Composition with a Rider

Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1911–12
Media: Oil on paper relined on Whatman paper and mounted on canvas
Dimensions: 117 x 154 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (until 1977)
Composition with a Rider


Unlike most members of the Russian avant-garde, Pavel Filonov did not criticise the preceding movements in art or reject figurativeness in painting. The most important factor in his approach towards a work of art was the “made” principle.

The eschatological pathos and mystical propensities of many of Filonov’s pictures have much in common with Symbolism. This composition is based on the image of the horsemen of the apocalypse encountered in the works of many Symbolists.

Composition with a Rider is particularly reminiscent of Valery Bryusov’s poem The Pale Horse (1903). In this work, a nightmarish horseman called Death rides with “his face on fire” in and out of the “furious flux of people” in the modern metropolis.

Different nationalities and human types intermix in the ultra-historical space of Pavel Filonov’s painting. The figurative inspiration for this work was traditional scenes of the Last Judgement in Old Russian icons and Renaissance frescoes.

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