Broadening Horizons: Maria Yakunchikova and Symbolism

Olga Davydova

Magazine issue: 
#3 2020 (68) Special edition "Maria Yakunchikova and Symbolism"

Ich konnte auch noch die Sterne
fassen in mir; so groß
scheint mir mein Herz...
<...>
Was bin ich unter diese
Unendlichkeit gelegt,
duftend wie eine Wiese,
hin und her bewegt

Rainer Maria Rilke
Die Liebende

I think I could bring the stars
inside of me, so large
does my heart seem...
<...>
Who am I who lies here
under this endless sky,
as the sweet scent of a meadow,
moving back and forth..
.

R. M. Rilke
A Woman in Love*

* Translated from German by Paul Weinfield, © 2014

I WANT THE IMPOSSIBLE;
WELL, WE SHALL SEE...

Maria Yakunchikova. Diary. April 4, 1892

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Inaccessible [Unattainable]. First half of 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Inaccessible [Unattainable]. First half of 1890s
Etching. 58 × 44 cm. Private collection. Reproduced from an etching in the “Vesy” magazine. 1905, No. 1.
Illustration in Maximilian Voloshin’s article “The Art of Maria Yakunchikova”. P. 39

The interaction between an artist and the dominant artistic tendencies of their time - tendencies that reveal the individuality, the soul, of an age - can take different forms. The question of the self-determination of an artistic personality, and its relation to the psychologically sophisticated aesthetics of Symbolism, was one that occupied Maria Yakunchikova over the course of her mature artistic career (from about the end of the 1880s to 1902, the year of her death). A focus on Yakunchikova’s dialogue with spiritual impulses hidden in time is a logical and appropriate approach, on both the internal and external levels, especially considering that she was linked, in one way or another, with the two main phases of the development of Art Nouveau in Russia.

The art of the Art Nouveau period reflected in many icono- graphic variations the emotional astuteness of Symbolism; at that time, the uniqueness of an artistic phenomenon was evaluated via the cult of reading in that phenomenon the artist’s spiritual experience - that portion of invisible emotion the artist attempted to depict in external and sometimes familiar form. In that sense, Yakunchikova’s art harbours a multifaceted and not fully covered thematic potential, to a large degree based on the Symbolists’ effort to “defeat prose”, to create something in art that the Romantics were not capable of creating. “Now it is not enough to simply feel and speak, one must go bigger, bigger, much bigger, do more than Turgenev’s singers**. First there must be victory over prose”[1], is how, with inspired maximalism, Yakunchik- ova expressed her credo.

 * Variant lakunchkova

** This is a reference to the characters of Turgenev’s short story “Singers” (1850) from the cycle “A Sportsman’s Sketches” (1847-1851). It is noteworthy that Chopin and his piano Ballade No 1 are mentioned before Turgenev.

Maria Yakunchikova at the Vvedenskoye estate. 1890s
Maria Yakunchikova at the Vvedenskoye estate. 1890s
Photograph. First reproduction: Mir Iskusstva. 1904. No. 3. P. 67

On the one hand, the potential of Yakunchikova’s art is linked in figurative terms with the genesis of creative nostalgia (part historically lived, ‘emigre', part poetically anticipated) for a Russia which is desired on an internal level - from the modern viewpoint, a pre-revolutionary Russia, the country of the nobility and enlightened merchants. This automatically brings to mind the design of the first edition of Tchos d'une vie. De Russie en Occident” (1940) (“From Orient to Occident. Memoirs of a Russian Doctor”, 1941), the memoirs of the artist's husband Leon Weber[2], which used works by Yakunchikova - a variation of the composition featuring the bells of Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery on the cover and “Vvedenskoye. Colonnade and Park from the Window” (1894, private collection) on the title page. These works comprise both Yakunchikova's real (natural/ biographical) impressions and their transformation via poetic intuition and abstracted lyrical imagination (based on the spiritual life of the artist). On the other hand, in the context of the developing freedom of artistic thought, Yakunchikova's art is part of an innovative process that began to gain momentum in the second half of the 19th century. That process led to a gradual absolutisation of an idealised form of being for a form of art and to a faith in art's special status as a creator of meaning, which began to be asserted with musical/poetic irruptions of associative landscape principles into the realism-orientated iconographic system of painting and graphic art in the early Art Nouveau period.

The first culmination in the development of the Russian variant of Symbolism was characterised by the creative explorations of the artists from St. Petersburg's Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) group, as well as those of Victor Borisov-Musatov and Mikhail Vrubel, who were close to the group in their sophisticated understanding of the aesthetic function of art, if not in their poetics and place in artistic society. Vrubel was directly linked with the artist-idealists of the group's Moscow branch, which had formed in the atmosphere of the Abramtsevo circle and which had developed modern criteria for a comprehension of beauty based, above all on national folklore and landscape traditions. This group included Yelena Polenova, Isaac Levitan, and Mikhail Nesterov among others, as well as the subject of this research: Maria Yakunchikova. Yakunchikova in particular was one of the first artists working at the new level of psychological and figurative interpretation (in comparison with Romanticism and Realism) whose art developed the image, characteristic of the Art Nouveau movement in Russia, of the garden (or park) as a Symbolist model of ideal space[3]. This ideal space appears at the point at which poetic dreams and recollections, ghostly suggestions from the past (passéisme, to use the lexicon of Mir Iskusstva) intersect with real impressions from nature. “Nature, eternally unchanging, says here am I, and you, people, no matter how you live, worry, doubt, I will always be here, and what are your doubts in the face of my immortality and inflexibility”[4], wrote Maria Yakunchikova in her diary, thereby allowing us to glimpse the character of the subjective preoccupations that are reflected in her landscape works. This spiritual yearning for the Eternal, for Paradise unattainable on Earth, encouraged Yakunchikova to measure familiar spaces on a heavenly scale, as well as inspiring her attempts to broaden the usual horizons of perception and pointing her along a Symbolist (in terms of the way she forms an artistic image) path: “The wind rustles in the elm-tops. The great murmur is reminiscent of Vvedenskoye, of the grandeur, the luxury of Versailles. Once more I feel the desire for a large park, saturated in whispered memories of a past age...”[5] In the broader perspective of the development of the figurative and thematic singularity of Russian symbolism, it is not insignificant that the attempt to convey fleeting preoccupations (flashes of “another world”) was linked in the art of Maria Yakunchikova with compositional techniques which visually focus attention on specific objective forms, perception of which is blended into the landscape. Such an approach can be seen, for example, in her sketches of Versailles (“Versailles”, 1892, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Vase”, late 1890s, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Versailles in Winter”, 1898, Collection of Petr Aven), a subject that really occupied Yakunchikova from spring 1890 onwards and would be developed by Alexander Be- nois in the second half of the 1890s in his Versailles-inspired “hallucinations” (in particular “The King's Walk”, 1896, Russian Museum; “Versailles”, 1910s, Odessa Museum of Art; “Versailles. ‘Pyramid' Fountain”, 1906, Tretyakov Gallery). Alexandre Benois, Valentin Serov, and Sergei Diaghilev held the work of Yakunchikova in consistent high regard, inviting her to participate in the exhibition projects of Mir Iskusstva (she participated as the “Russian parisienne"[6] in the “Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists” that preceded these in 1898). It was in covers designed by Yakunchikova that the Petersburg group of trailblazers published the magazine “Mir Iskusstva” in the second half of 1899 (Volume II, № 13-19; 23-24)*. The ambiguity of the Mir Iskusstva group's semantic tonality is organically felt in the image of the mysterious backwater of a forest lake, in the stillness of which a fairy-tale swan (the female guise assumed by the sun in Slavic folklore) stretches wide its wings, as if mirroring the crosses stretching out for the sky from the spruce-tops. On the one hand, the Mir Iskusstva movement represented a rush towards experimentation in the spirit of Western European Art Nouveau and Symbolism, but on the other, its artists never lost their inner relationship with deeply national wellsprings, relying as they did on the romantic past of countryside estates and, in a few of their motifs, on the experience of the Abramtsevo circle.

* Mir Iskusstva № 20 and Nos 21-22, 1899, were published in covers designed by Konstantin Korovin. In Mir Iskusstva № 12, 1902, Sergei Diaghilev published an obituary “Maria Yakunchikova” (signed S. D.; p. 59). Mir Iskusstva № 3, 1904, was explicitly dedicated to the memory of the artist and contained a lengthy reconstruction of Yakunchikova’s work and an article that was written by Natalia Polenova under the pseudonym N. Borok.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Versailles in Winter. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Versailles in Winter. 1898
Oil on canvas. 46.4 × 58.7 cm
© Collection of Petr Aven

The second upwelling of Symbolist poetics in Russian art was to occur after the death of Yakunchikova, in the work of artists of a younger generation belonging to the Blue Rose group. Despite cleaving to a daydream-like visi on of iconography that was far removed from conventional perceptions of reality, they too felt the presence of lyrical traits close to their own imagined worlds in Yakunchikova's art. It is telling that, when the group was still at the stage of formulating its aesthetic principles (before the 1907 Blue Rose exhibition), developing them in conjunction with literary figures from the Scorpion publishing house, they referenced the art of Yakunchikova at a programmatic level by publishing the first 1905 edition of their journal “Vesy” (“The Scales”) in a cover based on a design she had created as one of the options for the cover of the journal “Mir Iskusstva"*. That edition of the Symbolist “monthly journal of art and literature” featured a number of her drawings, as well as a densely analytical article by Max Voloshin[7] that has not lost its relevance to this day. This attention paid to Yakunchikova by the Moscow Symbolists who gathered around Valery Bryusov's publication underlined, from the beginning, the important role they afforded her in the context of national and international experiments in the spirit of new idealism (which is exactly how Symbolism was sometimes referred to: new-idealism). For the staff of “Vesy”, striving to demonstrate that the efforts of Russian Symbolists were as worthy as those in Europe, their allies in the international stylistic context were England, France and Germany. In relation to the latter, the ornamental headbands and tailpieces designed by Yakunchikova and published in the edition mentioned above are especially interesting for the way in which they resonate with certain stylistic tendencies of the German journal “Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration” (“German Art and Decoration”), published by Alexander Koch in Darmstadt**. These pieces, along with other works of decorative design by Yakunchikova, are distinguished by a musical lyricism and a special ‘woodland' dynamic of interplay between leaves and berries. They possess a logically clear structural elaboration, which lays a rhythmic base for the manifestation of unstudied figurative softness and depth (the seriousness of the search for the exact rhythmic key to the stylisation of what seems to be an elemental poeticism of ornamentation based on natural impressions is revealed by a comparison of the study “Cowberries” (1898, private collection) with notes and sketches on the pages of the artist's diary). This activation of the role of the rhythmic principle allowed Yakunchikova to create the sensation of a special, tightlywound life of forms not only in graphics, but also in other types of figurative art. Insignificant forms, architectural or natural, take on a spiritual life of their own, subjugating the surrounding space to their own self-contained self-consciousness (see, for example, the panel “Dandelions”, 1890s, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve).

* It should be noted that the composition with the swan discussed above was accepted as a cover for “Mir Iskusstva”. The 1898 draft with red toadstools on the background of a golden, autumnal forest is stored in the Vasily Polenov Museum. It is entirely possible that Max Voloshin, who knew Yakunchikova in Paris and was one of the first to write about her, played a role in the artistic transformation of the sketch for “Mir Iskusstva” into the actual cover of “Vesy”.

** German secessionists were also familiar with Yakunchikova’s art, thanks in particular to an article by the English journalist Netta Peacock, which was published in the Munich magazine “Dekorative Kunst” (“Decorative Art”). The article described the “Russian Village at the Paris World Fair”, which took place in 1900; Yakunchikova participated in the preparation of the handicrafts section for the Russian Pavilion and was distinguished with a silver medal for the distinctiveness of her work in the field of decorative and applied arts. Peacock N. “Das russische Dorf auf der Pariser Weltausstellung // Dekorative Kunst”. 1900. № 12. Sept.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dandelions. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dandelions. 1890s
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 65 × 20 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

In the context of French pointers, it is notable that one of Yakunchikova's colleagues in designing covers for “Vesy” (nos 4, 5, 6) was Odilon Redon, an artist to whom she related highly ambiguously. Although she understood the poetics within the French artist's works in terms of the signification invested in the artistic images, she did not subscribe to the abstract and fantastical visual current within Symbolism that they represented. “The ideas are always very deep and arresting, but the form is so schematic that, even if real, it is so unconstructive that truly it leaves you cold,”[8] Yakunchikova wrote of Redon's drawings in a letter to Yelena Polenova - part of a correspondence that contains detailed reviews of Symbolist art in Paris, a subject of great interest to them both.

Despite this and many other critical reviews of the controversial aspects of the French master's visual language, Yakunchikova's relationship with Redon's oeuvre was complex. Confirmation of this can be found in specific expressions of Yakunchikova's own creative psychology (in terms of goals rather than iconography), as well as a telling episode that occurred in Paris in 1894 and was described in the diary of Sofia Ivanova (wife of the artist Sergei Ivanov): “Agreed to meet with Maria Yakunchikova and take in the exhibitions of the newest artists on the Rue Laffitte and thereabouts. We saw all sorts of things!.. [...] First of all, we went to an exhibition of work by Odilon Redon, a famous Symbolist who enjoys a certain popularity, and is adored by his peers. Redon was exhibiting about 200 paintings; we walked around them and looked at them, and so little did anything there resemble art that I was actually afraid that we might have wandered into a mad house. [...] At last M.V.Ya. [Yakunchikova - O.D.] came over and began to explain the meaning behind some of the best items, she herself being an admirer of the artist. However, the explanation didn't make it any better or easier! [.] For example, there is one painting called “Floraison” (flourishing): a human head is depicted in profile, the face is ugly and entirely unpleasant, instead of a skull there are some brightly coloured tufts of string, leaflets and so forth, and the whole is surrounded by a rainbow-halo. M.V. explains it thus: a person whose intellectual development has reached the highest degree and fills all the surrounding atmosphere with its essence”[9].

Ivanova's assertion that Yakunchikova was an adherent of Redon is, of course, an exaggeration, born of her not being privy to all the internal, professional struggles Yakun- chikova felt in her dialogue with Symbolism. Certain external iconographic ‘games' with Symbolist motifs (to some extent at least influenced by Redon's “Black” series among other things) which visualise, on the emblematic level, philosophically existential themes in Yakunchikova's art (see, for example, her chromatically varied etchings “Death and Flowers” ([1893-1895], Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; 1893, collection of Sergey and Tatiana Podstanitsky, Moscow); or compare her “Death at a Piano” (early 1890s, private collection) with Redon's “The Battle of the Bones” (1881, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)). They do not, however, define the specificity of Yakunchikova's art within that current, and even less so her artistic worldview. Her relationship with Symbolism was justifiably exacting, complex, and inspired by the artistic need to find her own interpretative course for those contemporary creative dispositions that could, while widening physical boundaries, preserve an organic harmony with the figurative guidelines of the soul in reality. Similar inner pointers influenced her reception of Redon's art, and opened to her hidden elements of his self-analysis (a concept not alien to Yakunchikova), while nonetheless distancing her from Redon's more grotesque (in terms of Yakunchikova's figurative criteria) forms of expression.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Dark Green Background with Pink and White Flowers] [1893–1895]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Dark Green Background with Pink and White Flowers] [1893–1895]
Colour etching on paper. 35.2 × 24.5 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Light Green Background with Red flowers]. In or before 1902
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Light Green Background with Red flowers]. In or before 1902
Colour etching on paper. 35.8 × 27.9 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Dark Green Background with Pink Flowers]. 1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Dark Green Background with Pink Flowers]. 1893
Colour etching on paper. 19.3 × 16.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Blue Background with Yellow Flowers] [1893-1895]
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Blue Background with Yellow Flowers] [1893-1895]
Colour etching on paper. 37 × 28.1 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Green Background with Blue Flowers]. 1893
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death and Flowers [A Skull on a Green Background with Blue Flowers]. 1893
Colour etching on paper.
Image 19.5 × 16.5 cm
Sh. 37.7 × 27.7 cm
© Collection of Sergey and Tatiana Podstanitsky, Moscow

In Russia, as in Europe, Symbolism was diverse in the degree of abstraction of its artistic forms from reality; indeed, those differences (but not total cleavages) were even more apparent in art of the 1890s-1900s outside of Russia. Programmatic Symbolism, which found its most vivid expression in esoteric and mystical/fantastical genres, and so narratively accentuated the unreal aspects of existence, was the least attractive to Yakunchikova. It was that mistrust on her part that manifested itself in her critical evaluation of the experiments of artists from the “Salon de la Rose + Croix” (Salon of the Rose + Cross), which she described in a letter to Yelena Polenova as a “Symbolist fuss”[10]: “in the things painted by the artists of that order there is not a trace of real religiosity... [...] The first impression produced by the exhibition is very strange, in essence there are no paintings, but rather something between schematic plans, Chinese drawings, and impressional stains”[11]. It is important to note that it was specifically this schematism, and not only in the art of the Symbolists but in other contemporary tendencies too, that Yakunchikova could not accept: “It is useful to see how people are so wrong. But how do they not guess that they are pursuing a scheme which is impossible in art”[12], she wrote about the Salon des ndépendants in 1890.

In the period when Yakunchikova was forming and reinforcing her own creative poetics in France (the 1890s), the contemporary art scene in Paris represented a sort of wildly productive artistic factory. Its wares comprised works stylistically and semantically different from each other, often produced in the context of opposing artistic currents: Salon Romanticism, Academicism, Realism, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Symbolism. “If it suits you, we will visit the central market of art, for some reason called the Salon”[13], wrote Guy de Maupassant in 1886 with no little irony. Just a little later, this mixture of traditionalism, conservatism and innovation, this striving for artistically contradictory harmony, where you could find in one space “cows in water, flowers and portraits”,[14] the “natural” fields of suburban villages, alongside the engines of modern aesthetic fashions, varied in their degrees of reality, would be reflected in the diaries and letters of Maria Yakunchikova. The diversity of creative enthusiasms striving to reach the heights of “Avant-garde ideals”* was also depicted by Parisian satirical magazines with sharp-witted hyperbole, for example “Comic-Salon: The Champs-Élysées and Champs de Mars”[15], which parodied the 1892 exhibitions.

* «“Avant-garde”», dit I'auteur. Vieilles gardes, plutot!!» [“‘Avant-garde’, - says the author ‘More like old guard!!’”], was the exclamation of a critic in 1892 in response to a painting of the Salon du Champ-de-Mars. For further detail, see note 15 (P. without pagination)

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Spring Approaches. Two Roads. 1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Spring Approaches. Two Roads. 1895
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 31 × 35 cm. Private collection

In its pages can be found dolled-up cows (an animal whose preponderance at the salons was also noticed by Yakunchikova*) leading, or rather pulling with all their might, the engine of modernity behind them (“Barillot”, the page of French artist Léon Barillot), and peasant labourers with the mystical eye of symbolism situated in a position that compromises its elevated visions (“Michelena”, the page of Venezuelan artist-romantic Arturo Michelena). Although Yakunchikova was not indifferent to rural idylls, her sympathies nonetheless lay with the ‘engines', in terms not of the mechanisation of the artistic process, but rather in the context of the search for new forms of expression: “The irrepressibility also attracts - the canvas of the railroads”[16], she wrote metaphorically (see “Spring Approaches. Two Roads.” 1895, private collection; drawings on the pages of her diaries). Living in Paris, Yakunchikova was careful to keep up to date with the character of contemporary artistic currents, an overview of which could be got at all the exhibitions mentioned above: the Salon Champs Élysées and Salon Champs de Mars, the Salon des Indépendants, and the Salon de la Rose + Croix. She also visited temporary exhibitions of modern art in the Palais du Luxembourg. Nevertheless, although these professional observations and comparisons did influence the evolution of her artistic tastes, they did not shape her answers to the pressing questions posed by contemporary art; the answers to these questions she found in a place where the fads of the outside world could not penetrate - within her own soul, touched by nature. “Exhausted from visits to the Luxembourg... [...] This gathering has nothing more to say to me. The trees in the garden are green from rain, and it smells of roses here”[17], wrote the artist in her diary in 1892, describing the profound landscape of the garden atmosphere outside the Luxembourg Museum.

* Yakunchikova’s own work was not accepted by the Salon du Champ- de-Mars in 1892, the first exhibition in which she participated in took place in 1893.

This ability to preserve her own inner pied-à-terre even when surrounded by the “mad rush”[18] of Paris was partly linked with the individual strength of Yakunchikova's talent and partly a result of a particular process she adopted, a process which emerged in Russian art in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and which involved the transmission of spiritual states via their ‘lands capification' and the osmosis of meaning through the aura of an existing space. This approach was one that fitted naturally with the artist's own spiritual make-up; she had begun to acquire it years earlier, during the period of her formation as an artist in the atmosphere of the artistic circle that had sprung up around Vasily Polenov and his sister Yelena Polenova. In particular, the growth in her special poetic perception of nature was, to a large degree, facilitated by the many plein-air ruminations on landscape motifs which Yakunchikova went through in the summers of 1887 and 1888 in the surroundings of a dacha in Zhukovka, rented by Polenov and his family. It stood on the banks of the river Klyazma and, apart from Yakunchikova (whose elder sister Natalia (nee Yakunchikova) was married to Polenov), it played host to Konstantin Korovin, Isaac Levitan, Ilya Ostroukhov, and Valentin Serov, among others.

Writing to Ilya Ostroukhov in 1924, Natalia Polenova reminisced about those years in these terms: “What an extraordinary unity bound us then, founded on art and high ideals in general. Few of us are left now, but the memories of those who have passed on are always with me, and even now help me to live and find a way to animate hard contemporary life. Your warm words about that past and the unexpected knowledge that it is yet living and precious to you have transported me back to the Tolstoy house, to Zhukovka, to Menshovo, just as if I were now reliving our immersion in etudes; I see Yelena, my sister Masha, Kostya Korovin and you, returning from an etude and intoxicated by the love of that work and your certainty in its success. [...] All that was so sincere that it delved deep into one's soul and filled one's life with light[19]. Echoes of these artistically impassioned meetings outside Moscow, during which purely aesthetic questions of art were also touched upon, can be seen in Yakunchikova's diary too, albeit in a French setting. In the pages describing the arrival of Natalia and Vasily Polenov to Paris in winter 1890, we find: “Discussed [the role of ideas in artworks - O.D.] with V.D. This is what we agreed on: art can exist without an idea; it is its most important constituent, but is not all that constitutes it. Because the form and the idea of an artwork are linked, and an artist's talent is expressed either in the presence of an idea or the true transmission of a form, viewers can sometimes be won over by the gifted nature of either an idea or a form.”[20] Elsewhere, Yakunchikova lays out in a more free and open manner her views on the aesthetic rights of ‘pure art': “Beauty has a right to exist - it is the highest earthly [the emphasis is Yakunchikova's - O.D.] delight and it is to beauty that our earthly needs strive; we cannot sate them and we cannot free ourselves from them, not by disavowal, nor by satisfaction, nor by convincing ourselves of their fleetingness.”[21] Needless to say, such views were deeply in tune with Western European aestheticism.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bend of the River (the Oka) (Christie’s, November 28, 2011: On the banks of the Oka river, 1890 [? – O.D.]). Early 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bend of the River (the Oka) (Christie’s, November 28, 2011: On the banks of the Oka river, 1890 [? – O.D.]). Early 1890s
Pastel on cardboard. 42.5 × 33.4 cm. Private collection

Among the artists whose works Yakunchikova singled out at the Paris exhibitions as being professionally significant and deeply individual are Paul Albert Besnard and Eugène Carrière (Yakunchikova became personally acquainted with them both in March 1892). Despite the iconographic differences between these artists, they could both attract Yakunchikova's attention to an equal degree thanks to a compromise (aspiring to synthesis) present in both their oeuvres (although with different emphasises) between a realism enriched by Impressionist principles and a poetic aestheticisation of the artistic image characteristic of Art Nouveau and Symbolism. Yakunchikova reacted with delight to the works of the talented Art Nouveau graphic artist Gustave-Henri Jossot and to those of the psychologically acute, from her point of view, Symbolist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer. More than once, Yakunchikova sketched the compositions of Edvard Munch in the pages of her diary, where she also listed the works of artists in whose oeuvre were reflected, to varying degrees in the international context, the search for contemporary means of expression touching or directly linked with Art Nouveau and Symbolism (among them James McNeill Whistler, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Anders Zorn, Johan Thorn Prikker, Edgar Maxence, Ramon Pichot Gironès and Akseli Gallen-Kallela). Yakunchikova's reaction to the work of Fernand Khnopff (as an artist “a la Burne-Jones”[22]) was less warm. The distrust she felt towards him, as well as to another Symbolist artist, Alphonse Osbert (“filth”[23], as she noted in her diary next to his name), was inspired by that same aversion to exaggeratedly ambiguous poetry, that same rejection of ostentatious mysticism (even if expressed with intense lyricism) that Yakunchikova a priori projected onto a number of artists close to the circle of Joséphin Péladan and the Salon de la Rose + Croix. It is worth noting that, to a certain degree, Yakunchikova was much more sympathetic to the lyrical intimacy of the group Les Nabis. However, although they share an emotional register (for example “Dawn. An Etude.”, 1892, private collection; “Refletintime. (Reflections of an Intimate World)”, 1894, private collection; etc., the intimacy of Yakunchikova's artistic images proves to have greater pathos.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sunrise. 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sunrise. 1892
Pastel on paper. 52.7 × 44.3 cm. Private collection

Of course, it was not only her impressions of Paris exhibitions that had an influence on the development of Yakunchikova's graphic qualities and figurative techniques of expression. Her trip to England in 1895, for example, had an important influence in this regard, although it is worth bearing in mind that she had internally “anticipated” English culture in her reveries some time before. In the first instance, this took place through the revival of the applied arts which formed the basis of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, whose aesthetic, along with that of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in general, began to fascinate many members of the Mamontov circle as far back as the second half of the 1860s[24]. It was via Yelena Polenova that Maria Yakunchikova imbibed the ‘cult of beauty' in the English sense, before developing it on a completely new national-fairytale basis in her panels, fabric applique work, majolica and floral motifs, although, in some of them, the delicate sensibility of the unique figurative world of the Pre-Raphaelites is unmistakeably felt (see, for instance, “London”, 1895 (July), Vasily Polenov Museum- Reserve; “Flower”, 1890s, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Drawing for a Box”, 1895 (?), Vasily Polenov Museum- Reserve). The romantically Symbolist specificity of English culture in a broader context also enchanted Yakunchikova; she perceived it via English novels and the landscape mysteries of nature - invariably fog-shrouded, evanescent, ghostly and imagined. Although the theme of an imagined landscape did not find subsequent reflection in Yakunchikova's painting, it was not left untreated in the pages of her diary. It is important also to note that the English were among the first to value the distinctiveness of Yakunchikova's creative searches in the sphere of Art Nouveau, publishing more than once serious work about her in the journal “The Studio” (1895, Vol. 6; 1897, Vol. 10; 1901, Vol. 22).

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flower. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flower. 1890s
Watercolour on paper. 12 × 7.8 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

In terms of her own artistic searches in Symbolism, Yakunchikova was captivated not so much by mysteriousness in any external, clearly accentuated or narrative sense, but rather by the very possibility of expressing, in an artistic form, the perception of that mystery, a certain hidden, existential and romantic ambiguity, in which memory and real-life observations interact on equal terms (“Woodland Stream”, circa 1893, private collection; “Bois de Boulogne”, 1896, Smolensk State Museum-Reserve). Work in nature was just as essential for Yakunchikova as her prizing of the inner construction of individual experiences - she sought to include both an “artificial”, artistic and decorative basis, as well as one that was innocent, unstudied and impulsively immediate in one single, cohesive lyrical whole (see, for example, pages from her diary from 1896 containing sketches of swans and also the decorative panel “Bois de Boulogne”; it is telling that the figurative rhythms found in her sketches are echoed elsewhere in her oeuvre - of particular importance in this regard is the flexible plasticity of the exposed timber trunks, a motif that was to be repeated more than once in the artist's works, such as “Parc de Saint-Cloud”, 1898, Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum, along with a number of other works). This harnessing of two apparently opposed elements - art and nature - gives Yakunchikova's landscapes both symbolic syntheticism and psychological depth - that frankness, those autobiographically expressed inner experiences, which are based on a widening of the poetic horizons of visual (or verbal) language. These, in turn, acquire a physical reality in the country houses around Moscow or the French parks that feature in the artist's works of the second half of the 1890s in particular, in forms that are at once emotionally alive and firmly ideal: “shadow on the grass, lilacs, in painting spontaneous dabs answer an internal spirit. Conventionality, unconscious and unequivocal, comes without effort according to one's passions and aims”[25], wrote Yakunchikova in her diary on March 9, 1897 (this idea of conventionality appeared in iconographic and figurative accents of various emotional registers: “Avenue”, 1893, private collection; “Dark Avenue”, 1898, private collection; “Winter Avenue (Theatre at Trianon)”, 1898, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “A Damp January (Meudon)”, 1898, Collection of Petr Aven; “Wicket Gate. Meudon”, location unknown; etc.).

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Winter Avenue (Theatre at Trianon). 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Winter Avenue (Theatre at Trianon). 1898
Oil on canvas. 44 × 27.3 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

The term “inner spirit” - the transparent (or entirely incorporeal) hero beloved of Romantics and Symbolists - has an entirely concrete meaning for Yakunchikova. She formed her own vocabulary, which was not lacking in Symbolist subtexts (associatively poetic and fairytale-metaphoric). For instance, Yakunchikova uses the term “phantom” to describe the inner (spiritually real) artistic image that is exactly that intuitively anticipated but yet invisible ideal (inspiration), whose depiction is the aim of an authentic work of art (this usage can be confirmed both in the artist's diaries and in her correspondence with Yelena Polenova). She also had her own secret code in the spirit of Art Nouveau botanical metaphors, which signified eternity and immortality, both of which she wanted to “extract” for her works. Thus, for example, reinforcing with symbols her yearning to live through a creative flight, Yakunchikova at one point considered replacing her signature with pods of beans wound in an unbreakable pattern, in the “superstitious” belief that this would bring her good luck[26] (see, for instance, the drawing on the title leaf of her diary from January 22, 1890). The artist used the term “dragon” to describe the element of pure creativity's stubborn power of resistance to artistic will, which alone was capable of transforming the chaos of feelings into art: “I've been daubing watercolours... [...] .„It's as if inspiration has broken through, raising monuments to the dragon tamer; it has penetrated as light and fire into my soul and illumined it with the hope that one day I will not blaze in vain, that even if I don't put an end to my dragon there is satisfaction after all in the very struggle”[27].

From the point of view of modern perceptions, it is obvious that Yakunchikova's art occupies not only an entirely special place in the development of the lyrical aspects of the Russian Realist landscape school, but is also of cardinal importance for our understanding of the formation process of the new visual-poetic Symbolist type of thinking, which strengthened the interpretive subtexts of the narrative, genre and overall stylistic structure of 20th-century figurative art. Not for nothing did the artist herself sometimes lament “a mixture of melancholy, dismal and joyful feelings. [...] why can I not renounce external culture, nearly tout ce raffinement de i'oeil i’oreii et de la sensation esthétique en général [all that refinement of the eye, the ear, aesthetic feelings in general - O. D.].”[28] Despite what was, by the avant-garde standards of Art Nouveau at least, a classical array of iconographic motifs, Yakunchikova's art oversteps the boundaries of both Realism and Impressionism, and even those of Art Nouveau itself, representing as it does a unique synthesis of all the aforementioned methods of communicating the artistic image, the organicity of which stems from a new - Romantic-Symbolist - level of lyrical-philosophical experience of dreams in reality (see, for example, “Avenue with Chestnut Trees [Bench under a Chestnut Tree. Garden in Clamart]”, 1899, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Tree Lined Avenue”, around 1898, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Flowering Apple Trees. Tree in Bloom”, 1899, Tretyakov Gallery). From Realism comes the figurative principle of the organic resemblance of the artistic image to the real-life forms of nature, from Impressionism comes the emotion and acuteness of the experience, and from Symbolism comes the musicality, surrounded by which our first impression of a painting becomes a drawn-out experience of mood, and of memory, which transforms the language of art into a new decorative-poetic thoughtform (see “Trees in Bloom”, around 1899, private collection; “Trees in Moonlight”, 1890s, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; “Vvedenskoye”, 1893, private collection). “A luminous mood. Movement, the communication of spontaneous moments, immortalisation of the transient”[29], writes Yakunchikova, as if summarising the characteristics described above.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Tree Lined Avenue (Christie's, June 3, 2013: “Allée d’arbres”). 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Tree Lined Avenue (Christie's, June 3, 2013: “Allée d’arbres”). 1898
Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard. 27.8 × 21.6 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

Yakunchikova's diaries are an important source for the comprehension of her creative psychology and the semantically resilient elements of her iconography of lyrical motifs and images (which developed over a long period of spiritual growth). The depth of artistic allusions it contains can be compared in terms of frank subjectivity with the unfinished painting “The Sorrow of Memory. (Nostalgia)” (1890s, private collection), a work of art that is conceptually Symbolist and suggestive regarding the inner biography depicted within it. Also comparable in this sense are various incarnations of the composition “L’Inaccessible [Unattainable]” (first half of the 1890s), for instance, a drawing (Vasily Polenov Museum- Reserve), a black-and-white etching, and “Rainbow”, tonally more buoyant but no less complex in terms of shades of meaning and mood colour etching. The relevance of studying the diaries of Symbolist artists at this particular stage of academic research into the Symbolist movement is becoming more and more apparent. They allow us to discover the individual (and often rather more than professional) logic behind the formation of a visual-poetic image, without which the emotional-semantic potential of Symbolism can be left indecipherable. The words of the Symbolist artist Nikolai Millioti, written in emigration in 1936 to his brother Vasily (also an artist of the Blue Rose group) on the subject of diaries left behind in Russia (though thankfully still extant), are filled with a deeply tragic sense that is far from unjustified: “The greatest sorrow of my life is the loss of 40 volumes of my diaries, filled with text and drawings [...] I would give all my paintings to have them back!”[30] It is important to note that the greater part of Millioti's diaries, which he kept from 1895 to the end of his life, is devoted to descriptions of what would seem to be uneventful phenomena - landscape paintings. Moreover, these paintings directly entailed an emotionally excited and psychologically strained self-examination of his own spiritual state, the inner view of which inspired Millioti in the creation of his own artistic images. It is in just such a manner that the narrative lines of Yakunchikova's diary also develop. Above all, what she is describing is her spiritual life (while still providing a true reflection of events), which, in essence, was the principle semantic basis of the Symbolists' art, addressed as it was to real (or imagined) images of nature with the aim of uncovering emotional processes via association.

The greater part of Yakunchikova's diaries remain unpublished to this day*. Only the portion from the end of December 1890 to February 1892 has been published by Mikhail Kiselev, the author of the first monograph on the artist.[31] That edition includes a detailed commentary written by Kiselev, which is of great academic value[32].

* The author expresses her deep gratitude to her teacher and Maria Yakunchikova’s first biographer, Mikhail Kiselev, for the access he provided for the transcription and study of Yakunchikova’s diaries in full.

Nevertheless, Yakunchikova's diaries, albeit with certain gaps, cover a fairly lengthy period of her life, from her first trip to Italy (via Vienna) in autumn 1888 to the middle of July 1897. A number of pages marked 1898 have survived, but it seems that the artist ceased to make consistent entries after the birth of her first son. The period from the middle of April 1893 to January 1896 raises its own questions, as nothing has thus far been discovered by researchers in her diaries about this time. In her diaries, Yakunchikova not only records the external events of her life (for example, visits to exhibitions), but also recreates her inner experiences, hopes and expectations and describes her thoughts on art, love and nature, taking the rain, the sky, the stars, and her memories of country houses as the themes of these verbal paintings, which have great literary value thanks to the expressiveness of her language. The artist's entries about the music she listened to in the period when she was painting a particular work are also significant in terms of the insight they give us into the development of her creative psychology. (Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn and Edvar Grieg were all particularly resonant with the artist's inner formation; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Wagner and Vincent d'Indy are also mentioned.) The diaries further reveal a circle of literary reference points that included works by Honore de Balzac, George Eliot, Ivan Turgenev, Mikhail Lermontov, Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert, and Walt Whitman. Yakunchikova devoted particular attention to liturgical books, a history of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, Virgil's “Georgics”, Homer's “Iliad” and even “The Buddhist Catechism”. It is interesting to note that the emphasis Yakunchikova herself placed in literature was, above all, on the tradition of an irrational-musical worldview. Even, for example, in her enchantment with Ёmile Zola's novel “L'OEuvre”, what attracts Yakunchikova above all are those parts of the text that are related to the expression of musically abstract and purely artistic material. The allegorical similarity between the landscape form and music - music that transforms nature into a metaphor of spiritual states - penetrates Yakunchikova's own texts: “Meudon. Clouds sliding casually by, the sun on the bare trees of the other shore... [...] A wicket gate and bushes pierced by, touched by spring melt from naked lilac-coloured branches into greenery. [. ] Something impermanent, momentary, and warm, with a note of Grieg. It is music, a word, or simply nothing, but not painting; my hands fall away and the idea of taking up my paints is frightening.”[33]

Yakunchikova was “haunted” not only by the subtly exciting modulations of Grieg, but also by Bach's preludes, pieces that sink into the very depths of the soul's elemental forces. It is not surprising that Yakunchikova tried to insert a musical element even into the structure that she based the names of her works on: “Mendelssohn's Second Variation. I will paint the Seine near Meudon in springtime and call it ‘Melody of a Spring Wind.'”[34] This striving towards a synthesis of art and nature, towards a blurring of the lines between forms (inspired by a shared impulse towards beauty), is in its nature Symbolist, and is what Yakunchikova expressed with a sometimes paradoxical finality on the level of her aesthetic (not without traces of stubborn grotesquery) position: “music and the pictorial arts are related and equal, because they can convey tonality and gradation, while sculpture is something which is global and lacking in any gradation whatsoever (which is why it is not accessible to our century, inclined toward the demon of allusions.)”[35] Of course, Yakunchikova's attitude to sculpture was not quite so straightforward (as her diaries demonstrate), but in the final reckoning, it was exactly allusiveness that attracted her in art, a certain associative and immaterial basis that permitted an artist to tune a visual form in unison with its figurative significance. Yakunchikova also read fervently (often on the way from Meudon to Paris) the works of the Rosny brothers, whose science-fiction novels were popular in the 1890s. It is interesting to note that one of Yakunchikova's first entries in her diary about her closeness to the Decadents was made in relation specifically to J.-H. Rosny aine[36].

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from the Bell Tower of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery near Zvenigorod. 1891
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from the Bell Tower of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery near Zvenigorod. 1891
Pastel on paper mounted on cardboard. 42.4 × 33.7 cm. © Tretyakov Gallery

The poetic and musical theme that recurs throughout the pages of Yakunchikova's diary, and which is particularly evident in the singularities of her figurative language, reveals the musical impulse of experience, which allows one to look at things as if from a raised position, a sort of bird's-eye view. This psychological characteristic found consistent visual expression in a special type of compositi on, in which the viewer is almost hovering in space before a panoramic view of a place (see, for example, “View from the Bell Tower of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery”, 1891, Tretyakov Gallery; “Landscape with the Moskva River”, 1890-93, private collection). Just such an inner levitation is present in another of Yakunchikova's most enduring iconographic motifs, that of a window—the transparent shining sash of a window—opening which the artist extends the dream-like melody of her gaze out onto any earthly landscape (“Vvedenskoye. Colonnade and Park from the Window”, 1894, private collection; “From the Window of the Old House. Vvedenskoye”, 1897, Tretyakov Gallery), sends it flying to the distant horizon, to the lonely mountains (“Mont Blanc by Night”, 1898, private collection; “Window into the Garden”, 1898, private collection), lets it linger on the forest of an estate park (“Window”, 1896, Tretyakov Gallery) or, simply and safely in terms of artistic solitude, admits extraneous outside space into a room filled with the rhythms of her own thoughts, feelings and daydreams (“At the Window”, 1892, not preserved; “Dawn. An Etude”, “Reflet intime. (Reflections of an Intimate World)”). Precisely these connotations can be discovered in relation to the development of the individual semantic image of the window according to Yakunchikova's diaries. It is an image that appears in the description of the feelings inspired by her first love in Biarritz in 1889, in the context of her artistic struggles in the 1890s—which were poured out to the starry, night-time sky of Paris, to its streets and boulevards agleam with the gold-tinted light of the street lamps—and during moments when memories of the past welled up like, for example, those of an open window during midnight mass at the church in Morevo, bringing to Yakunchikova's mind not only the fresh country air, but also the movements of an unseen world. The motif of the window, like those of candles, bells, crosses, the columns of a country house, apple trees in flower, the moon, swans, or parks, all are rather more than the simple result of reflections of a reality which entrances Yakunchikova with its vivid present-ness. They acquire the depth, the continuity and unbroken existence, of objects in the platonic sphere of imagination, which was also characteristic of Art Nouveau's transformation of ordinary object forms into individual image-symbols. A window for Yakunchikova is an elevated view point out onto the world, one which is ideally suited to the role of a starting point for contemplative flights of the soul. The attempt to rise above reality, to tear oneself away from the physical governing principles of life, is reflected not only on a visual level, but on that of verbal (albeit unintentional) creative experiments too. Yakunchikova's tendency to contemplative Symbolist flights - during which her eyes bored into the landscape and her soul dreamt of cherished thoughts and feelings that transform the visible world - at times bent her imagination to authentic creative improvisation in words: “9 pm. Alone upstairs... [...] Waiting for Aunt Sasha... [...] Nothing but sky, sky, sky. The short downpour has torn the clouds into wisps - fragrant, endless behind the black roof of the seventh floor, pink air of the sunset. And in my soul it is peaceful, painfully expansive, as if that air is filling me with a reminder that I can fly away, so that I must exert all my effort to keep my feet on the ground (just the same thing happens when you are swimming with a buoyancy aid but you want to dive down to the bottom), but my head spins wildly - it is terribly high, at just the same level as that flag on the roof which so wrenches itself towards to the heavens, close enough to see the letters on it, signboards - but I am forgetting to look down at the flagstones. Oh! How difficult, how my head spins, another effort at lowering my gaze... there's the carriage splashboard, the coachman's head, the reins, lower still - the heads of passers-by, shops - lower. the wet flagstones - what a noise they make.”[37]

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Reflet intime (Reflection of an Intimate World). 1894
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Reflet intime (Reflection of an Intimate World). 1894
Oil on canvas. 115 × 66 cm. Private collection

If we shift our attention to more narratively obvious displays of Symbolist iconography in Yakunchikova's art, to the visualisation of an irrational basis with the help of the then developing decorative-associative principles of Art Nouveau, then the artist's first successes in this field are linked primarily with her work on etchings, which begin in a serious, professional sense in 1892. On the one hand, Yakunchikova felt, in common with most artists of the Belle Époque, the influence of Japanese engravings and attentively followed the figuratively singular graphic language of Felix Vallotton and other artists from the group Les Nabis (the process of transforming a visual pattern into a character both capable of speaking for itself and emotionally “humanised”, such as, for example, Édouard Vuillard's “Tuileries”, 1895). She was also receptive to Walter Crane's demanding criteria of ornamental taste and was not indifferent to the Symbolist expressions of Edvard Munch (compare, for example, the wave-like figurative texture of Yakunchikova's “Country Road” (1895, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve) with the rhythmically inflated noise of form and colour characteristic of the Norwegian artist). On the other hand, Yakunchikova mastered the innovative techniques of Art Nouveau in her own way, particularly its striving towards the creati on of rhymed visual images, simultaneously laconic and decorative forms, an effect that was attained via the accentuated use of symbolically consistent motifs, among them flowers (for example, the narcissus in “Le Parfum",* [1893-95]), stars (“L'Effroi”, [1893-95]; “Night Landscape [Starry Night]", [1893-95]), rainbows (“L’Inaccessible”, 1890s), and crosses (“The village cemetery", early 1890s). Both the conventionality of the communication of the volume of objective forms and the rhythmic stylisation of contour lines combined with the musically selected tonality of colours allowed Yakunchikova to associatively communicate a complicated aggregate of feelings in a minor graphic form and would also find reflection in her paintings.

* As there are various extant impressions of this engraving in different museums and private collections, the location of the etching is not given in the text.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Rainbow. First half of 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Rainbow. First half of 1890s
Colour version of the composition “Inaccessible”. Colour etching on paper. 58 × 44 cm. Private collection

The memoirs of Alexandra Golshtein (“Aunt Sasha", a distant relation of Yakunchikova on her father's side, and, from 1897, her mother-in-law) shed important light on Yakunchikova's inclination towards innovative artistic currents, even if their evaluation of Symbolism is not entirely even-handed. On the subject of the first effects of this current on Yakunchikova's art, Golshtein wrote: “I recall that Masha did not work very long in Julian's studio. [...] Soon she began to work in the studio of an English artist** who was much praised in Paris at that time.

** It is worth clarifying that there are various theories as to the identity of the English artist in whose studio Yakunchikova began to work in 1893 (the period about which Golshtein is writing). According to Mikhail Kiselev, it was the studio of the American artist Julius Rolshoven, mistaken by Golshtein for an Englishman. The latest research by Olga Atroshenko and Nina Markova, however, has concluded that the artist in question might have been the engraver Eugene Alfred Delatre. The author would like to express her appreciation to her colleagues for this information. Considering Yakunchikova’s creative energy, it is even possible that she may have attended both studios.

Unfortunately, I have forgotten the name. The themes which they used to call “l'art idealiste" in Paris were already, I recall, wafting through the studio at that time. I would find it difficult to summarise the essence of this trend, but in any event it distanced painting from pure realism, from a total submission of art to the seen. Many young artists of that time, in their search for that “idealism", in their alienation from pure realism, gave themselves over to mystical subjects or to a kind of symbolic drawing, to literature. Masha, as she always did with everything, gave a sympathetic ear to the new trend, did not really grasp it, but tried herself in the new current anyway. I remember how she painted a sketch which she wanted to call “Dew”. At that time a young English girl often posed for her, Dina Peacock [Netta Peacock, a journalist - O.D.], a very pretty blonde. Masha portrayed Dina, I think, in a light blue garment, rising into the air over a flowering meadow. Dina/Dew turned out very ponderous, but the green of the meadow was wonderful. Far more “idealistic” was her peerless drawing of a woman running as if in boundless horror. This drawing was done without any model. That rather small drawing has remained in my memory as something stunning, something which inspires in its viewers the very emotion for which Masha named it - “L'Effroi”. I cannot be certain, but I do think that Masha was driven to make the drawing by her own fright - she attended spiritual seances on a number of occasions, and was so frightened by her experiences that she could not sleep and stopped attending them once and for all”.[38]

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Effroi (Christie’s, June 3, 2013: “Fear”) 1890s. [1893–1895]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Effroi (Christie’s, June 3, 2013: “Fear”) 1890s. [1893–1895]
Colour etching on paper. 34 × 24.8 cm. © Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

However, the source of Yakunchikova's psychology of images, just like her understanding of Symbolism, was much deeper than spiritual seances or external amusements. It was contained, in the first instance, in a new type of artistic thinking, which overstepped the boundary of purely plein air visions. Maximilian Voloshin provides a more accurate background to the creation of the etching “L’Effroi" (189395): “One winter's night in Meudon Forest, Yakunchikova experienced a sensation of intense horror at the sight of the large stars, swinging between the naked branches. Her etching “L'Effroi" was conceived from that incident. [...] That piece has an ambiguous character. The chance impression of her eyes gave Yakunchikova that impression of the star - the eternal symbol of human horror."[39] However, the impressions that Yakunchikova communicates in the piece are far from accidental: they are born of a process of self-analysis stretching over years and are also, like the portrait of the running girl, autobiographical. Confirmation of a drawn-out, thoughtful immersion in the psychology of her own inner life, engaged in a delicate dialogue with the consciousness of nature, can be found in the pages of her diary for 1892. They are filled with long quotations from the Symbolist novella “Le Horla" (1886-1887)[40], by Guy de Maupassant, which is dedicated to a description of an otherworldly being, located beyond the limits of reality and influencing the human soul by its unseen but sensed presence: “How deep is that secret of the Unseen! We cannot penetrate it with the help of our pitiful sensory organs. [...] Not long ago," writes the hero of the piece, “I set off walking in Rou- mare Forest to exhaust my already tired body. [...] I walked a long hunting track, then turned towards La Bouille along a narrow path between two seas of very high trees, which formed a green ceiling between the sky and me, thick and almost black. Suddenly I was seized by a tremor - not the tremor of cold, but the tremor of a strange feeling of sorrow. / I quickened my pace, frightened by my being alone in the forest, senselessly and foolishly struck with the fear of loneliness. And it seemed to me that someone was following me. [.] Do we see but a hundred-thousandth part of that which exists?"[41]

This Maupassant novella has a particularly important significance in the context of Yakunchikova's art, and not only on the narrative level. The extensive excerpts[42] made in French by Yakunchikova from the passages touching upon the hero's meditations on the influence of the environment on the development of this or that spiritual mood, about the essence of nature and the timeless, intuitively comprehended thoughts hidden within it, casting the human consciousness now into harmony, now into a despairing abyss, are all telling in terms of the artist's “soul identity" and her inner closeness as a creative personality to her contemporaries (among Russian artists, for example, Isaac Levitan is close to her in his inner formation and the gravity and seriousness of his preoccupations, which often sank into melancholy). Also, of importance is the fact that Yakunchikova accompanied her quotations from Maupassant with her own commentary on the way she personally perceived the thoughts of the hero, coming apart in his sense of reality. However, where the unseen frightens and ruins Maupassant's suffering character, it is for Yakunchikova's artistic nature the very opposite, it is the object of her striving to widen the horizons of perception: “How much I see! / It is a profound mistake to think that an artist sees only with their eyes, the eye comes last, their main essence is in thoughts and feelings, while the eye is but a helper, an outlet, a direction for their art. For another, the ears take the place of eyes. Does it matter?”[43], she writes in her diary.

Noticing the power of feelings that cleave simple conceptions of reality, Yakunchikova characterises this group of preoccupations more specifically as decadent in a letter to Yelena Polenova. On the occasion of de Maupassant's attempted suicide, the artist notes: “All this strikes me as very interesting, like a confirmation of the morbidity of the course set by modern art - the pursuit of refinement and the increasing complexity of all feelings, which here they call decadence and towards which we are all so inclined.”[44] Yakunchikova was deeply worried by both her own personal attraction to complex aesthetic preoccupations and by a question of greater importance for art itself: “Whence this simultaneous glut and dissatisfaction? How to understand it from Maupassant and how to avoid it oneself? Is it real art, these modern questions and analysis?”[45] Yakunchikova was inclined towards the experience of contradictory idealistic preoccupations to no lesser degree than artists possessed of a Romantic - to the point of Symbolist - worldview. Under the pressure of spiritual presentiments of a communion with something supernatural, one loses balance, which can only be regained through the creative illusions maintained by art: “I want the impossible; well, we shall see...”[46], “No, Guy de Maupassant is right after all. Why is it perched inside me, this morbidly cheerless something[?]”[47], “.when I'm not painting, I become completely cool and deadened”[48]. For Yakunchikova, the primary source of creativity, in which Symbolist consciousness makes itself known, is locked within; she expresses this in her diary, agreeing with the worlds of Alexandra Golshtein: “‘I have long noticed that you, Masha, live from yourself, and not from others.' Very true.”[49]

Lyrical parody of the decadent ‘graveyard’ iconography, reflecting in its landscape composition the influence of Maria Yakunchikova
Lyrical parody of the decadent ‘graveyard’ iconography, reflecting in its landscape composition the influence of Maria Yakunchikova
(A.G. [Glikberg]. By Old Notes/ Drawing by A. Junger // “Satirikon” magazine. 1909. No. 14. P. 9).

The ‘Decadent' (which is taken as meaning the same thing as Symbolist in the popular consciousness) basis of Yakunchikova's poetics was taken as a given by both the art world and the general public in the Art Nouveau period. Confirmation of this in artistic form can be found in the pages of satirical journals of the time, in particular the journal “Satiricon”, in which the cross motif persistent in Yakunchikova's iconography did not escape parody. The most high-minded aspects of the Symbolist aesthetic were subject to good-natured (and at times not so good-natured) mockery - the artist's affinity with a transcendental world, the attempt to create an iconography of the soul's hidden life, populated by the ideals and shadows of those who have passed beyond the borders of earthly life. “Above the abandoned gravestone / Had dawned the lunar hour / Spirit to spirit whispered / With endless tender power[50]/” read the poetic lines under the illustration “The Same Old Notes”, the landscape of which is reminiscent of Yakunchikova's graveyard landscapes (“Grave Crosses”, 1890s, private collection; “Cross above the Holy Well in Nara”, 1899, Tretyakov Gallery). Depicting the meeting among crosses of the ghosts of Dante and Beatrice, the visual caricature “The Same Old Notes” was not without its own touching lyricism and artistic intelligence in the form of a dolefully duplicitous elegy presenting the drama of disembodiment. For Yakunchikova herself, the silence of crosses cloistered on the earthly plane with the eternal and this feeling of “the tranquillity of Meudon”[51] or of Old Russia was a “blessed sensation of slumber and emotional humility”, “some sort of Faith in life began to stir”.

“This is what must done. A church in perspective, silhouetted by a sunset, with old, abandoned graves in the background. / Apple trees also silhouetted by the sunset, their white flowers can be made blue and the sky behind green”[52] is how Yakunchikova picturesquely described the surge of energy that instantly overcame her “melancholia”[53] on her first sight of Meudon (see, for example, “Graveyard in Meudon near Paris”, 1892, Tretyakov Gallery).

Aspects of Yakunchikova's worldview such as “the complexity of the conception of life and its internal con- tent”[54], her inclination towards pinpointing her creative focus on self-analysis, are both linked with another Symbolist quality close to the artist's heart - individualism, which was understood by the uninitiated as a symptom of decadence (Mir Iskusstva artists were also subject to this): “The artist's individual hand has the right - the duty even - to express its own beauty,” thought Yakunchikova.[55] Individualism also revealed itself in the artist's powerfully wilful character, which pushed her to adopt a forceful (despite her illness) life philosophy, as well as in the recognisable “temperament” of her figurative language, which is decisive in its aggregation, lyrical in its inner texture of music and colour, and inextricably linked to art in its philosophical meditations on life: “Absence - happiness is fragmentation. Now I am happy in the clear knowledge of my unhappiness, some sort of wholeness and monolithic integrity has resurrected inside me. [...] All in all, happiness is the possibility of giving a free rein to your individuality and desire to act, to express yourself freely!”[56]

Returning to the works described in Golshtein's memoirs, it is necessary to note that it is not now possible to identify exactly which early (first half of the 1890s) Symbolist painting bearing the name “Dew” Golshtein had in mind. However, making allowances for generalisations and lapses of memory on the author's part, we can surmise that she might be referring either to the painting known today as “Rise of the Moon with an Angel” (about 1895, private collection), or a variation on this composition, similar to it in iconographic and psychological terms. The landscape, shrouded in the pale mist of a nocturnal vision, is compositionally similar to Yakunchikova's plein air sketches (“Broad River at Sunset”, 1890s, private collection; “Pine Sapling”, 1890-93, Tretyakov Gallery; “Glade”, 1899, Russian Museum) and does indeed seem to be an ideal reflection of a real place and its inherent poetic aura (see, for example, the photograph of Yakunchikova, dated to the 1890s, in which she sits on a bench among spruces trees in the forest part of the park belonging either to the Vvedenskoye estate, which she visited with the new owner's permission more than once during her summer visits to Russia, or perhaps to her brother's Nara Estate at which the artist was a guest in 1899, and which can also not be excluded based on a range of details). It is worth noting, however, that it is in exactly that special, sometimes ostensible, authenticity of a landscape's intonation, which rouses the inner musicality of space into visual existence, that we find Yakunchikova's individual investment in the development of Symbolism's visual-poetic current. The lyrical and philosophical nature of her images rests upon a thesis, the discovery of which is recorded in her diary as a moment of true creative clarity: “Suddenly and clearly the thought struck me: ‘one must simulate nature, not copy it' (understanding the words exactly, and in their narrowest meanings)”[57]. The idea of conforming visual forms of art to nature, which became the basis of the figuratively associative language of Art Nouveau, was something that artists with Symbolist inclinations tried to employ in a useful way, both for the expression of real feelings of the soul and the revelation of phantasmagoria of the imagination - everything depended on the personality of the individual artist. Yakunchikova was close neither to the extremities of Realism nor to the excessiveness of mystic Symbolism. Her poetics developed along a middle course, one deeply attentive to spiritual states, which revealed itself in a reserved, but psychologically capacious moderatei, resonant in its melancholy with Sergei Rachmaninov. It was exactly the pursuit of an allegory, inconspicuously inserted into the graphic construct and capable of reflecting, in the artistic image, the individual subjective experience, that led Yakunchikova to attempt to combine, on equal terms, Realist principles, which allowed her to avoid distorting her unforced impressions of natural scenes, with the figuratively free innovations, based on the rhythms of invisible images, of Art Nouveau (an attempt that especially revealed itself in her actively outlined drawings scorched into wooden panels. See, for example, “The Moon Rising over a Lake”, end of the 1890s, private collection; “Cowslips”, 1895, private collection; “Aspen and Spruce”, 1896, Tretyakov Gallery; “Oar with Water Lilies [Oar]”, 1896, Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve; and “The Terrace”, 1899, private collection). This is why we cannot, after all, agree with Golshtein's simplistic opinion, which held that Yakunchikova's Symbolist experiments were unsuccessful attempts at falling into step with fashionable contemporary tendencies. Yakunchikova's attitude towards the contemporary creative experiments linked with the poetics of Symbolism was one of an artist who saw that, in their essentials they offered new sources of understanding figurative depths, of which the fantastic, invented or mystical was but a single aspect of their expression (see her attitude towards Redon, mentioned above). Essentially, the characteristic or purely Yakunchikovian quality of the painting “Rise of the Moon with an Angel” remains its synthesis of the real with that which exists beyond the realm of the real, although the iconographic centre here is of course tilted in favour of the more obvious discovery of an otherworldly basis. On the one hand, the female angelic image, coming alive against a background of a dark, silhouetted spruce tree (the painter's favourite subject) and the soft glow of the meadow symbolises the spirit of nature, and possibly a substantive transformation of the dew (about which Golshtein wrote) or of the daisies vigilant in the night. On the other hand, what we have before us is the incarnation of spiritual inspiration or energy, coming from within the artist, a sort of hidden, unseen power that not only imbibes the mysteriously acting beauty of the visible world, but infuses earthly locations with its own harmony - an inner light capable of illuminating the sky like a second moon. The words of Gustave Flaubert, as beloved by Yakunchikova as Guy de Maupassant and Ivan Turgenev, could well serve as an expression of the concept of the painting: “I, dwelling upon the second branch, illuminated the nights of Summer with my face.”[58] In connection with Turgenev, it is worth also remembering the interpretation, enriching the painting's subject, offered by Mikhail Kiselev, which demonstrated the fine interrelation of the “Pre-Raphaelite” figure shrouded in its wings in the painting “Rise of the Moon with an Angel” with Elise, the irreal heroine of Turgenev's story “Ghosts”.[59] Nonetheless, the theme of creative dialogues between the soul of a place and that of the observing artist, dialogues capable of transforming the world, are expressed by Yakunchikova not only via the figurative materialisations of images hidden in the subconsciousness, but rather more importantly with the help of a landscape iconography, the psychological suggestions of which have a semantic scale and intensity that facilitate the strengthening year on year of the decorative sonority of her visual language.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Rise of the Moon with an Angel. Circa 1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Rise of the Moon with an Angel. Circa 1895
Oil on canvas. 80 × 65 cm. Private collection

It is not only objects infused with a metaphorical or fantastical element highlighting the ethereal substantiality demonstratively concealed in landscape motifs that should be considered in connection with Yakunchikova's poetically visual innovations. For example, the painting “From the Window of the Old House. Vvedenskoye” (1897, Tretyakov Gallery) is no less resonant with Symbolism than “Rise of the Moon with an Angel”, although the Symbolist basis is expressed in this case with the help of objectively recognisable motifs. However, what we have before us is not simply a reflection of a view already existing in nature, but rather an image of memory - a landscape space transferred, via an exhalation of feelings and a movement of dramatic will, onto an artistic scale. The monothematic elements of the composition, its rhythmical organisation and colour-texture bear the traces of the creative metamorphosis which an artistic image undergoes in the process of its transformation from an objectively existing physical reality into the subjectively unique hypostasis of art. The azure mist with its naturalistic reflection of the pinkening sunset is a metaphoric gauze acting subtly on one's consciousness, submerging perception in a wave of memories. “From the Window of the Old House. Vvedenskoye” is an image at once monolithic and monological. Furthermore, it is a very unusual monologue, performed by the bright trio of the agitated, overcast sky, the columns, thoughtfully sunk in their own memory, and the mirror-like gleam of the spalsh of river, strangely fitful in the intensity of its resonance. Precisely this monologue (a monologue of memory), soaring above the Earth, dominates the space - the darkening, distant greenery, the barely perceptible dab of a cupola. All elements are integrated as a whole, but, at the same time, are full of self-consciousness, possessed of a special power that awakens at the moment of the day's extinguishing, when even the flashing blue lines around the columns and on the horizon speak of the struggle of the irretrievable image with the approaching darkness.

Yakunchikova, as an artist well capable of poetic allegory, does not strive to reveal the painting's narrative in straightforward details - in her manner of speaking there is no narrative. She seeks to tacitly inculcate the impression of an illusion, awake in the soul. As a sign of reality's withdrawal, for example, she purposefully avoids highlighting the crack in the column, concealing this contusion irrupting into the world of the past as if it was something of secondary importance. External disintegration is incapable of destroying the image of memory, but at the same time the real existence of the monument is not capable of sustaining the dream. This psychology, highly developed in Yakunchikova (perhaps unconsciously and unintentionally) was the spiritual disposition of the age - the age of Symbolism.

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. From the Window of the Old House. Vvedenskoye. 1897
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. From the Window of the Old House. Vvedenskoye. 1897
Oil on canvas. 88.3 × 106.5 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery

In her landscape images, Yakunchikova nearly always introduces an element of excitement that aesthetically transforms the world, an element of poetically abstract memory: not that romantic sadness interpretable by literature, which can be explained by historical parallels or biographical commentaries and which is most noticeable in the country-house views of Realist artists (such as Stanislav Zhukovsky or Sergei Vinogradov), but rather that nonverbal pathetic yearning for “the spirit”, the platonic reality of art, the incorporation, identification and expression of which was the dream of the Symbolists: “In expectation of rain everything went quiet, it was quiet and there on the road by the wasteland it smelled of hay... It became so quiet that the first drop of rain would have been audible when it fell [...] It is so tempting to stand still in the middle of the road and freeze, to await the end of the day, the end of life. Sometimes you don't know what will be, after that minute of calm. / Although, there was no rain, and the sky cleared. [. ] . and on the open paddock across the street it became dark and blueish.”[60] This philosophical, lyrical impulse “to melt and fly away into the expansive distance”[61], this striving to incorporate one's spiritual life into the harmony of landscape space is a particular feature of Yakunchikova's writings: “And the joyful desire to burst out of this urban stone and human ferment to the quiet, to the green Russian eternity of nature, to merge into it, to become it. / And all the same not to merge, but rather to give something just the same from within myself. I don't dare promise anything, but I so want to paint something marvellously good in Russia.”[62]

The breath of Russia often caught Yakunchikova unexpectedly, as if acting in her memory and imagination by inspired guesswork, inadvertently, in agreement with those elemental poetic surges that, in Yakunchikova's opinion were exactly the necessary conditions for the conception not only of authentic feelings, but also of paintings: “I was reading Balzac. The disc of the moon came out from behind the trees of the park and rose, and shone. In the garden it suddenly smelled of grass, forests, and Russia [.]

A feeling almost of joy from the feeling of the variety of changes and the permanence of the surrounding countryside,”[63] wrote Yakunchikova in July 1889 while in Biarritz. This same obsession of memory, dissolving space, was also with her later, during her strolls in the gardens of Paris: “Bois de Boulogne [...] The wind sprang up, just like that at the gates of Morevo... [...] .what delight, what a spring. Sorrow, too, is joy.”[64] The two country houses that appear most frequently on the pages of Yakunchikova's diaries in the context of her individual lyrical concern are Morevo and Vvedenskoye. The artist's deeply personal memories are associated in particular with the latter, memories that possessed their own power of creative attraction sealed within them and which found allegorical expression in the iconographic structure of her paintings and graphic art.

Vvedenskoye, which belonged to her father until 1884, played a unique role in Yakunchikova's fate. The artist's character was formed exactly there, it was this country house that was linked with her first experiences of her growing spiritual self-consciousness - it was her ideal world of history, music, nature, and creativity, on which, as if on an inner fulcrum, rested not only the past, but also the future. “For her, Vvedenskoye was Russia. [...] It often seemed that life in the old country house invested in some mysterious way her sensitive childish soul with some of its noble spirit; the old seigniorial manor forced her to live in its style,”[65] wrote Aleksandra Golshtein perceptively. Certainly, Vvedenskoye always seemed to Yakunchikova to be shrouded in the mystery of the image that she yearned to attain above all creatively. Although on the level of innate human attachments, she also at times wanted to feel connection with the illusions that elevate life: “The avenue in Vvedenskoye, which leads to the cowshed. [...] „.the room, the balcony, the little window. Rowanberries. Autumn. Morning. Sun on the meadow, 4 o'clock, a large shadow across it. The voices of the carpenter Yakov's children in the rarefied air; near the outhouse the path and the hollyhocks in shadow. [...] What a pity that we're not nobility of some old family. “Portraits of ancestors on the walls”... even more so, given that I have known from the cradle the old house at Vvedenskoye, its furniture, everything about this dear, gloomy set up with its fingerprints of the past,”[66] noted the artist with half-joking sorrow (“Children in the Window”, between 1898-99, private collection), affording the memory of objects a special lyrical existence in her works (“Dust covers”, 1897, Tretyakov Gallery - although note that this work portrays not the interior of the country house, but rather that of her father's (Vasily Yakunchikov's) Moscow house; “Cypress Sepulchre (Meudon)”, 1898, private collection).

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cypress Sepulchre (Meudon). 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cypress Sepulchre (Meudon). 1898
Gouache on coloured paper. 61 × 46 cm. Private collection

All the same, despite the biographical context, the power of Vvedenskoye, influencing the specificity of its portrayal in Yakunchikova's works, stems from something else. It stems, in fact, from the purely graphic psychological inclination to the spiritual world, unseen but awake in the space of Vvedenskoye, communion with which gave the artist the chance to feel the discrete poetic basis of the timeless inner lynchpin on which her own life secretly rested. In reinvented form, the elusive magic of Vvedenskoye - the main and at times, like music, unseen leitmotif in the development of her creative poetics - was something that Yakunchikova strove to include in the majority of her works on the level of an effect that varied in its emotional quality (“Vvedenskoye”, 1893 [24 June], private collection; “View from the Terrace”, 1899, private collection).

The unseen reverberation of a feeling of love awoken by the estate towards the otherworldly, towards this Symbolist genius, which forces one to see clearly and from adolescence to mature the soul, can be felt in the graphic structure of her landscapes with crosses and candles (“Candle. Blowing Out”, 1897, Tretyakov Gallery) as well as in the overwhelming obsession with lines and colours in her late garden views. Moreover, it is important to note that the mysterious role of Vvedenskoye's subjectively resounding aura in the incorporation of her graphic thoughts was something of which the artist herself was aware and expressed in a laconic but penetratingly precise and semantically capacious phrase: “Looking back at my life from the very beginning to the present day, everything can be told very quickly, apart from the paintings of Vvedenskoye.”[67]

Yakunchikova's landscapes are personalised images, behind whose creation lies the poetic memory of the soul, awakened by contact with the living beauty of nature: “As evening approached, going along the corridor, I suddenly saw the sun was setting, and on the doors and on the stairs, there were stripes and spots gleaming red. Again, it astounded me, I joyfully realised that life continues everywhere, and that therefore mine has no reason to end. Childhood flooded over me, unexpectedly and joyfully, some sort of vague awareness of life forces and certainty in their inexhaustibility.

“An autumn's evening at Vvedenskoye... [...] I went to the porch, forgetting that the trees are no more. [...] The yellowing leaves of the lime trees and a quiet murmur, increasing every minute with the growing evening wind. That evening wind - how much there is of speech in it, of life, just like the soul, the voice of nature”[68], Yakunchikova dreams in her temporarily unavoidable “emigration” (“Birches at the Edge of the Forest”, 1893, private collection; “Autumn”, 1893, Tretyakov Gallery). With a particular effort of will and emotional decisiveness, Yakunchikova introduces into the formal structure of her works a sensation of the ceaseless, fateful expectation of a meeting with the inner landscape of her own “visual poem” - of her meetings with Russia, with its country manors (including Vvedenskoye, Morevo, Lyubimovka, Abramtsevo, Byokhovo, Nara, and Cheryomushki) and monasteries (Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, Vysokopetrovsky Monastery); of her meetings with France, with its medieval Gothic romanticism and the poetry of contemporary fin de siècle life; of her meetings with the sky, spring, flowering apple trees, moonlit spruces and grass-scented distances; of her meetings with art, love, and music, all awaking in objects the sound of an immaterial major-minor life beyond the horizons of the visible world.

The inexplicability of the birth of an artistic image, along with the inscrutability of our earthly path in general, the basic first causes of which are also hidden from the eye like the wind among the bells, were things Maria Yakunchikova apprehended at the depth of the contemporary world view which was, in its most important elements, linked with the Romantic-Symbolist creative experience of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She sought to introduce an allegorically expressed awareness of this experience in the lyrically capacious landscape spaces of her paintings, which possessed, in terms of the development of Russian Art Nouveau and Symbolism, a visually poetic structure unparalleled in its individual hues.

Note. The author’s modifications of the titles of works and the time of their creation are indicated in this publication in square brackets.

 

A brief chronicle of Maria Yakunchikova’s life

1870
19 (31) January. She was born in Wiesbaden (Germany), where the Yakunchikovs - Vasily Ivanovich (1829-1907) and Zinaida Nikolayevna (1843-1919) - were wintering. Through her father, a major industrialist, she belonged to the Yakunchikov merchant family and on her mother's side she was a Mamontov (Yakunchikova was a first cousin once removed of the renowned art collector and patron Savva Mamontov and the niece of Vera Tretyakova, Pavel Tretyakov's wife). Yakunchikova spent her childhood in Moscow and at the 18th-century country estate of Vvedenskoye near Zvenigorod, acquired by her father in the mid 1860s.

1883
Summer The beginning of Yakunchikova's systematic studies of visual art with the popular artist and teacher Nikolai Martynov, who was invited to the Vvedenskoye country estate specifically for the purpose of teaching drawing and painting to the Yakunchikov children - Maria, her older sister Olga and her younger sister Vera.

1884
Autumn. Vvedenskoye is sold to Count Sergey Sheremetev. Although Yakunchikova received permission from the new owners to visit the country estate (which she tried to do in the summer months thereafter, staying at the hotel of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery), parting with Vvedensky was a trauma that affected her for many years and awakened in her soul those creatively significant feelings of nostalgic pain, which greatly influenced the formation of the iconographic poetics of her art.

1885-1889
She was a non-matriculated student at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, studying under Evgraf Sorokin, Vladimir Makovsky, Illarion Pryanishnikov and Vasily Polenov. At the same time, she was studying with a family friend, the medical doctor, amateur artist and art critic Sergei Goloushev (Sergei Glagol).

1886-1888
Yakunchikova grows closer to the family and the creative circle of Vasily Polenov, married to Maria Yakunchikova's elder half-sister Natalya Vasilyevna (née Yakunchikova) in 1882. She joined the group organised by Yelena Polenova for the study of the historical and archaeological monuments of Moscow and went to Polenova's drawing evening, also attended by Konstantin Korovin, Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov, Ilya Ostroukhov and Mikhail Nesterov among others. She works with Vasily Polenov in the Crimea (1887), and spends two summers (1887 and 1888) at Polenov's dacha in Zhukovka, where she works a lot en plein air.

1888
In autumn, she travels with her father and sisters through Vienna to Italy, and creates sketches rich in emotional expression.

1889
Due to a diagnosis of tuberculosis (originally in her bones), Yakunchikova travels on the recommendation of her doctors to Biarritz, visiting Berlin and Paris on the way. Due to pain in her hands, she has to give up her piano lessons, which had played a big role in the formation of her artistic worldview, and she completely devotes herself to finding her own imaginative mindset in painting.

In autumn she travels to Paris, attends the World Exhibition and enrols at Rodolphe Julian's Academy, working there in the studio of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury.

1890-1891
She shows interest in contemporary trends in art, attends exhibitions, reads special literature and reflects on the aesthetic tasks of art, sharing her thoughts with Natalia and Vasily Polenov, who stayed in Paris from January to March 1890.

1891
She spends summer and autumn in Russia, where she gains her first professionally significant recognition - Pavel Tretyakov buys Yakunchikova's pastel “From the Bell Tower of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery near Zvenigorod” (1891, Tretyakov Gallery).

1892
In March, she meets Eugene Carriere and Paul-Albert Besnard. She stops her studies at the Academie Julian and rents his own studio. With an upsurge of creative endeavour, she works in Meudon near Paris and in Brittany. She starts regular studies in etching and tries to master ceramics. She strives define her own position in relation to the topical issues of art of the day, paying great attention in her thoughts to the Decadents and Symbolism.

1893
She works in the studio of the American artist Julius Rolshoven and is seriously engaged in etching. At the aesthetic level, she is interested in Symbolism, gradually developing her own intonational figurative structure in the context of modern art.
In spring, she exhibits three etchings at the Salon du Champ-de-Mars.
In summer, she visits Russia, creates a series of landscapes, and travels to Holland.

1894
She is actively involved in painting and graphics. She exhibits her painting “Reflet intime” (Reflection of an Intimate World) at the Salon du Champ-de-Mars.

1895
She develops an interest in panel pictures and a new type of technique - pyrogravure followed by painting with oils.

A trip to England strengthens her interest in English aestheticism and the art of the Pre-Raphaelites. Leading magazine “The Studio” publishes an article about Yakunchikova's etchings.

1896
Active work on panel pictures using the pyrogravure technique. At the end of the year, she participates in the “Exhibition of Experiments in Artistic Creation (Sketches) of Russian and Foreign Artists” arranged by Ilya Repin in St. Petersburg.

1897
In spring, she exhibits her pyrogravure panels “Oar” and “The Window” at the Salon du Champ-de-Mars. She starts working in the field of book design.
In autumn, she marries Leon Weber.
In November, Natalia Polenova comes to Paris and works in Yakunchikova's studio.

1898
At the invitation of Sergei Diaghilev, she participates in the “Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists”. Also on his initiative, she receives an offer to create a cover for the new magazine "Mir Iskusstva" (The World of Art), which has become one of the key forums for the promotion of modern aesthetics in Russia. Issues Nos. 13-19 and 23-24 of 1899 were published with covers created by Maria Yakunchikova. November - the birth of her first son, Stepan.

7 November - the death of her close friend and confederate Yelena Polenova (1850-1898), one of the first representatives the Russian national version of Art Nouveau.

1899
She participates in design preparation of the Handicraft Section of the Russian Pavilion for the Exposition Univer- selle in Paris.

She spends the summer in Russia, where she works fruitfully at Nara, the country estate of her elder brother Vladimir Yakunchikov and his wife, Maria. In Abramtsevo, she supervises the manufacture of panel paintings, makes toys and furniture designs. The Abramtsevo Pottery Factory in Moscow, owned by Savva Mamontov, creates pieces to designs by Yakunchikova, including the majolica panels “Fortunetellers”, the relief “Owl and Girl”, the painting “Silence” painting, and the insert “Owl”.

1900
January - she participates in “Mir Iskusstva” exhibition in St. Petersburg and becomes a member of this association. In autumn, she is awarded a silver medal for her toy shelf and an embroidered panel entitled “Girl and Woodsman” at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.
Her illness worsens.

1901
April - the birth of her second son, Yakov. Due to Yakunchikova's progressive tuberculosis, her husband, a certified medical doctor, moves with his family to Switzerland. In the town of Chene-Bougeries near Geneva, where the nature surrounding her house reminds Yakunchikova of Russia, she spends the last period of her life.

December - Yakunchikova's works are shown at the Exhibition of 36 Artists in Moscow.

1902
In spring, her tuberculosis enters the acute phase. Consultation at the Leysin Sanatorium leaves no hope of her recovery.

14 (27) December Maria Yakunchikova dies from miliary tuberculosis in her house in Chene-Bougeries, surrounded by her family.

In the same month, her works are exhibited at the 2nd Exhibition of 36 Artists. “Mir Iskusstva” (1902, No. 12) publishes an obituary written by Sergei Diaghilev (signature: S.D.).

1904
An issue of “Mir Iskusstva” (No. 3) dedicated to the creative work of Maria Yakunchikova, with a large number of reproductions of her works (54 photographs), photographic portraits and an article by Natalia Polenova (under the pseudonym “N. Borok”) is published.

1905
On February 13, a posthumous exhibition of works by M.V. Yakunchikova opens in Moscow in conjunction with the 2nd Exhibition of the Union of Russian Artists. At the same time, the symbolist magazine “Vesy” publishes an issue (1905, No. 1) dedicated to Yakunchikova's memory, with cover and design based on her sketches and an article by Max Voloshin shining light on her oeuvre. The essay by Natalia Polenova (M., 1905) previously published in the “Mir Isskustva”, is issued as an independent publication.

1910
Exhibition of works by Maria Yakunchikova at the Musée Rath (Geneva, May-June).

 

  1. Yakunchikova, MV. Diary. 1890. January 23, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time. In this case, as in most others, the author’s punctuation is preserved in the quotation of archive material. The only exceptions to this rule are obvious inaccuracies or mistakes, which are corrected according to the modern rules of orthography. Maria Yakunchikova recorded all dates in the new style.
  2. Weber-Bauler L.N. “§chos d’une vie. De Russie en Occident”. Suisse: La Baconniere, 1940.
  3. English edition: Weber-Bauler L.N. “From Orient to Occident. Memoirs of a Russian Doctor”. Translated by Bernard Miall. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941. For more details see: Davydova, O.S. “Images of Gardens and Parks in the Creativity of Artists of Russian Symbolism”. Moscow, BooksMArt, 2014.
  4. Yakunchikova, MV. Diary. 1889. July 20, Friday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  5. Yakunchikova, MV. Diary. 1891. October 6, Sunday. Private archive. Published for the first time.without the omission of the word “Vveden- skoye’’. See: Kiselev, M.F., Yakovlev, D.E. “The Diary of M.V. Yakunchikova 1890-1892” // 1996: “Cultural Monuments. New Discoveries: Literature. Art. Archaeology”. Moscow. Nauka, 1998. p.481.
  6. Diaghilev, S.P. Letter to A.N. Benois. [Early May 1897] // “Sergei Diaghilev and Russian Art: Articles. Open Letters. Interviews. Contemporaries about Diaghilev: in 2 volumes” / Compilers, authors of introductory article and commentary I.S. Zilberstein and V.A. Samkov. Moscow, “Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo”, 1982. Vol. 1, p. 23.
  7. Voloshin, M. The Art of M.V. Yakunchikova // Vesy. 1905. № 1. pp. 30-39.
  8. Yakunchikova, MV. Letter to Ye.D. Polenova. 15 May 1894 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, “Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova: A Chronicle of the Artist’s Family” / Compiler, author of introductory article Ye.V. Sakharova. Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1964. p. 500.
  9. Ivanova S.K. Diary (with a drawing by S.V Ivanov). 1893-1894 // Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 82. Inventory 1. Item 436. Sheets 52-53. Published for the first time.
  10. Yakunchikova, MV. Letter to Ye.D. Polenova. May 15, 1894 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova... p. 500.
  11. Yakunchikova M.B. Letter to Ye.D. Polenova. March 30, 1892 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova. p. 483.
  12. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. April 4, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  13. Maupassant G., de. “At the Exhibition. Au Salon” // Maupassant G., de. “Complete Collected Works”. Vol. XIII. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya Liter- atura, 1950. p. 251.
  14. Yakunchikova M.V. Letter to Ye.D. Polenova. March 30, 1892 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, Elena Dmitrievna Polenova... p. 482.
  15. Willy. Comic-salon: (Champs-§lysees et Champ-de-Mars), Paris: Vanier, 1892. Dessins de Christophe.
  16. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1889. June 23, Saturday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  17. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1892. July 21, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  18. Polenov V.D. Letter to N.V. Polenova. May 24, 1895 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova... p. 533.
  19. Polenova N.V. Letter to I.S. Ostroukhov. August 15, 1924 // Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 10. Item 5191. Sheets 1 reverse - 2.
  20. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1890. January 21, Sunday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  21. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1889. June 12, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  22. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1897. March 29, [Monday]. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  23. ibid.
  24. For more details see: Paston, E.V. Abramtsevo. “Art and Life”. Moscow, Iskusstvo, 2003; other of author’s works.
  25. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1897. March 9, [Tuesday]. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  26. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1890. January 19, Friday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  27. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1892. May 25, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  28. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April 29, Friday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  29. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. February 1, Thursday (Friday). Private archive. Published for the first time.
  30. Millioti N.D. Letter to V.D. Millioti. July 29, 1934 // Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 10. Inv 1. Item 10. Sheet 3. Published for the first time.
  31. Kiselev M.F. Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova. 1897-1902. Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1979; Kiselev M.F. Maria Yakunchikova. Moscow, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo, 2005; Kisselev M. Maria Iakountchikova. Geneve: La Baconniere, 2008. Many illustrations in the article are reproduced with the permission of M.F.Kiselev from his books that were published with the support of the artist's family.
  32. Kiselev M.F., Yakovlev D.Ye. Diary of M.V. Yakunchikova. 1890-1892. // 1996: Cultural Monuments. New Discoveries: Literature. Art. Archaeology. Moscow, Nauka, 1998. p. 469-497.
  33. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. March 4, Sunday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  34. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1891. November 10, Friday. Private Archive. See also: Kiselev M.F. Maria Yakunchikova. p. 36.
  35. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. May 17, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  36. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. April 13, Friday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  37. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April 26, Monday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  38. Golshtein A.V. Memories of MV. Yakunchikova-Weber. Type-written manuscript. Archive of M.F. Kiselev, Moscow. Sheets 10-11.
  39. Voloshin M. "The Art of M.V. Yakunchikova” // Vesy. 1905. № 1. p. 33.
  40. Yakunchikova M.V. Diary. 1892. March 31, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  41. Maupassant, Guyde. Le Horla.§dition de reference: Paris, Paul Ollendorff, §diteur, 1887 // Maupassant, Guy de. Le Horla. La Bibliotheque electronique du Quebec. Collection A tous les vents. Volume 429: version 1.02. Рр. 8, 11-12, 16.
  42. Yakunchikova read French authors in the original, as she did with English authors.
  43. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. July 21, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  44. Yakunchikova MV. Letter to Ye.D. Polenova. January 11, 1892 // Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, Yelena Dmitrievna Polenova... p. 478.
  45. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. March 31, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  46. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April 4, Monday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  47. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April, 6, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  48. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April 4, Monday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  49. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. February 22, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  50. A.G. (Glikberg). The Same Old Notes / Drawing by A. Junger // Satiricon. 1909. № 14. p. 9.
  51. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. May 10, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  52. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. April 10, Sunday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  53. ibid.
  54. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. July 14, Saturday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  55. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. July 15, Sunday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  56. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. June 11, Tuesday. Private Archive. Published for the first time.ln its expanded version. See: Kiselev, M.F. Maria Yakunchikova. 2005. p. 16.
  57. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. February 21, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  58. Flaubert, G. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”. Translation of quotation by: Bashlyar G. “Selected: Poetics of Day Dreams”. Moscow, POSSPEN, 2009. p. 43.
  59. Kiselev, M.F. “Maria Yakunchikova”. Moscow, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo, 2005. p. 81-82.
  60. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. July 21, Saturday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  61. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. July 26, Saturday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  62. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1893. March 28, Tuesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  63. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. July 20, Friday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  64. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1892. March 16, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  65. Golshtein A.V. “Memories of MV. Yakunchikova-Weber...” Sheet. 9.
  66. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. January 31, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  67. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1890. April 19, Thursday. Private archive. Published for the first time.
  68. Yakunchikova MV. Diary. 1889. August 8, Wednesday. Private archive. Published for the first time.

Illustrations

Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Vvedenskoye. Colonnade and Park from the Window (Christie’s, November 28, 2011: From a window of the Old House, Vvedenskoe). 1894
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Vvedenskoye. Colonnade and Park from the Window (Christie’s, November 28, 2011: From a window of the Old House, Vvedenskoe). 1894
Oil on canvas. 100.3 × 85.7 cm. Private collection. Reproduced from the book by Kisselev M., 2008, р. 83 (See footnote 31, p. 53)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bois de Boulogne. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bois de Boulogne. 1896
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 54 × 38 cm
© Smolensk State Museum Reserve
Cover of the book by L.N. Weber-Bauler “Échos d’une vie. De Russie en Occident”, 1940»
Cover of the book by L.N. Weber-Bauler “Échos d’une vie. De Russie en Occident”, 1940
(“From Orient to Occident. Memoirs of a Russian Doctor”, 1941). With a reproduction of one of the versions of the composition “View from the Bell Tower of the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery” (1890s)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Bells. 1894–1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Bells. (Christie’s, May 28, 2012: View from the belfry of the Savino-Storozhevsky Cathedral, close to Zvenigorod. 1891 [? – O.D.]) 1894–1895
Watercolour on paper laid down on paper. 35.5 × 26.7 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Versailles. 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Versailles. 1892
Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard. 28.9 × 30.4 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Vase. Late 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Vase. Late 1890s
Oil on canvas. 46 × 42 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles in Winter. 1905
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles in Winter. 1905
Reproduced from “Zolotoye Runo” (“The Golden Fleece”). 1906, No. 5. P. 13. Postcard issued in 1911: Alexandre Benois. “Snow in Versailles”. 1900s. Postcard. St. Eugenia Society
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles. 1900s
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles. 1900s
Oil on canvas
© Odessa Art Museum
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles. The ‘Pyramid’ fountain. 1906
Alexandre BENOIS. Versailles. The ‘Pyramid’ fountain. 1906
Gouache, tempera on grey paper. 47 × 62 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Swan. Cover design for “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”) magazine. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Swan. Cover design for “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”) magazine. 1898
(“Mir Iskusstva”. 1899. V. II. No. 13-24; except No. 20, 21-22). Watercolour, gouache, bronze paint on grey paper. 34.4 × 27.8 cm
© Russian Museum
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Head ornament Reproduced from: “Vesy”. 1905. No. 1. P. 30
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Head ornament Reproduced from: “Vesy”. 1905. No. 1. P. 30
Cover of the “Vesy” magazine (1905, No. 1)
Cover of the “Vesy” magazine (1905, No. 1) designed by Maria Yakunchikova. The composition integrates the iconography of one of the cover versions by Yakunchikova for the magazine “Mir Iskusstva”, which was not approved for the final design.
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”). Cover design. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”). Cover design. 1898
Watercolour and pencil on paper. 42.9 × 28.3 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe page spread from the artist’s diaries developing the motif of “Cowberries”. January 22, 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe page spread from the artist’s diaries developing the motif of “Cowberries”. January 22, 1898
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sh. (page spread): 20.5 × 28.5 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cowberries. Sketch. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cowberries. Sketch. 1898
Watercolour on paper. 20 × 15.5 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe page from the artist’s diaries developing the motif of “Cowberries”. January 22, 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe page from the artist’s diaries developing the motif of “Cowberries”. January 22, 1898
Charcoal pencil on paper. Private collection
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. A sketch of Avenue de Wagram in Paris and drawings after Odilon Redon. In the letter to Yelena Polenova of May 9-15, 1894
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. A sketch of Avenue de Wagram in Paris and drawings after Odilon Redon. In the letter to Yelena Polenova of May 9-15, 1894
Watercolour on paper. Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 54. Item 9697. Detail
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Paris. Room at Avenue de Wagram. 1889
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Paris. Room at Avenue de Wagram. 1889
Watercolour on paper. 24.4 × 33.7 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Odilon REDON. The Battle of the Bones. 1881
Odilon REDON. The Battle of the Bones. 1881
Charcoal on paper. 44.7 × 37.3 cm
© Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Stylised emblem “Beans”, which Maria Yakunchikova intended to use on her works instead of a signature. Diary. 1890. January 22, [Wednesday]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Stylised emblem “Beans”, which Maria Yakunchikova intended to use on her works instead of a signature. Diary. 1890. January 22, [Wednesday]. Title page (detail).
3.4 × 3.2 cm (image)
21.6 × 17.3 cm (page)
Charcoal pencil on paper. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death at the Piano. Early 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Death at the Piano. Early 1890s
Ink, pen, brush on paper. 29.5 × 20.2 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. At the Exhibition. [Salon des Indépendants] Sketches. Diary. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. At the Exhibition. [Salon des Indépendants] Sketches. Diary. 1896
April 8, Wednesday. Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. At the Exhibition [Salon des Indépendants]. Sketches. Diary. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. At the Exhibition [Salon des Indépendants]. Sketches. Diary. 1896
April 8, Wednesday. Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
“Barillot”. Parody of the works of the French artist Léon Barillot (Willy. Comic-salon: (Champs Elysees et Champ-de-Mars), Paris: Vanier, 1892. Dessins de Christophe)
“Barillot”. Parody of the works of the French artist Léon Barillot (Willy. Comic-salon: (Champs Elysees et Champ-de-Mars), Paris: Vanier, 1892. Dessins de Christophe)
“Michelena”. Parody of the Venezuelan artist-romantic Arturo Michelena (Willy. Comic-salon: (Champs-Elysees et Champ-de-Mars), Paris: Vanier, 1892. Dessins de Christophe)
“Michelena”. Parody of the Venezuelan artist-romantic Arturo Michelena (Willy. Comic-salon: (Champs-Elysees et Champ-de-Mars), Paris: Vanier, 1892. Dessins de Christophe)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Two decorative panels for a baby crib. 1899
 
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Two decorative panels for a baby crib. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Two decorative panels for a baby crib. 1899
Oil on board; pyrography. 18 × 55 cm. Private collection
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches. Diary. 1896. [Spring]
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches. Diary. 1896. [Spring]
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Telegraph Poles. Sketches. Diary. 1897
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Telegraph Poles. Sketches. Diary. 1897.
March 3, [Wednesday]. Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Peonies. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Peonies. 1890s
Pastel on paper. 21.7 × 25.4 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A House. 1894
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A House. 1894
Ink on paper. 16 × 10.7 cm
© Vasily Polenov
Museum-Reserve. First reproduction: Unpublished sketch. “Vesy”. 1905. No. 1.
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Theatre in Petit Trianon. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Theatre in Petit Trianon. 1898
Pencil on paper. 22.2 × 16.6 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Paris. Avenue de Wagram and Triumphal Arch at Dusk. 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Paris. Avenue de Wagram and Triumphal Arch at Dusk. 1892
Oil on canvas. 34 × 36 cm
Private collection
Édouard VUILLARD. Tuileries. 1895
Édouard VUILLARD. Tuileries. 1895
Colour lithograph on ivory paper
24.3 × 28 cm (image)
28 × 38.4 cm (page)
© Art Institute of Chicago, USA
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Curiosity
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Curiosity
Pencil on paper. 30.3 × 23.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov
Museum-Reserve. First reproduction: Unpublished sketch. “Vesy”. 1905. No. 1
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Avenue in the Bois de Boulogne. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Avenue in the Bois de Boulogne. 1898
Оil on panel. 47 × 47.5 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Boats. Lyubimovka. 1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Boats. Lyubimovka. 1895
Pastel on cardboard. 49 × 27.5 cm
© Russian National Museum of Music, Moscow
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Lantern with a Kiosk. Sketch. Late 1880s - early 1890s
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Lantern with a Kiosk. Sketch. Late 1880s - early 1890s
Oil on paper mounted on wood. 35.5 × 26.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
MARIA Yakunchikova. London, 1895 (July)
MARIA Yakunchikova. London, 1895 (July)
Watercolour and pencil on paper. 30.8 × 23.3 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Drawing for a Box. 1895 (?)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Drawing for a Box. 1895 (?)
Watercolour on paper. 14.3 × 19.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Woodland Stream. Circa 1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Woodland Stream. Circa 1893
Oil on canvas. 36 × 31 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Version of the composition “Paysage artificial”. Diary. 1896. [Early March]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Version of the composition “Paysage artificial”. Diary. 1896. [Early March]
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection. A sketch demonstrating the artist’s decorative and stylistic endeavours
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Version of the composition “Paysage artificial”. Diary. 1896. [Early March]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Version of the composition “Paysage artificial”. Diary. 1896. [Early March]
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection. A sketch demonstrating the artist’s decorative and stylistic endeavours
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Parc de Saint-Cloud
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Parc de Saint-Cloud
Oil on canvas. 71 × 45 cm
© Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Path. 1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Path. 1893
Oil on canvas. 43 × 21 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dark Avenue. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dark Avenue. 1898
Oil on canvas. 70 × 42 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Wicket Gate. Meudon. Location unknown. Reproduced from “Mir Iskusstva”. 1904. No. 3. P. 101
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Wicket Gate. Meudon. Location unknown. Reproduced from “Mir Iskusstva”. 1904. No. 3. P. 101
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Damp January (Meudon). 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Damp January (Meudon). 1898
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 32,3 × 41 cm
© Collection of Petr Aven
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flowering Apple Trees. Tree in Bloom. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flowering Apple Trees. Tree in Bloom. 1899
Gouache on paper. 64.2 × 48 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Avenue with Chestnut Trees [Bench under a Chestnut Tree. Garden in Clamart]. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Avenue with Chestnut Trees [Bench under a Chestnut Tree. Garden in Clamart]. 1899
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 55 × 45.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Tree in Bloom. Circa 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Tree in Bloom. Circa 1899
Oil on paper. 14 × 17. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Trees in the Moonlight. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Trees in the Moonlight. 1890s
Oil on cardboard. 27 × 21.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Sorrow of Memory (Nostalgia). Late 1880s - 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Sorrow of Memory (Nostalgia). Late 1880s - 1890s
Oil on canvas. 52 × 35 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Inaccessible. First half of 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Inaccessible. First half of 1890s
Pencil, watercolour, gouache on paper. 50.2 × 41.4 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dreaming. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dreaming. 1890s
Pencil on cardboard. 23 × 28.7 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Summer Landscape. 1889
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Summer Landscape. 1889
Gouache, pencil on paper. 71.5 × 70 cm
© Taganrog State Literary and Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Brittany. Old Seaside Town. 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Brittany. Old Seaside Town. 1892
Colour etching on paper. 19.9 × 15 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Landscape with the Moskva River in the Background. 1890–1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Landscape with the Moskva River in the Background. 1890–1893
Watercolour on paper. 31.5 × 27 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Mont Blanc by Night
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Mont Blanc by Night
Oil on paper. 53 × 45 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Window into the Garden (View of Mont Blanc)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Window into the Garden (View of Mont Blanc)
Watercolour on paper. 47.5 × 37 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Window. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Window. 1896
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 61 × 48.9 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Lilies over the Town. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Lilies over the Town. 1890s
Watercolour on paper. 71.5 × 36 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Le Parfum. 1895 (?)
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Le Parfum. 1895 (?)
Colour etching on paper. 12.7 × 16.8 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Student. Sketch to the painting “At the Window” (not preserved). 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Student. Sketch to the painting “At the Window” (not preserved). 1892
Oil on canvas. 58.5 × 40 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Irrepairable [1893–1895]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. L’Irrepairable [1893–1895]
Colour etching on paper. 24.5 × 28.8 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe village cemetery. Early 1890s
MARIA YAKUNCHIKOVA. Тhe village cemetery. Early 1890s
Colour etching on paper. 19 × 34.5 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Night Landscape [Starry Night] [1893-1895]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Night Landscape [Starry Night] [1893-1895]
Colour etching on paper. 16.8 × 20 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Country Road. 1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Country Road. 1895
Watercolour and gouache on paper. 14.3 × 17.6 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cross above the Holy Well in Nara. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cross above the Holy Well in Nara. 1899
Gouache on paper. 51.3 × 54 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Grave Crosses. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Grave Crosses. 1890s
Oil on canvas. 50 × 100 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Graveyard in Meudon near Paris. 1892
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Graveyard in Meudon near Paris. 1892
Pastel on paper. 49 × 63.6 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Lawn. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Lawn. 1899
Pastel on cardboard. 33 × 42 cm
© Russian Museum
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. River at Sunset [Broad River at Sunset]. Early 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. River at Sunset [Broad River at Sunset]. Early 1890s
Oil on canvas. 54.3 × 71.3 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Pine Sapling. 1890–1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Pine Sapling. 1890–1893
Oil on canvas. 72.5 × 87 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria Yakunchikova on a bench in the estate park. 1890s
Maria Yakunchikova on a bench in the estate park. 1890s
Photograph
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Moon Rising over a Lake. Late 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Moon Rising over a Lake. Late 1890s
Oil on canvas. 90 × 70 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cowslips. 1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Cowslips. 1895
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 24 × 19 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Aspen and Spruce. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Aspen and Spruce. 1896
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 61 × 49.3 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Moonrise. 1894–1895
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Moonrise. 1894–1895
Sketch. Oil on canvas. 34 × 48 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Oar with Water Lilies [Oar]. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Oar with Water Lilies [Oar]. 1896
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 45.4 × 70 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Terrace. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. The Terrace. 1899
Panel. Oil on board; pyrography. 46.5 × 70.2 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Children in the Window (Christie’s, November 26, 2012: “Girls at the Window”). Circa 1898-1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Children in the Window (Christie’s, November 26, 2012: “Girls at the Window”). Circa 1898-1899
Watercolour on paper. 45.5 × 40.7 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dust Covers. 1897
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Dust Covers. 1897
Oil on canvas. 73.5 × 56.7 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Park in Cheryomushki. Pond. 1899–1900
Watercolour on paper mounted on cardboard. 15.5 × 12.2 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Maria Yakunchikova’s imaginative letter to her would-be-born son. Diary. 1897. May 15, [Saturday]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Maria Yakunchikova’s imaginative letter to her would-be-born son. Diary. 1897. May 15, [Saturday]
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm
Private collection. Her first son, Stepan, was born in November 1898.
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches. Diary. 1896
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches. Diary. 1896
[Second half of March] Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches (Vysokopetrovsky Monastery). Diary. 1896 August 28-29, [Friday-Saturday]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketches (Vysokopetrovsky Monastery). Diary. 1896 August 28-29, [Friday-Saturday]
Charcoal pencil on paper. Sheet (page spread): 17 × 22 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from the Terrace. 1899
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from the Terrace. 1899
Pastel on cardboard. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Candle. Blowing Out. 1897
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Candle. Blowing Out. 1897
Tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard. 66 × 44.4 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Autumn. 1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Autumn. 1893
Pastel on paper mounted on cardboard. 33 × 42 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Birches at the Edge of the Forest. 1893
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Birches at the Edge of the Forest. 1893
Pastel on cardboard. 60 × 50 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Vvedenskoye. 1893 [June 24]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Vvedenskoye. 1893 [June 24]
Watercolour on paper. 13.5 × 10.5 cm. Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Landscape with a Church. [1893-1895]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A Landscape with a Church. [1893-1895]
Colour etching on paper. 18 × 32 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve. First reproduction: Church. Mir Iskusstva. 1904. No. 3. Chromolithography between pp. 96 and 97
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Violet. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Violet. 1890s
Watercolour on paper. 12.8 × 8.7 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria Yakunchikova-Weber. Moscow region (Vvedenskoe?). 1897
Maria Yakunchikova-Weber. Moscow region (Vvedenskoe?). 1897
Photograph made by Leon Weber
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flower. 1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Flower. 1890s
Watercolour on paper. 9.2 × 48 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Blueberries. 1898
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Blueberries. 1898
Watercolour on paper. 13.9 × 10.3 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria Yakunchikova. Photograph. 1890s
Maria Yakunchikova. Photograph. 1890s
Private collection
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from a window at night. [1890-e]
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. View from a window at night. [1890-e]
Watercolour on paper. Private collection
The Yakunchikov House in Sredny Kislovsky pereulok in Moscow. Reproduced from a photograph. Early 20th century
The Yakunchikov House in Sredny Kislovsky pereulok in Moscow. Reproduced from a photograph. Early 20th century
Zincogravure on paper. 8 × 11.5 cm
© Abramtsevo Museum-Reserve
Western terrace of the Vvedenskoye estate
Western terrace of the Vvedenskoye estate. Photograph. Sherer, Nabgolts & Co. Late 19th - early 20th century
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria Yakunchikova-Weber in the Nara estate with her son Stepan. 1899
Maria Yakunchikova-Weber in the Nara estate with her son Stepan. 1899
Photograph. Album from a private collection
A sheet with the artist’s watercolour attached to the menu card of the ceremonial dinner with a concert “Fanfare in Kremlin”
 
A sheet with the artist’s watercolour attached to the menu card of the ceremonial dinner with a concert “Fanfare in Kremlin”
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. A sheet with the artist’s watercolour attached to the menu card of the ceremonial dinner with a concert “Fanfare in Kremlin” organised by the commissars of the 1900 Exposition Universelle in the Hotel Continental for members of the French Parliament and high-profile guests. Paris, June 17, 1900
The miniature was commissioned from the artist as well as a few other Russian artisans by the Princess Maria Tenisheva, who was in charge of the reception, together with the wife of the American commissar
© Collection of Sergey and Tatiana Podstanitsky, Moscow
The Yakunchikov House in Sredny Kislovsky pereulok in Moscow. Circa 1931
The Yakunchikov House in Sredny Kislovsky pereulok in Moscow. Circa 1931
Photograph
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. End piece
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. End piece
Reproduced from: "Vesy". 1905. No. 1. P. 92.
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketching. 1889–1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Sketching. 1889-1890s
Watercolour on paper. 34.4 × 21.4 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bluebell. 1880-1890s
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Bluebell. 1880-1890s
Pencil, watercolour on paper. 33.2 × 24.5 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

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