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 Victor Borisov-Musatov

Born:   2 (14) April 1870
Deceased:   October, 26th (November, 8th) 1905

Russian artist


Victor Borisov-Musatov was an outstanding Russian painter. He lived a short life of thirty five years only, but was successful in creating his original style which can be called elegiac. His artistic activity, which fell on the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, determined the second wave of Russian symbolism and art nouveau.

Victor Elpidiforovich Musatov (he later added his father’s patronymic name as his second surname “Borisov”) was born into the family of a small railway officer in Saratov. At the age of three Victor badly fell down from a bench, the incident causing him a serious backbone trauma. As a result the future artist became humpbacked. Throughout his entire life the painted suffered from health problems.

He studied in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and later, in 1891-1894 in the Petersburg Academy of Arts, as well as in the private art studio of P.Chistyakov.

The young artist spent three winters (1895-98) in Paris, studying in the workshop of the splendid art teacher F. Kormon and looking closely at goings-on in French art. He was especially interested in the painting system of impressionists and the quests of symbolists.

His French contemporaries – Les Nabis (a group of Post-Impressionist avant-garde Parisian artists in the 1890s) – had an evident impact on Borisov-Musatov’s art. He was later compared to these artists, though most probably there was not any direct link between them. Undoubted is the most important fact – the originality of Victor Borisov-Musatov.

After returning from Paris Borisov-Musatov settled in Saratov. Then he worked in Podolsk and Tarusa. The poetic turn of his soul and the beauty of his native nature contributed to creation of a special manner of his paintings, peculiar for their touching tenderness and melancholy.

The basic subject-matter of Borisov-Musatov was nostalgia for the passing away life of noble families, romanticism of old Russian manorial estates, small houses with mezzanines and wooden columns, desolate parks and neglected plant-filled ponds. As though he had a presentiment of the soon oncoming end...

As a true painter, Borisov-Musatov conceived life in colourful patches, rhythms, painting texture and the plasticity of lines. This amazing artist embodied his innermost feelings in an original picturesque form stylized as an ancient Gobelin tapestry. In the elegiac style of Borisov-Musatov one can see influences of the symbolism of art nouveau. It is symbolical that his posthumous exhibition, which was held in Moscow in February, 1917, became a farewell to the idylls of Russian landowner life. The first monography about the artist was written by his friend V. Stanyukovich (1906).

Borisov-Musatov died of a heart attack in Tarusa on October, 26th (on November, 8th) 1905. He was laid to rest in the outskirts of Tarusa, on the high bank of River Oka. In 1910 a monument depicting a sleeping boy created by his fellow student, sculptor A.T.Matveyev from Saratov was set up on his grave.

It was only after his death that the artist was started to be truly recognized. The painting system of Victor Borisov-Musatov rendered a great influence on the future Russian avant-gardists, such as N.Goncharova, M.Larionov, and V.Kandinsky.

Tags: Victor Borisov-Musatov Russian Painters Russian art   

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