Kustodiev Boris – “Portrait of F.I. Chaliapin”

Kustodiev paints many portraits, among which the portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin, painted in 1921, deserves special attention.

The history of the creation of this picture is interesting. At that time – post-revolutionary, unsettled, hungry – Serov’s opera “The Power of the Enemy” was being staged. It was decided to order sketches of the scenery for Kustodiev, and since the artist himself could no longer walk, Fyodor Chaliapin went to his house to negotiate a job. Chaliapin was wearing a luxurious warm fur coat, which he recently paid for one of the concerts and which, as Chaliapin himself suspected, was most likely stolen. Kustodiev, seeing the artist, certainly wanted to paint him in this particular fur coat.

Chaliapin came for posing sessions in Kustodiev’s Petrograd apartment, and he brought his beloved dog, a French pug, with him. At the same time, according to the recollections of the son of Kustodiev, in order for the dog to freeze in the desired position, looking up, a cat was put on the cabinet.

The picture was painted in a manner characteristic of the artist – Chaliapin is depicted against the background of a fair, mass festivities, in the atmosphere of a traditional Russian holiday. Kustodiev could no longer paint this generous, colorful holiday from nature – the departed Russia now remained only in the artist’s memories, but from these memories he creates a surprisingly holistic, convincing image.

This huge, endless space unfolds in the background, and in front of the festive booth rises the figure of the great Russian artist in a concert costume, patent leather shoes and with a cane fashionable in those years, which goes beyond the edge of the canvas – as if the singer is cramped within the image. In the lower left corner are the walking daughters of Chaliapin, and next to them is a theatrical poster announcing the singer’s performance.

The workshop room where the artist worked was so small that Kustodiev painted the picture piece by piece, almost at random, moving the canvas using a system of counterweights, and the artist did not get to see the whole work from a distance. Leaving for emigration, Chaliapin took the painting with him.

Year of painting: 1921.

Painting dimensions: no data.

Material: canvas.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: portrait.

Style: modern.

Gallery: State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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