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Serov is the only one of the great artists who was lucky enough to get into the estate of patron Savva Mamontov Abramtsevo as a child.
Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov. Pond. Abramtsevo.
Pond. Abramtsevo.
1886, 34.5×24.5 cm

He began to draw extremely early: at the age of 9 he was given lessons Repin. Meanwhile, Elizaveta G. Mamontova met with Serov’s mother - a musician and emancipated woman with independent views and a strong character. Her son Valentin is the same age as the elder sons of the Mamontovs, and very soon the boy becomes his own in Abramtsevo.
Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov. EG mammut
EG mammut
1887, 46.9×33.8 cm

True, in Abramtsevo Serov all the stubborn name is not Valentine, but Anton, thus deciphering his childhood nickname "Tosha" (derived from Walentosh). Serov does not mind, he generally likes everything here: Anton is so Anton!


About what was the estate of Abramtsevo in the time of Serov, we tell in detail in the material "Abramtsevo in faces and fates" - part Iand part II.

The most famous fact about Serov and Abramtsev is, of course, that in the Abramtsevo house the artist painted a portrait of 12-year-old Vera Mamontova, “A Girl with Peaches”. Serov at that time was a little over 20, but, despite the age difference, he was touchingly friendly with the Mamontov girls - Yashka (Vera) and Shurka (Alexandra). It took a lot of sessions for the picture, and Serov feels guilty in front of Vera that he has to force this lively and cheerful girl who is forced to run to play with friends for a long time sitting at the table without movement.
Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov. Ragazza con pesche (Ritratto di Vera Mamontova)
Ragazza con pesche (Ritratto di Vera Mamontova)
1887, 85×91 cm

Raised by a solid and domineering mother, to whom, by her own admission, had more respect than filial love, “Anton” Serov became very attached to Elizaveta Mamontova, calling her “second mother”. Leaving Abramtsev, it was Elizaveta Grigoryevna, the restrained and usually silent Serov, who sent letters full of such an ardent tenderness unexpected for him: “Elizabeth Grigoryevna, dear! I am writing to you, although I know that our correspondence is stuck; and what correspondence can be between you and me? And yet, I don’t want to talk about her at all, I just want to send you greetings, to tell you something affectionate, well, at least that I remember you well, that you are still dear to me (by the way, yesterday I and the day before yesterday I saw you in a dream); ask you how are you? What is Abramtsevo? ” “I love you very much. And I love you ever since I saw you for the first time as a ten-year-old boy, when, lying sick in the ladies' room, I thought why you had such a good face. ”

In Abramtsevo, Serov doesn’t stop drawing - the atmosphere itself has something to do with it: everyone draws here, everyone is busy all the time. "Oh! I painted a portrait of Antokolsky, now I’m bragging - Serov informs his future wife Olga Trubnikova, - we, Vasnetsov and I painted from Antokolsky a portrait, and imagine I have better. Strictly, the manner is good and similar, if not completely, then, in any case, similar to Vasnetsovsky’s. Repin in one of his letters quite calmly reports that Serov's portrait sketches are better than Repin’s.


And in Abramtsevo, Serov opened an extraordinary acting talent. Sergey Savvich Mamontov recalled: “In the biblical drama“ Joseph ”, being 15 years old, he perfectly played the Ishmael merchant, - he put into the incarnate figure the smallest everyday features of the East, which he could guess at that time only by instinct. In the same play, Valentin Alexandrovich portrayed the Egyptian palace as if he had descended from the age-old bas-reliefs of Memphis or the old Thebes. Even the central role of the Pharaoh, performed by a very beautiful girl, turned pale next to the characteristic figure of Serov. ”

It remains to add that the role of Joseph sold to Egypt in that home performance was played by Verochka Mamontova.

Valentin Serov and the Abramtsevo circle of Savva Mamontov
Valentin Serov and the Abramtsevo circle of Savva Mamontov
1. Vera Mamontova in the costume of Joseph, 1880.
2. Vasily Polenov. Set design for the play "Joseph".

Later, Savva Mamontov composed and staged the Khan Namyk buffoonery in Abramtsevo. Natalya Polenova writes: “I remember how Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (married, by the way, to Mamontov’s sister Vera - in Abramtsevo, it seems everyone sooner or later became relatives to each other - ed.) Cried with laughter over this nonsense, before that she was subtly and artistically played out ". And who again turned out to be the “highlight of the program”? Here is what Savva Mamontov wrote in the evening in his diary about the most hilarious moment of the performance: “And Anton Serov as Molla seductively danced like a dancer”.

“Theater, rehearsals, vaudeville, seductive dances, which I arrange, in a word, the devil knows what is”- Serov painted in a letter to his bride his usual activities in Abramtsevo.

Here is what Mark Kopshitser reports about Serov’s amazing acting talent in his monograph on the artist: “Serov played very willingly, especially comic roles. When the Gogol's “Marriage” was staged, he played one of the grooms, a retired sailor Zhevakin, and at the same time the role of a cabman, uttering a few words behind the scenes. In general, he had some kind of weakness for voices behind the stage, onomatopoeia and sound effects: in Mamontov’s play “The Black Turban” he neighed a horse and cooed a dove. In another play by Mamontov, “Tsar Saul”, he shouted behind the stage in the voice of the giant Goliath, and shouted so that at the same time an echo was repeated, repeating the last syllable of each phrase. He was a brilliant improviser and loved to depict various "types" of Moscow life. He was especially successful in the cab driver, who was trying to persuade the master to "ride for a dime". ”

Regular Abramtseva Vasily Polenovintroduced to their Abramtsevo circle and his beloved student - charming, temperamental and cheerful Kostya Korovin. Friends of Serov and Korovin, silent and chatty, closed and explosive, neat and disheveled, all the time at the Mamontov’s party laughing and doing something. They are so friendly that Savva Mamontov calls an inseparable couple of “Cows” and “Serovin”.



1. Valentin Serov. Portrait of the artist Konstantin Korovin
2. Valentin Serov. Self portrait

Vsevolod Mamontov recalled how surprising the friendship of such dissimilar Valentines and Konstantin seemed to him: “Serov, invariably neatly dressed, carefully combed, was always charming and seemingly gloomy, serious, and Korovin was inconsistent, rather frivolous, unpleasant“ artistic ”negligence in costume". Between vests and trousers, Korovin was always stuck in a knocking out white shirt, which is why the witty Serov teased Korovin “The Page of the Medici Times”. Medici was just called the Russian owner of the estate Abramtsevo Savva Mamontov.

Read more about Savva Mamontov read in the Arthive Encyclopedia.

Author: Anna Yesterday
This text was originally published in Russian and automatically translated to English.