Man and Woman

Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1912–13
Media: Oil on paper relined on Whatman paper
Dimensions: 150 x 115 cm (154 x 122.5 cm)
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (until 1986)
Man and Woman


This is one of the many interpretations of biblical subjects in Pavel Filonov’s art. The meaning of this particular parable, which combines the worldly and the eternal, lies beyond the bounds of the visible, requiring active engagement with our minds.

The motif of Man and Woman was often repeated by Filonov, particularly in works of graphic art. The details of the image and the background always remained the same, evoking associations with the compositional canons of hagiographic icons.

The man and the woman in this example are deliberately grotesque. Aggressive in both colour and technique, the apocalyptic nature of Filonov’s prophetic picture is evident. The runs of red and brown paint suggest rivers of blood mixed with dirt.

This twentieth-century version of Adam and Eve embody the contaminated spirit of modern civilisation. Pavel Filonov enjoyed a healthy distrust of life and perceived the duality of all phenomena – beauty and ugliness, good and evil, life and death.

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