Philippe Andreevitch MALYAVIN (Russian, 1869-1940)
PEASANT WOMEN: The drawing is a sublime and romantic image of Russian womenfolk, with their wholesome characters and inner stature. The two heroines are strong and healthy women, filled with a sense of their own dignity and virtue. They display integrity of character and inner strength. The faces of the girls are meaningful, the looks in their eyes are intent and enigmatic.
A student of the Imperial Academy of Arts at the end of the nineteenth century, Philipp Malyavin introduced a new type of peasant woman into Russian art - a stately, proud and sometimes intrepidly independent woman. His models were the inhabitants of the villages of Ryazan Province, dressed in bright festive attire.
Pencil and colored pencil on paper, signed on the lower right F. Malyavin, matted and framed.
Sight: 17" x 12"
Framed: 23" x 19"
Appears in good condition, darkened with age, small puncture hole on the lower right, below the signature.
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Filipp Malyavin was born into a very poor peasant family in the rural village of Kazanka in the mid-section of Russia. At the age of sixteen, he convinced his parents to allow him to go to Mount Athos, Greece to study icon painting, with his entire journey financed by the villagers where his family lived. When Malyavin reached the Monastery of Agiou Panteleimonos on Mount Athos, he was disappointed to learn that they made only copies of Russian icons. Having used up his money and unable to return to Russia, Malyavin entered the monastery as a novice where he gained experience painting icons and murals. In 1891 he met Vladimir Beklemishev, a professor at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg, who was visiting Mount Athos. Beklemishev was so impressed with Malyavin’s work that he paid for Malyavin’s enrollment at the Imperial Academy.
In 1892 Malyavin began his studies at the Imperial Academy where he studied under Pavel Chistyakov, Vasily Vereschagin and Ilya Repin. His fellow students included Igor Grabar, Konstantin Somov, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva and Boris Kustodiev. His early work was most influenced by Repin through his skill in portraiture. Two of his most famous portraits that were painted while at school are of fellow students Somov and Ostroumova-Lebedeva, both of which are at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
Although Malyavin was trained by the realist painter Ilya Repin, he was strongly influenced by the French Impressionists and the Scandinavian artist Alexander Zorn. As Malyavin developed as an artist his brushwork began to become much looser than his earlier portrait work. Malyavin preferred to work on large canvases where he could get very expressive. His graduation painting, Laughter (1899), was actually rejected by the majority of voters at the Academy. Despite this fact, Malyavin was still awarded a degree and that same painting won the gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris (1900). That same year, Malyavin married fellow student Natalia Novak-Savich and went on to became a member of the Wanderers and the World of Art.
Keeping with his humble upbringing Malyavin became famous for his brightly-colored paintings of peasants. The most well-known painting of that series, Whirlwind (1906), which secured him a position as a professor at the Imperial Academy.
Malyavin moved to Moscow in 1920, where he did portrait drawings of Lenin, Trotsky, and Lunacharsky. The political current during this time had a great influence over Malyavin and we see a dramatic shift in his style. Stalin was becoming a powerful man and was changing the focus of art allowed in Russia. He declared that the only paintings that could be shown had to have “educational value.” At this time there was a large collection of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist paintings in Russia. All of these paintings were taken off of their stretcher bars, rolled, then packed into trains and shipped off to Siberia, all because they contained no educational value. Kazimir Malevich’s work was described by Stalin as “bourgeois” art. His work was confiscated and he was banned from creating and exhibiting. Themes of happy Russian life painted in a realistic style replaced all other previous styles of art.
In 1922, while traveling to Berlin and Paris to attend his solo exhibitions, he decided to emigrate. He lived in Paris and Nice throughout the 1930s during which time he painted many portraits, including King Gustav V, Prince Eugen and Princess Ingrid of Sweden (1936). In 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo in Brussels and was accused of espionage. He was released a few months later and, at the age of seventy-one, he was forced to return to Nice on foot. Malyavin died in Nice later that year.