Sergei Solovyov Collection (Room 203)

Room 203 contains a small but comprehensive collection of Russian Realist paintings from the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries. The collection of Sergei Vasilyevich Solovyov (1876–1936) was one of the most important donations made to the Museum of Private Collections following its foundation in July 1985. The majority of works were painted by such famous Critical Realists as Ilya Repin, Vasily Polenov and Vasily Perov or the members of the Union of Russian Artists.

A professional metal carver, Sergei Solovyov began collecting art soon after he moved to Moscow in 1920. Over a period of sixteen years, he acquired canvases by Russian artists, transforming his home into a miniature Tretyakov Gallery. The Tretyakov Gallery was where Solovyov first saw the works of the Wanderers or Peredvizhniki – a group of nineteenth-century Realist painters associated with the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions. Their interest in Russian folk life and the beauty of Russian nature helped to define the collector’s own artistic passions, which remained unchanged throughout his life.

Sergei Solovyov was arrested in 1936, when much of his collection disappeared from his Moscow apartment. To this day, the fate of this part of the collection remains unknown. The canvases in Solovyov’s country house fortunately survived and were kept by his daughters during the Second World War. In 1987, upon learning of the opening of the Department of Private Collections at the Pushkin Museum, they donated the remains of the Solovyov collection to the museum.

A founding member of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions, Vasily Perov stood at the forefront of the changes taking place in Russian art in the 1860s – the golden age of Realist painting. While mostly famed for his genre scenes, Perov was also an outstanding portraitist. The remarkable talent of this Moscow artist can be seen in his portraits of the writers Alexander Ostrovsky (1871) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1872) and Russian dictionary compiler Vladimir Dahl (1872). Portrait of a Lady in Black depicts a powerful and wilful woman, probably a member of the merchant class. The sitter’s face is serious and grim. Perov masterly employs her facial expression and pose to convey her inner dignity. The restrained tones and lighting contrasts add a note of solemnity.

Sergei Solovyov was particularly interested in genre painting. He adored the scenes of rural existence painted by the Wanderers, showing the traditional way of life in the Russian countryside – Vasily Maximov’s Malignant Mother-in-Law (1892) and Ivan Kulikov’s Seeing Off New Recruits.

Vasily Maximov lived at the Golenischev-Kutuzov estate in the village of Shubino in Tver Province. Many of his paintings are based on direct observations of peasant life. Two of his most famous works – Magician Arriving at a Peasant Wedding (1875) and Sick Husband (1881) – belong to the Tretyakov Gallery. Malignant Mother-in-Law from the Solovyov collection depicts an acrimonious old woman, her self-complacent daughter and unhappy daughter-in-law. The artist portrays an everyday family drama, which he himself witnessed in real life.

Ilya Repin’s Duel (1913) occupies pride of place in Room 203. There are three different versions of this painting. The first was called Forgive! and was exhibited in Venice in 1896 and Milan in 1911, when it was acquired by the Tiranti family. It now belongs to a private collection in the United States. Pavel Tretyakov commissioned a second version from the artist, which is now in the Tretyakov Gallery. The work in the Solovyov collection is the third version of Duel. The inscription in Russian on the canvas “dedicated to Pyotr Andreyevich Lezin” suggests that the painting originally belonged to this well-known doctor from Moscow. What is not known, however, is how it found its way into the collection of M. T. Solovyov, to whom it belonged before Sergei Solovyov. Painted in the expressive style of the master’s later period, the picture contains such theatrical elements as deliberate pathos, sharp contrasts of the images and bright tones.

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky’s Portrait of Prince Nikolai Yussupov is also associated with a duel. Art experts once mistakenly believed that the subject of the painting was the sitter’s younger brother Felix Yussupov, famous for his role in the murder of Grigory Rasputin. Documents in the family archives and photographs from the Arkhangelskoe estate outside Moscow, however, prove that Bogdanov-Belsky did in fact paint Nikolai Yussupov, who died in a duel in 1908.

One of the most famous paintings in the Sergei Solovyov collection is Vasily Polenov’s Christ at the Lake of Gennesaret (1894). The artist painted this picture after travelling in the Middle East in 1881 and 1882. This trip also inspired his most famous painting – Christ and the Adulteress (1888, Russ. Mus.), part of the From the Life of Christ series (1890s–1900s). The work now in the Solovyov collection is not the only Gospel subject in Polenov’s oeuvre. Versions of this painting also belong to the Tretyakov Gallery and the Alexander Radischev Museum of Art in Saratov. The serene image of quiet nature in the painting echoes the contemplative reflections of Jesus Christ.

Two of Vasily Polenov’s finest landscapes are Lagoon (1896) and Venice. The Solovyov collection also includes landscapes by Ivan Shishkin, Alexei Savrasov and Alexander Kiselyov.

Ivan Shishkin is represented by Road in a Forest (1885). The artist painted many pictures of woodland, based on a close study of Russian nature. The notes of poetry typical of Shishkin’s late period harmonise with the landscape motif and the master’s own frame of mind.

Alexei Savrasov’s Chumaks at a Stopping Place belongs to the artist’s later period, when he mostly worked on private commissions. Alexander Kiselyov painted several versions of Forgotten Mill (1891).

Nikolai Dubovskoi’s Sea and Boat (1899) is one of the most interesting marines in the Sergei Solovyov collection. After studying under Baron Mikhail Konstantinovich Clodt von Jürgensburg at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, the artist joined the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions. He painted more than four hundred pictures and one thousand studies.

Sergei Solovyov acquired Stanislaw Zukowski’s Old House directly from the artist. Zukowski studied under Isaac Levitan at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. A contributor to the shows of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions, he joined the Union of Russian Artists at the turn of the century. The culture of the old Russian nobility was particularly close to Zukowski’s heart. The artist painted such views and interiors of country estates as Poetry of an Old Nobleman’s House (1912, Russ. Mus.) and Joyous May (1912, Tret. Gal.). This is also the theme of the painting from the Solovyov collection.

Pyotr Petrovichev employs a palette knife to make the paintwork impasto in his audacious landscape Countryside. Graduating from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Petrovichev took painting lessons from Isaac Levitan. A regular contributor to the travelling art exhibitions and a member of the Union of Russian Artists, he painted views of Russian towns, old churches and the refined interiors of estates outside Moscow.

The distinguishing features of Konstantin Korovin’s Jewish Settlement (1916) are the ringing tones and free and broad brushstrokes. While assimilating the lessons of his teachers Alexei Savrasov and Vasily Polenov, Korovin developed his own style of painting. He worked in a study-like manner, which became the artistic principle of his colourful and upbeat pictures. Korovin’s large canvases and small studies are masterpieces of Russian landscape painting.

The Sergei Solovyov collection also contains an early painting by David BurliukSheds – one of the leading members of the Russian avant-garde in the early twentieth century.

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