Mocked Kiss

Date: 1908
Media: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 49 x 58 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Received in 1920 from the Alexander Korovin collection, Petrograd
Style: World of Art
Konstantin Somov, Mocked Kiss, 1908


Konstantin Somov was known by contemporaries as “the singer of rainbows and kisses”. The artist painted retrospective genre scenes, which transformed and theatricalised reality – one of the main principles of the World of Art.

This particular painting transforms a life study made in the Oranienbaum Park into a pictorial corner of an old-world garden. Against a background of green, charming doll-like characters in historical costumes act out a piquant scene.

Somov rejected the anti-aesthetic trends of real life and creates a world that interlaces fantasy with reality, past decades with the twentieth century. Reconstructing scenes from the past according to his own presentiments, the artist paints a picture in a corresponding style, with short strokes that merge to form a smooth, enamel surface.

Somov romanticises the past, depicting a bright and idyllic world of daydreams after a shower of refreshing rain. The smooth enamel-like style of painting and the mass of eye-catching details are skilfully united in a single decorative whole.

The artist created erotic scenes set in a former golden age, which the turn-of-the-century generation regarded as lost forever. But the idyllic reverie of these works is tinged with regret at the imperfections of the theatre-world and its failure to make dreams of happiness come true.

Somov’s melancholy and ironic works reflect the social discord of the period, when people were beginning to protest against the onslaught of bourgeoisie philistinism, mass culture and the merciless destruction of the “cherry orchards” of the past.

Exhibitions: Salon [Sergei Makovsky], St Petersburg, 1909, No. 338

Literature: Voinov, Sobranie Korovina, p. 8; Ernst, Somov, p. 45

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