21 May 2012

Regarding Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov

First, I've changed my blog format to gray letters on a light field to improve readability.  I found the previous black format difficult to view on mobile devices, like my iPad.  I like the light ground better anyway, although it still needs tweaking.


I recently added 2 books to my library, The Best of Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov.  I especially like the soulful portraits created by these great Russian realists...contemporaries of Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn.  As with Sargent, Serov's portraits were in high demand by artists, politicians, and Russian high society during the Silver Age of Russia, prior to the revolution.  My original interest here was to do master studies from each book.  The drawing below is after Repin, a pale shadow of the original, but I learned a lot, as I always do with master copies.  Such a good learning tool.

Alexandra Botkina after Repin, Charcoal and chalk on paper

Back to Repin and Serov...In his early 20's, Serov was a student of Repin's for several years and that influence is clear in his work.  As I looked through each book, I recognized a similar portrait which must have been painted by them as they sat side-by-side (see below).  It's clear from her gaze that the model was deferring to Repin.  Models always pose for the master, not the students.  Interesting to see how each artist interpreted the shapes and colors before him...Repin more literally and with more saturated color, Serov more impressionistically and tonally.  I like the Repin, but if I had a choice it would be the Serov.  I'd take Serov over Sargent.  Something subtle and psychological in Serov's portraits.

Portrait of Sophia Dragomirova, 1889 by Ilya Repin

Portrait of Sophia Dragomirova, 1889 by Valentin Serov

I've included a few more of my favorite Serov's below for your enjoyment.  Information on him is widely available on the web.  Here's the Google Image search.  The book I mention above, Valentin Serov, is a bargain under $80.  I wouldn't purchase the book on Repin at it's current price of $150-$200...too expensive for what it is.

Portrait of Henrietta Girshman, 1907

Girl with Peaches, Portrait of Vera Mamontova, 1887

File:Portrait of Ivan Morozov2.jpg
Portrait of Ivan Morozov, 1910

File:Portrait of Princess Zinaida Yusupova.jpg
Portrait of Zinaida Yusupova, 1900-02


  1. Love these paintings. I especially love the clothing and rich textiles in their dress. Wish I could paint models like these. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Deb. I'm always amazed at how artists like Serov, Sargent, and even earlier portraitists like Van Dyck, were able to express the qualities of fabric with just a few well-placed brushstrokes. Wonderful.

  2. LOVE your drawing copy, Candace...it is gorgeous! Fun to see the fantastic Russian paintings too. Thanks for putting all these together...I could look at them forever!

  3. My dad and I use to pour over Serov images, very fond memories.