Two Heads

Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1925
Media: Oil on paper relined on Whatman paper
Dimensions: 58 x 54 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (until 1977)
Two Heads


Compositions entitled Heads are often encountered in the paintings and drawings of Pavel Filonov, particularly in the mid-1920s. In many works of this period, the human head and face act as a blank canvas for the “reflections” of his brush.

Two Heads is one of a series of works by Pavel Filonov grouped under the common heading of Countenances. This particular painting was possibly once exhibited under the alternative title of Sailors from the Sea of Azov.

The artist regarded the human head as a model of the universe. Removing the layers of skin from the face, he draws parallels in his imagination between this “tiny universe” and the surrounding world. The forms are mobile and repetitive.

This explains why the heads are so impersonal. They are an illusory materiality, reflecting Filonov’s inner world, thoughts and feelings – a code in which the fundamental aspect is the freedom of expression of the artist’s own persona.

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