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Доклад: Илья Иванович Машков

                          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 (1881—1944) 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 Diamonds).
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 1907—beginning 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 intensity—all 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 period—for 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
Л Town View and Л 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, 
1915—16), 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
departure.
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 (1921—23), show great variety.
In his Model the principles underlying Mashkov's painting of still lifes
of the 1914—1916 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 (1921—23). 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 people—resolute,
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 grandeur.
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 optimism.
G. Arbuzov
V. Pushkariov