Olga's Gallery

Valentin Serov

Valentin Serov. Self-Portrait.


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            The artist Valentin Alexandrovich Serov was born into the family of a famous Russian composer Alexander Serov. In 1871 his father died, and in 1872-73 the little boy with his widowed mother, née Bergman, lived in Munich, where he had lessons from the artist K. Kepping. In 1874, they moved to Paris, where Valentin regularly visited the studio of Ilya Repin, who was very fond of the little boy. In 1875, the Serovs came to live at Abramtsevo, the estate of the industrial tycoon Savva Mamontov, and the cultural center of the time, where artists, musicians and actors were always welcome. Valentin grew up in an atmosphere of constant creativity, which characterized the Mamontovs’ household. He was lucky in getting a professional education from early childhood from the best Russian artists, and he soon showed himself to be a remarkably precocious draughtsman. He would catch the likeness of a model often more quickly and surely than the older artists in the ‘facetious drawing competitions’, which were so much a part of the gay and idyllic life of Abramtsevo. At the age of 15 Serov entered Academy of Arts in the class of professor Pavel Tchistykov. There he met his lifelong friend Vladimir Derviz. His first exhibited works Girl with Peaches. Portrait of Vera Mamontova. (1887) and Girl in the Sunlight. Portrait of Maria Simonovich. (1888) were a sensation. Critics called them a new word in painting. At the time of painting them Serov was unfamiliar with the works of the French Impressionists, yet he came very close to Renoir in these luminous, sunny, splendidly composed portraits.
            Serov tried himself in different genres: he was a beautiful landscape painter in a more sensuous and less nostalgic vein than another teacher of his, Isaac Levitan: Pond in Abramtsevo. (1886), The Overgrown Pond. Domotcanovo. (1888), Village. (1898), Watermill in Finland. (1902). Serov’s historical paintings are also of value and interest: Peter II and Princess Elizabeth Petrovna Riding to Hounds. (1900), Peter the Great. (1907).
            Serov became the most successful and brilliant portraitist in Russia of the 1890s and first decade of the 20th century. His most famous portraits are Portrait of the Actress Maria Yermolova. (1905), Portrait of Henrietta Girshman. (1907), Portrait of Ida Rubenstein. (1910), Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova. (1911).
He traveled much, participated in exhibitions in Russia and abroad. In 1897-1909, Serov taught in Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He was a superb technical master of the many media in which he practiced and that too did not fail to impress his students. Among his pupils were N.N. Sapunov, M.I. Mashkov, P.V. Kuznetsov, N.P. Krymov, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, C.Y. Sudeykin, K.F. Yuon and others. In 1903, he was elected the academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Serov died in 1911.

Serov by V. Leniashin. Russian Painters of the XIX century. Moscow. 1989.
The Art and Architecture of Russia (Pelican History Art) by George Heard Hamilton. Yale Univ Pr, 1992.
A Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Artists 1420-1970 by John Milner. Antique Collectors' Club, 1993.
Valentin Serov : Portraits of Russia's Silver Age by Elizabeth Valkenier. Northwestern University Press, 2001.
Valentin Serov. 1865 - 1911. Paintings. Graphic Art. by Vladimir Leniashin, Vladimir Kruglov, Yevgenia Petrova, Joseph Kiblitsky. Palace Editions, 2005.

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