Oil and charcoal on canvas
147 x 233
State Russian Museum
Ida Lvovna Rubinstein (1880–1960): Ballet dancer. Studied under Alexander Lensky and Mikhail Fokine. Danced in Sergei Diaghilev’s first two Saisons Russes in Paris. Founded her own company (1928–35).
Painted a year before the artist’s untimely death, Valentin Serov’s portrait of Ida Rubinstein is an outstanding example of Style Moderne (Russian Art Nouveau). The stylistics of the work are dictated by the sitter’s character and physical appearance. Russian ballet dancer Ida Rubinstein was famed for her performances in Sergei Diaghilev’s productions of Cléopâtre and Schéhérazade in Paris. The dancer’s figure and style of dancing seemed to transport the viewer back to ancient times. Valentin Serov exclaimed: “Every move she makes is monumental; an archaic bas-relief come to life.” The picture was painted in Paris in the summer of 1910. Rubinstein posed naked, like the patricians who posed for Titian. The master likened his heroine to an Assyrian relief, flattening the forms of her body and outlining them with an expressive contour. The sharp silhouette and the refined spicy tones intensify the psychological characteristics. Serov depicts Rubinstein wearing the tragic expression of her eyes and mouth that he called her “wounded-lioness look”. The allusions to the volumes of the face, shoulders and legs are masterful. The game of contrasts between psychologism and decor¬ation, three-dimensionality and flatness, asceticism and acerbity, was typical of Art Nouveau painting.
Serov, Valentin Alexandrovich
1865, St Petersburg - 1911, Moscow
Painter, graphic artist, teacher, portraitist, landscapist, history painter. Son of the composer Alexander Serov. Studied under Ilya Repin in Paris and Moscow (1874-75, 1878-80) and under Pavel Chistyakov at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1880-85). Academician of painting (1898), full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1903-05). Member of the Abramtsevo circle (from the 18705). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1889). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (1890-99; member from 1894), Munich Sezession (1896, 1898,1899; member from 1899), Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists (1898), World of Art (1896-1906, member from 1900; 1911-12, founding member), Berlin Sezession (1903), Exhibition of Historical Russian Portraits at the Tauride Palace in St Petersburg (1905), Union of Russian Artists (1905-10; member from 1903), Sergei Makovsky Salon (1909), Exposition Universelle in Paris (1900, grand prix), International Exhibitions in Munich (1909), Vienna (1902), Venice (1907), Brussels (1910) and Rome (1911) and the Exhibitions of Russian Art in Paris (1906, 1910), Berlin (1906) and Vienna (1908). Member of the board of the Tretyakov Gallery. Taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1897-1909). Designed for theatres in Moscow and St Petersburg and Sergei Diaghilev''s Saisons Russes (from 1886).