Saturday, May 23, 2015

Zinaida Serebriakova, A Goat Attacked by Grey Wolves

Zinaida Serebriakova, A Goat Attacked by Grey Wolves, 1901

Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967) was a prominent Russian painter and one of the first Russian women to be distinguished as a painter.  Born in Kharkov, now in Ukraine, her family was, on her mother's side, one of the most renowned artistic and intellectual families in Russia.  Her mother was herself skilled at drawing, and both her brothers worked in the arts, one as a successful architect and the other as an administrator and curator.  Beginning in 1900 Serebriakova attended art school, and studied under some of the great Russian artists of the day, such as Ilya Repin. Serebriakova worked in every popular genre of the time, including portraiturelandscapecityscapegenre scenesinteriors, and still-life.  She even dipped in Classical mythology.  Serebriakova painted quite a few nudes, and often sexualized her subjects, whether female or male.  She also painted several self-portraits which are quite celebrated.  This painting of a goat attacked in the woods by wolves is an extremely early effort by Serebriakova.  Painted when the artist was only seventeen and still very much studying, the forms and lines are rather crude.  But that is what drew me to it.  The painting has a visceral, animalistic quality to it that is very appropriate for the subject matter.  It is almost as though the bites and slashes of the wolves created the lines.  With its sharp angles and exaggerated forms, the piece is somewhat inspired by folk art, which the coloring and theme also support.  Already it is easy to see Serebriakova's emerging talent, for she has successfully made us feel the emotional content of the painting.  The lines are confident and deliberate, and the blending and gradient of colors suggests technical sophistication.  Finally the painting is very exciting; depicting the moment of the kill, this is very much an action oriented painting.  We sense the tension of the concluded chase, the goat's pain, the triumph of the wolves, and we see just the smallest touch of blood seeping out where the wolf has just bitten down.

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