Рефераты. Илья Иванович Машков

Илья Иванович Машков


. . . These fruits, loaves and meat are depicted with

a skill almost comparable to that displaced by the

masters of the Dutch still life in their achievements

hitherto unsurpassed. Mashkov's canvases are not only

truthful to the point of illusion but are possessed

of a rare beauty and radiance. His use of colour

resembles the swelling chords of an organ.

A. Lunacharsky

THE NAME OF ILYA IVANOVICH MASHKOV is associated above all with still-

life paintings remarkable for an elemental intensity of colour which verges

at times on the violent. Displaying a scope and boldness unusual in his

contemporaries as well as an acute feeling for the materiality of things,

Mashkov's bright canvases are striking for the breadth of their pictorial

range, for the deep sonority of their colours.

Mashkov was one of the boldest innovators in Russian painting at the

beginning of the twentieth century, an outstanding painter whose works

contributed to the development of Soviet art, an experienced teacher who

passed on his skill to many who would later become famous artists. Each of

these aspects of his creative activity is instructive and deserving of

special attention. Mashkov developed as a painter in the years preceding

the Revolution, at a time when artistic life in Russia was unusually

complex and full of contradiction. In the field of art there were clashes

between various principles and ideas, manifested as a struggle between

numerous schools. Painters of an older generation, — members of the Society

for Circulating Art Exhibitions (the Peredvizhniki), the World of Art and

the Union of Russian Artists, — were still active. At the same time a host

of aesthetic and artistic conceptions, precarious in their theoretical

foundation, were receiving wide attention. The overthrow of traditional

forms, aesthetic nihilism, the loss of firm links with reality could not,

however, delay the development of art. The search for new paths and new

creative principles went on, and Russian art was enriched by some

remarkable achievements. Just in this period there appeared a number of

talented young artists.

Despite the diversity of the new ideas and trends, one may clearly

discern in Russian painting of this time a general tendency towards the

perfecting of artistic form. Artists were striving for a certain synthesis,

they wished to reveal the generalized meaning of phenomena not susceptible

of concretization in time, and therefore not infrequently they refused to

represent movement and action in their work. As a result of this loss of

interest in the subject painting, the still life became the dominant genre.

Landscape and portrait also occupied an important place. And particular

attention was paid to the renewal of painterly techniques.

The evolving of a new system of pictorial representation advanced

through a series of agonizing explorations, which were often far from

successful. The principle of verisimilitude, which had prevailed in

nineteenth century painting, was supplanted by that of conventionality.

This testified to the inner bond linking the new trends in Russian painting

with Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Expressionism, for the

exponents of those schools sought support not in the traditions of European

Post-Renaissance realism, but rather in principles adopted from the visual

arts of different peoples and ages. The search for formal solutions

appropriate to these new stylistic norms was of decisive importance. This

tendency is not difficult to perceive in the works of such artists of the

late nineteenth — early twentieth centuries as Ruble, Servo and K. Korovin.

It was characteristic of the members of the World of Art and the Blue Rose

associations, but most strongly developed in the work of artists of the

Jack of Diamonds group and other representatives of the so-called avant-

garde in the beginning of this century.

In the artistic movements at the beginning of the twentieth century

there was much romanticism, much anarchic rebelliousness. Inner

contradictions were most sharply revealed in the various trends of the

avant-garde movement where subjectivism, having reached the limit of non-

representational depiction, was opposed by the real achievements of a few

artists of the Jack of Diamonds group, like Konchalovsky, Mashkov, Falk.

Lentulov. Kuprin, Larionov and others. These painters discovered a

successful balance in which expressiveness of colour, plasticity and

decorative composition helped express a particularly intense, yet at the

same time integral perception of reality.

Ilya Ivanovich Mashkov (1881—1944) was born in the village of

Mikhaylovskaya in the Don area. His parents were of peasant origin. At the

age of fifteen he lost his father, who had pursued various trades and had

had to endure constant poverty. From an early age Mashkov displayed an

aptitude for handicrafts; he also liked to draw. However, the cruel and

degrading existence he was forced to lead (in his early youth he had been

placed in the service of some local traders, supposedly as an apprentice)

was least likely to further his attachment to art. He was already in his

eighteenth year when he first heard that painting was something to be

learned. In 1900 he entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and

Architecture. After completing his life class, he transferred to the studio

of Servo and Korovin. A little earlier Mashkov had begun to give private

lessons himself. During his first years in the School he studied avidly and

diligently. Then there followed a period of doubt and disillusionment with

the creative principles of his teachers, a period which ended with a

complete change in his artistic orientation, as a result of which he was

expelled from the School in 1910.

This liberation from "academic chains" was to a great extent prompted

by Mashkov's first acquaintance with the Hermitage in 1907. In 1908 he went

on a trip to Germany, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Italy and Vienna,

during which he got to know the masterpieces of classical art as well as

contemporary French painting. Before his departure he had already become

familiar with the Shchukin and Morozov collections, where fine examples of

the most recent French art were represented, and in 1909 he visited the

Golden Fleece Exhibition, which was displaying works by the Fauvists.

Mashkov's answer to his expulsion from the School was to take an active

part in the creation of the Jack of Diamonds. The spirit of epater le

bourgeois which accompanied the activities of this group prevented critics

of the time from discerning the genuine artistic merit of the work produced

by its members. The emergence of a new trend in Russian painting and the

organization in 1911, by a number of young Moscow artists, of the Jack of

Diamonds exhibition society was connected with an eager movement towards

expressiveness, decorative quality and the concentrated use of colour — all

entirely characteristic of the age. Their experience of European art

enabled the artists to pass on boldly towards a generalized representation

of nature, refusing to follow the principles of Impressionism. Opponents of

narrative painting, illusion and aestheticism, they relied on experiment in

pictorial techniques. Hence their impulse towards the detail and their

preference for the still life, which was indeed to become the "laboratory"

of their new endeavours.

Their fidelity to a constructive line of artistic thought allowed the

painters of the Jack of Diamonds group to achieve a synthesis of colour and

form in their representation of objects from the surrounding world. They

profited by the experience of Cezanne and the Cubists, Cubism being for

them not so much a system as a means of enhancing artistic expressiveness.

This exploitation of formal expressiveness, as well as the concentrated use

of all the resources of painting, led to innovations in the pictorial

structure and style of their works. Many artists of the time were attracted

to the problem of creating in painting a sui generis artistic equivalent of

what was distinctively national in Russian life. Members of the Jack of

Diamonds group interpreted this problem as the return of Russian painting

to traditions preserved over the centuries in folk art. This link with the

principles of folk art and the desire to appropriate its expressiveness of

portrayal determined the character of their endeavours. They were full of

enthusiasm for the Russian lubok (popular print), the house-painter's sign,

the decorated tray, the folk toy. These painters thus enriched contemporary

art with the achievements of Russian folk art. The strength of their work

lay in the exaggerated emotionality and distinctiveness of their

portrayals, in the intensity and concreteness of their colour and in their

powerful optimism.

It is well known that the struggle carried on between the Jack of

Diamonds and its various opponents did not in fact unite the members of the

group. Harmonious as their first public appearance seemed to be, it was

quickly followed by a number of internal disagreements, which eventually

led to the society's dissolution in 1917. The first signs of Mashkov's

divergence from the group date from 1911, the year of his initial

rapprochement with the World of Art. In 1916 both Mashkov and Konchalovsky

simultaneously went over to this latter association.

By the beginning of the First World War Mashkov was already an

acknowledged artist. This was the time of his greatest popularity.

During the years of the Revolution Mashkov was engaged in strenuous

social, organizational and pedagogic activity. There was scarcely any time

for his own creative work. He was a professor at the Free Studios (the name

of the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture since the

autumn of 1918). Attached to his studio were A. Goncharov, A. Deyneka and

other subsequently famous Soviet artists. It was only in 1922, when art

exhibitions began again, that the painter's creative activity regained its

former scope. He took part in the exhibitions organized by the revived

World of Art group and the Society of Moscow Artists (the former Jack of


On his own admission, the years 1923 and 1924 mark a perceptible

turning-point in his views on the aims and purposes of art. This coincided

with the general impetus of Soviet artists towards realism. In 1922 a new

artistic group, the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (the

AARR), had already made its appearance, and this society was to play a

positive role in the formation of realistic art. At the end of 1924

Mashkov, along with his pupils, went over to this organization where he set

up art classes. Although he continued to participate in exhibitions held by

the Society of Moscow Artists, his creative output in the second half of

the twenties is mainly associated with the AARR. He took part in

exhibitions of the AARR and was a member of its Board. He left the

association in the spring of 1930, when its historical role had already

been accomplished. In 1928, for his services in the realm of

representational art, the Soviet government awarded Mashkov the title of

Merited Artist of the RSFSR. In 1930 he left for his home in the village of

Mikhaylovskaya where he lived almost continuously until 1938. He completed

his last works in 1943, one year before his death.

Despite the vividness of his style, it is no easy task to define the

individual quality of Mashkov's art in so far as it was the product of a

whole movement, many features of which were characteristic of their age and

common to a fairly wide circle of Russian painters.

Mashkov differed from those close to him in creative disposition by the

extreme spontaneity of his artistic talent and by his fervent attachment to

the world of objects. These are not, however, the only factors which

determined the painter's style. Reflecting the personal element in his

creative work. his style is clearly perceived through the plastic features

of his pictures. Yet while emphasizing the strong side' of his talent, it

is essential not to neglect the painter's weaker aspects, which are-of no

small importance where Mashkov is concerned.

In the works completed before 1909, there is as yet no evidence of

completely independent talent. Nevertheless, his Model (end of

1907—beginning of 1908), painted! in Serov's class, is well above the

average for an apprentice's work.

The still life Apples and Pears on a White Background (1908) was the

first won I to be completed after his journey abroad and is close to the

principles of late Impressionism. Indeed, it suggests some knowledge of

Cezanne's artistic conception. A work dating from the same time, Two

Models against a Drapery (1908, Leningrad, private collection), seems to be

a compromise between the principles of Impressionism and an impulse towards

two-dimensionality and generalized decorativeness.

Mashkov first achieves an individual style in the works of 1909 and

1910. These were portraits, still lifes and landscapes, some of which were

shown in Moscow during 1910 and 1911 at an exhibition of the Jack of

Diamonds group, while other-were displayed in Paris at the Autumn Salon in

1910. In the paintings of this time-he proclaims a new and unusual

conception of beauty. The exaggerated quality of their expression, the

careless sweep of their contours, often painted in black, their

polychromatic intensity—all this testifies to his denial of the artistic

principles of an older generation. The striking starkness of method, the

deliberate simplification of technique, reveal an attempt to invest the art

of painting with pristine energy, to overcome the refined aestheticism of

the fin-de-siecle, with its wavering forms and its faded colours, in short,

to restore art to both youth and health. Inspired in his work by the

products of folk art, Mashkov was guided largely by the formal

expressiveness of the lubok

The Portrait of a Boy in a Patterned Shirt was painted in March, 1909.

It is one. of the works which mark the beginning of Mashkov's creative

career. As well as demonstrating Mashkov's habit of heaping his early

canvases with contrasting colours. this painting already displays a

disregard of psychological realism very close to the polemical spirit which

would later characterize the works of the Jack of Diamonds group. The

artist makes no use of local colour. The pinkish hue of the boy's face is

reinforced by the gold of the forehead and the greenish tint of the eye-

socket. The hands are painted in contrasting reds, pinks and greens, while

a cold shade of pink is also introduced into the dark-green leaves which

form a pattern in the background.

Refusing to treat the problem of perspective in a traditional manner,

Mashkov reduces the elements of modelling to a bare minimum, as if

stretching the image out over the canvas and thereby achieving some intense

combinations of colour, largely independent of the representation of light

and shade.

In other portraits of this early period—for example, those of V.

Vinogradova (1909). E. Kirkaldi (1910), Rubanovich (Portrait of a Lady with

Pheasants, about 1910), Mashkov is not only searching for expressiveness of

colour, but is also concerned to organize his canvas on two-dimensional

lines. In these portraits perspective is almost ousted by surface design.

In his Model Seated executed in 1909, for example, the two-dimensional

effect disappears under the accumulation of contrasting colours, the artist

deliberately avoids exaggerated ornamentality, the picture's thematic and

spatial elements remain dominant, the vital connection between model and

still life is preserved.

Inspired by the principles of folk art, Mashkov sought to express the

immutable essence of thing's through form, dimension and colour. The medium

he most consistently used for these endeavours, as well as for his attempts

to discover new principles of composition, was the still life. He did not

aim at thematic variety; portrayals of fruit and berries on a round dish or

plate are frequently encountered in his work. In some instances the artist

would strictly adhere to such motifs, as in Still Life with a Pineapple or

Still Life. Fruit on a Dish (both about 1910). Sometimes the motif becomes

a detail in the total composition, as in Still Life. Berries with a Red

Tray in the Background (about 1910), Still Life with Begonias (before

1911), Still Life with Grapes (early 1910s), etc.

The emphatically naive, "primitive" method of portrayal revealed in

Still Life with a Pineapple, the bright intensity of its colours, and their

use in simplified combinations, bear witness to Mashkov's attempt to view

the world through the eyes of the masters of folk art. In his yearning to

penetrate the essence of things, to reveal their fixed, "eternal"

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