The exhibition in the Russian Museum is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Konstantin Andreevich Somov, one of the largest masters of Russian art in the first half of the twentieth century, a prominent representative of the “World of Art” creative association.
Konstantin Somov is the author of magnificent paintings and drawings. These are portraits of prominent figures of the Silver Age of Russian culture, “gallant scenes”, landscapes, samples of magazine and book graphics, created by the artist in the 1890s - 1930s. The exhibition presents more than 100 works from collections of the Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, private collections in Moscow.
The creativity of one of the founders of the World of Art Society Konstantin Somov (1869–1939) was noticed from his first steps in the professional field. His work was highly appreciated by colleagues in the workshop, Alexander Benois, Valentin Serov, the philosopher Vasily Rozanov called him a brilliant artist. Unless the famous critic Vladimir Stasov saw in Somov's work one of the threats to national culture. After Somov went abroad in the early 1920s, his name in his homeland was crossed out from the history of Russian art for many decades. And only during the thaw years, Somov was again talked about, his paintings began to be exhibited, and in 1969, on the 100th anniversary of the artist, his first solo exhibition was held in the Russian Museum.
At the exhibition in the Mikhailovsky Castle of the Russian Museum, all spheres of Somov's artistic activity are represented: painting, graphics, easel drawing, book illustrations, drawings for magazines, porcelain sculpture. A total of about 150 works: 50 paintings, the rest - graphics. Contemporaries appreciated him as an outstanding master of portraiture, and even argued about who was more significant in this genre — Somov or Serov. At the exhibition in the State Russian Museum there are almost two dozen portraits and a whole series of self-portraits of Somov. For the first time, viewers will see his miniatures: illustrations, bookplates, vignettes.
Konstantin Somov was born in St. Petersburg in a noble family. His father was the keeper of the collections of the Imperial Hermitage, his mother a musician. In the house hung the work of Francesco Guardi, small Dutch, Pavel Fedotov, Karl Bryullov. Somov showed an early craving for art, attended Sunday classes at the drawing school of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. He graduated from the Imperial Academy of Arts, in 1893-1894 he attended the workshop of Ilya Repin, where Igor Grabar, Dmitry Kardovsky, Philip Malyavin, Anna Ostroumova studied at the same time. In 1897–1898 he lived in Paris and studied at the Academy of Colarossi. And in the early 1900s, Somov took an active part in the design of the magazine "World of Art".
Since 1914, he is already a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts, and since 1919, he is a professor at the Petrograd State Free Artistic Training Workshops. In 1923, Somov went to America as an authorized representative of the Russian Exhibition. He did not return to Russia, having settled in France in 1925. He was buried in the Paris cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois.
Somov is especially famous for his book graphics, illustrations for Pushkin and Gogol. Fascinated by the 18th century, he created a number of paintings and graphic works devoted to the Gallant Age, the most famous of which is the frivolous Book of the Marquise, in which the artist even selected texts in French.
The main partner of the current exhibition in the Russian Museum is the Tretyakov Gallery with its remarkable collection of paintings and especially Somov's graphics. “Our Moscow colleagues generously shared with us the artist’s work,” said Vladimir Kruglov, a leading researcher in the painting department of the second half of the 19th and early 21st centuries and the curator of the exhibition. “Although several works did not come to St. Petersburg, in particular, Lady in Blue and Evening.”
In addition, works from his collection were provided by the State Museum of Fine Arts. A.S. Pushkin, and from the St. Petersburg museums, the Pushkin House, the branch of the Museum of the Academy of Arts - Brodsky Museum-Apartment, as well as private collectors participate in the exhibition.
Somov’s works are also in the Perm Art Museum, in the Nizhny Novgorod Art Gallery, in the museums of Yaroslavl, in the Primorsky Art Gallery in Vladivostok, where, in particular, there is a magnificent portrait of Henrietta Girschman (1911) by Somov. But they, unfortunately, did not come to the exhibition for various reasons.
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
August 8 - November 4, 2019