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Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov

Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov

1876 —1945
Konstantin Gorbatov was a remarkable Russian landscape artist who infused his works with incredible elegance, serenity, and poetical beauty. Gorbatov's oeuvre currently may not be so well known to the general public, but art connoisseurs understand the value of his unique, sophisticated and vibrant artworks. The artist himself defined his style as 'celebration', and, indeed, Gorbatov's works radiate peacefulness, a sense of harmony, and emphasise the beauty of every detail that surrounds us. The influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism is strongly felt in Gorbatov's style. One of the most characteristic features of French artists, fondness of plein air painting, has not gone unnoticed by Gorbatov. The diversity of landscapes that the artist offers is extraordinary: urban, rural, marine, untouched nature, romantic fantasies. The geography of his works is also impressive. Although the artist has repeatedly visited numerous countries and painted them extensively, the image of his Homeland has always prevailed in his art. Regarding the content and background, Gorbatov's works have much more in common with the art of the Wanderers. However, concerning his artworks' style, they are closer to Moscow painters such as K. Yuon, L. Turzhansky, P. Petrovichev, and S. Zhukovsky. Gorbatov was deeply affected by the art of I. Repin and A. Kuindzhi. Romantic tendencies, that are so characteristic of Kuindzhi's work, are visible in Gorbatov's paintings throughout his career.

Gorbatov was born in a small town on the Volga river, Stavropol (now Tolyatti), in the Samara province, on May 5 (May 17; the Old-style calendar) in 1876. Since his early childhood, he has been demonstrating great interest in drawing. The setting of his native land with its churches, old rickety wooden houses, hills and woods, birches and the waters of the river, has awakened young artist's desire to create. These visions and devotion to this kind of landscape have firmly established the basis of Gorbatov's artistic expression. The art historian, artist and critic, I. E. Grabar, accurately described the artist and his connection to the native landscapes: 'Hardly anyone from other St. Petersburg's artists have known how Northern towns live on a daily basis as well as Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov. Since he was a child, he has been used to the old fishing boats with patched sails anchored in harbours, to heavily loaded barges, to the smell of muddy water and fresh fish, to the burning sun, mercilessly pouring its light and heat on the green and red roofs of coastal houses. Nothing, except painting, existed for Gorbatov. He disappeared for weeks on the banks of rivers, listening and looking closely around, painting a lot and with pleasure. But what he loved even more than that, were the edges of the provincial Northern towns by the end of winter, when the snow became grey and porous when the first puddles appeared, and the birches began to revive'.

Not much is known about the artist's childhood and his youth; his biography has a certain shade of mystery. In the early 1890s, Gorbatov began to take drawing lessons from F. Burov and A. Egorov in Samara. He was visiting the art studio enthusiastically until 1894. The artist received his education in a rather chaotic mode, changing scholarly institutions and even specialities. In 1896, Gorbatov turned out to be in Riga and studied at the Polytechnic School at the faculty of civil engineering until 1903. Despite this change in the profession, Gorbatov did not forget his talent and was taking painting lessons at the art studio of J. Clark. The artist moved to St. Petersburg and entered the Baron Stieglitz Central School for Technical Draftsmanship. Then, he applied to the architectural department of the Academy of Fine Arts. Subsequently, this one-year period of training as an architect has been helpful to Gorbatov. His landscapes are often a combination of constructions, put up by human hands, and the creations of nature. Gorbatov's city views with abundant structural elements are distinguished by an accurate vision and skilful rendering. Yet, in 1904, Gorbatov transferred to the painting department under the guidance of A. Kiselev and P. Dubovsky. The artist began to show his works at the academic exhibitions and shows of the Society of Russian Watercolours, as well as expositions of the Moscow Society of Art Lovers and the Association of Independent artists. In the period from 1905 to 1906, Gorbatov was regularly publishing his caricatures in well-known, established journals such as 'Sekira', 'Zarnitsa', 'Zhalo'. A recognisable, bright and expressive manner of painting has brought success to the artist. In 1910, he exhibited his oil paintings for the first time, and was awarded the second prize at the Spring exhibition at the Academy for the painting 'Fishmarket on the Pskov river'. Gorbatov graduated from the Academy with a gold medal and received the official title of artist in 1911. As one of the most successful and talented students, Gorbatov was awarded a grant from the Academy for a trip abroad to Rome, where he developed his knowledge of European art in 1912. Then, upon the invitation of M. Gorky, who had formed an artistic and intellectual circle around himself at that time, Gorbatov went to the island of Capri. Italy has had a beneficial effect on the artist's painting, bringing even greater brightness, optimism and decorativeness in his work.

When he returned to St. Petersburg, Gorbatov repeatedly participated in exhibitions organised by the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions. International recognition came with a victory at the exhibition in Munich with the painting "Sailed" in 1913. Even during his studies at the Academy, the artist occasionally made trips to different parts of the country, but, at this point in his life, he went on a major journey to the Northern towns of Russia with particular attention Pskov, Vologda, Novgorod, and Uglich, and which was extremely inspirational and resulted in various different landscape paintings. Gorbatov did not abandon his relationship with publishing and used to collaborate with the magazine 'Vershina'. His works were published in other journals as well in St. Petersburg such as 'Niva', 'Ogoniok', 'Stolitsa i Usadba', 'Solnce Rossii', 'Lukomorie'. The artist has become a member of the Kuindzhi's Society, which was close to him in its essence. It was difficult to bear all the turmoil and unrest caused by the revolution, so Gorbatov, together with his wife, left Russia forever in 1922. They have travelled continuously, and settled on Capri for a while, with frequent visits to Venice. Gorbatov participated in Russian exhibitions in Hague in 1924, in Pittsburgh in 1925, and in Rome in 1926. Italy had taken the artist quite well with art critics giving flattering reviews of the artist's works and admiring his ability to feel and convey the atmosphere of Italian cities in their landscapes. However, Gorbatov relocated again in 1926, this time to Berlin, where many representatives of the Russian intelligentsia have settled. He joined this artistic circle of emigrants, such as L. Pasternak, V. Falileev, I. Myasoedov, and S. Kolesnikov. Gorbatov's paintings were in demand, and his success at the exhibition in Cologne in 1929 has only confirmed the artist's recognition abroad. Starting to travel through Europe in the 1920s, Gorbatov did not abandon his artistic journeys in the 1930s. He visited Palestine, Syria, Egypt in 1934 and 1935, and also visited Italy many times during this period. One of the most memorable occasions for the artist during this period were meetings with Repin in Finland. Gorbatov was having a hard time in Berlin with the rise of the Nazi party to power. He and his wife soon became impoverished. As a Soviet citizen, Gorbatov was forbidden to leave Germany during the World War II. The artist died shortly after the war ended, on May 24, 1945, at the age of sixty-nine, in Berlin.

Bibliography:
Денисова, Л. (2001) Константин Горбатов. К 125-летию со дня рождения. (Санкт-Петербург: Новый Эрмитаж - Один)
Денисова, Л. (2014) Горбатов Константин. Живопись. Графика. (Москва: Лето)
Дуванова, Е. (2008) Горбатов. (Москва: Белый Город)