain factory. The factory produced both works
of art and inexpensive
mass-market tableware.
Suta worked on designs
for all categories of tableware. The general level of
technical skill among the
craftsmen at the factory
was lower than that of
D. Abrosimov, the master
craftsman at Baltars,
so Suta would paint tableware himself when using
some of the best designs.

14

No more than 200 copies


were made from each
piece.

15

Sutas clay tableware


set was awarded a silver
medal at the 1935 World
Exhibition in Brussels;
crystal objects of his
design were awarded one
of the nine Grand-Prix
at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris.

16

In 1936 Suta designed the


pavilion for the Agricultural Exhibition in Jelgava;
in 1937, he set up the 1st
Latvian Trade Exhibition
in Riga; also in 1937, he
was in charge of designing
the Latvian pavilion for
the World Exhibition in
Paris. In 1939, he created
the decor for the World
Trade Fair in Leipzig.

started to have financial problems the


artists lacked the business skills to make
their venture profitable.
In the 1930s Suta continued to work
with porcelain and pottery at the Kusnetsov factory in Riga13 (the watercolour
Sketch for a Vase Painting. Racetrack,
from the 1930s), while also designing crystal tableware for the I uciems glass factory
in Riga14 (the ink sketch Draft Design
for a Crystal Vase, from the mid-1930s).
Sutas crystal creations and his sets of pottery tableware were exhibited successfully
at international shows15. Creating his tableware designs, Suta often found inspiration
in classical Greek art his vases often resemble Greek amphorae, kraters and
lekythoi. A young girl in stylized Latvian
folk dress with a doe, a common motif that
appears in his creations in various forms, is
strikingly like the Greek goddess Artemis
(the vase, Girl with a Doe, 1937).
Suta tried his hand at other kinds of
decorative art, designing furniture and
public spaces and creating murals for
cafes. He was entrusted with creating Latvian pavilions for various agricultural and
art exhibitions both at home and abroad.16
Sutas multi-faceted talent also manifested
itself in his set designs and book illustrations. Little time remained for painting,
and his paintings from the late 1920s1930s utilise the same themes as his work
with porcelain rural musicians and folk
festivals (Village Dance, from the late
1920s).
Starting from the mid-1920s, Suta
often turned to graphic arts, creating
genre ink drawings, with everyday themes
(At the Port, from the series Daily
Life, 1929; Winter). His favourite motifs were cafes and their patrons, and the
life of the city streets. The theme itself
partying, leisurely people so popular
with his contemporaries, did not find such
critical and ironic expression in his work
as it did with George Grosz, Otto Dix or
Alexander Deineka. Rather, the viewer
has the impression that, far from disapproving of his characters, the artist would
not mind joining them himself. It is worth
noting that in spite of his stormy temperament, in his paintings and especially in
his graphic work Suta remained rational
and precise. He painstakingly perfected
his drawings, creating numerous drafts before he achieved a final version that satisfied him. His virtuoso technique and the
special graphic quality he achieved earned
many of his compositions their place
among the best accomplishments of Latvian graphic art.
Belcovas art of the mid-1920s was
marked by new tendencies: she created numerous portraits and self-portraits, while
her artistic style developed towards a more
precise approach, better-defined objects and
figures, and more realistic rendering. All of
those factors, combined with her pursuit of
a certain decorative and stylized quality, reflect the influence of art deco in her work.
The smoothness of shapes characteristic of

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Alexandra
BELCOVA
Vence. 1927-1929
Oil on canvas
60 80 cm
Museum of Romans Suta
and Alexandra Belcova.
Riga, Latvia



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10

LArt en Lettonie. La
jeune cole de peinture //
LEsprit Nouveau. 1921.
25.

11

Robert Rosenblum.
Cubisms and twentiethcentury art. New York:
Henry N. Abrams
Publishers, 1960. P. 109.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

85

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS



. 19271928
,
48 37,5

Romans SUTA
City Motif
c. 1927-1928
Oil on glass
48 37.5 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art


. 1927
,
90,5 70

Romans SUTA
Still-life with
a Chessboard. 1927
Oil on canvas
90.5 70 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

86

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

17

Art movement that was


popular in the mid-1920s,
vividly represented by
Tamara de Lempicka
(1898-1980).

18

This statement is not at


odds with the fact that
Belcovas odalisque
is a real woman, a friend
of her sister. Having lived
with her husband in
Siam (now Thailand) for
many years, she brought
her sons dark-skinned
nanny with her to Latvia.

this style the result of the artists interest


in the classical tradition and their stylized approach borrowed from the earlier
modernist manner are both apparent in
Belcovas The Tennis Player, painted in
1927. The dynamic composition, balanced
by the square shape of the canvas, and the
abstract background divided into geometrical flat shapes of local colour, are among
the artistic techniques Belcova drew on
from her Cubist period. In turn, the sculptured and sharp representation of the female players face and hand show the
connection with the so-called neo-Ingrism17. It can be considered a sign of the
time that Belcova chose athletic performance as her theme and a female athlete as
her model.
The double portrait White and
Black (1925) is an example of a combination of neo-Ingrism and an element of
stylized Cubist ethos in Belcovas art. The
subject of the painting recalls the images
of dark-skinned slaves and odalisques so
popular with 19th-century artists (among
them Eugne Delacroixs The Women
of Algiers, 1834, and douard Manets
Olympia, 1863). Even though such a bow
to the past may have been subconscious,
it speaks of the artists affiliation with
a certain iconographic tradition18. The
models graceful looks, her idealized facial features, the attributes used by the
artist the fan, oriental dress and general
exotic look of the dark-skinned woman,
the overall feeling of calm and the elegant
fashionable interior all this conforms to
the neo-classical norm, as well as to the
style of art deco.
In her correspondence from the
1920s, Belcova often mentions the name of
the Paris school artist Tsuguharu Foujita
(1886-1968). Although the Japanese
artists name is little-known today, at the
time he was at the height of his popularity.
He became famous for his original technique, based on the Japanese tradition of
ink-wash painting in combination with the
European classical tradition and French
modernism. One of the most striking examples of Foujitas influence on Belcovas
art is her self-portrait from 1927-1928. The
graceful calligraphy of lines, the legacy of
the traditional Japanese style of painting
which was the signature characteristic of
Foujitas art, became the main means of
artistic expression in Belcovas self-portrait. The compositional structure is also
typical of Foujitas self-portraits he often
painted himself with his own art in the
background, a female portrait or a nude, all
styles that brought him fame (like Foujitas
Self-portrait in Studio, 1926, now in the
Muse des Beaux-Arts in Lyon). However,
if the Japanese artist used this technique
to inform or remind the viewer of
his original style, the portrait of Austra
Ozolini-Krause on the wall in Belcovas
self-portrait is turned into an hommage, a
sign of respect and gratitude to a dear
friend who was there to support and help
the artist during a difficult time in her life.

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Alexandra
BELCOVA
Sucub. 1922
Oil on canvas
65 48.2 cm
Latvian National
Museum of Art

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

87

GRANY FOUNDATION PRESENTS

. 1928
,
35 27
,

Tsuguharu
FOUJITA
Self-portrait
with a Cat. 1928
Oil on canvas
35 27 cm
Centre Georges
Pompidou, Paris

From the mid-1920s to the beginning of


the 1930s, every six months Austra accompanied Belcova to sanatoriums in the south
of France where Belcova went to treat her
tuberculosis. In those early years when Belcova painted her self-portrait, the two were
inseparable: Austra paid for Alexandras
treatments and took care of her.
During the same period, Belcova
painted a series of female portraits. Often,
her models share her predicament they
are patients in the same clinics. Her images
may seem similar to those of Foujitas art
pale young women, naked or dressed in
light-coloured clothing, sitting or reclining
in white surroundings. However, Foujitas
models embody elegance and grace, sensuality and nonchalance; in Belcovas paintings, the same monochromatic palette,
muted tones and calligraphic lines enhance
a feeling of the physical and emotional
fragility of her models and create a certain
air of melancholia (Anna, 1927).
Belcovas watercolour Tanya with a
Cat (1928) may be considered a high point
in her quest for perfect, elegant line. Painted
with particular skill and refinement, the cat
in the girls lap much resembles the cats in
Foujitas paintings. For her, however, de88

picting these graceful animals would never


become as common a theme as it was for
Foujita, who put them in his paintings and
drawings in portraits, self-portraits,
nudes, and as subjects in themselves so
often19 that it became his symbolic signature
(as in Foujitas Self-portrait with a Cat,
1928, now in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).
Spending time on the beautiful, idyllic French Riviera not only helped the
artist conquer her life-threatening illness,
but also gave her a surge of creative power
to paint a series of landscapes, which became some of her best work. The fact that
Belcova lived in the south of France in the
1920-1930s was unique in the Latvian art
world. At the time, the French Riviera did
not rival Paris as the art metropolis of the
world, but the Cte dAzur played quite an
important role in the creative process of the
leading Parisian artists. While impressionists like Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir
were attracted to the Cte dAzur for its
picturesque landscapes, modernists like
Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso did not go
there in the late 1910s-1920s to admire nature, but rather to give way to their fantasies
and create their own world: Matisse

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

19

Birnbaum, Phillis.
Glory in Line. A Life
of Foujita the Artist
Caught Between East
and West. Faber &
Faber, 2007, p. 113.

painted his Oriental themes, Picasso, his


new Arcadia. Belcovas approach seemed
to be closest to that of Raoul Dufy not in
terms of their style, as they had little in
common, but in terms of the direction
their creative processes shared. Like Dufy,
Belcova valued the specific landscape
motif, and she channelled her artistic goals
through the framework of that specific
motif (Vence, 1927-1929).
The 1930s were a complicated time in
Belcovas life. Even though she continued
to paint, her name was not mentioned in
the press, and her paintings were rarely exhibited. Her genre preferences took their
final form and the portrait became her
main artistic medium. The artists of the
Paris school remained her source of inspiration, but that no longer came from Foujita, whose fame had declined, but instead
from Jules Pascin, whose lyrical female images had a resonance with the artistic language of her own portraits. At the same
time, her art shows a renewed interest in
the masters of the past, such as Rembrandt
and El Greco; she visited exhibitions of
their art during her trip to Paris in 1937. At
the time, some of her images attain the
heightened spirituality that is so typical of
El Grecos paintings; light and shade assume a more important role in her art a
medium borrowed from Rembrandt.
In 1939, Suta became fascinated with
cinema and started working as chief designer for the film studio in Riga. When the
city was occupied by German troops in
1941, the studio was closed down. In the
hopes of continuing to work in cinema,
Suta had earlier accepted an invitation
from friends and left for the Soviet Union.
For a few years he worked for the film studio in Georgia, creating set designs for a
number of films. In 1944, Suta was arrested
and executed by firing squad: it was only
ten years later that Belcova learned about
her husbands tragic death. She lived the
rest of her life in Riga, painting and exhibiting her art.
Romans Suta and Alexandra Belcova
had a volatile family life endless conflicts
were followed by reconciliations. Romans
was an intense, extraordinary person. With
his sharp mind, unorthodox opinions,
strong work ethic and enthusiasm he was
also almost possessed by art; it was not easy
to live with someone so gifted and effusive
and keep ones balance, while remaining
true to oneself. Suta was convinced that a
womans nature did not allow her to be a
distinguished artist, and often criticised his
wifes work. Belcova was one of those creative figures who always doubt themselves
and are never really happy with their work;
his attitude was often unbearable for her.
The natural desire of the artist to maintain
artistic independence often made life
together challenging for both of them.
Nevertheless, their creative union can be
deemed successful and productive; there is
no doubt that together they wrote one of
the most interesting chapters in the history
of Latvian art.

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,

Alexandra
BELCOVA
Tanya with
a Cat. 1928
Watercolour
on paper
50 31.5 cm
Museum of Romans Suta
and Alexandra Belcova.
Riga, Latvia

19

Birnbaum Phillis. Glory


in Line. A Life of Foujita
the Artist Caught Between East and West.
Faber&Faber, 2007.
P. 113.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

89



.
. 1993
,
101,6 81,9
: Lucian
Freud Archive

Painter Working,
Reflection. 1993
Oil on canvas
101.6 81.9 cm
Courtesy: Lucian Freud
Archive

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

91

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA

Marina Vaizey

LUCIAN FREUD:
Rebel with a Cause
Ritualistic, spontaneous, improvisatory, disciplined, anarchic, unfashionable, indifferent, insatiable, obsessed, risk-taking yet curiously wedded to routines: Lucian Freuds life (19222011) was a mass of self-imposed contradictions, while his art was almost alarmingly focused,
intense and unremitting, and the product of unvarying determination. He never, from his hallucinatory early drawings, prints and paintings on a relatively small scale to the paintings of
his last decades, with rich thick impasto, and occasionally crowded with figures, deviated from
his obsession not only with the observed world, but his observed world. The exhibition Lucian
Freud Portraits, running at Londons National Portrait Gallery until May 2012, collects more
than 100 works from museums and private collections the first major show since the artist
died on 20 July 2011, but in which he was involved until his death. It will perhaps be the culmination of his lifetimes preoccupation with private faces in public places, and public faces
in private places for many of those he painted were never identified by name.

(). 1985
,
56,2 51,2
,

Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Reflection
(Self-portrait). 1985
Oil on canvas
56.2 51.2 cm
Private Collection, Ireland
Lucian Freud
Courtesy: Lucian Freud
Archive

4
. 1951
,
152,4 114,3
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Interior4
in Paddington. 1951
Oil on canvas
152.4 114.3 cm
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

92

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

he art is mesmerizingly autobiographical: he painted his surroundings, the


people he knew, scores of models paid relatively little or posing for free, but who entered into his undeviating daily patterns, a
social life devised to maximise working
time: walking the invariable dog, dining
daily at the few grand London restaurants
that he favoured. A London guessinggame was identifying his changing circle of
models, his serial devotions. In the latter
part of his life, he had assiduous studio assistants, finally the devoted David Dawson, painter and photographer (who is
depicted in the late Eli and David, from
2005-06, with one of the artists whippets).
And from the 1970s on, Freud had major
international exhibitions of his art, and
major critical monographs: among the art
critics and historians who published substantial works were Robert Hughes, perhaps the best Anglophone art critic of his
period, Professor Sir Lawrence Gowing,
Catherine Lampert, the Pulitzer Prize
winning Sebastian Smee, Bruce Bernard,
and Martin Gayford.
Freud was a creature of habit. He
lived in the same part of West London
most of his life, with several houses in
Paddington, Kensington and Holland
Park, the studio his home as he moved
among them.
With his surname, he was bound to
attract attention, often for the wrong reasons. In his youth he was said to be very

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA

handsome, his wiry figure and intently


melancholy look drawing admirers at first
glance (Man with a Feather (Self-portrait), 1943). His behaviour was anarchic he could not bear authority which
he flouted all his life, never playing by the
rules. It seemed he was as attracted to animals as models as much as people; he was
attached to his dogs who often feature next
to his human models; a pet rat was also
immortalised in paint, and he was particularly fond of horses a rider early on, an
addictive gambler for much of his life.
(Freud was passionate about gambling
until he had so much money that the risk
was severely diminished; it was the sense
of losing it all that he relished).
But Freuds most obvious deviation
was to paint and draw and etch all his life
from the life, a representational artist
when abstraction, installation, and even
ephemeral performance became all the
avant-garde rage. No Duchampian he,
but an adept with pen, pencil, etching needle, and oil paint.
It is not given to every unconventional lover and gambler, to be awarded the
Order of Merit, an honour given only to 24
living people at any one time, and in the
personal gift of the Queen. It is almost via
94

various liaisons and friendships with an extraordinary range of acquaintances, from


pick-ups and gamblers, bookies and minor
criminals, to the aristocracy of the great
and the good, that he sidled obliquely into
the limelight, occupying a special niche in
the establishment, and certainly at the
apex of the artocracy.
Freuds father Ernest, Sigmund
Freuds youngest son, was a successful architect, living in Berlin: the family had
sufficient resources and foresight to
emigrate to England in 1933 when Freud
was 11. He was to speak English all his life
with a slight accent; he could at times be
the devastatingly courteous even chivalric
gentleman, and at times devastatingly
rude. Would he greet you or look through
you? Many of his friendships were indeed
life-long; but there was often an element
of uncertainty, adding a little frisson, a
sense of thin ice, that was an underlying
component of any Freudian relationship.
After months, even years, of sitting, the
process might end, the painting(s) finished, and several subjects have said it was
like being cast out of the garden of Eden.
No one was ever bored during the long attachment, not only because of mutual
conversation but because of being part of

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011


. 19501951
,
76,2 101,6
. 1952 .
Tate, London 2012
: Lucian
Freud Archive

Girl with a White Dog


1950-1951
Oil on canvas
76.2 101.6 cm
Tate Gallery: Purchased 1952
Tate, London 2012
Courtesy: Lucian Freud
Archive

the creation, overhearing the painters exhortations and comments to himself. He


valued his privacy, however, adding to the
myth; if you talked too much about what
was going on without his tacit permission
you were indeed pushed or shoved into the
outer darkness. Writers who worked with
Freud on publishing projects had co-operation withdrawn for reasons that were not
necessarily clear. A certain Freudian opacity kept his circle on their toes.
Consistently, though, he was absolutely adamant about the seriousness of
sitting for a portrait, and irritated by anybody who took the commitment to model
lightheartedly; you had to be on time, with
no messing about, and willing to stand or
sit in the grimy paint-filled studio for
months, even years of appointments. Payment could be in the form of those marvellous restaurant dinners. The spectrum
was wide, and the lovers legion. Freud
worked obsessively and pleased himself.
And he worked day and night. Hardly anyone had his phone number he could
phone you, but would only talk if the recipient of his call answered. The patterns
of his behaviour, on the one hand working
obsessively all day and all night, on the
other dining regularly with his companions

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. 1965
,
91,5 91,5
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Reflection with
Two Children. 1965
Oil on canvas
91.5 91.5 cm
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive


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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

95

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA

in a highly-controlled social life, added to


the myth, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Freuds lovers were legion, some broken-hearted, but all knew the rules, however much they may have hoped they might
be the exception. Students, the young, the
old, the married, the separated, the single,
all the permutations the grand, the not
so grand. It was almost an indoor sport in
the London art world, people guessing how
many children Freud had fathered or acknowledged. There were two daughters
with his first wife, the mesmerising Kitty
Garman, daughter of Jacob Epstein, the
staggeringly-gifted and rumbustious sculptor of masterpieces but the number of
children Lucian Freud himself acknowledged was variable, and his support for
many capricious or non-existent. He is reported to have revealed that he did ac96

knowledge over 40 progeny; the negotiations for who could be invited to the private
views of his museum exhibitions could be
arduous.
To many if not most of his children,
he gave at least a painting, now worth a
small or even large fortune, and to some he
is said to have given property. But he had
little to do with the majority of his offspring, although he was close to a few, and
never had a settled, conventional family
life. Paradoxically, he had a strong maternal attachment himself. Freud was to paint
and etch in the 1980s a marvellously tender and dignified series of portraits of his
widowed mother, lying on a bed in his studio, a grey-haired woman looking to English eyes quite central European (The
Painter's Mother Resting, 1982-1984); he
said it was to help his mothers depression,
and provide occupation and purpose for

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

,
W11 (
). 19811983
,
185,5 198

Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Large Interior, W11


(after Watteau)
1981-1983
Oil on canvas
185.5 198 cm
Private Collection
Lucian Freud
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

her, a closeness for them both. He was to


depict her in death. Freud himself was famously unafraid himself of dying, and said
of his friend Francis Bacon that his art was
injured by his fear of death. The family was
certainly complex. Lucians older brother
Clement was to become a public bon
viveur, a Liberal Member of Parliament,
also perhaps a womaniser, a witty radio
broadcaster: they were not on speaking
terms.
Fascinating inconsistencies and contradictions married to an underlying consistency and tenacious determination are
apparent in his subject matter. His early
work occasionally exhibited a surreal
touch: The Painters Room (1945) is
enlivened by a zebras head. There is an
eerie hallucinatory quality about the paintings of the 1940s and 1950s, and he was
precocious: only in his late twenties, he

19721973
,
61 61
.
1975 .
Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Naked Portrait
1972-1973
Oil on canvas
61 61 cm
Tate Gallery:
Purchased 1975
Lucian Freud
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

97

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA



. 19821984 (). 1990
,
, . 243,8 183

105,4 127
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

The Painter's
Mother Resting
1982-1984
Oil on canvas
105.4 127 cm

Leigh Bowery
(Seated). 1990
Oil on canvas
243.8 183 cm

Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

Private Collection
Lucian Freud
Courtesy: Lucian Freud Archive

was commissioned to contribute a painting


to the 1951 Festival of Britain, the strange
Interior in Paddington, with its huge
potted plant by the window matching its
presence to the raincoated, smoking bespectacled young man, the East End photographer Harry Diamond.
By the 1960s the prints which depended on clever compelling use of line
wide-eyed young women clutching flowers,
lying in bed began to give way to etchings
with elaborate and intense concatenations
of lines describing with a kind of awesome
fidelity the carapace of skin in which we are
all encased. As he changed brushes, adopting a hogs bristle which could be loaded
with fat paint, the smooth almost veneerlike quality of the early paintings was supplanted by an impasto, swirls of paint
which were to become richer and more encrusted over the decades. The studios, ordinary domestic rooms in terraced West
London houses were uniformly unpretentious kept overwhelmingly warm for the
models who were typically naked bore
the souvenirs of the wiped brushes, smear98

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

ing the paint on their walls, Freudian paintings in themselves.


Rarely did he paint commissioned
portraits. Freuds subjects included a late
and tiny portrait of the Queen, markedly
unsuccessful, an old lady painted unsparingly, even cruelly; an astringent contradiction, of course, to the usual anodyne
and flattering images which have proliferated over the decades. They probably
talked about horses, but she does not look
amused. Aristocrats of varying ranks appear, from Dukes and Duchesses on down,
as well as the aristocracy of celebrity: a
heavily pregnant super model Jerry Hall,
the super model Kate Moss.
But he started with his own: Kitty
Garman, his first wife, is the subject (Girl
with a White Dog, 1950-1951) of some of
Freuds most captivating and hypnotically-compelling early masterpieces where
line mattered as much as colour, and
colour was vividly transparent, the surface
as smooth as Dutch 17th century painting,
or the Frenchman he admired so intensely
and copied, Chardin. Freud looked attentively at the great masters and indeed had
had an extensive apprenticeship, studying
briefly at the Central School, and then intermittently for several years with the
charismatic Cedric Morris in the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, in
Suffolk. At one point the school burnt
down legend has it that it was accidentally set alight by Freud. There were three
months in the merchant marine, in 1941,
and friendships with the painter John
Craxton with whom he spent some time on
the Greek island of Paxos. From the same
period there is a haunting portrait of another friend, the suicidal painter John
Minton.
These early portraits are tender, of his
first lovers and friends, and responsive to a
lurking nervousness or even neurosis on
the part of the sitters, but nothing like the
ferocious swirl of paint and intensity of the
portrayal of the flesh that was to characterise the last four decades of his art when
he painted not the nude, but the naked.
Kitty Garman, part of Epsteins
complex family did Freud take it as a
model? was brown-haired and greeneyed, and married Freud in 1948; their
union was dissolved in 1952. The second
wife married in 1953, divorced 1957,
this marriage childless was grand in another way, Caroline Blackwood, a Guinness heiress who was to go on to marry the
American poet Robert Lowell. Blond and
blue-eyed, she was depicted continually,
with tender affectionate appraisal and
scrutiny (Girl in Bed, 1952).
During this time Freud moved among
Bohemian London, a close friend of Francis Bacon (of whom he painted an amazing
wide-eyed portrait, stolen and still not returned from a major exhibition in Berlin),
and an even closer friend of another
German child migr, the painter Frank
Auerbach, who was equally obsessive in
his subject matter (Frank Auerbach,

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Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Benefits Supervisor
Sleeping. 1995
Oil on canvas
151.3 219 cm
Private Collection
Lucian Freud
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

* W11
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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

99

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA

1975-1976). In Auerbachs case, too, portraits, again and again of the same handful
of committed sitters from a much narrower
social milieu than Freuds, dominated, as
did the Camden Town landscape surrounding Auerbachs studio. All three,
Bacon the autodidact, Auerbach and
Freud shared an extensive and passionate
knowledge of art history, and copied both
overtly and covertly the masters they admired. Bacons emotional portraits were
from the imagination, even if based on the
real; he drew from Velazquez and Van
Gogh in compelling series. Auerbach drew
for continual visual practice from the art of
the National Gallery. Each of these London artists were outsiders: Bacon AngloIrish, Freud and Auerbach German Jews
who had come to London in the 1930s as
refugees. Freud acknowledges Hals and
Van Gogh as masters: of colour and the
brush. As all intelligent artists do, and acknowledge by their heroes shall we know
100

them each has worked from the art of


others. Freud used and transformed a
painting by Watteau in an amazing life-size
group portrait of unacknowledged relationships of lovers and children, Large Interior W11 (after Watteau) (1981-1983).
In the 1990s Freud had two astonishing people-mountain sitters which
brought celebrity, even notoriety, to them,
and record prices in the auction rooms.
The benefits supervisor, Sue Tilley, appears
in many a painting: she is a huge sprawling
figure, and after Freuds death spoke most
affectionately of her sojourn as his model
(Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995).
Leigh Bowery, an Australian transvestite
and performance artist, posed for gigantic
paintings of his formidable presence
(Leigh Bowery (Seated), 1990). Bowery,
described by Freud as fastidious and highly
intelligent, regarded his sittings, or rather
standings, for Freud as his own private
university. Freud painted the great and

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011


20052006
,
142,2 121,9

Lucian Freud
:
Lucian Freud Archive

Eli and David


2005-2006
Oil on canvas
142.2 121.9 cm
Private Collection
Lucian Freud
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

the good (The Brigadier, 2003-2004),


the establishment (drawn to mountainous
flesh, he portrayed Lord Goodman, another man-mountain, a lawyer to that
inner core of politicians and others who
ran the country), and also those at the opposite end of the social spectrum (Two
Irishmen in W11, 1984-1985).
His models, except for the Queen,
came to Freuds various studios: a grimy
bed, rumpled sheets and rags, an old chair,
paint-smeared walls, and bare wooden
boards. The only creatures who were always totally relaxed were his nervy, sinewthin whippets. Over the decades, other
artists and writers were pressed into service, like the exceptional critic Martin Gayford who wrote Man with A Blue Scarf
about several years of sitting for Freud, resulting in both portraits and etchings. Gayford always had to wear the same clothes
for the more than weekly sessions, including a pink- and white-striped shirt, the
stripes disappearing in the finished portrait. The clothes were props too, for tonal
values, not necessarily for accurate photographic reproduction.
Does the biography matter? Unusually, this is something Freud has in common with Picasso, another art giant of the
20th century, and a famous (or infamous)
lover, whose personal life critics and historians agree informs his art. Oddly perhaps,
Freud admired Picasso, but thought Matisse the greatest artist of the 20th century.
And for both Matisse and Picasso, the biography too is all, inseparable from the
imagery. But Picasso reworked myth; Matisse abstracted. And Freud only worked
from the life. He wanted to see his subjects
both night and day, and said that thus
would be revealed the all, without which
selection was not possible. He is an unremitting scrutineer of himself, a relentless
self-portraitist (from the middle years,
Reflection with Two Children, 1965).
Perhaps the most affecting is his unflinching depiction of his naked aged body,
wearing only a pair of unlaced walking
boots (Painter Working, Reflection,
1993).
For Freud there was never a hint that
all flesh is grass. In his claustrophobic
London studios, flesh is meat, yet the
colours are at times iridescent, reminiscent
of crushed coffee cream chocolates, enlivened occasionally by hints of raspberry
and strawberry jam, candied violets, a dash
of surprising blue to point up the terracotta, oranges, pale creams and pallid
whites of skin.
These are often private parts in public
places, breaking taboos. At times it seems
he has shown us things we would rather not
see. In all cases it is the human condition;
we never forget that here the reporter, the
creative artist, is in the powerful position,
the selector, the arranger. But it is the pulsation of life, from the jungle of the garden, the nervy pose of the resting whippet,
the baby, the child, the lover, the grandee,
that carries all before it.

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:
Lucian Freud Archive

Standing by the Rags


1988-1989
Oil on canvas
168.9 138.4 cm
Tate: Purchased
with assistance from
the Art Fund, the friends
of the Tate Gallery and
anonymous donors
1990
Lucian Freud
Courtesy:
Lucian Freud Archive

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

101


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PLASTOV
The Lord of Sabaoth
1880s
Oil on board
38 30 cm


. 1884

1994 .
The Epiphany Church
in Prislonikha
village, 1884
Restored in 1994

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

103

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

Tatyana Plastova

The Plastovs - A Family of Artists


The Plastovs are an ancient Russian family. Their ancestors, many of whom were priests, lived
in the Arzamas region. Legend has it that one of the Plastovs was a cleric in an area populated
by the Mordvins (the Erzya people). Their family surname then was Sinitsyn, and among them
was, in the late 18th-early 19th centuries a certain Vasily Sinitsyn, a deacon fond of painting.
One of the Sinitsyn family was an apprentice with the icon painter Plastov he painted icons
with the artist travelling from village to village. When his mentor died, the apprentice took his
family name: at first he was called Plastov the apprentice, and then simply Plastov. The first
family member about whom anything is reliably known is Gavrila Stepanovich Plastov (1801c.1843), whose father is known to have been a cleric. Gavrila studied at (but did not graduate
from) a seminary in Kazan. He also studied at an art school in Arzamas founded in 1802 by
the painter Alexander Stupin. Founded on academic principles (Stupin himself had studied
at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg), the school had a curriculum combining professional
education with a large range of general subjects and was endorsed by the Academy. The school
placed a special emphasis on teaching icon painting.
..

19 1883 .
,
16,5 24
Grigory PLASTOV
The View
of the Jordan River
January 19 1883
Tempera on paper
16.5 24 cm

any churches in the Volga region featured icons and murals created by
graduates of the Arzamas school, a group
that likely included Gavrila Plastov. Arkady
Plastov in one of the versions of his autobiography mentioned him: My grandfather
Grigory studied under his father Gavrila
Plastov, a graduate of the Stupin school in
Arzamas. I didnt see my grand-grandfathers paintings. The only thing that was left

Plastov, Arkady. An Autobiograpy. (Arkady


Plastovs archive).

Avdonin-Buryuchevsky,
Alexander. Arkady
Plastov. Korporatsiya
Tekhnologii Prodvizhenia
publishing house.
Ulyanovsk, 2006. P. 30.

104

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

from him in our family was ink drawings


copies of some academic pieces1
It is also known that Gavrila
Stepanovich worked at the Church of the
Archangels in Chirkovo village, in Alatyrsky
Province, and later at the Church of Christ
the Saviour in the city of Alatyr. Late in his
life he became a low-ranking cleric.2
Gavrilas son, Grigory Gavrilovich
(1831-1887) Arkady Plastovs grandfather

was an icon painter and architect who


built a church in Prislonikha. Grigory finished a religious school in Alatyr and worked
in many churches (he stayed the longest
with the Nikolskaya Church in the village of
Tetyushi, in the Ardatovsky province of the
Simbirsk region, and the Epiphany Church
in Prislonikha village). He probably did not
receive a conventional art education, although he succeeded well as an icon painter
and a church architect. Arkady Plastov recalled in his autobiography that before a fire
in 1931, I came across in the papers left by
my father many architectural drawings with
signatures like Church in a village, designed
and drafted by Grigory Plastov. His technical drawings were used for the construction of the church in our village, and he also
created, together with his father, images inside the church. It is known that Grigory
Plastov also designed a church in a neighbouring village called Zherebyatnikovo
(both churches were partly destroyed in the
Soviet period re-adjusted for civil use).
For all its simplicity, the reconstructed
church in Prislonikha astonishes with its
harmonious and clear proportions, and accord with the surrounding environment and
consistency of its architectural design.
The church had two altars the main
one, dedicated to the Epiphany, and the second one, dedicated to the Kazan Icon of the

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

..


1880-
,

Grigory PLASTOV
Entrance into
Jerusalem
1880s
Oil on board

Holy Virgin. The walls were covered with


compositions focused on Biblical themes,
which were lost in the 1930s. The images for
the church were painted by Grigory Plastov,
together with his son Alexander (Arkady
Plastovs father) and an artist known by the
surname Groshev. The young Arkady Plastov was astounded by these murals, and this
fascination would last throughout his life: I
was especially amazed by the darkened
evangelists and the Lord of Sabaoth on the
inside of the dome, painted by my grandfather, the upper part of the iconostasis I
perfectly remember the images on the
iconostasis, they are etched in my memory.
My grandfather was fond of rich, extremely
saturated tones. He was fond of juxtaposing
deep greenish-blue tones and blood-red,
with inserts of citrine-emerald, violet, orange; the background colours were gold, the
soil under the feet burnt sienna or dull
pinkish-grey. All heads were flame-coloured
sienna, all shadows, green clay. Noses, the
curls of hair, lips, eye sockets, fingers
everything was contoured with saturnine
red, and when, during a vespers service, the
sun cast its ray on the iconostasis, you could
not tear your eyes away from this splendour.3
The family has kept only several icons
made by Grigory Plastov: The Archangel
Gabriel (a fragment about the Annunciation), The Lord of Sabaoth and The
Archangel Michael, as well as fragments of
a mural (Baptism).
Nikolai Arkadievich Plastov (Arkady
Plastovs son) recalls these images: The
Gabriels style is somewhat heavy and
stiff Whereas The Lord of Sabaoth, a
solidly crafted piece with rich dark colours
translucent umbers, siennas is imposing
and unusual in its composition; its probably
fashioned after one of the serious academic
images created for a church in the first quarter of the 19th century; its combination of
hues is well balanced, the outlines are crisp
and austere. The winged Archangel
Michael is undoubtedly the best of the three
pieces by Grigory Plastov. The archangel is
statuesque and imposing. A layer of vanish
darkened over the centuries protects the
dark image of the leader of the heavenly host
equipped with a fiery ball and an unrolled
scroll. The folds of the Roman warriors
dark suit of armour opalesce with a fine
golden hachure, his dress is hemmed with
golden tracery, a crimson mantle blown by
otherworldly elementary forces flutters
against the gold-plate in the background.
This is the only motion in the menacing insularity of the figure atop the ochreous

Plastov, Arkady. An Autobiograpy. (Arkady Plastovs


archive).
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

105

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

..

19591960
,
70 94
Arkady PLASTOV
My Grandson
is Painting
1959-1960
Oil on canvas
70 94 cm

..


19351936
,
74,5 53,5
Arkady PLASTOV
Portrait of Kolya
with a Cat
1935-1936
Oil on canvas
74.5 53.5 cm

106

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Plastov, Nikolai
Arkadievich. Prislonikha.
About the past. In:
Pamyatniki Otechestva
(Landmarks of the
Homeland). 1998. No. 42
(7-8), part II. P. 164.

Plastov, Arkady.
An Autobiograpy.

smoking clouds. The wrathful visage itself,


the delicately crafted outlines of the hands,
and elegant traces of the light feet all this
shows that the artist possessed great skills
and was well versed in the subtleties of contemporary icon painting.4
Grigorys son Alexander Plastov
(1862-1908) did not receive a regular education, but he was literate and an avid
reader. Apprenticed to his father, he helped
him to paint churches and after his death
served as a psalm reader in the Prislonikha church. Alexander married a
woman called Olga Ivanovna, a daughter of
Ivan Leiman, a country doctor of German
roots. On January 31 (18 in the old style calendar) 1893 the couple had their sixth child,
who was given the name Arkady at his baptism. In Arkadys life, two paths seem to
have crossed that of the priesthood and
that of art. His parents dreamed about
Arkady becoming a cleric. At the age of ten
Arkady was sent to a religious school in Simbirsk, and later he enrolled at a seminary.
But an event in the summer of 1908 shaped
his entire life.
In 1908, wrote Arkady Plastov in his
autobiography, icon painters came to our
village to renovate the paintings my grandfather and father had made long ago for our
little church, and to add some more artwork.
The locals put my father in charge of the
management and supervision of the project.
When they started mounting scaffolds,
grinding pigments, and boiling linseed oil, I
walked around almost like a sleepwalker
so enthralling was the whole process. And
then my father and I went up to the space
under the dome, where the cheerful frizzyhaired icon painters were perched. The
smell of linseed oil, jars with pigments, gigantic prophets, archangels with iridescent
wings enthralled me. The contours were finger-thick, there was no trace of the slickness
customary in the icons. The strokes were
wide, rough. As if under a spell I stared and
saw how some handsome man in a flamecoloured chlamys was conjured up amidst
pink clouds, and an exceptional and unfamiliar delight, some honey-sweet horror
were fitfully squeezing my heart. I immediately made my father promise that he would
buy me pigments like this and that I would
grind for myself these beautiful paints
blue, flame-coloured, and will become a
painter, nothing but a painter...5
In Arkadys fourth year at the seminary, the dean blessed him to serve the people as an artist not destined to become a
cleric, he left for Moscow.
There he studied under Ilya Mashkov,
Fyodor Fyodorovsky, Leonid Pasternak,
Apollinary Vasnetsov, Alexander Stepanov,
and Sergei Volnukhin at Moscows two best
art schools the Stroganov College and the
Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture and
Architecture; he regarded himself as a student of Valentin Serov, Nikolai Ge, Ilya
Repin, and Vasily Surikov and studied and
copied the works of Hans Holbein, Diego
Velzquez, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, the
Renaissance masters, and the impressionists.

..

19531954
,
170 204

Arkady PLASTOV
Youth
1953-1954
Oil on canvas
170 204 cm
Russian Museum

.. .

4 .. . //
,
1998. 42 (7-8),
II. . 164.

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

107

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

..
. 1985
,
84 159

x

Yelena
KHOLODILINA
The Field. 1985
Oil on canvas
84 159 cm
Art Fund of the Union
of Russian Artists

Ibid.

Plastov, Nikolai
Arkadievich. An introduction. In: Arkady
Plastov. Album of Prints.
Leningrad: Khudozhnik
RSFSR (Artist of the
Russian Soviet Federative
Socialist Republic), 1979.
P. 9.

108

He digested and used in his work all the


treasures of the visual culture of the world.
The path of Arkady Plastovs life and
his existence as a painter were nearly identical. All our thoughts should be focused on
the passionate and unabating desire to
arrange ones life so that one can enjoy nature and freedom in peace and quiet to
devote oneself to ones favourite pursuit
without interference and hindrance from ignorant and dishonest people (from a letter
of March 16 1950).
In 1925 Plastov married his wife Natalya, a daughter of A.N. Von Vick, a former head of the local administration of the
Korsunsk province in the Simbirsk region
and a gentleman by birth. Before her marriage Natalya had worked in a local church
and thought about becoming a nun. Plastov
attracted her not only with his personal
charisma and talent but also with his Orthodox Christian belief and ties with the
church and religious culture. She introduced the traditions of her family the
culture of a noblemans house into the
peasant household in Prislonikha. In 1930
the couple had a son, Nikolai. He was
slightly over one year old when the disaster
of a fire in Prislonikha destroyed not only
their home but all the works that Plastov
had created over 37 years as well. Since
that year I stopped taking part in fieldwork I had to restore what was destroyed,
and to do it extraordinarily quickly.6 The
artist spent winters in Moscow, leaving his

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

wife and their small son behind in the village. Plastovs letters home are full of anxiety and guilt for their separation,
homelessness, and rootless life. He was
completely aware of the price his family
paid for the sweeping reversal that his talent
made in the mid-1930s.
Nikolai Plastov reminisced: I never
saw my father in those years at rest; from
dawn until late at night he was juggling numerous tasks, making up for what was lost
in the fire, trying to catch up with his
friends, scrambling to earn paltry sums creating instructional posters. It looks like we
lived very poorly then, counting every
kopeck. I remember that as a child I liked to
play under a big quilting machine with quilts
in the making stretched on it. My mother
made quilts for neighbours to earn a little
extra. My father designed peacocks to adorn
the quilts, which shook the neighbours to
the core In the long winter evenings I
would fall asleep on the snippets of fabric
under the roof while my parents would stay
up late at night patiently quilting yet another
peacock.7
From his adolescence on, which coincided with World War II, Nikolai replaced
his father in domestic chores, walked on
workdays six kilometres to a school in the
neighbouring Yazykovo village and of course
painted, unable to imagine himself as anything but an artist. As a teacher, Arkady was
brilliant but strict and demanding. His letters to his son are full of concern about the

boys soul, demanding love and clear professional instructions.


You should know, dear young boy,
that my heart is filled with joy and pride
when I read that you write and paint and
dont make a display of what you have
achieved but treat it thoughtfully and critically. This is the right thing to do. This attitude generates the fruitful and creative
anxiety of the soul which is indispensable
for any advancement Of course, one
shouldnt force oneself, but the discipline of
the soul always ought to be at a high level
(in a letter from January 13 1946).
I beg you dont waste your time.
Do more watercolours. If you cant paint
from nature, paint as if from nature, very liberally, without slavishly mimicking the original, copy my sketches of the busts. Dont
be afraid to be slightly unfaithful to an original. Try to convey the very essence try to
mould the head, to make it palpable, vibrant, powerful in colour. Try to paint the
hands of Grandma Sonya or Grandma Olya
life-sized or a little smaller. Go ahead confidently, without trembling, make shadows
translucent, in light spots try to make surfaces pearly. If you use a dark background,
craft the background as well, but a white,
light backdrop would be better (in a letter
from November 20 1944).
Make watercolours as slight and
colourful as possible, more agreement
between colours. Take your cue from Velzquez, Serov or Repin, Surikov. If you

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,
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KHOLODILINA
A Time When
Hedgehogs Rove
1973
Oil on cardboard
50 80 cm

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KHOLODILINA
Irises. 1996
Oil on canvas
50 60 cm

.. .

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7 .. //
..
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, 1979. . 9.
/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

109

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

..

1970
,
51 38
Nikolai PLASTOV
Katerina Andreevna
1970
Oil on cardboard
51 38 cm

..
. 1985
,
125 180
Nikolai PLASTOV
A Summer
Evening. 1985
Oil on canvas
125 180 cm

look closely at their works, youll see an astonishing harmony and most elegant combinations of colours. Avoid the motley of a
scrap quilt (in a letter from December 20
1944).
For Nikolai, his father was his first and
the most important teacher throughout his
life. Copying and painting from nature the
traditional foundation of European art education, as well as astuteness of stylistic objectives, good knowledge of the system of
colours and tonal relations, and, finally, the
personal example of tireless work and uncompromising self-discipline these are the
main lessons Arkady taught to his son, the
lessons that shaped Nikolai as an artist. But
Nikolai had other teachers as well. He graduated from the Surikov Art Institute in
Moscow, where he studied under Dmitry
Mochalsky a brilliant educator and a master of composition who knew how to design
a refined colour scheme even for a seemingly very simple theme. Nikolais classmates at the Surikov Institute included
Yefrem Zverkov, Andrei Makarov, Yelena
Leonova, Yaroslav Manukhin, and Eduard
110

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Bragovsky, all of whom went on to become


distinguished artists. The students remained
friends, almost like brothers, and associates
in art throughout their lives.
Nikolai Plastov was an excellent
drawer. Early in his career he worked as an
illustrator at the Detgiz publishing house
for children and at childrens magazines.
His fathers enormous talent and glory, in
the shadow of which he was bound to live,
as well as his awareness of his responsibility
undoubtedly shaped him as an artist. He
didnt have his fathers ardour and daring,
simply because that path was already trodden, with the brilliant result showed off to
the world, but he had impeccable skills, a
perfect artistic taste, and erudition in literary
and visual cultures. When he looked at nature, he was equipped with the entire history
of world art. Like his father, he saw shapes
and colours in every manifestation of life
he saw the world only as an artist (for instance, he would say about a supposedly
handsome man that he was poorly
drawn). In the company of friends and at
home he created amazingly sharp caricatures.
As a painter, he undoubtedly belonged
to that group of exponents of the Moscow
school which, together with the champions
of austere style in painting, defined Soviet
art in the 1960s-1980s. A traditional realist
in his early pieces, he later consciously
abandoned focus on detail in favour of a
more impactful colour scheme and forms of
exaggerated, maximally expressive design.
Rich saturated colours, vibrant combinations of contiguous tones of paints, deep
limpid tones creating a breathing, seemingly
live surface are features of his style. An invaluable witness of his fathers life, Nikolai
Plastov watched the birth of many of his
paintings and was often painted by him.
Nikolai Plastov was a prominent figure
in public life and cultural politics. In differ-

ent years he held administrative posts at the


Society of Artists of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Society of
Artists of the USSR and chaired the
Unions purchasing committee. It was to a
large degree due to his efforts that the best
works accomplished in most diverse styles
were bought from their creators, to form the
special reserves of our art. Together with
Pavel Korin, Leonid Leonov, Ilya Glazunov,
Boris Rybakov, and Georgy Sviridov, Nikolai Plastov was one of the founders of the
Russian National Society for Preservation
of Landmarks of History and Culture and
served on the societys board. The intervention of the artistic and academic communities helped to save from destruction dozens
of historical buildings and churches, including the Kazan Cathedral and the cathedral
at the New Jerusalem Monastery, and to
have them rebuilt and renovated in compliance with scientific norms.
Nikolai Plastov was instrumental in
renovating and re-opening the Epiphany
Church in Prislonikha, which was built by
his great-grandfather Grigory Plastov. He
did much for the preservation and systematisation of Arkady Plastovs legacy and organised two major exhibitions at the Central
Exhibition Halls in Moscow (1976) and in
St. Petersburg (1977).
His early death, in 2000, was a symbol
of revulsion for the neglectful and consumerist attitude to the national culture he
had witnessed in the last years of his life.
The work of Nikolai Plastovs wife,
Yelena Kholodilina, can be justly regarded
as a part of the familys legacy. The daughter
of a chemistry professor, Yelena Nikolaevna
was born in Lugansk, finished art school in
Kharkov, and then studed at the Surikov Art
Institute in Moscow. When, after her wedding, Yelena moved in with the elder Plastovs in Prislonikha, she felt the experience
very keenly. The proximity of the great

..
. 1975
,
126 203

Nikolai PLASTOV
In the Autumn
Field. 1975
Oil on canvas
126 203 cm
Achinsk Museum
and Exhibition Centre

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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

111

ARTISTIC DYNASTY

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. 2011
,
100 65
Nikolai PLASTOV
Portrait of the Son
in the Medieval
Shirt. 2011
Oil on canvas
100 65 cm

master, who was always very busy with his


work and initially did not pay attention to
the shy artist, discouraged her rather than
stimulated her work. Yet, soon, humbly but
firmly, she chose her path in art. Undoubtedly, the opportunity to see Plastovs compositions, and later the experience of
painting by his side in the open air, taught
her much and revealed to her that what usually takes years and decades for an artist to
learn. When I came to know Plastovs art
better, I was astonished by the clarity and
power, by the exultation of colour which is
the truth of Gods world Starting to work
on a composition, Plastov tried to apply
translucent paints in certain areas, these
paints sometimes held on in shaded spots
too. Siennas, umbers, clay From the beginning of a work he tried to avoid muddying the mixtures and colours with white
paints The palette of Delacroix Whats
each colours sound? Which mixes bring
112

into play other mixes? The theory of complementary colours. Ive been interested in
these problems all my life. And Ive tried to
apply these ideas in my work.8
As an artist she focused on landscapes.
The ability to see a state of nature as a
whole, to vest every brushstroke with worth
and meaning, to materialize the subtle semantics of landscape all these qualities
made her an artist of note in the 1970s1980s. Although Arkady Plastovs influence
on Kholodilinas artwork is undeniable, in
terms of style her landscapes are closer
to such artists as Stanislav Zhukovsky,
Leonard Turzhansky, and Pyotr Petrovichev. The emphasis on individual brushstrokes and deliberate definiteness of
colours are some of the important features
of her oeuvre.
Perhaps the main property of
Kholodilinas art is its poetic sentiment and
openness, the warmth of her soul, which this

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

Kholodilina, Yelena.
Memoirs (manuscript).

Ibid.

modest and shy woman boldly communicates to the viewer.


A landscape that has once grabbed
your attention should be carefully thought
out and compositionally robust, lines directing the spectators eye should be carefully
arranged the tilt of the tree, the bends of
the twigs, spatial relations so that the
viewer feel tempted to enter this world, and
to love it. I have always wanted to lodge
some living being in the landscapes A big
plot of felled forest, with only several trees
pines left. The entire landscape is suffused with the scarlet light of a setting sun,
there are fallen leaves under the feet, tiny
green pines, tall dry weeds with umbels. And
across this entire kingdom, a hedgehog
makes his way stamping his feet in a business-like manner. I later reworked my quick
sketch into a large landscape and called it A
Time When Hedgehogs Rove.9
Arkady Plastovs only and much loved
grandson Nikolai Nikolaevich Plastov grew
up in Prislonikha, with his grandmother
Natalya Alexeevna and nanny Katya, who
lived with the family for more than 60 years.
Arkady Plastov relished every minute of this
childs life, painted portraits of the boy over
and over again, pampered him, made him
wooden toys, told fairy tales of his own invention, and came to the rescue when his
parents were too hard on him, as well as
teaching him painting The little Kolya is
featured in Plastovs wonderful portraits,
such as the Portrait of My Grandson (By a
Window) and My Grandson Is Painting,
and a composition A Small Jar of Milk.
Like his parents, Nikolai Plastov graduated
from the Surikov Art Institute (from Dmitry
Mochalskys workshop) and then was an assistant at the Academy of Fine Arts with the
outstanding masters Alexei Gritsai and
Alexei and Sergei Tkachev.
Certainly, Nikolai Plastovs development as an artist was greatly influenced by
his grandfathers and fathers art. When
Nikolai was a child, his grandfather
arranged objects for his still-lifes, taught
with word, didnt correct with a brush; a
tough and demanding teacher, he was eager
to cultivate in his grandson what he considered essential a love for painting, and
an enjoyment of art. The father and the
grandfather were very demanding towards
themselves as artists, never agreeing to compromises in their work. Nikolai inherited
this attitude or, rather, it was cultivated in
him from an early age. Dignity and a sense
of responsibility for the familys honour are
his main qualities both as an artist and as a
person.
The nearly 200-year-long history of
the Plastov family is inextricably linked to
Russias history, and every one of its family
members has faithfully served Russia as best
as he or she could.
Nikolai Plastov is a co-chairman of
the jury awarding the Plastov International
Prize, which recently named first winners in
the Master nomination famous artists
working in the Russian national tradition,
Yefrem Zverkov and Vladimir Telin.



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Nikolai PLASTOV
In the Evening. 2010
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/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

113


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GUM, TsUM,
Childrens
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Oil on canvas
76 80 cm

114

. 2007
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80 105
The Return. 2007
Oil on canvas
80 105 cm

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011


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THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

EVENTS

Alexandra Yuferova

A Romantic Master
The first winner of the Plastov International Prize Vladimir Telin, a Peoples Artist of Russia,
is the last surviving member of the spectacular Moscow foursome that emerged in the 1970s,
which included Nikita Fedosov, Vyacheslav Zabelin, Vladimir Scherbakov and Telin himself.
Telins transparent and comprehensive creative evolution and his personal artistic style represent an unexplored, versatile and life-affirming continent in the landscape of Russian art.
any of Telins works are characterized
by their innocent parable and allegory. What could be more everyday and unaffected than his spirited, slightly folksy
painting GUM, TsUM and Detsky Mir
(alluding to the three oldest central shopping malls of Moscow the State Universal
Mall, the Central Universal Mall, and the
Childrens World store)? The viewer is
amazed by the paintings striking multicolour, pliable harmony, as well as the characteristic intricate folkloric landscape of
Moscows ancient Kitai-Gorod, the background to endless processions of colourful
characters who came to the capital from the
Soviet provinces to buy the big city coats
and boots!
The harmonious inversion and semantic versatility of motifs in Telins graceful,
expressive paintings is characteristic of both
his larger- and smaller-scale work (paying
hommage to the traditions of Alexei Venetsianov, Grigory Soroka, Alexei Savrasov and
Leonid Solomatkin); the paintings of the
component genre are equally evocative
combining as they do decorative secondary
landscape, still-life and architectural compositional elements.
The evolutional logic and the artists
style are indeed clear; however, this clarity
is not easily analysed, and it can create a
feeling of peculiar vagueness, of something
not rationally explicable since the unsteady, initial, and unverified impressions
invariably lead us to a certain solid ground,
a reliable point of reference which we find
deep within our souls. This should not come
as a surprise the Russian viewer is still
raised on folk and fairy tales and has not entirely lost the connection with the national
cultural tradition, making the conventional
visual storyline of the artists paintings powerful.


20042008
, . 76 80,2

Seeing off the Guests


2004-2008
Oil on canvas
76 80.2 cm
Art Prima Gallery

Contemplating the parables and symbols of Telins realistic images, it is hard to


shake off the feeling that his quiet voice is
indeed unique. His newer large-scale canvases, such as A Kind Man, Rainbow at
Night, and The Return, significantly
alter his previously established textbook
image of an artist of small-scale genre paintings, and remind us that such works as
Refugees and On the Water were not
exceptions.
At the same time, we cannot help paying attention to the unique complexity, subject matter and relevance of the creative and
aesthetic phenomenon that Telins smallscale genre paintings constitute, since
through this art form he revives one of the
leading genres of Russian realist classical art,
which practically disappeared during Soviet
times.1 The very definition of Socialist realism as showing reality in its revolutionary
gust excluded the subtle and personal quest
for the meaning of life from the sphere of
Soviet aesthetic priorities. The updated
austere style only served to solidify this
tendency by transforming even the most private everyday motifs into monumental,
symbolic clichs. It was those art forms of
introspective space that naturally and logically lead to the living, quiet, real miracles
in Telins paintings.
There are so many revelations and urgent creative challenges in Telins art that it
is impossible to touch upon or analyse all of
them in a brief essay. However, from the
abundance of diverse and meaningful impressions, there emerges an image of a remarkably solid, generously gifted, extraordinary contemporary Russian artist, a romantic master at the turn of centuries and
eras, and one who was destined to struggle
with the most difficult challenges to
maintain and revive the disintegrating link
between eras.

. 1987
,
45 50
1

Bride. 1987
Oil on canvas
45 50 cm

The pride of Soviet art, the post-war canvases


by Arkady Plastov, Yury Kugach, Vladimir Gavrilov,
Vasily Nechitailo, Nikolai Novikov, Alexei Tkachov and
Sergei Tkachov, and Valentin Sidorov, are mostly largescale, not really personal paintings.

/ THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY / #42011

115