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 Viktor Borisov-Musatov



Borisov-Musatov Victor      

(b Saratov, 14 April 1870; d Tarusa, 8 Nov 1905).

Russian painter. He studied art in Saratov from 1890 to 1891 and then at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1893 to 1895. In the intervening years he attended the Academy of Art in St Petersburg and worked under Pavel Chistyakov (1832–1919). During three winters in Paris between 1895 and 1898 he attended the studio of the history and portrait painter Fernand Cormon. Cormon had little influence on his style, but the exposure to contemporary French art was crucial, and the first mature works of Borisov-Musatov date from this period. He produced landscapes and figure studies in the high-keyed colours of the French Impressionists, as in the oil painting Boy with a Dog (1895; Khar’kov, Mus. F.A.). In France Borisov-Musatov had also seen the murals of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and he returned to Moscow hoping to produce monumental, decorative art based on a Symbolist rendering of nature. His many paintings of women in early 19th-century dress have a superficial resemblance to the retrospective paintings of the Russian World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) group, but add a new note of melancholy, of an imaginary past irretrievably lost. He came close in mood to the contemporary Russian Symbolist poets, Valery Bryusov (1873–1924) and Andrey Bely, who were his friends. Borisov-Musatov’s oil and tempera Self-portrait with Sister (1898; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.) is still Impressionist in the depiction of the landscape, but in the expressions on the faces it introduces a note of introspection that was to be characteristic of his oeuvre for the rest of his life. Increasingly he moved away from a direct transcription of nature towards a depiction of mood. His later works are premeditated exercises in colour, form and composition.


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