Рефераты. Илья Иванович Машков

qualities, he acted decisively, sacrificing subtlety of design and colour

and achieving considerable decorative expressiveness. He moved on to

various experimental techniques, combining the representative functions of

painting with certain qualities inherent in the applied arts. The

"fortuitousness" of impressionistic composition was opposed by a blunt

emphasis on "structuring". Everything was subordinated to the principles of

symmetry and rhythmic alternation. The oval shape of the frame is often

repeated both in the disposition of objects and in the outlines of some of

them. A plate with a pineapple surrounded by apples, is placed in the

centre of the canvas and enclosed by a number of large, multicoloured

fruits. The point of view chosen by the painter looking down on his subject

from above, allows him to gain an effect of "spatial compression", while

the individual objects are portrayed three-dimensionally. The black

outlines emphasize the depth of objects and create an impression of

stability, subduing the illusion of perspective.

Mashkov came gradually to renounce the effects of light and shade, so

fundamental to the Impressionists. In his Still Life with a Pineapple,

where the decisive importance of colour is obvious, light plays only a

secondary role in the creation of form. In the still-life painting, Fruit

on a Dish, the material qualities of the object are conveyed by a single

splash of colour. Form is determined by clear-cut outlines; along with

others, the black colour becomes obligatory.

For all Mashkov's desire to assert the sensuous materiality of things,

one detects in his early works a certain indifference towards the real

nature of his chosen subject; the material world appears there in a

generalized form. This is the case, for example, in the above-mentioned

portraits of E. Kirkaldi and Rubanovich, where there is a conflict between

different orders of reality; the live models are set in opposition to the

figures depicted on the panel and carpet, but nothing seems completely

authentic. It is the same in the painting Russia and Napoleon (The Russian

Venus) (1912, Moscow, private collection), where the model is shown against

the background of a carpet depicting Napoleon in a sleigh, while the

Emperor's troika seems about to run her over.

At this point Mashkov was to some extent influenced by European Cubism.

However, he interpreted the ideas of Cubism in his own particular way,

linking this new passion with his old enthusiasm for folk toys and the

lubok. In his portrait of the poet S. Rubanovich (1910), the artist

renounces colour and represents the subject through geometric forms. But

living rhythms manage to burst in upon this geometric world, enlivening the

grey-black abstractions. Fascinated by Cubism, Mashkov still sought

expressiveness in his art; retaining his interest in the distinctiveness of

the figure he wishes to paint, he exaggerates the likeness to the point of

caricature. Mashkov's humour, alien to the abstractions of Cubism, is what

links his portraits here with the products of folk art.

Folk expressiveness of form was henceforth to remain the artist's

ideal, but about 1913 he was on the edge of new ventures. At this time his

artistic idiom becomes noticeably more complex. However, in the still life

entitled Loaves of Bread (1912) this new complexity is not yet apparent.

The whole surface of the canvas is more or less filled by the

representation of the loaves, ornamental both in their detail and in their

total effect; perspective is narrowed, surface is compressed. One feels the

artist's passion for the primitive, particularly for sign-painting.

In the still life Camellia (1913), the artist is aiming at a synthesis

of decorativeness and materiality. He directs his attention here to the

problem of rendering the effect of light, which, however, never becomes an

end in itself, as it was for the Impressionists. The camellia plant with

its sharply drawn, rigid leaves stands out against a background vibrating

with light; the knot-shaped bun, the fruit and the glass bowl with fancy

cakes are both decorative and substantial at the same time.

This concentration on the material substance of things and, to a lesser

extent, on the problem of light, involved a certain danger, that of

illusion, which Mashkov did not altogether avoid even in his Camellia. This

feature would occasionally reveal itself in some of his later works. A

feeling for the three-dimensional quality and texture of objects as well as

for light effects is particularly marked in the Still Life with Brocade

(1914). Although the colours are vivid, the painting lacks sharpness of

form; faience dish, plums, plate of strawberries, pumpkin, carafe of red

wine-all are equally exaggerated in mass, although the position of these

objects in perspective is not the same. Their outline is retained, but

their expressiveness is lost. Mashkov's tendency towards an ever greater

complexity of artistic expression is obvious in other respects as well. The

artist begins to be attracted by projects of a monumental nature, though

remaining loyal to easel painting. This may be seen in works of different

genres. In the landscapes painted between 1910 and 1915, the fragmentary

and rather static method of portrayal typical of Л Town View and Л Town

View in Winter gives way to complex three-dimensional arrangements aimed at

conveying majestic images (Italy. Nervi, 1913; Lake Geneva. Glion, 1914).

His portraits display a similar attempt at resolving the problem of

monumentality. Though less successful and thorough-going, his searches here

led him in various directions. In the portrait of Fiodorova-Mashkova (Lady

with a Double-Bass, 1915—16), the artist's interest in problems of style

brings him close to the painters of the World of Art group. Like them, he

was fascinated by the problem which confronted Russian portrait painters in

the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries — namely, that of combining

decorative appeal with a feeling for detail and subtle modelling. However,

Mashkov aimed not at creating deeply psychological portraits, nor did he

take any great interest in the objects surrounding his models. His

portrayal of man and his surroundings is no departure from the conventions

of still-life painting. Imitating the naive manner of old portraiture, with

its peculiar ostentation, he tries not to conceal the model's pose, indeed

he emphasizes it, though making only outward use of this device. A

different approach to the problem of monumentality is apparent in the

portrait of N. Usova (1915), which is comparatively simple in design, j

Although the portrait is executed in a strictly stylized manner, the artist

does succeed in conveying the living features of the model. Here, too, one

is aware of the element of pose, but this time Mashkov, as in his Cubist

experiments, takes the expressiveness of the folk toy as his point of


The still lifes painted by Mashkov between 1914 and 1917 are amongst

his most remarkable creations. He probes more and more deeply the problem

of conveying in art the tangible substance of things. This may be seen in

such works as Pumpkins (1914), Still Life with a Horse's Skull (1914) and

Still Life with a Samovar (1916), where his tendency to experiment gives

way to the achievement of a powerful synthesis, and where what was

problematic in his artistic vision is renounced in favour of a forceful

affirmation of life. In his earlier works a somewhat generalized method of

portrayal tended to conceal the concrete nature of objects. Now, he manages

to convey more convincingly than ever before the material character of

things, their full diversity of colour, density, texture and weight.

Some of the above-mentioned still lifes (Still Life with a Horse's

Skull, Still Life with a Samovar) reflect the dramatic tensions of the

period. With the sharpness of his artistic vision, Mashkov noticed how

useless everyday household articles had become, like so much scrap metal.

With their uneasy rhythms and their dark, harsh colours, his still lifes

symbolize the spirit of those difficult and restless times. Mashkov's rare

talent for expressing the mood of his age reminds one of the words uttered

by Mayakovsky in 1914: "You are no artist if you do not see reflected in

the shining apple of a still-life composition an image of those that were

hanged at Kalisz. You may choose not to depict the war, but you must paint

in the spirit of the war."

The forceful perception of reality displayed in Still Life with a

Horse's Skull and Still Life with a Samovar testifies to the artist's

attempt, well before the October Revolution, to reveal the inner essence of

his subjects.

Mashkov tried to reflect the reality of Soviet life in works of

different genres. Although he painted some interesting portraits and

landscapes, his talent manifested itself most clearly in the field of still

life, where he would attain the true artistic realism so typical of the

second half of his creative career. The few works produced by Mashkov

between 1918 and 1922 revealed his desire to express that special

optimistic mood which was characteristic of Soviet society in its early

years. Mashkov's paintings of this period, such as Model (1918), Still Life

with a Fan (1922) and the Portrait of N. Skatkin (1921—23), show great


In his Model the principles underlying Mashkov's painting of still

lifes of the 1914—1916 period are replaced by a search for monumentality

and expressiveness. The emotional quality of his work reflected the new

mood of a free society, which was very different from the dramatic outlook

of the previous decades. Now the artist was interested not so much in

conveying the tangible substance of things as in expressing the energy of

life itself, and he indulged in bold combinations of colour and form.

Monumentality was achieved by means of compositional devices, as well as by

the manner of pictorial representation as a whole. The small size of the

canvas brings the portrayal of the model into greater prominence, while the

strong build of her body is sharply emphasized. Mashkov was not at all

concerned with depicting her body, the draperies or the furniture in their

real colours. His brushstrokes are vigorous and unconstrained; he does not

divide his canvas into separate areas of colour, however, but rather

juxtaposes various shades of pink, red, lilac, golden-brown, blue and

green. The darkish gold of the body is spotted with emerald and lilac with

a sprinkling of a cold, dark blue. He abandons full verisimilitude of

colour here so as to enhance the expressive value of the portrait.

In Still Life with a Fan a feeling of energy and animation is conveyed

by it? very design and richness of colour.

Mashkov's desire to achieve an ever fuller expression of his age is

also apparent in the portraits. The method developed in still-life

paintings, however, was scarcely appropriate to the demands of portraiture.

Of poor compositional design, the portraits of this period are usually

overloaded with accessories; the artist was interested in depicting the

kind of object which he would often introduce into his still lifes. This

was a temptation which he could not resist even in the portraits of A.

Shimanovsky (1922) and N. Skatkin (1921—23). But in these paintings the

still- life approach doe's coincide with an attempt to convey the living

features of his subjects.

Between 1918 and 1922 Mashkov was particularly enthusiastic about the

techniques of drawing. He preferred to use such materials as charcoal,

pastels, sanguine and coloured pencils, which was natural for him as an

artist. Comparatively few of these works have been preserved but amongst

those which have, there are some well executed drawings of nude models, as

well as some portraits which are strikingly true to life.

The logical development of Mashkov's art was bound to lead him towards

a consistent form of realism. From the years 1923 and 1924 onwards the

artist evolves a sharper sense of reality, which was to remain with him

until the end of his creative life. It is in this quality of realism,

achieved by pictorial and plastic means alone, that one recognizes the

strength of the still lifes and landscapes which he began to exhibit in the

second half of the 1920s and during the 1930s.

Joy in the fullness of life and in the powerful forces of nature

becomes the leading motif in the subsequent development of his art. As he

once said: "Physical health, abundance, growing prosperity. . . new

people—resolute, powerful, strong. . .—this is the world which nourishes my

art, these are the surroundings which bestow joy in creation." "Beauty may

be found," he goes on to say, "in the bronzed, weather-beaten faces of

collective farm workers, in young people at a holiday home, gladdened by

the sun, the sea and the south wind, and finally in the abundance of the

'fruits of the earth', by the boundless decorative possibilities of which I

have always been captivated. . ."

Mashkov's attempts to work in various genres were not always

successful. If the artistic method which he developed in the field of still

life was scarcely suitable for portraiture, then it was even less

appropriate for paintings depicting a complex theme. Far from dissuading

him, however, the art critics of the time actually encouraged his efforts

in this direction. In short, he tried to overreach himself, which explains

the failure of a painting like Partisans, for example.

Similarly, it is scarcely possible to count those paintings depicting

new industrial projects as being amongst Mashkov's creative achievements,

although they do display his interest in contemporary life. Yet at the same

time, in the twenties and thirties. Mashkov did paint some magnificent

landscapes, remarkable for their sweeping perspectives and expressiveness

of form. The studies which he made in the environs of Leningrad (1923), in

Bakhchisaray (1925) and in the Caucasus are full of sunlight and warmth;

the clearness of the air seems almost palpable. Mashkov was indeed as full

of admiration for nature herself as for her abundant gifts of vegetables

and fruit.

The most significant works created by Mashkov during the two last

decades of his life are undoubtedly his still lifes. Although he continued

to paint the same fruit, vegetables and flowers, his artistic conceptions

were of a quite different order, as was his attitude to life in general.

Amongst these paintings are the two still lifes displayed at the seventh

exhibition of the AARR, entitled Moscow Meal. Meat, Game and Moscow Meal.

Loaves of Bread (1924), both of which have since become widely known. Being

conceived as separate works — different in size, composition and colour —

they are linked by an inner unity of content. The artist wished to express

in them the popular notion of abundance, wealth and beauty of the physical

world. In contrast to the somewhat simplified nature of his earlier works,

here decorative expressiveness and the over-concentrated use of colour are

subordinated to the real characteristics of the objects, their solidity,

weight and texture. Intensity of colour, far from being an obstacle to the

paintings' unity, on the contrary, emphasizes it. Making bold use of

contrast and placing warm colours by the side of cold ones (bright red,

pink, lilac and brownish-orange in Moscow Meal. Meat, Game), Mashkov relies

here on his own profound knowledge of the laws of colouring.

The painter now achieves a synthesis of great artistic skill and

objectivity. He is able to transform a pile of fruit lying on a table into

a festival of colour. At the same time he can reveal in objects qualities

one would have thought impossible to communicate in painting. His still

lifes breathe forth the fragrance of the flame-coloured oranges, the dark-

red roses and the strawberries which they depict; they exude the juice of

sliced lemons, pumpkins, pineapples and water-melons. . . Every time the

artist conveys the heaviness of a bunch of grapes differently, according to

whether they are lying on a table, in a dish or simply hanging down over

the side.

During the last years of his life Mashkov did not abandon his search

for new artistic possibilities. He renounced all too intense an emphasis on

colour and decorativeness, giving to his representations a more tranquil

and intimate form. Among his last works, two are of particular interest,

namely Still Life. Pineapples and Bananas (1938) and Strawberries and a

White Jug (1943). Their subtle execution, their light but deliberate

brushstrokes, re-creating form and distinguishing light from shade, their

dignified colours — all harmonize here with a vivid and poignant feeling

for life.

However experimental the practice of his art, Mashkov remained

essentially faithful to a true-to-life interpretation of nature. He devoted

a great deal of his time to exploring the elements of formal expressiveness

in painting, greatly enhancing our understanding of the problem. His own

solutions were of considerable objective value. Some unequal results in

varying genres bear witness to a certain one-sidedness in his approach, but

Mashkov's position in the history of Russian art is fully assured; a

leading exponent of still-life painting during both the pre-revolutionary

and Soviet periods, some of his achievements in this genre possess genuine


The vivid colours of Mashkov's canvases, his delight in the infinite

variety of the surrounding world, his pronounced feeling of social reality

— all conspire to make his work one of the great achievements of Russian

art. Igor Grabar was to distinguish in the work of Mashkov "a profoundly

independent and individual interpretation of nature, refracted through an

exceptionally pictorial mind and imagination". Creating canvases of an

"arch-concrete and realistic" kind, Mashkov never ceased to admire the

form, texture and colour of what he was painting. He shares with the

onlooker his own love of nature and life, his spirit of joy, courage and


G. Arbuzov

V. Pushkariov

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