Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov (Stavropol 1876 - Berlin 1945)

View of a Russian Village in Winter

signed in Cyrillic (lower right)
pencil, watercolour and wash on paper
25.5 x 38.5 cm (10 x 15⅛ in)

Provenance: The Winter Palace Gallery, London.

A horseman prepares his steed to depart into the white winter landscape. Dressed for the bitter climate in his fur hat and long coat, he looks out across the crisp untouched snow that covers the gently rolling ground between the wooden stable and the dwellings to the right. The land murmurs a romantic and distinctively Russian song, and coupled with the sun’s warmth, the viewer feels enveloped and drawn into this magical work. Empathising with the horseman, who from his dress is perhaps a Volga Tatar, Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov’s reality becomes our reality. The grey daubs of the brush used to convey the morning sky are delicately applied to the paper, and the soft touch of Gorbatov’s hand is echoed throughout the work, adeptly demonstrating a thoroughly poetic treatment of his Russian homeland.

Gorbatov dedicated most of his career to depicting the majestic Russian landscape that he so admired. His works from the 1900s and the following decade dealt with the views of ancient towns and the Volga. Even after leaving Russia in 1922, following the Revolution, he continued to paint ancient Russian towns such as Pskov and Novgorod, and Russian winter landscapes, as well as the fabled town of Kitezh. Thematically, Gorbatov’s art had much in common with the Peredvizhniki (‘The Wanderers’), though stylistically he was very close to Moscow artists such as Konstantin Yuon (1875-1958), Piotr Petrovichev (1871-1947), Leonard Turzhansky (1875-1945) and Stanislaw Zhukovsky (1873-1944). Following in the footsteps of ‘The Union of Russian Artists’ and their treatment of the landscape genre, Gorbatov depicted simple Russian motifs such as birch trees, log huts and churches with considerable sensitivity, as demonstrated in View of a Russian Village in Winter. He also simultaneously managed to uphold the achievements of the French Impressionists, in particular through his love of painting en plein air.

Gorbatov was born in Stavropol in the Samara province of Russia. He lived in Riga from 1896 to 1903, and studied civil engineering and art. Gorbatov moved to St. Petersburg in 1904 where he studied at the Baron Stieglitz Central School for Technical Draftsmanship. He initially entered the architecture department at the Academy of Fine Arts that year, but then transferred to the painting department. He studied under Alexei Kisselev (1838-1911) and Nikolai Dubovskoy (1859-1918), amongst others, and completed his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts aged thirty-five.

Gorbatov received the rank of artist in 1911 and was awarded a pension to spend a year at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. When he returned to St. Petersburg he participated in the Peredvizhniki exhibitions and became a successful artist and professor at the Academy. Disenchanted by the Russian Revolution, Gorbatov left Russia permanently in 1922 and settled on the island of Capri, where he painted views of Italy’s Mediterranean coast. He moved to Berlin in 1926 and joined the circle of Russian émigrés which included Leonid Pasternak (1862-1945), Vadim Falileyev (1879-1948) and Ivan Myasoyedov (1881-1953). However, he continued to travel extensively throughout Europe during the late 1920s and 1930s, visiting Palestine and Syria in 1934 and 1935, interspersed with frequent visits to Italy. As a Soviet citizen he was forbidden to leave Germany during World War II and died there shortly after the conflict ended.