28 december 2003—10 may 2004
The exhibition, devoted to 125th Anniversary of Boris Kustodiev's birthday, shows some 350 selected works from the collections of the State Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, art museums and museums of local lore of Minsk, Krasnodar, Vologda, Ivanov, the All-Russia A.S.Pushkin Museum, the Literary Museum of the Russian Literature Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IRLI RAN), museums of Georgy Tovstonogov Bolshoi Theatre of Drama, Alexander Pushkin Drama Theatre, the Russian National Library, and private collections. Works presented demonstrate all the kinds and genres of art the artist practiced. The exhibition introduces Kustodiev's own artistic system of images, as well as shows general trends in evolution of the Russian art of the early 20th century. Some of the works are exhibited for the first time, some have not been shown to the public for fifteen years. Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev is a famous Russian artist of the early 20th century. He was a member of "The World of Art". His many pictures, drawings, and engravings depict the sunny, bright, and polyphonic world of the Russian provinces. Folk pictures (luboks), provincial signboards and trays influenced Kustodiev's manner. He was one of the first to feel their aesthetic value. His best pictures became classic straight away, now they are an element of national memory of Russian people. Being born in the rich and old merchant town of Astrakhan at Volga mouth, where trade roads coming from Europe and Asia met, and having travelled a lot, Kustodiev knew well the life of big and small towns of Volga banks and the central part of Russia. His cheerful, sorrowless works, full of love and irony, show the Russian provinces as an all-sufficient world with its own way of life and its own aesthetics. Here, old traditions are carefully maintained, while towns character, people's clothes and behaviour freakishly combine the old and the new. The artist's favourite themes were bustling fairs; Shrovetide public fete with troikas and crowds of well-dressed spectators in front of show-booths; summer feasts with walking merchant families; Russian beauties - ruddy-faced, corpulent, and imposing. Kustodiev was a prominent portrait painter. He created quite a number of portraits: children, women, and men of all classes of the Russian society; in painting, graphics, and sculpture. His self-portrait (1913) can now be seen in the gallery of self-portraits, the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Along with easel painting, graphics, and sculpture, the artist worked in monumental painting and illustrated works by N.V.Gogol, A.S.Pushkin, and N.S.Leskov. He made scenery for Moscow and St. Petersburg theatres and became famous for his participation in production of plays by M.Y.Saltykov-Shchedrin, A.N.Ostrovsky and Y.I.Zamyatin. In the last decade of his life, the artist created many lively, cheerful images, but his own life was tragic - his disease caused hemiplegia. However, even in a wheelchair he went on working till his last day. It was then that he created Merchant's Wife at Tea, Russian "Venus", "Fyodor Shaliapin in an Unknown City", and a number of successful portraits, that he illustrated several books and mounted performances; he even turned to new genres of prints and posters. A catalogue for the exhibition
has been published.