Curator’s choice: The best from Sergei Vinogradov’s retrospective exhibition

September 13

“Sergei Vinogradov: Painted Life” has opened at the Museum of Russian Impressionism. The retrospective exhibition, which will be on until10 January, includes over 60 paintings from museums and private collections of many Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg as well as works from the place where Sergei Vinogradov lived until his death in 1938, Latvia.

Vinogradov was not only a graphic artist and painter, but also a Kulturtraeger thanks to whom paintings by Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claud Monet, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and lots of other artists, who worked at the turn of the 20th century, were brought to Russia. The painter encouraged the Morozov brothers to buy them and later curated their collections.

Spanish dancer, 1903. From the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Karelia, Petrozavodsk

Sergei Vinogradov. Spanish dancer, 1903

The painting was the result of Vinogradov’s first trip to Paris in 1901, where he viewed the works of impressionists at the gallery of Paul Durand-Ruel and watched Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who was 60 years old at the time, work. The impressionists’ influence is clear in Vinogradov’s paintings of that period, with colour becoming an independent means of expression.

The woman in the painting, Carolina Otero or La Belle Otero, a French actress and dancer of Spanish origin, was one of the most famous women during the time and a symbol of La Belle Époque, a period in European and first of all French history between the end of the 19th century and WWI.

La Belle Otero toured Moscow and St Petersburg, but Vinogradov met her in Monte Carlo, the city Otero had an extreme passion for. She loved gambling and it is rumoured that she threw away millions in the casinos of Monte Carlo. She retired in 1910 and lived for another 50 years on the casino’s appreciation gift given her for once being such a heavy gambler.

In the house of artist Konstantin Korovin, 1907. From the collection of the Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum

Sergei Vinogradov. In the house of artist Konstantin Korovin, 1907

In 1897, Konstantin Korovin, who loved fishing and hunting, bought a vacant plot of land near the village of Ratukhino on the Nerl River. Having drawn up his own design, he then bit by bit built a wooden house, which became a powerful attraction for many Russian cultural figures, such as Valentin Serov, Feodor Chaliapin and Sergei Vinogradov, who often visited him there. In 1905, Korovin finally yielded to Chaliapin’s persuasion to sell Ratukhino, on the condition that he would be able to live there whenever he wanted. Korovin bought an adjacent plot of land, which was later named Okhotino.

The painting is a brilliant example of the artful use of colour that creates a stunning visual effect. The room in the painting is filled with light streaming through a small window, which creates a joyous atmosphere of a summer day and the serenity of a home.

Woman in a Russian costume, the late 1920s-early 1930s. From a private collection, Moscow

Sergei Vinogradov. Woman in a Russian costume

During the summer of 1924, Sergei Vinogradov moved from New York to Riga, Latvia, where he lived until his death. He never returned to Soviet Russia, but he was homesick for his native country and Russian traditions, which were often depicted in his paintings. This is why many of his works from the Latvian period were painted in the style of old Russian country houses, with easily recognisable details such as peasants, views of manors and their interiors, monasteries and pilgrims.

The artist’s main inspiration was nature, which is present in all of his paintings from that period. The light streaming through an open window in this painting creates the impression of a quiet summer day, which the artist loved so much, and also brings out the lavishness of the model’s national costume and headdress.

Lady on the balcony (Under the summer sun), 1916. From the collection of the Vrubel Museum of Fine Arts, Omsk

Sergei Vinogradov. Lady on the balcony (Under the summer sun), 1916

The lady in the painting is the artist’s wife, Irina Voitsekhovskaya. He met her at the Stroganov Art School in Moscow, where he taught until 1913. During the summer of 1915, when their relationship could no longer be said to be that of a teacher and a student, he invited her to go to Crimea with him. They were married in 1918, and the 15 year age gap never tarnished their happiness even though they were not blessed with children.  

Irina Voitsekhovskaya held promise as a painter herself, but she devoted all her life to Vinogradov. When he decided to remain in Riga, she joined him without giving the decision a second thought. Vinogradov has many paintings of a woman sitting in the soft light by a window or on a balcony, and the model for many of them was his wife, Irina Voitsekhovskaya.

A summer’s day, Crimea, 1917. From a private collection, Moscow

Vinogradov’s first trip with his future wife to Crimea in 1915 became a tradition. He lived there throughout the summer of 1916 and 1917, in particular, in Alupka and in Konstantin Korovin’s Villa Salambo in Gurzuf, where he worked to his heart’s content, painting marine and mountain landscapes inspired by the beauty of the local nature. Irina Voitsekhovskaya posed for many of the positive and multi-coloured works painted in Crimea in 1915-1917.

Sergei Vinogradov. A summer’s day, Crimea, 1917

The exhibition “Sergei Vinogradov: Painted Life” will be open until 10 January 2021.


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