Kustodiev Boris – “The Nun”
In the fall of 1908, Boris Kustodiev worked in the village of Uspenskoye near Staraya Ladoga. Built in the 18th century, this estate then belonged to the patron of the arts Alexander Romanovich Tomilov, and the largest artists of Russian romanticism – Orest Kiprensky, Alexander Orlovsky, Ivan Aivazovsky and others – have visited it.
Near the estate was the Old Ladoga convent, and the artist, having been there, was fired up with a passionate desire to make a portrait of “one very interesting old woman, so beautiful and majestic.” Her name was Olympiada. She agreed to pose only after much persuasion, and Kustodiev painted a portrait – the painting “Nun”. He monumentalized the figure in the mantle and klobuk, depicting it from the foreshortening from below, and emphasized the self-confidence, authority and the cheerfulness of the model, unusual for a monastery, but humbled by it. The black color of the mantle effectively emphasizes the rosary with a cross, juxtaposed with the paints of the patterned brocade plate under the Bible and the homespun rug on the floor shown in foreshortening from above.
It would seem that the artist could be satisfied with his work, but just a few months later Kustodiev himself unleashed a hail of reproaches on her, as if forgetting both the impatience with which he awaited the arrival of the canvas to begin the portrait, and the enthusiasm with which it was created. The master experienced a sense of crisis in his work, the inconsistency of his works with what he vaguely felt and that had not yet been molded into the desired shape. Remembering “The Nun”, he now called her “rubbish”, he was annoyed in her by the excessive, in his opinion, naturalness and insufficient degree of decorativeness. He wrote to his wife: “All these“ nuns ”are not what I want”, “if anything attracts me, it’s decorativeness. The composition and the picture, painted not naturally, not crudely materially, but conventionally – beautiful. ” He believes that his portraits, with their inevitable demand for similarity, “naturalness”, hinder his search. Kustodiev recalled that he had already begun to appear once “exactly what” he would like to see in his other things. It’s about his Fairs. They helped him overcome the crisis, embark on a new path.
Year of painting: 1908.
Dimensions of the painting: 134 x 195 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Gallery: State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.