signed with a monogram and dated, also further inscribed in Cyrillic with a signed and dated dedication on the reverse.
Pastel and charcoal on paper
29 x 19.5 cm
A gift from the artist to the previous owner in St Petersburg in 1997 (inscription on the reverse).
Private collection, USA
Price on request
"Nude" is a fascinating, beautiful exemplar of the bright talent of a distinguished artist, Andrei Mylnikov. The media that the artist had chosen for the drawing, pastel and charcoal, create a particularly intimate, enigmatic atmosphere with a soft, almost blurred, effect, adding a slight sense of mystery and charm. The work features warm, subdued, dark colours: shades of red and brown, which are juxtaposed with the light, almost glowing, body of the model that vividly stands out against the background. During his long and fruitful career, Mylnikov has created around 100 drawings and paintings of nude. This topic has always been important for the artist, and he has continuously returned to the captivating female image. It is typical for Mylnikov to depict sleeping beauties in the heart of nature. For the artists these women epitomise the unity of humanity and nature, and, curiously, they always look very much alike. The artist has stated that most of his nudes are not drawn from real life, because Mylnikov especially appreciated the power of imagination in art. Drawing from nature for Mylnikov is only a starting point for imagination, or, in other words, the source of material for further work on the creation of the vision. Mylnikov has also claimed that to some extent all these beauties are reminiscent of his daughter. "Nude" is no exception to this; there is a similarity in the features of the woman's face with the artist's daughter. In his paintings with nude women Mylnikov did not aim to portray merely the beauty and eroticism of an individual woman; instead he was in the constant search for a poetic image, a dream, the highest ideal of spiritual beauty. The artist was attracted to the charm of the female figure who conceals a deep inner knowledge and sensibility.
Mylnikov not just expresses his ability to draw from life and create a reflection of the reality in his countless drawings and paintings of nude, but he translates his philosophical and poetic perception of the world, whether his work is cheerful and luminous or elegiac and sublime in its spirit. Mylnikov has said: "I painted a lot of nudes… I want to create something that would fully express my thoughts and feelings. And that it would not be just a model. I want to step directly from the model to something that is preserved in my heart from the time of my youth as a representation of the beautiful". Nude for Mylnikov is a statement that is not only about visible, physical world, but about mental, inner beauty. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the artist has devoted so much time and effort to the search of this image as it is organically connected with the artistic mission, which Mylnikov had set for himself. In his search for the ideal female image, Mylnikov resembles the phenomenal Russian artist, Petrov-Vodkin, who has also tirelessly tried to find a way to represent the image of spiritual and physical beauty. "Nude" gives away the background of the artist as a monumentalist as the figure of the nude woman is highly architectonical and monolithic. The solid structure of the image of the model and her stagnant stance has rather much in common with a sculpture than a real woman. Mylnikov's fondness for the classics, which is particularly presented by the works of Goya, Poussin, Giorgione, Corot, is not something typical for a well-known and officially recognised Soviet artist. "Nude" also contains these traces of the classical legacy in art. Italian Quattrocento has notably influenced the conceptual and technical aspects of Mylnikov's nudes. Chiaroscuro, which is so masterfully executed in this picture, the accentuated representation of three-dimensional form, an interesting manner, in which a variety of different strokes are executed - the artist has learned a lot from the heritage of European painting. However, despite the fact that the work fits into the framework of classical art both in its theme and in some elements of execution, yet the drawing presents undeniably modern, modernist trends as well: Matisse's sensitivity to the rhythm of the form, the conciseness and asceticism of line, the clarity of the silhouette, colour scheme, the proportional comparisons of the composition. Also, the face of the depicted woman immediately brings out the popular female type of beauty in the XX century. There is the expressiveness of the avant-garde and also the depth of traditionalism in the Mylnikov's drawing.
The subject of nudity is one of the oldest themes in the history of art. Perhaps, nude is the only subject which is so definite and precise that was formed into its own genre. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this genre, because it is unlikely that at least one artist did without studying and recreating the nude in his work. Even in the antique, classical world, when nudity was perceived as something solemn and associated with the gods, sculptors and artists praised the image of the naked human body. Italian Renaissance artists turned their models into beautiful ancient goddesses, romantics also resorted to allegory, and expressionists finally tried to get to the state of mind through the display of the physical, visible. In general, historically, the relationship between art and nudity has been quite unstable and often modified. In Russian and Soviet art, the attitude to nudity in art was quite controversial. At the beginning of the XX century, with revolutionary upheavals, the transition to a completely new political system, which led to a strong change of ethical norms and ideas about aesthetics in society, nude suddenly acquires not only a new artistic value, but also manifests itself as propaganda in society. The athleticism, the call for physical labour and activity, the subject of sport as the embodiment of strength and health is manifested vigorously in the Soviet art of the 1920s and 1930s in the image of chaste nudity. However, by the middle of the XX century, especially in the 1950s-1970s, the theme of nudity is overshadowed and can almost be seen as a taboo subject in the Soviet society. Ideological pressure on artists is diminishing by the 1980s, and artists can now more freely express their creative visions. Through his "Nude" Mylnikov could convey that inner freedom, the spontaneity and ease of his technique, depth of the content, brilliant knowledge of traditional, international world of art, as well as his determination and openness in following the call of his imagination, thereby enhancing the expressive interpretation of the image of the woman. Mylnikov is not constrained by the story in this work, and this fact has its significant advantages. Appealing to this ancient theme with an extraordinarily rich history, Mylnikov allows himself to express his vision predominantly without hindrance and in a genuine, unrestrained manner. He is expressing if not his own artistic and personal ideals related to his time and art, then at least his view of the ideal, which existence and significance has not been questioned in any era - the ideal of female beauty.