Those who are not conversant in works of art are often surprised at the high value set by connoisseurs on drawings which appear careless, and in every respect unfinished; but they are truly valuable... they give the idea of a whole.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Valentin Serov

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:23 pm

Valentin Serov
Though also an accomplished landscape painter, Valentin Alexandrovich Serov was known as a portraitist, and was undoubtedly one of the best of the 19th century (which is saying something) and perhaps the best portrait painter in Russian art.

Originally from St. Petersberg, a Russian cultural center, Serov was the son of parents who were both respected composers, and grew up in an atmosphere of rich with interesting visitors and guests. He had the opportunity to study with the great Russian painter Ilya Repin at a young age.

Amid his commissions for royalty and the wealthy elite, artists like Repin and Issac Levitan (above, 6th down) would later become favorite subjects, along with writers and musicians.

Serov took some influence from the Russian and French Impressionists, though originally just the painterly brushwork without the bright palette, and from the other members of the Peredvizhniki (The Itinerants), the famous group of 19th century Russian painters whose ranks he eventually joined, and later left (see my post on Ivan Kramskoy).

At his best, Serov’s portraits seem to carry a drama and emotional content sometimes missing from those of his fellow Peredvizhniki and contemporaries like John Singer Sargent and William Merrit Chase (perhaps giving him more in common with the remarkable Cecilia Beaux).

The best source I’ve found on Serov is the official site, which is in Russian as you might expect, but can easily be navigated with the links at the top of the page, and responds well to being interpreted in English using Google Translate.

The primary galleries are Masterpieces and Paintings.

You can also find a good selection of reasonably large images on this unofficial Russian site (worthwhile, despite the ads). WikiPaintings also has a broad selection, and you can find five high resolution images on the Google Art Project.

In addition to painting in oil, Serov was accomplished in various drawing media, pastel (above, 4th down), graphics and watercolor.

There is a new book available, Valentin Serov (Best Of Collection) by Dmitri V. Sarabianov from Parkstone Press.

[Via Outdoor Painter]

8 comments for Valentin Serov »

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  1. Comment by Melissa
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 2:16 am

    In the portrait of Ivan Morozov, whose is the painting that serves as the background? It looks enticingly familiar to me, but I’m not sure. Do you know?

  2. Comment by Alika
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    To Melissa.
    Morozov was collecting works of french painters. In the background there’s Henri Matisse’s painting “Fruit and bronze”.

  3. Comment by Alika
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 4:36 am

    Oh, I love Serov! His name is a derived from the russian word meaning “grey” and I found it very interesting that he painted brilliantly all shades and nuances of grey color.

    I used several allusions to his works when worked on illustrations for my children’s book. The cover is a wink to the portrait of the girl with peaches.

  4. Comment by Lorette
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 9:21 am
    Very cute, Alika. Well done!

  5. Comment by Don O'Shea
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    Serov’s painting are also reminiscent portraits of the Swedish painter, Anders Zorn (

  6. Comment by Cathie P.
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Shame on me for never having known about Cecilia. Thank you for the link.

  7. Comment by Charley Parker
    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Always a pleasure. She deserves to be much better known.

  8. Comment by David J. Teter
    Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 1:15 am

    Nice post Charlie,
    He is another one of my favorite painters.
    In addition I have always loved his animal series of drawings he did for , I think, a book of Fables.

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