“The Most Moving Painter of the Human Face”

Olga Atroshchenko

Magazine issue: 
#3 2015 (48)

The Tretyakov Gallery has prepared a major exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of Valentin Serov’s birth, with the works of the prominent Russian artist displayed on two levels at the Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val until January 17 2016.

Serov proved himself as a remarkable easel and monumental painter, and graphic artist, as well as a theatre and applied arts designer. He painted landscapes and historical compositions, illustrated books and designed stage productions, but his portraiture dominated. His art made an enormous contribution to the formation of new movements, namely the Russian versions of Impressionism and Art Nouveau.

The anniversary exhibition presents the artist’s most outstanding artistic achievements. Its section dedicated to Serov’s paintings includes more than 100 of his best works, which show his legacy in all its diversity of genre and style. At the entrance of the exhibition the famous “Girl with Peaches” (1887) stands out, placed at the beginning of the hall’s diagonal line, while the bright and decorative “Portrait of Ivan Morozov” (1910) is shown at the very end. The large ceremonial portraits, which brought the artist fame as the best portrait painter in Russia, are on the same diagonal, among them the “Portrait of Maria Yermolova” (1905), “Portrait of Princess Zinaida Yusupova” (1900-1902) and “Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova” (1911, all works in the Tretyakov Gallery). On both sides of the show’s main line, the canvases are systemized according to sections which cover various facets of Serov’s artistic aspirations: his passion for Impressionism, his deep “understanding” of his models’ “character” (in Igor Grabar’s words), and his searching for a new artistic language embodied in the portraits of the Art Nouveau epoch. The portraits of the Yusupov family and of the Romanov dynasty are presented in individual cycles.

Many monographs, academic and popular articles as well as considerable private correspondence have been published about Serov. Yet his art continues to excite and amaze all who come into contact with it.

“What kind of man was Serov?” is the question that we ask again and again.

Valentin Serov was born into a family of great talent, yet the worldviews of his parents were very different. His father Alexander Serov (1820-1871), a composer and music critic, was infused with the idealistic beliefs of the Romantics with their essential cult of heroes and geniuses. In his young years Serov-père defined his life philosophy in a romantic spirit: "What a high calling to be a priest of such a muse (music), to burn incense at its altar, and thus move mankind a few steps forward."1 The remarkable career of this extraordinary man, who rose rapidly from judicial clerk to prominent composer and idol of young music-lovers, proved just that. "He was an artist of a higher order, with an appearance of genius like a Liszt, Goethe, Wagner or Beethoven,"2 noted the young Ilya Repin immediately after his first meeting with Serov. Later, when the artist had become a friend of the composer of the sensational opera "Judith" and did not feel embarrassed to "gaze upon the genius so closely,"3 he continued to consider Serov "a most intelligent and vivid person"4.

The painter's mother, Valentina Serova (nee Bergman, 1846-1924), was the opposite5: much younger than her husband, an excellent pianist and later a composer herself, she belonged to the shestidesyatniki, the generation of the 1860s which propagated populist ideals. With the same passion with which her husband served his "muse", she gave herself up on the altar of social activity. The sophisticated discussions about "sacred art", about which the composer held forth in virtuoso fashion with his famous friends in aristocratic salons, hardly attracted her at all. With all her heart she longed "to study music" and then "to propagate it among the people". Considering art the best means of education, Serova was possibly the first person from the Russian artistic intelligentsia to popularize classical music and to organise folk choirs and theatres in the rural areas of Russia.6 During the famine of 1891 she followed Leo Tolstoy's example and took up fund-raising for the poor and the organization of free canteens and hospitals in the distant provinces. Even in such hard conditions she managed to fulfil her dream and, together with the peasants of the remote village of Sudosyovo in the Simbirsk province, to stage performances of classical music, including scenes from Alexander Serov's operas "Rogneda" and "The Power of the Fiend". The wild enthusiasm which overwhelmed her at that time can clearly be traced in a letter to Maria Simonovich, her niece. "Everybody persuades me to go [to the village - O.A.]," she writes, "to encourage those who lost courage, both intellectuals and the starving. My spirits are high, and i am telling the truth: even death does not frighten me."7 Like the characters of Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel "What is to Be Done?", Valentin Serov's mother was committed to set principles and never backed down, even if the situation affected her little son. She herself admitted that her educational approach "was too direct, peculiar, sometimes cruel, yet always appropriate".8 Some of the sad stories of their relationship, particularly from his early years, would remain embedded in Valentin Serov's mind until the end of his life.

With such unique talents inherited from his parents, Serov shaped his character in an environment untypical for the kind of noble family to which he belonged. After his father's death when the boy was six, he was taken care of by different people and had to live in other people's homes, while his young mother was engaged in her educational activity. Only when Valentin Serov married Olga Trubnikova in 1889, did this "homeless, irregular wandering"9 come to an end. in response to Valentina Serova's excessive public activities, that "mother's fever"10 as the family used to call it, the artist himself grew up reserved and uncompromising. Everybody who was close to Serov remembered his deliberately impassive, "downcast" air and rare reticence reinforced by irony. Almost all his friends noted, "he talked not even little, but very little... Yet his words were ultimately deep and meaningful."11 Fyodor Shalyapin called his friend Serov "the great taciturn man".

Unlike his mother, Serov preferred comfort and liked to dress up12. Alexandre Benois said that there was something aristocratic about him, and "he was inclined towards the sophisticated attires of noble women. he liked everything that looked festive and was different from the ordinary and trivial, from 'petty bourgeois' decency."13 This, according to Benois, was one of the reasons his art tended towards beauty, "to the harmony of the whole", to the solution of purely artistic tasks.

The similarities between Serov and his mother appeared only in the last years of his life after he had witnessed the horrible massacre of the unarmed protesters on St. Petersburg's Senate Square in December 1905. After the artist's return to Moscow, he changed both his beliefs and appearance. "As if he had suffered from a serious illness or the loss of beloved people,"14 his cousin Nina Simonovich-Yefimova noted. Serov's further actions, namely his letter of protest to the Romanov family, his withdrawal from the Academy of Arts, and refusal to communicate with those close friends whom he suspected of "a shadow of a compromising approach"15, revealed a strong fidelity to principle that surpassed even that of his mother.16

Yet some of his father's traits, including self-confidence and a sense of superiority, appeared very early, and many researchers believe that they shaped Serov's distinctive personality.17 He was known to ignore both praise and severe criticism, always seeming calm and independent. Even in his adolescent years the young artist could announce with a childish straightforwardness: "If... i go to the village with Repin, i will progress immensely."18 Later, his developed critical mind and great self-confidence, backed with self-discipline and dedication to work, helped the painter to resist alien art influences. At least that was what Savva Mamontov, Stepan Yaremich, Alexandre Benois, Igor Grabar and other friends thought, although different opinions appeared frequently in the press.

"Only in a few cases can it be stated that a certain artist or a work influenced Serov's artistic technique,"19 Yaremich thought. "According to Serov himself, we know how fascinated he was by Bastien Lepage. However, the works resulting from this fascination cannot be labelled as imitations of the paintings of the French artist."20 Igor Grabar expressed the same idea when pondering Valentin Serov's first impressionist experiences - the famous paintings "Girl with Peaches" (1887) and "Girl in the Sunlight" (1888, both in the Tretyakov Gallery). Grabar repeatedly emphasized that at that time Serov had known nothing about the work of the Impressionists; he followed his own path and, using a multi-layered painting technique, achieved the resulting effect of freshness and spontaneity. The artist's friends disputed even the influence Repin had exerted on Serov, although Repin had been Serov's teacher since the age of nine. The artist himself understood the importance of the role that the renowned peredvizhnik - Repin belonged to the progressive Russian art movement, the "Wanderers" - had played in his life, and respected his teacher's talent. Repin's approach to the interpretation of personality, and his painterly techniques can be discerned in Serov's works such as his "Portrait of M.Ya. Van-Zandt" (1886, Samara Region Art Museum), "Portrait of Sergei Chokolov" (1887), "Portrait of Pavel Blaramberg" (1888, both in the Tretyakov Gallery) and many others. However, from the very beginning Serov worked out his personal approach to the subject, as becomes particularly evident in a number of paintings and graphic works created by him and by Repin on the same subject: still-lifes with apples, painted at the Abramtsevo estate, or portraits of Sofia Dragomirova. Serov's still-life "Apples on Leaves" (1879, Abramtsevo Museum-Reserve) is striking for its laconic composition, while the "Portrait of Sofia Dragomirova" (1889, Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan) impresses not only for its absolute likeness, but in its particular lyrical intonation.

Sergei Mamontov, who had known Serov since his youth, thought that even if the artist considered his teacher's advice, "it was an external obedience, to the extent an apprentice has to obey his teacher"21. According to Serov, the period when he could "trust only Repin and Chistyakov"22 turned out to be too short, so Mamontov remembered him as a self-reliant and independent man with his own views. Other such issues of influence were discussed in the press: when Anders Zorn's pictures were displayed in St. Petersburg in 1897 at the Scandinavian exhibition organised by Sergei Diaghilev, many critics noted the influence of Zorn's brushwork on Serov's art. Indeed, the Swedish artist's artistic searches were close to many Russian painters, particularly his masterly brushwork, which transformed the surface of the canvas into an object of special aesthetic pleasure.

However, this opinion soon came to be disputed. For example, Yaremich thought that Serov's brushwork bore only a nominal resemblance to that of Zorn, and that he had been influenced by this artist only for a short period. The critic thought that "compared to Zorn, Serov was a more nervous artist with a much more delicate perception of colours"23, and that the Russian painter also paid more attention to the essence of the subject, remaining committed to austere drawing, form and strong composition.

Serov's next masterpiece, the "Portrait of Mikhail Morozov" (1902, Tretyakov Gallery), which was displayed at the "Mir Iskusstva" exhibition as well as at the "Two Centuries of Russian Painting and Sculpture" show in Paris in 1906, also aroused lively discussion. This time the painterly expressivity of the canvas evoked not only Zorn, also but Edvard Munch and his "Portrait of a German Man" (1903), painted, in fact, only a year after Serov's work. These two paintings turned out to be close not only in their external features - the same solid and confident position of the legs - but mainly in the brushwork, its fast-paced lines and dynamic strokes resulting in a specific character.

Some critics tried to explain Serov's inclination towards a complicated harmony of a greyish and black colour gamma through the influence of the English painter James McNeill Whistler. Serov rejected such a comparison, stating in conversation: "I do not know him [Whistler - O.A.]. I saw something in London, not very interesting, they say something better is in America, i was not there."24

Later on the artist disputed that he had been influenced by Henri Matisse, though he had evidently studied that artist's work. "I feel talent and nobility in Matisse, however, there is nothing joyful about him, and what is strange, everything else becomes boring, making you interpret it differently,"25 Serov wrote to his wife after he had been impressed by the paintings of the Fauves at the Autumn Salon in Paris. "They seem tough, crooked and distorted; however, you don't feel like looking at the works of the artists with a traditional artistic approach that hang next to them. The technique is good, yet they lack something: they are insipid,"26 he told another correspondent. Undoubtedly, Serov could not but be amazed by the huge intensity of Matisse's paintings, resulting from the bold expression of line and splashes of contrasting colours, which created an amazing sense of harmonious correlations of space. At the same time Matisse's "mixture of colours," the unbelievable, in Serov's opinion, "barbarian" combination of bright orange and rich blue, which he would later use in his "Rape of Europa" (1910, Museum of Avant-Garde Mastery), at that time filled the painter with indignation.

Serov's contradictory attitude to Matisse's art, in which inquisitive interest was accompanied by a considerable portion of irony and possibly of rivalry, appeared in his later works. The "Portrait of Ivan Morozov" (1910, Tretyakov Gallery) depicts the collector against a background that includes Matisse's still-life "Fruit and Bronze" (1910, Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan), painted, according to Alexei Tolstoy, with "high accuracy"27. Having proved his ability to paint in the same manner, Serov could not afford to directly imitate Matisse's works. The form of the still-life was of little interest to him, and Serov's artistic concept was totally different, although he was clearly attracted by the laconic and refined artistic devices of the French artist.

Serov's slightly later interest in fashionable portraiture can be explained by the influence of the European Salon artists of the time. Many writers in both the international and Russian press of that period compared the artist with Carolus-Duran, Franz von Lenbach and particularly with John Singer Sargent. The art of these painters is notable for the stylistic features typical of Art Nouveau, most of all its aspiration for beauty and mastery of brushstroke. In this case, the painterly language of art Nouveau with its flexible, supple lines, boldly shaped silhouettes and bright splashes of colour was becoming an international phenomenon, as were its compositional devices with their inclination towards asymmetry and remarkable variety of poses and perspective. The appearances of the models, dressed in exquisite dresses of the period, were also close to Serov's artistic concept. it was often a distinctive expression or a gesture, a peculiar turn or tilt of the head, a passing smile or a special glint in the eyes, that revealed the personality of the sitter. Serov was keen to render Zinaida Yusupova's pleasant laugh (1903, location unknown), Alexander Kasyanov's deafness (1907, Tomsk Region art Museum) or Dmitry Stasov's height in his half-length portrait (1908, Thetyakov Gallery)28.

Undoubtedly, the brilliant ability of Western European artists to convey the texture of expensive fabrics and decorations, and the luxury of such interiors fascinated Serov. However, in his later works, while painting the decor - magnificent mirrors, refined furniture, expensive vases or, in the famous portrait, the crystal bottles and expensive trinkets on the dressing-table of Henrietta Girshman - he did so to achieve a deeper and a more convincing depiction of his sitter's character. For the same reason he chose thoroughly both the colours and style of their dress, and the pose of the model. Elegant and masterful though they are, most of Serov's portraits have little in common with the works of the European salon or with paintings by Osip Braz, Fyodor Malyavin and Boris Kustodiev who, to various extents, committed themselves in the same field. The artist abruptly rejected the alluring prospect of becoming an expensive and in-demand fashionable painter, and later expressed his negative attitude to this kind of art.

Indeed, could someone with such a temper allow himself to become an imitator or to ingratiate himself with his clients? Grabar said that Serov could easily reject a commission to paint a portrait, announcing outspokenly, "I will not paint because i do not like you."29 Nor could Serov stand any remarks from his clients, a factor that concerned even the members of the Romanov family. Serov had a disagreement with the Empress Alexandra, as described in memoirs of the time, when the artist was working on the last half-length portrait of "Emperor Nicholas ii in the Uniform of the Baryatinsky 80th infantry Kabardian Regiment" (1900, private collection, UK). When the Empress noticed some "shortcomings" in her husband's face and asked to correct them, the artist "exploded" with anger and, passing her his palette and paints, suggested, "Would you correct it yourself, please, Your Majesty?" After this incident Serov refused to work in the palace.

Grabar claimed that the artist "immensely disliked any vulgarity, was ruthless and almost cruel, and when he talked he neither stretched the truth nor paid compliments"30. Vladimir Derviz, the artist's close friend, wrote in his memoirs: "Serov tolerated no hypocrisy, never flattered nor embellished the original; perhaps, he just emphasized some characteristic traits. such an approach meant that if his model had in any way unattractive or funny features, Serov would include them in the portrait. This is why clients were often displeased with Serov's portraits, which were really magnificent and undoubtedly truthful."31

At the same time, many of the artist's contemporaries neglected the influence which artists of Serov's own era had on his work, while emphasizing the connection between his art and that of the great masters of the past: Titian, Velazquez, Hals, Rembrandt. "...Yesterday I attended a regular exhibition where I admired the amazing (Titian-like) portrait of a certain Mme. Moritz by Serov," Mikhail Nesterov wrote to his family.32 Beneath certain stylistic features typical of Art Nouveau, Nesterov noticed Titian's aspiration for the perfection of portrait form in Serov's painting. The artist's engagement with Velazquez was particularly emphasized: according to Serov, the painting of the great Spaniard put even the contemporary Parisian art world "into the shade". Some have claimed that the great Spanish master indirectly influenced many works of the Russian painter, both from his early and late periods. With good reason Alexandre Benois compared the stylish "Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova" (1911, Tretyakov Gallery) with the famous "Portrait of innocent X" (1650, Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome), calling both paintings "miracles of art".33

Undoubtedly, the old masters helped the young artist to concentrate on the artistic texture and evoked the desire to work in a restrained, yet refined and noble range of colours. What depth and variety of hues of brown Serov achieved in his "Portrait of the Singer Angelo Mazini" (1890) or in "Portrait of Francesco Tamagno" (1891, both in the Tretyakov Gallery), how excellent his colour range, recalling Rembrandt, of the "elusive image"34 of Mara Oliv (1895, Tretyakov Gallery), how precisely it helps to convey at the same time the life force and the vulnerability of the images. How complicated are the nuances of white, filled with different colour reflections and sometimes with an internal glow, as in the snowdrifts of his early landscape "Winter in Abramtsevo" (1886), or the white blouse of Olga Trubnikova, Serov's fiancee, in the painting "By the Window" (1886), and the collar of Vladimir Girshman (1911, all in the Tretyakov Gallery).

The researcher Vladimir Lenyashin has written about the secret internal connection between the art of Serov and the masters of the past: "He may have admired the ability of the old masters to work with the canvas so that the face dominated, independently of the number of accessories, or it may have been an innate feature of his talent: one way or another, even in his boldest structural and colour compositions, which would become more complicated later, it was Serov who remained loyal to the face in portraiture at the turn of the century."35

Even in the poster-like portrait of Ida Rubinstein (1910, Tretyakov Gallery), in which he depicted the dancer as a silhouette in nervous, broken lines, he could not escape from carefully depicting her tragic face in a halo of black curly hair. it is no coincidence that after Serov's success at the international Exhibition of Art in Rome in 1911 he was called "the most truthful and the most moving artist of the human face".36

Perhaps, it was this amazing talent of Serov's that captivated artists of different generations and different artistic directions. The "Peredvizhniki" (Wanderers), the artists of "Mir Iskusstva", the painters of the Union of Russian Artists - all were fascinated by his art. One of the reviews of his posthumous exhibition read: "Serov seemed to have reconnected the severed chain-links: the subjects of the paintings of the 'Peredvizhniki' and the artistry which replaced them, Repin's realism and Vrubel's mysticism. Serov stood outside all these movements, and often above them, and all schools proudly claimed him as their own."37 The painter himself did not aim to attach himself to the artistic concepts of any one movement, and remained an artist "of a unique identity"38.

Did Serov have much in common with the artists of "Mir Iskusstva", with whom he maintained a more friendly and productive relationship?39 Their aspiration towards Symbolism was alien to Serov, however, and even the interest in neo-classicism, typical of the members of the group, took a different form in his art. it is easy to notice how Serov's famous series of graphic illustrations about the times of Peter the Great and Elizabeth of Russia for the book "How Russian Tsars and Emperors Hunted" by Nikolai Kutepov considerably differs from the refined and sometimes grotesque pastiches by Alexandre Benois, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Eugene Lanceray. Serov's marvellous paintings are much more historically insightful and authentic. Admiring the artist's "Peter the Great" (1907, Tretyakov Gallery), Dobuzhinsky wrote: "...this is one of the most moving 'visions' of the past."40

What could Serov and the artists of the Union of Russian Artists, with their searches in the development of impressionist line in painting, possibly have in common? Undoubtedly, the creator of the "Girl with Peaches" (1887) and "Girl in the Sunlight" (1888, both in the Tretyakov Gallery) had always been an idol for them, even when he withdrew from the Union: the Union's aesthetic concept was based on Serov's motto "to paint joyful"41. However, after the success of these first paintings, the artist left such "joyful" painting behind forever. Most artists in the Union preferred the landscape genre, while Serov considered himself principally a portrait painter. The constant care about his family made the artist work on portrait commissions, and only in his rare free time could he relax for a moment in nature with his painter's case and feel himself a landscape painter. This usually happened when he visited his relatives the Dervizes at Domotkanovo in the Tver province. in the shady estate park there, with its eight ponds and quiet lime alleys, Serov created his first plein-airworks, including "The Overgrown Pond" (1888, Tretyakov Gallery), close in mood to the works of the artists of the Barbizon school.

At Domotkanovo in the 1890s, he opened up the poetry of the country landscape in such famous paintings as "October. Domotkanovo" (1895, Tretyakov Gallery), "Woman in a Cart" (1896, Russian Museum) and "Haystack" (1901, Saratov Art Museum), depicted in the narrow range of ochre hues natural for Russia's "modest" nature, enlivening them with scenes from everyday village life. it was these works that igor Grabar termed "Serov the peasant". The tendency to bring landscape and genre painting together, along with the ability to convey a wrenching love of the Russian village, turned out to be Serov's discovery, which was later adopted and developed by the artists of the Union.

Such questions can be asked endlessly. For example, how do Serov's characters correlate with the traditions of Russian realist painting? Was there a link between Serov and Perov, Kramskoy and Repin in his interpretation of the model's personality? What is special about Serov's approach to the sitter? Why did Benois call his portraits "the best monuments of our age?"42

There are many eye-witness accounts of how the artist worked on his portraits. Almost all say that Serov achieved a striking likeness with his models almost immediately, in the first version. Then he usually destroyed it and continued his tense, painful work. "Each portrait is a whole illness for me,"43 the painter confessed. Thus, he worked on the ceremonial portrait of Zinaida Yusupova for several years, and the Duchess joked that she "gained and lost weight" in the process, while Serov continued searching for the necessary form. The "Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova" required one hundred sittings; even Nicholas ii stood for 16 sittings, when Serov painted his portrait in a tuzhurka (a double-breasted jacket).

The artist seemed to spend a great deal of time on the study of his models. He usually sat on a low bench at the model's feet and started a long conversation. Little by little he removed the topic and projected it back to the model, "shaping, emphasizing, exposing and hyperbolizing the model's individual features".44 The painter had the amazing ability to reveal deeply buried and carefully hidden sides of human nature. "Whenever he noticed a distinct negative feature," Igor Grabar wrote, "either conceit, or foolishness, or swagger, or just a funny manner of standing or sitting, he would certainly depict it in the portrait."45 For this reason many of Serov's contemporaries found elements of the grotesque in his works. For example, Benois noticed some grotesque features in the wonderful portrait of his wife Anna Benois (1908, Russian Museum); Sergei Makovsky, the critic, wrote that only "a single facet separates the 'likeness' from the 'exaggeration' in the 'Portrait of Dmitry Stasov' [1908, Russian Museum],"46 and others found elements of social satire in the expressive "Portrait of Mikhail Morozov".

Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov expressed an even stricter attitude: "...in his portraits, Serov usually humbled a person, exaggerating his or her unpleasant or negative feature, both physical and spiritual. As if Serov did not like people and used any chance to reveal their unpleasant sides, erroneously seeing a personification in such an interpretation of nature, which is actually achieved by many artists with a different approach to people."47 On the other hand, in his portraits Serov achieved insights of a different kind. For example, Grabar wrote about the watercolour portrait of Sofia Lukomskaya (1900, Tretyakov Gallery): "The image is so compelling that one of the most notable French psychiatrists, seeing a photograph of the watercolour, accurately diagnosed the mental state of the model, who by then had fallen prey to a serious disease."48 He revealed the inner worlds of the aged actress Glikeria Fedotova and the immense tragic talent of Maria Yermolova. Fyodor Schechtel, the director of the Literature and Art Group, who commissioned the latter portrait, wrote: "When I look at the amazing portrait, i feel either heat or cold. You feel that the work has been created by somebody from the other world. Besides its moving likeness, which the great masters are not very in clined towards, Serov spiritualized her, having depicted the highest spiritual qualities of her artistic talent. It is a monument to Yermolova!"49

The first artist's biographer, Igor Grabar, was constantly worried whether the painter's art would stand the test of time. Pondering this, he wrote: "When Serov died, we could have made a mistake, overestimating the value of his art. Later, when we passionately arranged his posthumous exhibition, once again we could have been mistaken about the value of his artistic heritage. Not without reason somebody let fall the idea that we 'had overdone it', trying to create 'a big figure' from a man with a small talent. Were we wrong then, five years ago? Were we wrong later, at the time of his posthumous exhibition? These five years have given a definite and a decisive answer: 'No, we weren't wrong.'

Grabar found it hard to predict "what verdict would be passed by future judges, those even more dispassionate - 25 or 50 years from now, and further on still."50 And yet his gut instinct, the intuition of a researcher who had studied the painter's heritage so closely, told him that as decades pass, Serov's fame would grow "even stronger than ever".51


  1. Volkov, Fyodor. "Shchepkin. Glinka. Dargomyzhsky. Serov". St. Petersburg, 1996. P. 359.
  2. "Valentin Serov. Memoirs, Journals, Letters of His Contemporaries". In two volumes. Editors, compilers, and authors of the preface, essays about the memoir-writers, and annotations: Zilbershtein, Ilya, and Samkov, Vladimir. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR (Artist of the Russian Soviet Socialist Federative Republic), 1971. V. 1. P. 22. Hereinafter - Memoirs.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Memoirs. P. 24.
  5. Ilya Repin, who often attended Alexander Serov's musical evenings, wrote: ''What a difference, what a polarity of personalities! The father [Alexander Serov - OA] loves external effects; he is romantic, he admires even his own talent, vividness, good education and cultivated speech, brilliantly jingled with phrases in foreign languages: he knew a lot, liked and was proud of what he knew.'' Memoirs. V 1. P. 25.
  6. At the beginning of the 20th century Vasily Polenov took a great interest in the organization of folk theatres. Believing that theatre was an immense force that transformed consciousness, he followed Valentina Serova's example and organized a folk theatre at the Borok estate of the Tula province; in 1915 he directed the construction of the House of Theatre Enlightenment in Moscow to his own architectural project.
  7. Lvova (Simonovich), Maria. "I Want to Die in Russia. Memoirs, Diaries, Correspondence". 2010. P. 366.
  8. Serova, V "How My Son Grew".
  9. Simonovich-Yefimova, Nina. "Memoirs of Valentin Serov". Leningrad. 1964. Hereinafter - Yefimova.
  10. Ibid. P. 11. Nina Simonovich-Yefimova wrote: "During arguments Valentina Semyonovna greatly recalled Repin's Sofia, and it was quite obvious why Ilya Yefimovich considered her the right model for this painting. Raging eyes, a strong and proud neck." Ibid. P. 27.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Nina Simonovich-Yefimova wrote: ''He liked beautiful things, clothes and furniture, and hated ugly ones''. Ibid. P. 38.
  13. According to the "World of Art" artists the notion of "aristocratism" was virtually equal that of "beauty".
  14. Yefimova. P. 108.
  15. Ibid. P 110.
  16. Serova's political views were radical. Many "narodniki" (members of the social and political movement of the Russian middle class in the 1860s-1870s) revolutionaries, including Sofia Perovskaya, were among her friends.
  17. Even Serov's opponents shared this opinion. Yaremich, the artist's friend, mentioned: ".from under the brows an attentive look of shrewd grey eyes and a mouth with compressed lips told about his immense energy and the awareness of his force and superiority." Memoirs. V. 1. P. 639. N. Kravchenko, the reviewer of the St. Petersburg newspaper "New Time", famous for his critical statements about the painter, wrote: "Serov was conceited, which resulted in his slow work. He made his sketches very quickly, as he drew his portraits with charcoal. However, when he started painting, he painted the same object many times". State Literature and Arts Archive. Fund, sheet 35.
  18. "Valentin Serov: Correspondence, Documents, interviews". Edited and compiled by Zilbershtein, Ilya, and Samkov, Vladimir. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR (Artist of the Russian Soviet Socialist Federative Republic). In two volumes, 1985, 1989. V. 1. P28. Hereinafter - Correspondence.
  19. Memoirs. V 1. P. 697.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Memoirs. V.1. P. 167.
  22. Ibid. V. 1. P. 43.
  23. Ibid. V. 1. P. 705.
  24. Memoirs. V. 2 P. 145.
  25. Valentin Serov to Olga Serova. November 20 1909, Paris. Correspondence. V 2. P 184.
  26. Memoirs. V. 1. P. 696.
  27. Tolstoy, Alexei. 'Valentin Serov and the French Artists'. in "Russia and Europe. From the History of Russian and European Art Connections of the 18th-beginning of the 20th centuries". Moscow, 1995. P. 192.
  28. Igor Grabar claimed that Serov had asked him about Alexander Kasyanov's portrait: "is it clear that he is as deaf as a post?" (Grabar, igor. "Valentin Serov". 1956. P 100.) in his letter to Olga Serova, September 4 1903, Serov wrote about his work on portraits of the Yusupovs and mentioned: "The clients are satisfied. The laugh of the Duchess turned out quite good." (Correspondence. V.1. P 436.) Maria Morozova recalled that in one of her portraits Serov had intended to depict her so that "she walked, talked and smiled". (Memoirs. V. 2. P. 266.)
  29. Grabar, Igor. "My Life. Automonograph. Essays about Artists". Moscow, 2001. P. 155. Hereinafter - Automonograph.
  30. Ibid. P. 157.
  31. Memoirs. V 1. P. 210.
  32. Ibid. V. 2. P. 47.
  33. Lapshin, V "Valentin Serov. The Last Year of His Life". Moscow, 1995. P 210. A. Kurepin, an employee at "Mir Iskusstva", expressed a different opinion in his weekly "Moscow Feuilleton": ".some enthusiastic patrons already see the 'Moscow Velazquez" in Serov, however, the enthusiasm and the praise of the patrons have given Serov the occasion to careless work on details and to afford himself some quasi-brilliant boldness in colours. It is a shame. Velazquez is Velazquez, but it is necessary to work on yourself and the portraits you paint". "New Time", 1889. No. 4970. December 30.
  34. Dmitry Sarabyanov gave this epithet to the "Portrait of M.K. Oliv" (see Sarabyanov, D. "Valentin Serov". St. Petersburg., 1996. P 30.) Hereinafter - Sarabyanov.
  35. Lenyashin, V. "Serov's Portrait Painting". Leningrad, 1986. P. 84.
  36. Tugenhold, Ya. 'international Exhibition in Rome'. "Apollo", 1911. No. 9, P. 48.
  37. Lyubosh, S. 'Posthumous Exhibition of Serov'. "Temporary Word". January 1914.
  38. Yaremich, S. 'Serov's Personality'. "Speech". 1914, No. 12, January 13.
  39. Igor Grabar wrote about Serov: "He was different from the artists who shaped the distinctive image of the 'Mir Iskusstva' journal and the group, but he was unreservedly esteemed to such an extent that it was he who was tacitly admitted as the main creative power and support of the journal." Automonograph. P. 153.
  40. Memoirs. V. 1. P. 657.
  41. The phrase is from a letter to Olga Trubnikova written during a trip to Venice in 1887. in it, Serov greatly admired the old masters: "They had an easy and a carefree life; the artists of our age paint only struggles, nothing joyful. i really want 'joyful' and will paint only 'joyful'." Correspondence. V 1. P. 90.
  42. Memoirs. V. 1. Pp. 444-5.
  43. Serova, Olga. "Memoirs of My Father Valentin Serov". L. 1986. P. 74. Hereinafter - Serova.
  44. Sarabyanov. P. 26.
  45. "Valentin Serov: Life and Art. 1865-1911". M. 1965. P. 210.
  46. Serova. P. 74.
  47. Memoirs. V. 1. P. 663.
  48. Serova. P. 74.
  49. Memoirs. V. 1. Pp. 179-180.
  50. Lapshin, V. "Valentin Serov. The Last Year of His Life". Moscow, 1995. P. 415.
  51. Ibid.





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