Portrait of Chaliapin

Boris Kustodiev • Painting, 1922, 99×80 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Art Nouveau
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1922
Size: 99×80 cm
Artwork in selections: 33 selections

Description of the artwork «Portrait of Chaliapin»

The acquaintance of the artist Boris Kustodiev and the opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin took place in 1919, and the writer Maxim Gorky introduced them. Kustodiyev from a young age adored the work of Chaliapin. The singer, in turn, was struck by the tragic fate of Kustodiev: by the time they met, the famous artist had been confined to a wheelchair for three years. People of creativity, known and held each in their field, they easily found common topics for conversations, and Kustodiev also had a lot of experience in designing theater productions.

After the success of the opera performance “Tsar's Bride” (1920) in the artistic performance of Kustodiev, the Mariinsky Theater team appealed to him to arrange the opera “Enemy Power” by composer Alexander Serov based on the play by Alexander Ostrovsky. “Negotiator”, naturally, was made by Fyodor Chaliapin, who was not only the performer of Yeremka’s party, but also the director of the performance. Boris Kustodiyev gladly accepted the offer of Chaliapin, and at the same time suggested the singer to write his portrait. And certainly in a fur coat, in which the singer came to visit him.
Chaliapin recalled:
“- Is it clever? - I say to him. The fur coat is good, but possibly stolen.
- How is stolen? Mess up, Fedor Ivanovich.
“Yes, yes, I say, three weeks ago I received it for a concert from some State Institution.” And you, in fact, know the slogan: “rob the loot”.
- But how did this happen?
- They came, they offered to sing a concert at the Mariinsky Theater for which, I don’t remember what “House” anymore, and instead of paying with money, they offered a fur coat with flour or ... I went to the store. They offered me to choose. What a bastard I am - bourgeois! Could not choose worse - chose better.
- Here we are, Fedor Ivanovich, and fix it on the canvas. After all, as original: the actor, and the singer, and whistled his fur coat ”.

On that and decided. However, the artist began to create a portrait not soon - Chaliapin was busy working on the production, working through every little thing. But he asked Kustodiev to paint a portrait of his wife, Maria Valentinovna, which was done. When the rehearsals began, Shalyapin helped Kustodiev to visit each of them: he not only organized the car for the trip, but also carried the artist out of the house, and then helped him out of the car and into the theater hall. Kustodiyev actively worked on sketches for “Enemy Force”, Chaliapin often came to him for a discussion of scenery and costumes; they even sang together - the artist had a tenor.

Finally, the master decided to resume work on the portrait begun in the fall of 1920. Again decided to write Chaliapin in the very fur coat; the singer asked Kustodiev to paint Reuka on the picture of his favorite French bulldog. Kustodiev’s son, Kirill, recalled: “In order for him to stand with his head up, they would put a cat on the closet, and Chaliapin would do everything possible so that the dog would look at her.

Initially, Kustodiyev conceived a full-length portrait; This led to the fact that the artist, whose height exceeded 2 meters, the artist had to write in parts. Limited by the space of a small workshop, who worked sitting in a wheelchair, Kustodiyev could not write the whole figure of the person being portrayed at once. Shalyapin himself could hardly fit in the room where the artist worked. Kustodiev had to solve not only the artistic, but also the technical task of performing the conceived portrait: he wrote the middle part while sitting, and the upper and lower parts - in the reclining position. On the ceiling of Kustoyev's workshop, a block with a rope and a load was equipped - with his help, the artist had the opportunity to independently adjust the inclination of the canvas, with which he worked. The size of the finished picture was 215 by 172 centimeters; the artist had to transfer some details from the sketches to the canvas in the cells.

The portrait was made in the favorite portrait-landscape style of Kustodiyev: the stately figure of Fyodor Shalyapin is depicted against the background of colorful, cheerful folk festivals. The beaver cap and luxurious fur coat, the theatrical pose of Chaliapin, depicted with a three-quarter front, adds to the monumentality of the gray-haired figure of the singer. A concert costume is visible from under the unbuttoned fur coat, a silk scarf is shining brightly in the wind, and lacquered shoes with gaiters are waving on the legs. On the little finger of his right hand is a precious ring, in his left hand there is a beautiful cane. It seems that Chaliapin right from here, from this snowy hill, will go to the concert. The richness of clothes in this portrait, created during the NEP, is seen as a symbol of the material wealth of the famous artist. At the feet of Chaliapin - favorite dog Royka, faithfully looking at the owner.

In the background, on the left, Kustodiyev, at Shalyapin's request, depicted the figures of Chaliapin's two daughters, Maria and Martha, accompanied by Isaia Dvorishchin, the singer's personal secretary. Mariina has a little monkey in her arms.

Kustodiev chose the image of folk festivals on the occasion of the Maslenitsa on a clear, winter day as a background. The sunny landscape, the multi-colored whirlwind of the fairground was invented and executed by Kustodiev from memory. The phenomenal visual memory of the artist, the ability to notice and memorize small details gave him the opportunity to create a masterpiece with a lot of elegant human figures, micro scenes and buildings. Kustodiyev in his work was able to express not only the deep inner world of the great singer, but also his biographical path: from small provincial amusing theaters to the most famous world scenes.

According to Kustodiev, the picture was called “New City”, or “F. I. Chaliapin in an unfamiliar city. " Other her names are known: “F. I. Chaliapin at the fair "and" Chaliapin at the fair in Nizhny Novgorod ". For the first time, the general public saw a portrait of Chaliapin at the World of Art exhibition in May 1922; the artist himself because of the disease could not get to it. The work of Kustodiev was one of the highlights of the season, there were a lot of laudatory comments about her. Chaliapin bought a portrait immediately after work and took him with him on tour to Paris; He loved this picture very much and later often took it with him on tour. Kustodiyev was also pleased with his work, although he never could look at the portrait from a sufficiently long distance to fully appreciate it. In 1922, the artist performed the author's repetition of the portrait, making a smaller copy for himself. Two years later, she was presented to the audience at an exhibition of Russian art in New York.

In 1968, the daughters of Fyodor Shalyapin decided to donate the original portrait to the Leningrad Theater Museum, where several years earlier the portrait of Maria Chaliapin was given, which was kept in the family of Isaiah Dvorishchina. The author's repetition of the portrait is in the Russian Museum - it was transferred here in 1927 from the Tretyakov Gallery.

Author: Rita Lozinskaya