Zinaida Evgenievna Serebriakova Working in Soil in the Apple Orchard
Working in Soil in the Apple Orchard
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Zinaida Evgenievna Serebriakova ( Neskuchnoye estate, Kursk 1884 - Paris 1967 )

Serebriakova was the daughter of the sculptor Yevgeny (Aleksandrovich) Lansere (1848–86) and the sister of Yevgeny Lansere and Nikolay Lansere. She studied at the Princess Tenisheva Art School in St Petersburg (1901). After several years in Italy she went to the studio of Osip Braz (1872–1936) in St Petersburg (1903–5); then the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris (1905–6). In 1910 she took part in the exhibition in St Petersburg, Sovremennyy zhenskiy portret (‘The modern female portrait’) and in the seventh exhibition in Moscow and St Petersburg of paintings of the Union of Russian Artists, or Soyuz Russkikh Khudozhnikov, at which she exhibited in St Petersburg the portrait (shown above) At the Dressing-table: Self-portrait (1910; Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery) which brought her fame. An unusual composition, it makes use of scumbling and shows an awareness of Old Masters, encouraged by her uncle Alexandre Benois and her brother, both members of the society World of Art, or Mir Iskusstva. The influence of the society, with which she was closely linked from 1911, is noticeable in Pierrot (Self-portrait in a Pierrot Costume) (1911; Odessa, Art Musueum). In contrast to the older members of the society, however, Serebryakova was on the whole indifferent to Art Nouveau and to Symbolism.

In her landscapes she eschewed the actuality of nature, preferring to create a monumental effect, e.g. ‘Stavok’ pond, Neskuchnoye, (1908–9; Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery) and Winter Crops (1910; Yaroslavl’, Art Museum). The monumental aspect is also revealed in Serebryakova’s compositions of the 1910s, which have a similarity with the neo-academic work of Aleksandr Yakovlev and Vasily Shukhayev, e.g. In the Baths (1913; St. Petersburg, Russian State Museum). Her interest in the sculptural aspect of figures overshadowed her work with colour, but the expressive use of colour is apparent in The Peasant and the Beer-seller (1914–15; Nizhny Novgorod, Art Museum) and The Peasants, (1914–15; St Petersburg, Russian State Museum), the only surviving fragments of a larger picture, The Harvest, in which the artist used a broad range of colour and fitted the figures into a precise geometrical shape. The second variant of The Harvest (1915; Odessa, Art Museum), also shows a movement towards monumentality. In these works Serebriakova to a certain extent synthesized her impressions of Italian monumental painting, which she studied in 1914, when she travelled in Switzerland and northern Italy, and of ancient Russian art, which is evident in her enthusiasm for splashes of red, blue, yellow and white. Serebriakova’s interest in creating generalized large paintings did not overshadow her intimate and lyrical tone. In this connection, her depictions of children are typical (e.g. At Lunch, 1915; Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery, and House of Cards, 1919; St Petersburg, Russian State Museum).

From 1924 Serebriakova became interested in the subject of ballet, painting a series of portraits of ballerinas and pictures on theatrical subjects. In the same year she left Russia and settled in France. In the works she completed abroad, for example The Moroccan in Green (1932; Taganrog, Picture Gallery) and the series of Breton subjects, e.g. Brittany: Pont-l’Abbé: The Port (1934; St Petersburg, Russian State Museum), the national characteristics of the people and the originality of the landscapes are expressively rendered. A dramatic mood prevails in some of Serebriakova’s works completed abroad, for example the portrait of S. M. Dragomirova-Lukomskaya (1947; Kaluga, Regional Art Museum), and the Self-portrait (1956; Tula, Art Museum), possibly a result of her separation from her homeland and the lack of interest towards her creative work in France. Serebriakova also painted a number of still-lifes influenced by the Dutch still-life tradition, for example Basket with Melons and Marrows (1938; St Petersburg, Russian State Museum).