Vasnetsov Viktor

The Poet Sergey Esenin dressed in the costume for Russian ball at Tsarskoe Selo 106,4х75 сm, oil on canvas, 1916
About work

Represented in the collection canvas “The poet Sergey Esenin at the costume for Russian ball at Tsarskoe Selo” belongs to the late paintings of V. Vasnetsov’s creativity. Written in 1916, this portrait reveals to us the image of the poet in all of his open and cheerful traditional Russian soul. Sergey Esenin in a fetal pose in Russian national dress playing the balalaika embodies the symbol of folk singer-story-teller. V. Vasnetsov speaking the language of metaphor shows to the viewer the image of Russian poet loved by people, opening in his poetry the variety of Russian shades of soul. We know that the poet Esenin was able to play well as a harmonica, and the balalaika.
Many memoirs mentioned that when Esenin first arrived to St. Petersburg, he was only carrying a balalaika. From 1913 till 1917 Esenin often visited Tsarskoe Selo, where used to stay Vasnetsov brothers. They organized picnics and masquerades. Esenin admired everybody with his charm and skills in playing balalaika. By early 1916, Esenin, along with the writer E. Kliuev was sent to Moscow to sew costumes for theater, which they eventually used to wear on performing at concerts in Fedorovsky hospital. During this Moscow period was created the collection of Esenin portraits, written by Viktor Vasnetsov. Court lady Anna Vyrubova writes in her memoirs about S. Esenin: “At the concerts in small towns he read the poem “Russia” in special suite and sang songs accompanying himself with the balalaika”.

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Vasnetsov Viktor Mikhailovich
(1848, village Lopial, Viatskaya region – 1926, Moscow)

Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov is the outstanding Russian painter, one of Founders of Russian national-romantic modernist style.

Born in the village in the Vyatka province in the family of an Orthodox priest, comes from the ancient name of Vyatka Vasnetsov. From the earliest years of V. Vasnetsov took drawing lessons at the gymnasium teachers in drawing N. G. Chernyshev, helped exiled to Vyatka Polish artist Michal Elviro Andriolli painted Vyatka’s Cathedral. V. Vasnetsov studied at the Seminary, then in the drawing school at the St. Petersburg Society for the Encouragement of Arts from Kramskoy, then at the Academy of Arts.

V. Vasnetsov considered the founder of special “Russian style” among pan European Symbolism and Art Nouveau. The artist masterfully translates Russian historical genre, mixing motives exciting atmosphere of the middle Ages with the poetic legends or fairy tales, however, and the tales themselves are often the themes of his large canvases. Among these fairy tales there are pictures “Knight at the Crossroads”, “After the Battle of Igor Svyatoslavovitch with polovets” (after “The words of Igor’s Shelf”), “Alyonushka “, “Three Bogatyrs”, “Ivan the Terrible”. Some of these works are typical of modern decorative paintings, panels, carrying the viewer into the world of dreams. The same world comes alive in innovative theatrical works of V. Vasnetsov, in his sketches to the production of the play-tales by Ostrowski “Snow-girl” on the home stage of S. I. Mamontov in Abramtsevo 1881-1882 and the same opera of N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov at the Moscow Private Russian Opera of S. I. Mamontov in 1885. Principles of “Russian style” is also developing by the artist in the field of architecture and design: according to his designs, stylizes Old antiquity, have been created in Abramtsevo Church of Almighty Savior and the “house on chicken legs”, and in Moscow – a memorial cross on the ground where was killed Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in the Kremlin (1905, destroyed during the Soviet regime, re-established in the territory of Moscow Novospasski monastery) and the facade of the Tretyakov Gallery.

In 1876 V. Vasnetsov went to France, where worked in the colony of Russian artists during a year. It was here that he decided to “launch a new genre of his activities and created the first sketch of the “Bogatyrs”. In 1878, after returning to their homeland, V. Vasnetsov and his family moved to Moscow. Here he turns to new topics: Russian folk epic, fairy tale, native history. In 1893 -1894 the artist has built on his own design house of fairy- studio in Moscow, where he finished “Bogatyrs”,” Ivan the Terrible”, executed numerous religious and fabulous paintings such as “Princess-Frog”, “Sleeping princess”, etc.

V. Vasnetsov was one of the first artists of the Russian painting, who tried to break narrow framework of easel paintings, he used variety of forms of art – theatrical scenery, architecture, art and illustration, which was at that time inexplicable and perceived as “loosing of talent”. Therefore, Vasnetsov reached decision of the new challenges, the central of which was the task of creating of the single, encompassing different kinds of art, style, based on national traditions. He said later: “I have always been convinced that the genre and historical paintings, statues and, in general, any work of art, image, sound, speech – in fairy tales, songs, drama and other affects the entire look of an entire people, internal and external, with past and present, as can be, and the future.” That is why the artist in his work appealed to those already found in Russian folklore, ancient Russian art and architecture, ways of expression, primarily to shape the system of Russian art, and then to his style.

In early 1885 Adrian Prakhov who directed the interior finishing of the just created Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev, invited the artist to take part in painting of the church. V. Vasnetsov did not immediately agree. However, after beginning of this work, V. Vasnetsov has spent there ten years of his life. He put in all the passion and the “anxiety” of his soul, in it he attempted to embody his aesthetic ideal of creating a great art style, returning from the closed world of collections and museums to the place where it can serve the mass of ordinary people in their daily lives. One important task for V. Vasnetsov was overcoming of a “split”, formed in the late XVIII century, between the people and clergy, on the one hand, and the intelligence on the other, in their comparison to Russian iconography. According to V. Vasnetsov, the temple was the place where happened “reunification” of the intelligence and the people. Combine for both could become the reborn of church art, accessible and understandable for everybody, expressing national beliefs and ideals. The artist took the biggest part of the work – the central nave, the dome and the image of the main iconostasis. Success of his painting was enormous. Articles, notes and researches were dedicated to these paintings. They have become extremely popular, and have been repeated in many churches in Russia at the end of XIX-early XX century. Some scenes were widely reproduced in the press. V. Vasnetsov was perceived as “a genius pioneer of the new direction in religious painting”.

In the works of V. M. Vasnetsov are vividly represented different genres, which became milestones of his evolution: from home-painting to the tale, from easel painting to monumental, from prototype of “peredvizhniki” (removable art exhibits) to Art Nouveau.
Many memoirs written that when Esenin first arrived to St. Petersburg, he was only carrying a balalaika. From 1913 till 1917 Esenin often visited Tsarskoe Selo, where used to stay Vasnetsov brothers. They organized picnics and masquerades. Esenin admired everybody with his charm and skills in playing balalaika. By early 1916, Esenin, along with the writer E. Kliuev was sent to Moscow to sew costumes for theater, which they eventually used to wear on performing at concerts in Fedorovsky hospital. During this Moscow period was created the collection of Esenin portraits, written by Viktor Vasnetsov. Court lady Anna Vyrubova writes in her memoirs about S. Esenin: “At the concerts in small towns he read the poem “Russia” in special suite and sang songs accompanying himself with the balalaika”.

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Works IN COLLECTION