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

Yelena Terkel

Magazine issue: 
#4 2011 (33)

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 reply”3. Maria wrote: “I feel you intimately, and deeply and humbly hope to hear from you sometime”4.

The artists’ first biographers — Vladimir Stasov and Natalya Polenova — saw the correspondence as an important element of their intimate communion. Stasov, whose attitude to Polenova’s 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 Polenova’s 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 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 Polenova’s personality and letters had an immense influence on her sister’s art: “Polenova was much older than Yakunchikova but they formed a close friendship rooted in art; this explains numerous references to Yakunchikova’s correspondence with Polenova in the biographical article about Yakunchikova.”6

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 Yakunchikova’s 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 Polenova’s niece Yekaterina Sakharova, “Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov. Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova. A Chronicle of the Family of Artists”7. This correspondence is likewise prominently featured in Mikhail Kiselev’s monograph “Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova”8, 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 Maria’s sister Natalya married the artist Vasily Polenov, Yelena’s brother. The young Masha Yakunchikova was spending more and more time in Vasily’s sister’s 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 Yakunchikova’s 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 Maria’s interest in the new ideas.

Yelena’s 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 Polenova’s 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 this”.11 Maria’s 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. It’s 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 Maria’s early missives with richly detailed drawings still exhibit her older friend’s 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 latter’s 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 People’s 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 I’ll work on my monastery composition”15. Yelena was pleased and wrote to Natalya Polenova: “I’ll now wait with great pleasure for Masha Vasilievna, we’ve seen each other a lot in Paris and decided to meet often in Moscow, especially since she’s keen on the people’s exhibitions, and it will be a pleasure to keep company with her doing a work”16. Why these plans were not fulfilled is a matter of speculation, but the composition “Northern Monasteries” was never made.

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 Russia’s autumnal smell, without any alien associations with France’s nature...”17 The artists last worked together in Paris from the autumn of 1897 until the spring of 1898.

Despite Yelena’s 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. Maria’s 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 Polenova’s 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 I’m anxious over a promise I made to him that you’ll accomplish seven (or five?) pieces for him.”20 Yelena herself tried to persuade Maria to accept, rather than reject, Diaghilev’s 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 Polenova’s 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 Polenova’s death, believing it was her duty to bring Yelena’s 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 restraint”22. This piece can be regarded as a natural result of the two artists’ creative collaboration. Natalya Polenova deservedly wrote about the last period of Maria’s 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-Weber’s 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 take. ”24 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: “I’ve recently heard such a phrase: Il faut attendre et apres on fini toujours par crder son milieu25. I firmly believe in this. Less good people disappear without anyone’s 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 Yakunchikova’s transition towards the modern”27. And although Yelena Polenova’s art had a great impact on the development of Yakunchikova’s 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 Gallery’s collection are published in conformity with modern rules of orthography and punctuation, with the letter writers’ style intact.


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, it’s 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 there’s probably nothing interesting in what I’m going to tell you, I still succumb to a desire which, though egoistic, is not altogether criminal.

When you’re stuck here for a fifth day, with this mean view always before your eyes, there’s no wonder that your inventiveness starts to run dry and your not-so-green thoughts — to multiply. When you’ll 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'hote.

I hope you’ll 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. I’m 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.


Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova
May 9/21, 1889. Biarritz
2 p.m.

Dear Yelena Dmitrievna.

Your letter has bouleverse’d30 me so much that, to be frank, I’m 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 one’s 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 don’t 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 you’ve been doing and walk to the window. It’s very good that the boy doesn’t 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, it’s more agreeable to suspect some other person in another window, only below or above. What do you think: should the boy’s 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. <...>

I’m 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.


Yelena Polenova to Maria Yakunchikova
[June 1890]. Moscow

<...> I’d be very curious to know at what period you worked well and lived meaningfully. I am certain that you’re astonishingly filled with inspiration at the moment when I’m 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 didn’t return until mid-May. But now you should be overflowing with it. Is that so? In essence, that’s a shallow and nonsensical superstition. But, you know, when I begin to feel the first symptoms of the ghost’s absence — a dryness in my throat, an emptiness in my head, and then the most horrible despondency — naturally I’m 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 I’m writing this letter to you, suddenly I receive yours — of course it made me terribly happy, as any message from you does, and I’m 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!

A new year is coming, I don’t know if its beginning means anything to you, I believe that it’s agreeable to look forward to it expecting the fulfilment of all of one’s 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, isn’t it?

I’ve been very pleased to hear from you. And only thinking of Moscow made me sad. God, how little I want to return there! Here I’ve been so overwhelmed by things to do that I’m 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 Elysees in the morning, between seven and eight o’clock. 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 cafe serving cabmen, the door is open. <...>

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9690. Sheets 1-2.


Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova
[January 1893. Moscow]

As it turns out, my sweet Yelena Dmitrievna, I cannot come to you today — I’ve caught a cold and am stuck at home, if the visit to Morevo32 is postponed, please let me call by tomorrow. Your Masha.

I don’t have a white paint for copying your little piece33 — so, please, don’t 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]

Dear Masha, my mornings tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are busy. If Thursday suits you, I can make it, but I think it’s better to have a meeting at the Historical Museum, it’s closer to the underground [vault] and besides I was told yesterday that the museum bought a new carved spinning bench of extraordinary beauty. Let’s meet there at half past one. Until then.

Yours, Yelena Polenova

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7349. Sheet 1.


Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova
May 9-15 1894. Avenue de Wagram, Paris

You horrible Yelena Dmitrievna, were things really so bad that you couldn’t 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 Paris’s 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 don’t know what to tell you, everything I see in paintings I’ve 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 what’s going on. Ah, I wish you were here! Maybe I’m one-sided, but artistically I’m helped a lot by the present spring in Paris which has been swarming with exhibitions. <...>

I’ve written a lot, but there is little sense in it. Now about my plans. I’ll rest here for another month, a little painting has to be done. Then a journey to Moscow. First we’ll have a jolly good get-together, then I’ll perhaps go to Morevo — there’s bound to be a good environment for work there. Vera’s 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)


Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova
July 2/June 20 [1895, Paris]

Dear Yelena Dmitrievna!

Now I’m back from London, to find a big pile of your letters, I don’t even know which should be answered first. Let’s start by detour. I didn’t 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 appearance’s sake or for the sake of a witty remark (except the protracted and tedious decorum, but it’s not a bad thing), awesome simplicity in everything. Everything matches an immediate purpose. Residential houses don’t call for false adornments, there are no entangled iron grids in windows, no pseudo-Renaissance empir’esque rococo-esque fruit garlands cast of gypsum and stone, and the like... just smooth, and whenever there are adornments, there’s 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 it’ll simply swamp you. <...>

Your Masha

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9700. Sheets 1-2 (reverse).


Maria Yakunchikova-Weber to Yelena Polenova
June 18 1898. France
Hôtel des Montées
Par Chamonix
(Haute Savoie)

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 don’t 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 Russia’s autumnal smell, without any alien associations with France’s nature and with the entire uncut thread of this winter. Perhaps you don’t 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).

I’m here as a patient after a treatment with sulphurous baths at the seaside, finishing my therapy. I don’t know why, but it seems to me that for the first time in my life I’m beginning to articulate, in my mind, what to do in order to walk along life’s path and art’s 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, I’m reading with an interest long-forgotten. I see that words aren’t such an enemy of painting if there is a vacant corner where to attach them.

It’s very good that my health prohibits me from spending all day long epatant42 with my artistic endeavours, that I’m not obliged to do anything for my acquaintances (this phrase ought to be replaced now) and, therefore, the little I’m doing I do with gusto. My only regret is that without you and without Russia, making playthings isn’t 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 I’m concerned that I promised him seven (or five?) pieces from you but I’m not going to be present in Russia. I don’t 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 you’re doing with gusto what you like. My situation is the opposite of yours — after my Parisian departure I’m doing work to which I’m bound by commitment. Yet, I’m doing it with pleasure and without exhaustion. I’m talking about Maria Fyodorovna’s 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 — it’s such a delight. <...>

Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item. Sheets 1-2 (reverse).


Maria Yakunchikova to Yelena Polenova

My sweet Yelena Dmitrievna, I’m longing to see you! To live with you now for a while. I was seriously thinking how to do this, but it’s 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


  1. Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova (1850-1898) was an artist and sister of Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov.
  2. Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova (1870-1902, married name Weber), was an artist.
  3. Yelena Polenova’s letter to Natalya Polenova, July 14 1898. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7309. Sheet 2.
  4. Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s letter to Yelena Polenova [1896]. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9704. Sheet 1.
  5. Stasov, Vladimir. ‘Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova: a biographical essay’. In: “Art and Arts Industry” (Iskusstvo i khudozhestvennaya promyshlennost) magazine. 1899. No. 13. P. 47.
  6. Borok, Natalya (Polenova, Natalya). ‘Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova’. In: “World of Art” magazine.1904. No. 3. P. 105.
  7. Sakharova, Yekaterina. “Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov. Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova. A Chronicle of the Family of Artists”. Moscow, 1954.
  8. Kiselev, Mikhail “Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova”. Moscow, 1979.
  9. 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 Polenova’s letter to Natalya Polenova, June 28 1893. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7231. Sheet 1.
  14. Maria Yakunchikova’s letter to Natalya Polenova. [1889]. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 12215. Sheet 26.
  15. Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s letter to Yelena Polenova, July 2 [1895]. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9700. Sheet 2.
  16. Yelena Polenova’s letter to Natalya Polenova, June 1 1895. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7254. Sheet 3.
  17. Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s letter to Yelena Polenova, June 18 1898. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9707. Sheet 1.
  18. Yelena Polenova’s letter to Natalya Polenova [1896]. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 7315. Sheets 1 (reverse) - 2.
  19. Reference to Diaghilev’s 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. I’ve seen little of him and don’t 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-Weber’s 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 you’ll end up creating an environment of your own” (French).
  26. Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s 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.
  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 Polenov’s 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)
  32. Morevo, near Moscow, was the estate of Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s parents.
  33. Perhaps, reference to copying one of Yelena Polenova’s 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 Yakunchikova’s sister.
  35. Bekhovo was Vasily Polenov’s 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.
  37. Vacuum (French).
  38. The next word is crossed out.
  39. The letter contains a colour drawing.
  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 Mamontov’s private opera house.
  41. Vypolzov Lane is in the centre of Moscow, in the Samotyoka neighbourhood.
  42. Perhaps Yakunchikova meant epater (to provoke, French).
  43. Reference to Diaghilev’s work on publication of the “Wbrld of Art” magazine. See footnote 19.
  44. Reference to a commission, from Maria Fyodorovna Yakunchikova (the wife of Maria Yakunchikova’s brother), to decorate a dining room in the Yakunchikovs’ home near Moscow, by the Nara River.





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