Boris Kustodiev

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kustodiev, Boris Mikhailovich


Born Feb. 23 (Mar. 7), 1878, in Astrakhan; died May 26, 1927, in Leningrad. Soviet painter, graphic artist, and set designer.

From 1896 to 1903, Kustodiev studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts under I. E. Repin, whom he assisted in the execution of the painting Session of the State Council (1901–03, Russian Museum, Leningrad). He became an academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1909. Kustodiev was a member of the Union of Russian Artists (from 1907), the World of Art Association (from 1911), and the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (from 1923).

Between 1905 and 1907, Kustodiev contributed to the revolutionary satirical magazines Zhupel (the drawing Advent to Moscow), Adskaia pochta, and Iskry. Beginning in 1906 he painted a series of works about various festive occasions in the everyday lives of peasants and rural petit bourgeois merchants (Fairs, Country Festivals, Shrovetide Carnivals, and Balagany). These works are marked by a narrative quality, bright and diverse colors, and a faithful rendering of details; the representation of figures and planes in varying scales and the decorativeness of the linear, flat composition of his paintings reflect a closeness to art nouveau.

Kustodiev’s works became increasingly stylized. Scenes of everyday life were transformed into theatrical presentations, and human characters became generalized images personifying the smugness of merchant Russia. Visibly enchanted with the material comforts and riches of the world he depicted and sometimes idealized, Kustodiev at the same time took an ironic attitude toward them, conveying a sense of smugness and stagnation (Merchant Wives, tempera, 1912, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev; The Beauty, 1915, Tret’iakov Gallery; Merchant Wife at Tea, 1918, Russian Museum).

In the early years of the 20th century, Kustodiev developed a genre of portraiture in which the sitter was tied in with the interior or landscape. In addition to superficial portraits, often of members of high society, he created intimate and lyrical portraits (Morning, 1904, Russian Museum), as well as portraits that resemble his genre paintings in terms of concept and technique. In these portraits the sitter, while retaining his individuality, is endowed with generalized national traits (Self-portrait, 1912, Uffizi Gallery, Florence; Portrait of A. I. Anisimov, 1915, Russian Museum; Portrait of F. I. Chaliapin, 1922, Russian Museum).

Kustodiev did a great deal of work for the theater, applying his thematic and stylistic preoccupations to the stage and sometimes resolving formal and decorative problems in a manner at odds with the author or director (Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Death of Pazukhin, 1914, Moscow Art Theater; Ostrovskii’s The Thunderstorm, 1918, production was not staged). The stagings of Zamiatin’s The Flea (1925, Second Moscow Art Theater; 1926, Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater) were successful; in these productions Kustodiev organically combined his set with the dramatic material.

After the revolution, Kustodiev helped to decorate Petrograd for the first anniversary of the October Revolution and created posters, inexpensive popular prints (lubki), and paintings dealing with revolutionary subjects (The Bolshevik, 1919–20, Tret’iakov Gallery; Celebration in Honor of the 2nd Comintern Congress on Uritskii Square, 1921, Russian Museum). Kustodiev was a fine draftsman, with a confident, precise stroke. He did a series of illustrations of the works of both classical and modern authors, for example, Leskov’s The Repairman (1922) and A Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1923). He also worked in lithography and linocut.


Voinov, V. B. M. Kustodiev. Leningrad, 1925.
Etkind, M. B. M. Kustodiev. Leningrad-Moscow, 1960.
Lebedeva, V. E. B. M. Kustodiev. Moscow, 1966.
B. M. Kustodiev: Pis’ma. Stat’i, zametki, interv’iu. [Leningrad, 1967.]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
ON February 27, 1917, artist Boris Kustodiev looked out the window from his wheelchair onto a square in Petrograd (today, St Petersburg) and watched a group of celebrating revolutionaries passing by.
Gathering family and friends to drink tea became such a beloved tradition that it was frequently depicted in Russian literature and art by such notables as poet Alexander Pushkin and artist Boris Kustodiev.
The exhibition brings together brilliantly hued oils- on- canvas by Russian masters, including Boris Kustodiev, Mstislav Dobuzhinskiy, Petr Gruzinskiy and Konstantin Makovskiy.