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                           ILYA IVANOVICH MASHKOV

                      . . . These fruits, loaves and meat are depicted with
                      a skill almost comparable to that  displaced  by  the
                      masters of the Dutch still life in their achievements
                      hitherto unsurpassed. Mashkov's canvases are not only
                      truthful to the point of illusion but  are  possessed
                      of a rare beauty and  radiance.  His  use  of  colour
                      resembles the swelling chords of an organ.
                                                              A. Lunacharsky

    THE NAME OF ILYA IVANOVICH MASHKOV is associated above all with  still-
life paintings remarkable for an elemental intensity of colour which  verges
at times on the violent. Displaying a scope  and  boldness  unusual  in  his
contemporaries as well as an acute feeling for the  materiality  of  things,
Mashkov's bright canvases are striking for the breadth  of  their  pictorial
range, for the deep sonority of their colours.
    Mashkov was one of the boldest innovators in Russian  painting  at  the
beginning of the twentieth  century,  an  outstanding  painter  whose  works
contributed to the development of Soviet art,  an  experienced  teacher  who
passed on his skill to many who would later become famous artists.  Each  of
these aspects of his creative  activity  is  instructive  and  deserving  of
special attention. Mashkov developed as a painter  in  the  years  preceding
the Revolution, at a  time  when  artistic  life  in  Russia  was  unusually
complex and full of contradiction. In the field of art  there  were  clashes
between various principles and  ideas,  manifested  as  a  struggle  between
numerous schools. Painters of an older generation,  members of the  Society
for Circulating Art Exhibitions (the Peredvizhniki), the World  of  Art  and
the Union of Russian Artists,  were still active. At the same time  a  host
of aesthetic and  artistic  conceptions,  precarious  in  their  theoretical
foundation, were receiving wide  attention.  The  overthrow  of  traditional
forms, aesthetic nihilism, the loss of firm links with  reality  could  not,
however, delay the development of art. The search  for  new  paths  and  new
creative  principles  went  on,  and  Russian  art  was  enriched  by   some
remarkable achievements. Just in this period  there  appeared  a  number  of
talented young artists.
    Despite the diversity of the new ideas  and  trends,  one  may  clearly
discern in Russian painting of this time  a  general  tendency  towards  the
perfecting of artistic form. Artists were striving for a certain  synthesis,
they wished to reveal the generalized meaning of phenomena  not  susceptible
of concretization in time, and therefore not infrequently  they  refused  to
represent movement and action in their work. As a result  of  this  loss  of
interest in the subject painting, the still life became the dominant  genre.
Landscape and portrait also occupied  an  important  place.  And  particular
attention was paid to the renewal of painterly techniques.
    The evolving of a  new  system  of  pictorial  representation  advanced
through a series of  agonizing  explorations,  which  were  often  far  from
successful.  The  principle  of  verisimilitude,  which  had  prevailed   in
nineteenth century painting, was  supplanted  by  that  of  conventionality.
This testified to the inner bond linking the new trends in Russian  painting
with  Post-Impressionism,  Fauvism,  Cubism  and  Expressionism,   for   the
exponents of those schools sought support not in the traditions of  European
Post-Renaissance realism, but rather in principles adopted from  the  visual
arts of  different  peoples  and  ages.  The  search  for  formal  solutions
appropriate to these new stylistic norms was of  decisive  importance.  This
tendency is not difficult to perceive in the works of such  artists  of  the
late nineteenth  early twentieth centuries as Ruble, Servo and K.  Korovin.
It was characteristic of the members of the World of Art and the  Blue  Rose
associations, but most strongly developed in the  work  of  artists  of  the
Jack of Diamonds group and other representatives  of  the  so-called  avant-
garde in the beginning of this century.
    In the artistic movements at the beginning  of  the  twentieth  century
there  was   much   romanticism,   much   anarchic   rebelliousness.   Inner
contradictions were most sharply revealed  in  the  various  trends  of  the
avant-garde movement where subjectivism, having reached the  limit  of  non-
representational depiction, was opposed by the real achievements  of  a  few
artists of the Jack of Diamonds group,  like  Konchalovsky,  Mashkov,  Falk.
Lentulov.  Kuprin,  Larionov  and  others.  These  painters   discovered   a
successful  balance  in  which  expressiveness  of  colour,  plasticity  and
decorative composition helped express a particularly  intense,  yet  at  the
same time integral perception of reality.
    Ilya  Ivanovich  Mashkov  (18811944)  was  born  in  the  village   of
Mikhaylovskaya in the Don area. His parents were of peasant origin.  At  the
age of fifteen he lost his father, who had pursued various  trades  and  had
had to endure constant poverty. From  an  early  age  Mashkov  displayed  an
aptitude for handicrafts; he also liked to  draw.  However,  the  cruel  and
degrading existence he was forced to lead (in his early youth  he  had  been
placed in the service of some local traders, supposedly  as  an  apprentice)
was least likely to further his attachment to art. He  was  already  in  his
eighteenth year when he first  heard  that  painting  was  something  to  be
learned. In 1900 he entered the Moscow School  of  Painting,  Sculpture  and
Architecture. After completing his life class, he transferred to the  studio
of Servo and Korovin. A little earlier Mashkov had  begun  to  give  private
lessons himself. During his first years in the School he studied avidly  and
diligently. Then there followed a period of doubt and  disillusionment  with
the creative principles of  his  teachers,  a  period  which  ended  with  a
complete change in his artistic orientation, as a result  of  which  he  was
expelled from the School in 1910.
    This liberation from "academic chains" was to a great  extent  prompted
by Mashkov's first acquaintance with the Hermitage in 1907. In 1908 he  went
on a trip to Germany, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona,  Italy  and  Vienna,
during which he got to know the masterpieces of classical  art  as  well  as
contemporary French painting. Before his departure  he  had  already  become
familiar with the Shchukin and Morozov collections, where fine  examples  of
the most recent French art were represented, and  in  1909  he  visited  the
Golden Fleece Exhibition, which was displaying works by the Fauvists.
    Mashkov's answer to his expulsion from the School was to take an active
part in the creation of the Jack  of  Diamonds.  The  spirit  of  epater  le
bourgeois which accompanied the activities of this group  prevented  critics
of the time from discerning the genuine artistic merit of the work  produced
by its members. The emergence of a new trend in  Russian  painting  and  the
organization in 1911, by a number of young Moscow artists, of  the  Jack  of
Diamonds exhibition society was connected with  an  eager  movement  towards
expressiveness, decorative quality and the concentrated use of colour   all
entirely characteristic  of  the  age.  Their  experience  of  European  art
enabled the artists to pass on boldly towards a  generalized  representation
of nature, refusing to follow the principles of Impressionism. Opponents  of
narrative painting, illusion and aestheticism, they relied on experiment  in
pictorial techniques. Hence their  impulse  towards  the  detail  and  their
preference for the still life, which was indeed to become  the  "laboratory"
of their new endeavours.
    Their fidelity to a constructive line of artistic thought  allowed  the
painters of the Jack of Diamonds group to achieve a synthesis of colour  and
form in their representation of objects from  the  surrounding  world.  They
profited by the experience of Cezanne and  the  Cubists,  Cubism  being  for
them not so much a system as a means of enhancing  artistic  expressiveness.
This exploitation of formal expressiveness, as well as the concentrated  use
of all the resources of  painting,  led  to  innovations  in  the  pictorial
structure and style of their works. Many artists of the time were  attracted
to the problem of creating in painting a sui generis artistic equivalent  of
what was distinctively national in Russian life.  Members  of  the  Jack  of
Diamonds group interpreted this problem as the return  of  Russian  painting
to traditions preserved over the centuries in folk art. This link  with  the
principles of folk art and the desire to appropriate its  expressiveness  of
portrayal determined the character of their endeavours. They  were  full  of
enthusiasm for the Russian lubok (popular print), the house-painter's  sign,
the decorated tray, the folk toy. These painters thus enriched  contemporary
art with the achievements of Russian folk art. The strength  of  their  work
lay  in  the  exaggerated  emotionality   and   distinctiveness   of   their
portrayals, in the intensity and concreteness of their colour and  in  their
powerful optimism.
    It is well known that the struggle  carried  on  between  the  Jack  of
Diamonds and its various opponents did not in fact unite the members of  the
group. Harmonious as their first public appearance  seemed  to  be,  it  was
quickly followed by a number of  internal  disagreements,  which  eventually
led to the society's dissolution in  1917.  The  first  signs  of  Mashkov's
divergence  from  the  group  date  from  1911,  the  year  of  his  initial
rapprochement with the World of Art. In 1916 both Mashkov  and  Konchalovsky
simultaneously went over to this latter association.
    By the beginning  of  the  First  World  War  Mashkov  was  already  an
acknowledged artist. This was the time of his greatest popularity.
    During the years of the Revolution Mashkov  was  engaged  in  strenuous
social, organizational and pedagogic activity. There was scarcely  any  time
for his own creative work. He was a professor at the Free Studios (the  name
of the Moscow School of  Painting,  Sculpture  and  Architecture  since  the
autumn of 1918). Attached to his studio were A. Goncharov,  A.  Deyneka  and
other subsequently famous Soviet artists. It was  only  in  1922,  when  art
exhibitions began again, that the painter's creative activity  regained  its
former scope. He took part in  the  exhibitions  organized  by  the  revived
World of Art group and the Society of Moscow Artists  (the  former  Jack  of
    On his own admission, the  years  1923  and  1924  mark  a  perceptible
turning-point in his views on the aims and purposes of art.  This  coincided
with the general impetus of Soviet artists towards realism. In  1922  a  new
artistic group, the Association of  Artists  of  Revolutionary  Russia  (the
AARR), had already made its appearance, and  this  society  was  to  play  a
positive role in the  formation  of  realistic  art.  At  the  end  of  1924
Mashkov, along with his pupils, went over to this organization where he  set
up art classes. Although he continued to participate in exhibitions held  by
the Society of Moscow Artists, his creative output in  the  second  half  of
the  twenties  is  mainly  associated  with  the  AARR.  He  took  part   in
exhibitions of the AARR  and  was  a  member  of  its  Board.  He  left  the
association in the spring of 1930, when  its  historical  role  had  already
been  accomplished.  In  1928,  for   his   services   in   the   realm   of
representational art, the Soviet government awarded  Mashkov  the  title  of
Merited Artist of the RSFSR. In 1930 he left for his home in the village  of
Mikhaylovskaya where he lived almost continuously until 1938.  He  completed
his last works in 1943, one year before his death.
    Despite the vividness of his style, it is no easy task  to  define  the
individual quality of Mashkov's art in so far as it was  the  product  of  a
whole movement, many features of which were characteristic of their age  and
common to a fairly wide circle of Russian painters.
    Mashkov differed from those close to him in creative disposition by the
extreme spontaneity of his artistic talent and by his fervent attachment  to
the world of objects.  These  are  not,  however,  the  only  factors  which
determined the painter's style.  Reflecting  the  personal  element  in  his
creative work. his style is clearly perceived through the  plastic  features
of his pictures. Yet while emphasizing the strong side' of  his  talent,  it
is essential not to neglect the painter's weaker aspects,  which  are-of  no
small importance where Mashkov is concerned.
    In the works completed before 1909, there is  as  yet  no  evidence  of
completely   independent   talent.   Nevertheless,   his   Model   (end   of
1907beginning of 1908), painted!  in  Serov's  class,  is  well  above  the
average for an apprentice's work.
    The still life Apples and Pears on a White Background  (1908)  was  the
first won I to be completed after his journey abroad and  is  close  to  the
principles of late Impressionism. Indeed,  it  suggests  some  knowledge  of
Cezanne's artistic conception. A  work   dating  from  the  same  time,  Two
Models against a Drapery (1908, Leningrad, private collection), seems to  be
a compromise between the principles of Impressionism and an impulse  towards
two-dimensionality and generalized decorativeness.
    Mashkov first achieves an individual style in the  works  of  1909  and
1910. These were portraits, still lifes and landscapes, some of  which  were
shown in Moscow during 1910 and  1911  at  an  exhibition  of  the  Jack  of
Diamonds group, while other-were displayed in Paris at the Autumn  Salon  in
1910. In  the  paintings  of  this  time-he  proclaims  a  new  and  unusual
conception of beauty. The  exaggerated  quality  of  their  expression,  the
careless  sweep  of  their  contours,  often   painted   in   black,   their
polychromatic intensityall this testifies to his  denial  of  the  artistic
principles of an older generation. The striking  starkness  of  method,  the
deliberate simplification of technique, reveal an attempt to invest the  art
of painting with pristine energy, to overcome the  refined  aestheticism  of
the fin-de-siecle, with its wavering forms and its faded colours, in  short,
to restore art to both youth  and  health.  Inspired  in  his  work  by  the
products  of  folk  art,  Mashkov  was  guided   largely   by   the   formal
expressiveness of the lubok
    The Portrait of a Boy in a Patterned Shirt was painted in March,  1909.
It is one. of the works which  mark  the  beginning  of  Mashkov's  creative
career. As well as  demonstrating  Mashkov's  habit  of  heaping  his  early
canvases  with  contrasting  colours.  this  painting  already  displays   a
disregard of psychological realism very close to the polemical spirit  which
would later characterize the works  of  the  Jack  of  Diamonds  group.  The
artist makes no use of local colour. The pinkish hue of the  boy's  face  is
reinforced by the gold of the forehead and the greenish  tint  of  the  eye-
socket. The hands are painted in contrasting reds, pinks and  greens,  while
a cold shade of pink is also introduced into  the  dark-green  leaves  which
form a pattern in the background.
    Refusing to treat the problem of perspective in a  traditional  manner,
Mashkov reduces  the  elements  of  modelling  to  a  bare  minimum,  as  if
stretching the image out over the canvas and thereby achieving some  intense
combinations of colour, largely independent of the representation  of  light
and shade.
    In other portraits of  this  early  periodfor  example,  those  of  V.
Vinogradova (1909). E. Kirkaldi (1910), Rubanovich (Portrait of a Lady  with
Pheasants, about 1910), Mashkov is not only searching for expressiveness  of
colour, but is also concerned to  organize  his  canvas  on  two-dimensional
lines. In these portraits perspective is almost ousted  by  surface  design.
In his Model Seated executed  in  1909,  for  example,  the  two-dimensional
effect disappears under the accumulation of contrasting colours, the  artist
deliberately avoids exaggerated ornamentality, the  picture's  thematic  and
spatial elements remain dominant, the vital  connection  between  model  and
still life is preserved.
    Inspired by the principles of folk art, Mashkov sought to  express  the
immutable essence of thing's through form, dimension and colour. The  medium
he most consistently used for these endeavours, as well as for his  attempts
to discover new principles of composition, was the still life.  He  did  not
aim at thematic variety; portrayals of fruit and berries on a round dish  or
plate are frequently encountered in his work. In some instances  the  artist
would strictly adhere to such motifs, as in Still Life with a  Pineapple  or
Still Life. Fruit on a Dish (both about 1910). Sometimes the  motif  becomes
a detail in the total composition, as in Still  Life.  Berries  with  a  Red
Tray in the Background  (about  1910),  Still  Life  with  Begonias  (before
1911), Still Life with Grapes (early 1910s), etc.
    The emphatically naive, "primitive" method  of  portrayal  revealed  in
Still Life with a Pineapple, the bright intensity of its colours, and  their
use in simplified combinations, bear witness to Mashkov's  attempt  to  view
the world through the eyes of the masters of folk art. In  his  yearning  to
penetrate  the  essence  of  things,  to  reveal  their   fixed,   "eternal"
qualities, he acted decisively, sacrificing subtlety of  design  and  colour
and  achieving  considerable  decorative  expressiveness.  He  moved  on  to
various experimental techniques, combining the representative  functions  of
painting  with  certain  qualities  inherent  in  the  applied   arts.   The
"fortuitousness" of impressionistic  composition  was  opposed  by  a  blunt
emphasis on "structuring". Everything was subordinated to the principles  of
symmetry and rhythmic alternation. The oval shape  of  the  frame  is  often
repeated both in the disposition of objects and in the outlines of  some  of
them. A plate with a pineapple  surrounded  by  apples,  is  placed  in  the
centre of the canvas and  enclosed  by  a  number  of  large,  multicoloured
fruits. The point of view chosen by the painter looking down on his  subject
from above, allows him to gain an effect  of  "spatial  compression",  while
the  individual  objects  are  portrayed  three-dimensionally.   The   black
outlines emphasize  the  depth  of  objects  and  create  an  impression  of
stability, subduing the illusion of perspective.
    Mashkov came gradually to renounce the effects of light and  shade,  so
fundamental to the Impressionists. In  his  Still  Life  with  a  Pineapple,
where the decisive importance of colour  is  obvious,  light  plays  only  a
secondary role in the creation of form. In the  still-life  painting,  Fruit
on a Dish, the material qualities of the object are  conveyed  by  a  single
splash of colour. Form is  determined  by  clear-cut  outlines;  along  with
others, the black colour becomes obligatory.
    For all Mashkov's desire to assert the sensuous materiality of  things,
one detects in his early works  a  certain  indifference  towards  the  real
nature of his  chosen  subject;  the  material  world  appears  there  in  a
generalized form. This is the case,  for  example,  in  the  above-mentioned
portraits of E. Kirkaldi and Rubanovich, where there is a  conflict  between
different orders of reality; the live models are set in  opposition  to  the
figures depicted on the panel  and  carpet,  but  nothing  seems  completely
authentic. It is the same in the painting Russia and Napoleon  (The  Russian
Venus) (1912, Moscow, private collection), where the model is shown  against
the background of a  carpet  depicting  Napoleon  in  a  sleigh,  while  the
Emperor's troika seems about to run her over.
    At this point Mashkov was to some extent influenced by European Cubism.
However, he interpreted the ideas of  Cubism  in  his  own  particular  way,
linking this new passion with his old  enthusiasm  for  folk  toys  and  the
lubok. In his  portrait  of  the  poet  S.  Rubanovich  (1910),  the  artist
renounces colour and represents the subject  through  geometric  forms.  But
living rhythms manage to burst in upon this geometric world, enlivening  the
grey-black  abstractions.  Fascinated  by  Cubism,  Mashkov   still   sought
expressiveness in his art; retaining his interest in the distinctiveness  of
the figure he wishes to paint, he exaggerates the likeness to the  point  of
caricature. Mashkov's humour, alien to the abstractions of Cubism,  is  what
links his portraits here with the products of folk art.
    Folk expressiveness of form  was  henceforth  to  remain  the  artist's
ideal, but about 1913 he was on the edge of new ventures. At this  time  his
artistic idiom becomes noticeably more complex. However, in the  still  life
entitled Loaves of Bread (1912) this new complexity  is  not  yet  apparent.
The  whole  surface  of  the  canvas  is  more  or  less   filled   by   the
representation of the loaves, ornamental both in their detail and  in  their
total effect; perspective is narrowed, surface is compressed. One feels  the
artist's passion for the primitive, particularly for sign-painting.
    In the still life Camellia (1913), the artist is aiming at a  synthesis
of decorativeness and materiality. He directs  his  attention  here  to  the
problem of rendering the effect of light, which, however, never  becomes  an
end in itself, as it was for the Impressionists.  The  camellia  plant  with
its sharply drawn, rigid leaves stands out against  a  background  vibrating
with light; the knot-shaped bun, the fruit and the  glass  bowl  with  fancy
cakes are both decorative and substantial at the same time.
    This concentration on the material substance of things and, to a lesser
extent, on the  problem  of  light,  involved  a  certain  danger,  that  of
illusion, which Mashkov did not altogether avoid even in his Camellia.  This
feature would occasionally reveal itself in  some  of  his  later  works.  A
feeling for the three-dimensional quality and texture of objects as well  as
for light effects is particularly marked in  the  Still  Life  with  Brocade
(1914). Although the colours are vivid,  the  painting  lacks  sharpness  of
form; faience dish, plums, plate of strawberries,  pumpkin,  carafe  of  red
wine-all are equally exaggerated in mass, although  the  position  of  these
objects in perspective is not the  same.  Their  outline  is  retained,  but
their expressiveness is lost. Mashkov's tendency  towards  an  ever  greater
complexity of artistic expression is obvious in other respects as well.  The
artist begins to be attracted by projects of  a  monumental  nature,  though
remaining loyal to easel painting. This may be seen in  works  of  different
genres. In the landscapes painted between 1910  and  1915,  the  fragmentary
and rather static method of portrayal typical of   Town  View  and    Town
View in Winter gives way to complex three-dimensional arrangements aimed  at
conveying majestic images (Italy. Nervi, 1913; Lake  Geneva.  Glion,  1914).
His portraits  display  a  similar  attempt  at  resolving  the  problem  of
monumentality. Though less successful and thorough-going, his searches  here
led him in various directions. In the portrait of  Fiodorova-Mashkova  (Lady
with a Double-Bass, 191516), the artist's interest  in  problems  of  style
brings him close to the painters of the World of Art group.  Like  them,  he
was fascinated by the problem which confronted Russian portrait painters  in
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries  namely,  that  of  combining
decorative appeal with a feeling for detail and subtle  modelling.  However,
Mashkov aimed not at creating deeply psychological  portraits,  nor  did  he
take  any  great  interest  in  the  objects  surrounding  his  models.  His
portrayal of man and his surroundings is no departure from  the  conventions
of still-life painting. Imitating the naive manner of old portraiture,  with
its peculiar ostentation, he tries not to conceal the model's  pose,  indeed
he emphasizes  it,  though  making  only  outward  use  of  this  device.  A
different approach to the  problem  of  monumentality  is  apparent  in  the
portrait of N. Usova (1915), which is  comparatively  simple  in  design,  j
Although the portrait is executed in a strictly stylized manner, the  artist
does succeed in conveying the living features of the model. Here,  too,  one
is aware of the element of pose, but this time Mashkov,  as  in  his  Cubist
experiments, takes the expressiveness of  the  folk  toy  as  his  point  of
    The still lifes painted by Mashkov between 1914 and  1917  are  amongst
his most remarkable creations. He probes more and more  deeply  the  problem
of conveying in art the tangible substance of things. This may  be  seen  in
such works as Pumpkins (1914), Still Life with a Horse's  Skull  (1914)  and
Still Life with a Samovar (1916), where his  tendency  to  experiment  gives
way to  the  achievement  of  a  powerful  synthesis,  and  where  what  was
problematic in his artistic vision is renounced  in  favour  of  a  forceful
affirmation of life. In his earlier works a somewhat generalized  method  of
portrayal tended to conceal the concrete nature of objects. Now, he  manages
to convey more convincingly than  ever  before  the  material  character  of
things, their full diversity of colour, density, texture and weight.
    Some of the above-mentioned still lifes  (Still  Life  with  a  Horse's
Skull, Still Life with a Samovar)  reflect  the  dramatic  tensions  of  the
period. With the sharpness of  his  artistic  vision,  Mashkov  noticed  how
useless everyday household articles had become, like so  much  scrap  metal.
With their uneasy rhythms and their dark, harsh  colours,  his  still  lifes
symbolize the spirit of those difficult and restless times.  Mashkov's  rare
talent for expressing the mood of his age reminds one of the  words  uttered
by Mayakovsky in 1914: "You are no artist if you do  not  see  reflected  in
the shining apple of a still-life composition an image of  those  that  were
hanged at Kalisz. You may choose not to depict the war, but you  must  paint
in the spirit of the war."
    The forceful perception of reality  displayed  in  Still  Life  with  a
Horse's Skull and Still Life  with  a  Samovar  testifies  to  the  artist's
attempt, well before the October Revolution, to reveal the inner essence  of
his subjects.
    Mashkov tried to reflect  the  reality  of  Soviet  life  in  works  of
different  genres.  Although  he  painted  some  interesting  portraits  and
landscapes, his talent manifested itself most clearly in the field of  still
life, where he would attain the true artistic  realism  so  typical  of  the
second half of his creative  career.  The  few  works  produced  by  Mashkov
between  1918  and  1922  revealed  his  desire  to  express  that   special
optimistic mood which was characteristic of  Soviet  society  in  its  early
years. Mashkov's paintings of this period, such as Model (1918), Still  Life
with a Fan (1922) and the Portrait  of  N.  Skatkin  (192123),  show  great
    In his Model the principles  underlying  Mashkov's  painting  of  still
lifes of the 19141916 period are replaced by  a  search  for  monumentality
and expressiveness. The emotional quality of  his  work  reflected  the  new
mood of a free society, which was very different from the  dramatic  outlook
of the previous decades. Now the  artist  was  interested  not  so  much  in
conveying the tangible substance of things as in expressing  the  energy  of
life itself, and he indulged  in  bold  combinations  of  colour  and  form.
Monumentality was achieved by means of compositional devices, as well as  by
the manner of pictorial representation as a whole. The  small  size  of  the
canvas brings the portrayal of the model into greater prominence, while  the
strong build of her body is sharply  emphasized.  Mashkov  was  not  at  all
concerned with depicting her body, the draperies or the furniture  in  their
real colours. His brushstrokes are vigorous and unconstrained; he  does  not
divide his canvas  into  separate  areas  of  colour,  however,  but  rather
juxtaposes various shades  of  pink,  red,  lilac,  golden-brown,  blue  and
green. The darkish gold of the body is spotted with emerald and  lilac  with
a sprinkling of a cold,  dark  blue.  He  abandons  full  verisimilitude  of
colour here so as to enhance the expressive value of the portrait.
    In Still Life with a Fan a feeling of energy and animation is  conveyed
by it? very design and richness of colour.
    Mashkov's desire to achieve an ever fuller expression  of  his  age  is
also  apparent  in  the  portraits.  The  method  developed  in   still-life
paintings, however, was scarcely appropriate to the demands of  portraiture.
Of poor compositional design, the  portraits  of  this  period  are  usually
overloaded with accessories; the artist  was  interested  in  depicting  the
kind of object which he would often introduce into  his  still  lifes.  This
was a temptation which he could not resist  even  in  the  portraits  of  A.
Shimanovsky (1922) and N. Skatkin (192123).  But  in  these  paintings  the
still- life approach doe's coincide with an attempt  to  convey  the  living
features of his subjects.
    Between 1918 and 1922 Mashkov was particularly enthusiastic  about  the
techniques of drawing. He preferred  to  use  such  materials  as  charcoal,
pastels, sanguine and coloured pencils, which was  natural  for  him  as  an
artist. Comparatively few of these works have  been  preserved  but  amongst
those which have, there are some well executed drawings of nude  models,  as
well as some portraits which are strikingly true to life.
    The logical development of Mashkov's art was bound to lead him  towards
a consistent form of realism. From the  years  1923  and  1924  onwards  the
artist evolves a sharper sense of reality, which  was  to  remain  with  him
until the end of his creative life.  It  is  in  this  quality  of  realism,
achieved by pictorial and plastic  means  alone,  that  one  recognizes  the
strength of the still lifes and landscapes which he began to exhibit in  the
second half of the 1920s and during the 1930s.
    Joy in the fullness of life  and  in  the  powerful  forces  of  nature
becomes the leading motif in the subsequent development of his  art.  As  he
once  said:  "Physical  health,  abundance,  growing  prosperity.  .  .  new
peopleresolute, powerful, strong. . .this is the world which nourishes  my
art, these are the surroundings which bestow joy in creation."  "Beauty  may
be found," he goes on to say,  "in  the  bronzed,  weather-beaten  faces  of
collective farm workers, in young people at a  holiday  home,  gladdened  by
the sun, the sea and the south wind, and finally in  the  abundance  of  the
'fruits of the earth', by the boundless decorative possibilities of which  I
have always been captivated. . ."
    Mashkov's  attempts  to  work  in  various  genres  were   not   always
successful. If the artistic method which he developed in the field of  still
life  was  scarcely  suitable  for  portraiture,  then  it  was  even   less
appropriate for paintings depicting a complex  theme.  Far  from  dissuading
him, however, the art critics of the time actually  encouraged  his  efforts
in this direction. In short, he tried to overreach himself,  which  explains
the failure of a painting like Partisans, for example.
    Similarly, it is scarcely possible to count those  paintings  depicting
new industrial projects as being amongst  Mashkov's  creative  achievements,
although they do display his interest in contemporary life. Yet at the  same
time, in the twenties and  thirties.  Mashkov  did  paint  some  magnificent
landscapes, remarkable for their sweeping  perspectives  and  expressiveness
of form. The studies which he made in the environs of Leningrad  (1923),  in
Bakhchisaray (1925) and in the Caucasus are full  of  sunlight  and  warmth;
the clearness of the air seems almost palpable. Mashkov was indeed  as  full
of admiration for nature herself as for her  abundant  gifts  of  vegetables
and fruit.
    The most significant works created  by  Mashkov  during  the  two  last
decades of his life are undoubtedly his still lifes. Although  he  continued
to paint the same fruit, vegetables and flowers,  his  artistic  conceptions
were of a quite different order, as was his attitude  to  life  in  general.
Amongst these paintings are the two still lifes  displayed  at  the  seventh
exhibition of the AARR, entitled Moscow Meal. Meat, Game  and  Moscow  Meal.
Loaves of Bread (1924), both of which have since become widely known.  Being
conceived as separate works  different in size, composition  and  colour  
they are linked by an inner unity of content. The artist wished  to  express
in them the popular notion of abundance, wealth and beauty of  the  physical
world. In contrast to the somewhat simplified nature of his  earlier  works,
here decorative expressiveness and the over-concentrated use of  colour  are
subordinated to the real characteristics of  the  objects,  their  solidity,
weight and texture. Intensity of colour, far from being an obstacle  to  the
paintings' unity, on  the  contrary,  emphasizes  it.  Making  bold  use  of
contrast and placing warm colours by the side  of  cold  ones  (bright  red,
pink, lilac and brownish-orange in Moscow Meal. Meat, Game), Mashkov  relies
here on his own profound knowledge of the laws of colouring.
    The painter now achieves  a  synthesis  of  great  artistic  skill  and
objectivity. He is able to transform a pile of fruit lying on a  table  into
a festival of colour. At the same time he can reveal  in  objects  qualities
one would have thought impossible to  communicate  in  painting.  His  still
lifes breathe forth the fragrance of the flame-coloured oranges,  the  dark-
red roses and the strawberries which they depict; they exude  the  juice  of
sliced lemons, pumpkins, pineapples and water-melons. .  .  Every  time  the
artist conveys the heaviness of a bunch of grapes differently, according  to
whether they are lying on a table, in a dish or  simply  hanging  down  over
the side.
    During the last years of his life Mashkov did not  abandon  his  search
for new artistic possibilities. He renounced all too intense an emphasis  on
colour and decorativeness, giving to his  representations  a  more  tranquil
and intimate form. Among his last works, two  are  of  particular  interest,
namely Still Life. Pineapples and Bananas  (1938)  and  Strawberries  and  a
White Jug  (1943).  Their  subtle  execution,  their  light  but  deliberate
brushstrokes, re-creating form and distinguishing light  from  shade,  their
dignified colours  all harmonize here with a  vivid  and  poignant  feeling
for life.
    However  experimental  the  practice  of  his  art,  Mashkov   remained
essentially faithful to a true-to-life interpretation of nature. He  devoted
a great deal of his time to exploring the elements of formal  expressiveness
in painting, greatly enhancing our understanding of  the  problem.  His  own
solutions were of considerable objective  value.  Some  unequal  results  in
varying genres bear witness to a certain one-sidedness in his approach,  but
Mashkov's position in the  history  of  Russian  art  is  fully  assured;  a
leading exponent of still-life painting during  both  the  pre-revolutionary
and Soviet periods, some of his achievements in this genre  possess  genuine
    The vivid colours of Mashkov's canvases, his delight  in  the  infinite
variety of the surrounding world, his pronounced feeling of  social  reality
 all conspire to make his work one of the  great  achievements  of  Russian
art. Igor Grabar was to distinguish in the work  of  Mashkov  "a  profoundly
independent and individual interpretation of nature,  refracted  through  an
exceptionally pictorial mind  and  imagination".  Creating  canvases  of  an
"arch-concrete and realistic" kind,  Mashkov  never  ceased  to  admire  the
form, texture and colour of  what  he  was  painting.  He  shares  with  the
onlooker his own love of nature and life, his spirit  of  joy,  courage  and
                                                 G. Arbuzov
                                                 V. Pushkariov

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