Konstantin Somov

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Somov, Konstantin Andreevich

 

Born Nov. 18 (30), 1869, in St. Petersburg; died May 6, 1939, in Paris. Russian painter and graphic artist; one of the founders of the journal Mir iskusstva (World of Art). Son of A. I. Somov.

From 1888 to 1897, Somov attended the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts; beginning in 1894 he studied with I. E. Repin. In 1897 he attended the Colarossi Academy in Paris. Somov was made a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1913. He became a professor at the Petrograd State Free Art Studios in 1918. He left Russia in 1923 and settled in Paris in 1925.

Somov was influenced by contemporary German and English art nouveau graphic artists, as well as by rococo art and the art of the Venetsianov school. In many ways he determined the neo-romantic retrospective genre characteristic of the World of Art group. The genre, marked by introspection and irony, was based on stylization and elements of the grotesque. Somov addressed himself to erotic subjects, themes from the Italian commedia dell’arte, and the way of life of the nobility in the 18th and early 19th centuries. His works, with their atmosphere of carnival and fun, created a special little imaginary world populated by dolllike figures whose unreality was often emphasized by a naturalistic sun-filled landscape (A Stroll After the Rain, 1896, Russian Museum, Leningrad; The Mocked Kiss, 1908, Russian Museum; Evening, 1902, Tret’iakov Gallery; Sleeping Young Woman, 1909, Tret’iakov Gallery). Somov’s numerous portraits frequently combined fidelity of representation with art nouveau elements of the mask portrait (Lady in a Blue Dress, 1897–1900, Tret’iakov Gallery; Portrait of A. A. Blok, graphite and colored pencil, 1907, Tret’iakov Gallery).

On the whole, Somov’s paintings are characterized by a tendency to accent certain color tones while retaining local colors. They are also marked by linearity, two-dimensionality, and a decorative treatment of composition. Somov’s graphic art is distinguished by a refined and precise technique (for example, the layout for the journals Mir iskusstva and Jugend; the illustrations to F. Blei and Somov’s The Book of the Marchioness, india ink, pen, and watercolor, 1907–08, 1915–17, Tret’iakov Gallery and other collections).

REFERENCES

Ernst, S. R. K. A. Somov. Petrograd, 1918.
Pruzhan, I. N. Konstantin Somov. Moscow, 1972.
K. A. Somov, 1869–1939. (Album. Compiled and with an introduction by A. P. Gusarov.) Moscow, 1973.
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In over the ninety works on view, there are startling examples by Russia's greatest 19th and 20th century masters such as: Vasili Perov, Mikhail Nesterov, Alexei Savrasov, Vladimir Makovsky, Lev Bakst, Constantine Somov and many others.

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