Varfolomeevich Kuznetsov

Russia • 1878−1968

Biography and information

He studied at the studio of painting and drawing at the Saratov Society of Lovers of Fine Arts (1891-1896) under G.P. Baracki and V.V. Konovalov, at the Bogolyubovsky Drawing School (1897), Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1897-1904) by A.E. Arkhipova, N.A. Kasatkina, L.O. Pasternak, V.A. Serova, K.A. Korovin. He taught (1918-1930) at the State Free Art Workshops, Higher Art and Technical Workshops, and the Higher Art and Technical Institute. Participant of exhibitions: Moscow Society of Art Lovers (1901), "World of Art" (1902, 1906, 1911-1918), "Scarlet Rose", Saratov (1904), Moscow Association of Artists (1905), "Blue Rose" (1907), "Wreath" (1907-1908), "Golden Fleece" (1908-1910), Union of Russian Artists (1906, 1907, 1909), "4 Arts" (since 1925), Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (1928), foreign. Honored Artist of the RSFSR (since 1929).

Nature endowed P.V. Kuznetsov with a brilliant painting gift and inexhaustible soul energy. The feeling of enthusiasm for life did not leave the artist to a very old age. Art was for him a form of existence.


Kuznetsov could join the visual craft as a child, in the workshop of his father, an icon painter. When the boy’s artistic inclinations were clearly defined, he entered the Studio of Painting and Drawing at the Saratov Society of Fine Arts Lovers, where he studied for several years (1891-96) under the guidance of V.V. Konovalov and G.P. Salvi-ni-Barakka. An extremely important event in his life was a meeting with V. E. Borisov-Musatov, who had a strong and beneficial influence on the Saratov art youth. In 1897, Kuznetsov brilliantly passed the exams at MUZHVZ. He studied well, distinguished not only by the brightness of his talent, but also by his genuine passion for work. In these years, Kuznetsov was under the spell of the picturesque artistry of K. A. Korovin; no less profound was the disciplining effect of V. A. Serov. At the same time, a group of students rallied around Kuznetsov, who later became members of the famous Blue Rose creative community.


From impressionism to symbolism - this is the main trend that determined the search for Kuznetsov in the early period of creativity. Having paid tribute to plein air painting, the young artist strove to find a language that could reflect not so much the impressions of the visible world, but the state of mind. On this path, painting came close to poetry and music, as if experiencing the limits of pictorial possibilities. Among the important accompanying circumstances are the participation of Kuznetsov and his friends in the design of symbolist performances, and cooperation in symbolist magazines. In 1902, Kuznetsov with two comrades - K. S. Petrov-Vodkin and P. S. Utkin - undertook the experience of painting in the Saratov Church of Our Lady of Kazan. Young artists did not hesitate to comply with the canons, giving full freedom to imagination. The risky experiment caused a storm of public indignation, accusations of blasphemy - the paintings were destroyed, but for the artists themselves this experience was an important step in the search for a new pictorial expression.


By the time MUZHVZ ended (1904), Kuznetsov’s symbolist orientation was well defined. Of particular importance were the picturesque discoveries of Borisov-Musatov. However, the balance of the abstract and the concrete, which marked the best Musat things, is not characteristic of Kuznetsov’s symbolism. The flesh of the visible world melts in his paintings, his pictorial visions are almost surreal, woven from images of shadows denoting the subtle movements of the soul. Kuznetsov's favorite motif is the fountain; The artist was fascinated by the spectacle of the water cycle as a child, and now memories of this are resurrected on canvases that vary the theme of the eternal cycle of life. Like Musatov, Kuznetsov prefers tempera, but uses its decorative capabilities in a very peculiar way, as if with an eye on the techniques of impressionism. The whitened shades of color seem to tend to merge into a single whole: a barely colored light - and the picture seems to be shrouded in colored fog ("Morning", "Blue Fountain", both 1905; "Birth", 1906, etc.).


Kuznetsov gained fame early. The artist was not even thirty when his work entered the famous exposition of Russian art arranged by S.P. Diaghilev in Paris (1906). The apparent success entailed the election of Kuznetsov as a member of the Autumn Salon (not many Russian artists were awarded this honor). One of the most important events in Russian artistic life at the beginning of the century was the exhibition "Blue Rose", opened in Moscow in the spring of 1907. Being one of the initiators of this action, Kuznetsov also acted as the artistic leader of the whole movement, which has since been called "Goluborozovsky".


In the late 1900s. the artist survived a creative crisis. The strangeness of his work sometimes became painful; it seemed that he had exhausted himself and was not able to justify the hopes placed on him. All the more impressive was the revival of Kuznetsov, who turned to the East. The decisive role was played by the artist’s travels along the Volga steppes, trips to Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent. In the very beginning of the 1910s. Kuznetsov made pictures of the “Kyrgyz Suite”, marking the highest flowering of his talent (“Sleeping in a nightmare”, 1911; “Shearing”, “Rain in the steppe”, “Mirage”, “Evening in the steppe”, all 1912, etc. ) From the eyes of the artist, a veil was asleep: its color, without losing its exquisite nuance, was imbued with the power of contrasts, the rhythmic pattern of the compositions acquired expressive simplicity. The intuition intrinsic to Kuznetsov by the nature of his talent gives the paintings of the steppe cycle a pure poetic sound, lyrically soulful and epic solemn. Adjoining in time to these works, the Bukhara Series (The Teahouse, 1912; The Bird Bazaar, In the Temple of Buddhists, both 1913, etc.) demonstrates an increase in decorative qualities, causing theater associations. In those same years, Kuznetsov wrote a number of still lifes, among them the excellent "Still Life with Japanese Engraving" (1912).


The growing fame of Kuznetsov contributed to the expansion of his creative activity. The artist was invited to participate in the painting of the Kazan station in Moscow, performed sketches ("Fruit Harvest", "Asian Bazaar", 1913-14), but they remained unfulfilled. In 1914, Kuznetsov collaborated with A. Ya. Tairov in the first production of the Chamber Theater - the Sakuntala Kalidasa performance, which was a great success. Developing the rich potentials of the Kuznetsov decorator, these experiments undoubtedly influenced his easel painting, which increasingly gravitated to the style of monumental art (“Fortune-telling”, 1912; “Evening in the Steppe”, 1915; “At the Source”, 1919-20; "Uzbek", 1920; "Birdhouse", the beginning of the 1920s, etc.).


During the revolution, Kuznetsov worked with great enthusiasm. He took part in the design of revolutionary festivities, in the publication of the magazine "The Way of Liberation", conducted pedagogical work, was engaged in many artistic and organizational problems. His energy was enough for everything. During this period he creates new variations of oriental motifs, marked by the influence of ancient Russian painting; among his best works are magnificent portraits of E. M. Bebutova (1921-22); then he published the lithographic series Turkestan and Mountain Bukhara (1922-23).


Attachment to the chosen circle of plots did not exclude a lively reaction of the artist to current reality. Impressed by the trip to Paris, where in 1923 his exhibition was organized (together with Bebutova), Kuznetsov wrote "Parisian Comedians" (1924-25); in this work, the inherent decorative laconicism of the style turned into unexpectedly sharp expression. New discoveries brought the artist's trips to the Crimea and the Caucasus (1925-29). Saturated with light and energetic movement, the space of his compositions has gained depth; such are the famous panels "Grape Harvest" and "Crimean Collective Farm" (both 1928). During these years, Kuznetsov persistently sought to expand his plot repertoire, addressing the topics of labor and sports. A stay in Armenia (1930) brought to life a cycle of paintings that embodied, according to the painter himself, "the collective pathos of monumental construction, where people, cars, animals and nature merge into one powerful chord." With all the sincerity of the desire to respond to the social order, Kuznetsov could not fully satisfy the orthodox of the new ideology, who often criticized him for “aesthetics”, “formalism”, etc. The same charges were addressed to other masters of the Four Arts association (1924- 31), the founding member and chairman of which was Kuznetsov. Works created in the late 1920s - early 1930s. (including "Portrait of the sculptor A.T. Matveev", 1928; "Mother", "Bridge over the Zan-gu river", both 1930; "Cotton sorting", "Pushball", both 1931) - the last high rise of creativity Kuznetsova.


The master was destined to outlive his peers much, but even reaching old age, he did not lose his passion for creativity. In later years, Kuznetsov is predominantly occupied with landscape and still life. And although the works of recent years are inferior to the previous ones, Kuznetsov’s creative longevity cannot be recognized as an exceptional phenomenon.