Portrait of Helena Ivanovna Roerich, 1909
Valentin Serov (1865-1911) was a prominent Russian painter who gained fame as a portrait artist.
In 1880, Serov entered the Academy of Art in St Petersburg but went traveling 5 years later out of boredom. It was during this period of travel in the late 1880s that the artist became attracted to the light, bright colours of Impressionism.
As Serov’s style developed, it grew more expressive in form. He not only wanted to represent the social injustices and hardships in the world [Soldiers, soldiers, where is your glory?], but life’s daily joys and charm.
Portrait of Helena Ivanovna Roerich (1909) epitomises Serov’s interest in expressiveness and Impressionist technique beautifully. The colours are saturated with light and air to provide a fresh radiance to the sitter’s appearance and create an element of playful freedom. This choice of style is perhaps fitting for the sitter herself. Helena I. Roerich was a philosopher and writer – she would later travel to Mongolia to publish papers on ethics and Buddhist teachings.
“Serov was a realist in the best sense of the word. He unerringly saw the secret truth of life; and the things he painted revealed the very essence of phenomena, which other eyes cannot even see.” – Valery Byrussov [contemporary poet and admirer of Valentin Serov].
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