Russia • 1875−1958
Konstantin Yuon (Juon) (24 October, 1875, Moscow – 11 April, 1958, Moscow) was a Ruassian and Soviet artist who kept commitment to the realistic school of painting living in the era of avant-garde.

Peculiar features of Konstantin Yuon’s art: Landscapes prevailed in the artwork of Konstantin Yuon who loved and was perfectly skillful in depicting winter and the spring air. In some of his paintings Yuon depicted Old Russian architecture - he managed to paint churches even under the Soviet regime.

Famous paintings of Konstantin Yuon: “The End of Winter. Noon”,“New Planet”.

Russian and later Soviet artist Konstantin Yuon is one of those who are usually called the lucky ones. He gained fame and honor in tsarist Russia, and he also managed to organically integrate into Soviet art. Moreover, it seems that he had not to get over himself: many Yuon’s paintings of the Soviet period feature domes and churches he loved so much. He did not face the need and he also survived the repressions of the 1930s. Besides that, Konstantin Yuon lived his whole life in a happy marriage - he chose his wife at the behest of his heart, against the will of his parents, and this choice was successful. The most difficult events of his life were a big quarrel with his father about the marriage and the death of one of his sons.

Biography of Konstantin Yuon: a happy childhood and first paintings
A strange in Russia surname of Yuon originated from his ancestors, the immigrants from Switzerland. However, by the moment of his birth the family of the insurance agent Fedor Yuon had completely assimilated. The boy was the fourth child in the family, which led the typical lifestyle of Moscow intellectuals. The education of children was a serious task. His elder brother and sister studied at the Moscow Conservatory, so musical parties and amateur theatrical performances were constantly arranged in the house. The house was full of noise and laughter when guests and numerous relatives gathered there regularly. A happy childhood in a loving atmosphere can be entirely appropriate definition to describe .Yuon’s early years.

The story of how one of the guests of the house taught the seven-year-old Kostya to mix paints is widely known. From that moment on, he could not stop drawing. His school teacher confirmed that the boy had a talent for drawing. It was then that the young Konstantin Yuon became addicted to visiting the Tretyakov Gallery. The question of further career was solved. Yuon entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture for a course under Nikolai Kasatkin in 1894. He did not care about any amusements a student could have and he studied with unprecedented diligence. From the very beginning of his studies, Yuon participated in exhibitions. The artist was very enthusiastic to recall his first success when he got the praise of Ilya Repin, who nodded approvingly after seeing Yuon’s work and said: “This is fun!” The artist told that “... this “fun” made such a fun in my heart!” By the way, until the end of his life, Yuon was very fond of the word “fun” and often used it when talking about paintings.

Finding His Own Way
Having completed the main course, Yuon, on his own initiative, remained for another two years for the pleasure of studying with Valentin Serov (combining this with occasional classes under Levitan). In the late 1890s, he made several trips abroad. But the bright beauty of Europe could not compete in his heart with the landscapes of Central Russia. Exotic thing were of no interest to Yuon. For example, he returned from a trip to the Caucasus much earlier than it had been planned, since the formidable mountain views left him indifferent, and the unpretentious notorious birches, on the contrary, attracted him so much. Exotic trends in art did not inspire him either. Konstantin Korovin, who became the main Russian impressionist and enthralled many students, as well as Borisov-Musatov, who brought canvases from Paris that were very different from what the students were taught at the school — all this did not particularly affect Konstantin Yuon and did not shake his adherence to a realistic school. Yuon’s “The Blue Bush” and the “Nocturnes” series was a tribute to the new trends, but after that the artist turned back to his favorite panoramic landscapes, however, occasionally turning to symbolism.

Glory and Love
The end of the century brought Konstantin Yuon the official recognition - in those years, the acquisition of paintings by the Tretyakov Gallery was considered as such. Konstantin Yuon successfully maneuvered between the St. Petersburg “World of Art” assosiation and the Moscow Union of Russian Artists. He participated in the exhibitions of both associations, but at the same time remained on his own, without adjoining anyone. At some point he realized the capital's hustle and bustle made him lose himself, and Konstantin Yuon set off to travel across Russia to Nizhny Novgorod, Sergiev Posad, later Rostov and Pskov. A special place for him was the village of Ligachevo in the vicinity of Moscow. Yuon painted well there, he later built a house there. And most importantly - it was in Ligachevo that he met the peasant woman Klavdia Nikitina, whom he soon married and lived with her a long and happy life. The artist’s father was enraged by such a misalliance and for several years did not speak with his son. But gradually the beauty and good nature of the daughter-in-law softened the parental heart.

Shocked by the events of the Bloody Sunday in 1905, Yuon went abroad, where he participated in the famous Russian art exhibition organized by Sergei Diaghilev and was elected a member of the Paris Autumn Salon. Since that time, he was regularly engaged in the creation of theatrical scenery.

Soviet artist Konstantin Yuon
Yuon’s attitude to the revolution is somewhat ambiguous, at least in the opinion of his descendants. He was recognized in the USSR. Yuon had personal exhibitions, he was involved in teaching (in his studio, and later on at the Leningrad Academy of Arts and the Surikov Moscow Institute), he worked as a decorator. He was repeatedly awarded various prizes, was a laureate of the Stalin Prize, and headed the Research Institute of Theory and History of Fine Arts of the USSR Academy of Arts, was the first secretary of the Union of Artists.

Success, career, recognition! What are the reasons to talk about the ambiguity of his attitude to the Soviet power? These are the artworks of Yuon! What source could be more reliable? For example, Soviet art called the “New Planet” as “the monumental image of the new world”. However, if we assume that Yuon could express not only admiration for the changes, then does his work seem so joyful and life-affirming? Rather, it looks like a disaster picture. And does this “new planet” cause a desire to settle on it? Not much ... Konstantin Yuon's painting "The People" depicts the prisoners of the Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp. There were enough people in the camps, you can’t argue with that. The canvas “Symphony of Action” is interesting and very unusual for Yuon - it is also difficult to suspect the image of the enthusiasm of a happy Soviet man on that canvas. However, we will not call Yuon an anti-Soviet artist. When he painted Soviet people, they turned out not to be a strained grin of socialist realism, but alive and real.

Moreover, many churches in Yuon’s paintings, including the famous "Domes and Swallows", were painted during the years of Soviet active struggle against religion. How did it happen? And how did he manage to combine everything? Actually, from this we began the biography of Konstantin Yuon: he was very lucky in life. He managed to find himself, his way, to meet his love and live a fruitful happy life in an era of serious public unrest, leaving his descendants many shades of piercing sky and such different snow in his paintings and, of course, domes and swallows.

Author: Alena Esaulova.

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