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Biographical Notes

Valentin Serov was a Russian painter, graphic artist, stage designer and a master of decorative arts. He is a renowned portraitist and one of the greatest artists of the 19th century European painting. Being known as an unparalleled master of portraiture, Serov produced no less impressive landscapes, graphics, illustrations, animal, historical and classical mythology paintings.

The artist studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts (1880-1885) under Pavel Chistyakov. His first significant works (The Girl with Peaches (1987) and The Girl Covered by the Sun (1888), both in the Tretyakov Gallery) marked a new phase in the history of the Russian art. He managed to achieve what he wanted to show – a feeling of freshness which is always perceptible in nature and rarely in paintings. In these images he embodied the principles of impressionism and the ideas of youth, light and joy, with consistency and integrity which were unprecedented in the Russian tradition.

In 1886 Serov took part in the exhibition of the Munich Secession and in 1898 he became its member. The same time he made acquaintances with Alexandre Benois and Sergei Diaghilev. In 1898 Mir Iskusstva was formed and Serov was its member it from the very beginning till 1911.

Portraiture remained the most important genre for Serov throughout his life and he was, without doubt, one the premier portrait artist of his era, rivalling his renowned teacher Ilya Repin. He tried to penetrate the inner self of his models and was impeccably honest in his characteristics. Serov was phenomenally devoted to high standards and persistent in his tries to fully unveil the character he depicted.

His painting manner and mastery of colour, as well as the exactness and perfection of his lines are extraordinary. The emotional and psychological effect of his works is due to his gift for finding the exact approach and for representing his models in a perfect way. His portraits are not simply a talented reproduction of the physical peculiarities of a face, but, most important, a picture of the inner world his model lived in.

Over less than three decades, Serov followed a path from realism of the Peredvizhniki to impressionism and then to modernism. Serov’s preference was painting, although his patrimony is not limited to it. His works are held in museum and private collections, including the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Selected Artwork of this Artist