Kustodiev B. Merchant’s Wife. 1915 Merchant’s Wife
Oil on canvas. 204 x 109
Boris Kustodiev continued to paint moving and colourful images even after illness had deprived him of the power to move independently. As the artist himself correctly noted, he inhabited a magical kingdom of recollections, daydreams and nostalgic visions.
Kustodiev’s motifs and subjects symbolised a life that had disappeared irrevocably into the past, yet had still lost none of its tart aroma. With their portly figures, ruddy cheeks and flowing movements, his haughty merchant’s wives personified the Russian national ideal of health and beauty.
They were often the heroines of Boris Kustodiev’s half-ironic, halfadmiring picture panels. After the revolution, the artist’s images of merchant’s wives were perceived as a vision of a life that had slipped irrevocably into the past — the comfortable and regulated lifestyle of the merchant class, which had existed in Russia for centuries and had now vanished forever.
Kustodiev B. Merchant’s Wife at Tea. 1918 Merchant’s Wife at Tea
Oil on canvas. 120 x 120
Boris Kustodiev continued to paint moving and colourful images even after illness had deprived him of the power to move independently. As commentators and the artist himself correctly noted, he inhabited a magical kingdom of recollections, daydreams and nostalgic visions.
Kustodiev’s motifs and subjects symbolised a life that had disappeared irrevocably into the past, yet had still lost none of its tart aroma. Merchant’s Wife at Tea is an excellent example of an artistic recollection of resplendent beauties, azure evenings, unhurried teadrinking ceremonies and a seemingly permanent way of life. The sumptuous still-life on the table, the gleaming samovar, the bright watermelon, the marble shoulders of the heroine — the painterly beauty and expressiveness of every detail fill the canvas with light and colour.
Kustodiev B. Shrovetide. 1916Shrovetide
Oil on canvas. 89 x 190.5
Much of Boris Kustodiev’s artistic heritage is given over to pictures depicting all the originality of Russian folk life, with its bright fairs, noisy bazaars and merry public festivities at Shrovetide. The artist loved everything Russian — wooden utensils, painted toys, garish sarafans and headscarfs, peasant huts with traditional carvings.
Much of this defined the style of his works — decorative, gaudy colours and somewhat simplified interpretation of form. Such employment of the devices of folk art was typical of the masters of the World of Art. Stepan Krachkovsky wrote to Kustodiev on 22 March 1916: “Repin wrote to me that he is in raptures over your Shrovetide.”
Kustodiev B. Portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin. 1922 Portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin
Oil on canvas. 99 x 80
The complex structure of this painting is typical of Boris Kustodiev’s oeuvre as a whole, combining elements of an easel portrait, decorative panel, genre scene and landscape.
The famous Russian operatic bass Fyodor Chaliapin began his career as a fairground singer and always enjoyed performing for the common people. He is depicted in his native environment of a provincial town, with its sunshine and bracing frosts. Kustodiev depicts the motley and noisy atmosphere of the traditional Butterweek Fair, with its carousels, fairground booths, ice hills, sledge rides and gatherings around the samovar.