Kiriak Konstantinovich Kostandi (Dofinovka 1852 - Odessa 1921)


signed in Cyrillic (lower right)
gouache on paper
21 x 29 cm (8¼ x 11⅜ in)

The moon casts its dim light over the still waters below, upon which the masts of a lone vessel are just visible on the left. The moon itself is out of sight, beyond the confines of the work, hidden by the ominous clouds which loom overhead. The darkened palette and deep hues further enhance the mystical and mesmerising lunar effects. The viewer’s eye sweeps across this spellbinding landscape and is drawn to the warm spot of light that emanates from the entrance of a ramshackle hut.

Kiriak Konstantinovich Kostandi’s expressive palette is layered to great effect. The visible, broad bands of colour and wide brushstrokes used to apply the gouache to the sky suggest the work of fellow Ukrainian, Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910), with whom Kostandi was acquainted. Kostandi’s preoccupation with the effects of light also suggests knowledge of the work of the French Impressionists, whose work Kostandi studied on his trip to Europe in 1887. Equally, the subject matter, and quasi-traditional approach to painting, suggest that Kostandi may have been influenced by the work of the great Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, who was renowned for his dramatic moonlit seascapes.

Kostandi was a Ukrainian painter. He studied at the Drawing School within the Odessa Association of Fine Arts for four years from 1870 and subsequently at the St. Petersburg Arts Academy until 1882 under Pavel Chistiakov (1832-1919) and Baron Mikhail Konstantinovich Klodt von Jurgensburg.

From 1885 he taught at the Odessa Arts School, and whilst in Odessa worked with artists such as Nikolay Dmitrievich Kuznetsov (1850-1929) and Gennady Alexandrovich Ladyzhensky (1853-1916), and actively opposed the development of new trends in art. From 1897, he was a member of the Peredvizhniki, or ‘The Wanderers’. Depicting primarily scenes from village life, the Ukrainian representatives of the Peredvizhniki, such as Kostandi, Ilya Yefimovich Repin, and Mykola Kornolovych Pymonenko (1862-1912), worked in realist and naturalist styles. Kostandi was also one of the founders of the Southern Russia Painters Association from 1890, effectively a branch of the St. Petersburg ‘Wanderers’, and from 1892 to 1919, he acted as chairman of the organisation.

After the Revolution, Kostandi worked as an expert in the local Commission for the Protection of Historical Monuments, helping to reorganise the Fine Arts Museum. In 1922, the friends and pupils of the painter, Isaac Izrailevich Brodsky (1884-1939), Pavel Gavrilovich Volokidin (1877-1936), Mitrofan Borisovic Grekov (1882-1934), Aleksei Alekseevich Shovkunenko (1884-1974) and others) founded the K.K. Kostandi Association in order to unite painters of traditionalist and modernist orientation; the association existed until 1930.

We are grateful to Vladimir Petrov for confirming the attribution of this work.