Kustodiev Boris – “Maslenitsa”

Maslenitsa is one of the central works of Boris Kustodiev’s entire work. He varied this image more than once, but the scope of the national holiday, a truly “wide” carnival – not just as its last days, but as the highest peak of fun – he best conveyed in the picture of 1916 and its variants close to it.

This picture is a kind of indissoluble triptych, united by the central part – a panoramic view of the fabulous beauty of the winter Russian city with trees in hoarfrost, verticals of bell towers of different colors and columns of frosty smoke over the houses. The unity of the picture is also served by the wide arcuate – from edge to edge – arrangement of scenes of Maslenitsa entertainment against the background of snow-covered hills and a small square near one of them. Not observing, as in folk art, the correctness of the scale, Kustodiev in the foreground depicted in an enlarged manner a painted sleigh with a daring charioteer and ruddy riders, and on the sides of the hill, in a smaller size, other riders. On the right, near the trees resembling Bruegel’s images in winter, he placed artisans with girls and an accordion, on the left, near birches – boys with sleds, further, below, changing the angle, there is a merry-go-round and a booth with a crowd of people near them, city ​​shopping malls – the parking lot of reckless drivers and sleds driving away from them, gaining speed. All this is under a cold candy-green sky with cold pink and light yellow tints of clouds, with flocks of birds. Delicate play of bluish and pink-lilac tones also fall on the snow, on the frosty tree branches. The influence of academic traditions is also reflected in Shrovetide – the left and right parts of the composition balance each other. All together, merging into a hymn to the glory of the beauty and merriment of the Russian holiday, makes up a single joyful and bright show of the festivities.

A colorful winter landscape painted with bright colors, white snow, colored domes – all this creates a festive background for the image of a racing sleigh with cheerful smart people. The image is dynamic and still at the same time. The movement of the sleigh is opposed to the nature that has frozen on the eve of spring and the motionless walls of temples. The artist chooses a traditional composition for himself, looking as if from above, from the hill, at the unfolding panorama, at the traditional festivities in the last week before Lent, farewell to winter and welcome to spring, which makes the picture look like a theatrical scene.

Year of painting: 1916.

Dimensions of the painting: 61 x 123 cm.

Material: canvas.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: genre painting.

Style: modern.

Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

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