The album reveals life and work of Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiyev (1878 - 1927), a Russian artist. His gift was blossoming in the early 20th century, highlighting everyday life of the Russian provinces most brilliantly. Town and country folk celebrations and festivals, motley throng at markets and pavilions, tea-parties of all toggled-up merchants' wives... A number of images, created by the artist, became common names.
Despite his incurable disease, making the painter chairbound, he worked non-stop and created joyful pictures acknowledged masterpieces by later generations. Fyodor Shalyapin, a great Russian singer and Kustodiyev's friend, called him "a man of high spirit".
The album, presented to Your attention, is the most complete collection of works by the outstanding artist, B.M. Kustodiyev.
1878 - 1927
Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiyev was born in 1878 in Astrakhan in the family of a teacher of literature. His father died when the boy was about two years old. Boris had a brother and two sisters, and they led a modest yet happy life with their mother. As most of his relatives belonged to either tradespeople or clergymen, the youth, having graduated from the local seminary, would take the career of a priest. However, exhibition of the Moving Artists in Astrakhan changed his life.
His оlder sister studied with P.A. Vlasov, an artist, who, after graduation from the St. Petersburg Art Academy, came to Astrakhan and started a course of painting for general public. And at the age of 15, Boris joined it.
In the autumn of 1896, he went to St. Petersburg and, having passed the exam successfully, was enlisted in the Art Academy. One of his first works there was even taken to an exhibition and sold for 16 rubles. After the general course, the students started work at studios headed by the best contemporary artists. Kustodiyev happened to study with I.E. Repin. At that time, Kustodiyev became fond of 'The World of Art' group, comprising Benua, Roerich, Dobuzhinskiy, Bilibin, Lancere, Grabar, and Petrov-Vodkin. Meanwhile, at the international exhibition in Munich, his portrait of I. Bilibin won a golden medal.
Kustodiyev also tried the genre of book illustration, illuminating the books by N. Gogol.
In 1901, I. Repin invited Kustodiyev to work together on the giant ordered picture 'Parade Meeting' to commemorate the centenary of the State Council. The artists had to spend four or five hours every day for two years, and Kustodiyev created 25 excellent portraits to make him popular with St. Petersburg high society. Lots of nobles ordered him their portraits after that. As a famous artist, he took part in exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Munich, winning the big golden medal of the international association of artists. In the autumn of the same year, after graduation from the Academy with another golden medal, Kustodiyev was granted a one-year trip abroad. In Western Europe, Kustodiyev studied pictures by Old Masters and Impressionists.
When he returned to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1905, his works reflected the beginning Russian street meetings and demonstrations as festivals. Multi-figured folk holidays and markets by Kustodiyev resemble pictures by P. Bruegel although there are no cripples or beggars in the works by the Russian artist. In 1909, when Kustodiyev was elected Academician, he suffered the first bouts of a hard disease - constant pain in head and arms. Despite his illness, he made lots of portraits but refused to teach at the Moscow College of Art, as he did not want to leave St. Petersburg. For some time he agreed to cooperate with 'The Golden Fleece' - a magazine of Symbolists, and illuminated books by Pushkin, Turgenev, Leskov, Tolstoy, and other Russian classical writers.
In the spring of 1911, Kustodiyev received an order to make a sculpture of Nicholas II while in 1913, he completed his picture 'Frosty Day', constantly decorating performances at that.
As his health was getting worse, Kustodiyev went to Germany to the hospital of famous Oppenheim. There, provided he would come for the second operation the next year, the artist had the chance to get well for the first time.
In the summer of 1914, Kustodiyev and his family went to their estate on the Volga for a holiday and there learned of Russian participation in the First World War. Therefore another trip to Berlin hospital became impossible. Meanwhile, Boris Mikhailovich could hardly walk with the help of a couple of sticks.
Nonetheless, he worked even more. It is strange that after executing his second likeness of Emperor Nicholas, the artist felt worse. At a hospital in St. Petersburg, they found a neoplasm unable to excise. His legs paralyzed, the artist thanked the Lord for being able to move at least his arms. In the autumn of 1916, one of his masterpieces - big picture 'Shrovetide' was presented at the exhibition of 'The World of Art'.
Leaving the hospital, the artist made his famous 'Travelling Shows'. The February revolution of 1917 he greeted with joy. For him, it was a kind of people's celebration. In the early 1920-s, Kustodiyev created the series 'Russian Characters' and illustrated numerous books, becoming leader in that genre. In 1921, he created the series 'Seasons' while in 1922 he made the famous portrait of F.I. Shalyapin. In just a month, he made one of his best decorations for E. Zamyatin's play 'Flea', and on February 7, 1925, he was lucky to visit the dress rehearsal.
As if at a joust, he hurried to a canvas in his wheel chair, creating a number of great works, such as 'Autumn in a Province', 'Summer', 'Wife of a Merchant at Tea' and others. For his 'Russian Venus', painted with his daughter as sitter, he had to take an old canvas. Kustodiyev never rejected any orders. 'I work for people', he said, 'for an artist, there should not be anything ugly; he must accept life and only then his art will touch its viewer and will have a true value'.
Boris Mikhailovich died in the spring - on May 26, 1927 at the age of 49. Interesting that the name 'Kustodiyev' resembles the word 'custodian', and in Russian art Boris Kustodiyev is a true keeper of faith, light, joy, Russian patriarchal life, and folk traditions.