Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1925–26
Media: Oil on cardboard
Dimensions: 36 x 44 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (1977)


Pavel Filonov had a pantheistic relationship with the world. He believed that the animal and human worlds were once indivisible, when man and beast lived in harmonic unity. The artist regarded human beings, animals and plants as being equally important, for all were products of the one matter and of the same origin.

Like Noah’s Ark, Pavel Filonov’s paintings are filled with virtually every member of the animal kingdom – cats and dogs, birds and fish, lions and tigers, pets and wild beasts. While cockerels, hounds and horses are encountered particularly often, they are depicted in different ways in different periods of the artist’s life and career.

In the mid-1910s, Filonov expressed his dreams of an harmonic and spiritual union of man and nature in such sublime artistic images as Shrovetide and Dairy Maids. Notes of alarm, perturbation and drama then began to creep into his compositions in the mid-1920s, coinciding with the rise to power of Joseph Stalin.

Strange and enwildened beasts with human heads wander the indefinite space of Animals. The fusion of archaism, the fantastic and an anthropomorphic perception of nature lends an unexpected and convincing poignancy to the image, while the intelligent looks in the animals’ eyes evoke associations with damned human souls.

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