Nicolas Aleksandrovich Tarkhoff

Nicolas Aleksandrovich Tarkhoff

1871 —1930
Nicolas Aleksandrovich Tarkhoff — a Russian Impressionist painter, who was admired by Benoit and Makovsky, and whose works have been collected by Rothschild and Diaghilev. In fact, Tarkhoff can be called a self-taught artist. His oeuvre is closely related to the works of the French Impressionists, post-Impressionists and Fauves. Nicolas Tarkhoff painted landscapes, genre pictures, still lifes and portraits. The future artist was born on January 20 (N. S. February 1), 1871 in Moscow. Tarkhoff came from a wealthy merchant family. He graduated from the Moscow state secondary school in 1889, then was drafted into the army and served on the Brest-Litovsk Railways. Despite the protests of his father, in 1894 Nikolai Alexandrovich independently engaged in painting, He did not manage to enrol to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. The fact that Tarkhov did not pass his admissions examinations does not indicate his artistic inability but rather demonstrates the consequences of his revolutionary views. Nicolas Tarkhoff has embarked on a tour across Volga-river, the Crimea and the Caucasus. While in the Crimea, he met with the great Russian Impressionist Konstantin Korovin (1861 - 1939). As a result of this rather fortunate encounter, Tarkhoff was briefly visiting the Moscow studio of Korovin in 1897, where he received the necessary professional artistic skills and was drawing models from life beside Valentin Serov (1865 - 1911) and Vasily Polenov (1844 - 1927). Nicolas Aleksandrovich made his debut at the XVII exhibition of the Moscow Society of Art Lovers, where his paintings were exhibited next to the works of such famous artists as Levitan, Korovin and Serov. Nicolas Tarkhoff had a particularly good relationship with young Moscow artists such as Pavel Kuznetsov (1878 - 1968), Pyotr Utkin (1877 - 1934), Alexander Sredin (1872 - 1934), and Nicolas Millioti (1874 - 1962). Tarkhoff also participated in the first exhibition of the artistic group “World of Art” (Mir Iskusstva). 

Together with Nicolas Millioti Tarkhoff first came to Paris in 1898. The city has left such a strong impression that at the age of twenty-eight Nicolas Aleksandrovich abandoned his homeland for good and after a short stay in Munich moved to Paris in 1899. Thanks to his French governess, already in his early childhood the artist has mastered French, so when the moment has come, he could settle comfortably in Paris without any language barrier. Tarkhoff was a student at the Académie Julian, where he attended classes of Jean-Paul Laurens and also studied at the National School of Fine Arts under the guidance of Luc-Olivier Merson. The artist-emigrant did not feel lonely in the new country: he closely communicated with the circle of artistic bohemians, that had been formed around the Russian artist Elizaveta Kruglikova (1865 - 1941) and the poet Maximilian Voloshin (1877 - 1932). Since 1902, Nicolas Tarkhoff began to regularly exhibit his work in the Salon des indépendants and the salon D'automne. In the same year, he received an invitation from Apollinary Vasnetsov (1856 - 1933) to take part in the second “Exhibition of 36 artists”. Tarkhoff was admitted to the Union of Russian artists in 1903 and exhibited his works at exhibitions of the Union in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev for seven years. As well as his career, the personal life of the artist has successfully evolved: in April 1905, he married Marie Yvonne Deltreil (1880 - 1945). Nicolas Alexandrovich was happy in marriage, which subsequently has given rise to three children — two boys and one girl. The artist's attitude to family values was quite traditional and conservative. Many of his works are devoted to his children, wife, pets, and the atmosphere of home and family painted with exceptional tenderness. Even when his wife lost her former beauty of youth and found the inevitable traces of hard household work were quite evident in her image — the artist still continued to depict her with great love in his paintings. 

In 1906, an extensive solo exhibition of Nicolas Tarkhoff was opened in the gallery of Ambroise Vollard on Lafayette street in Paris. The collaboration with Vollard, the legendary Parisian art dealer, has brought more fame and new opportunities to Tarkhoff. However, soon Nicolas Aleksandrovich breaks all ties with Vollard, being dissatisfied with the prices that the art dealer had offered him for his works. Also, at the invitation of Diaghilev, the artist took part in the first exhibition of Russian art in Paris — this event marked the beginning of the legendary “Ballets Russes”. The artist was not forgotten at home either — the Tretyakov gallery bought Tarkhoff’s painting “Goats in the Sun” (1904) in 1908. Another Tarkhoff’s solo exhibition took place in the gallery of Druet in 1909, and later, in 1920, one more solo exhibition was organised in the same space. Then an exhibition in the Salon of Makovsky in Saint-Petersburg and another one in the “Salon of V. A. Izdebsky” (1909-1910) followed.

The boisterous urban atmosphere of Paris with its magnificent boulevards, the swiftness of modern life, swirling flow of crowds greatly influenced the artist's work, serving as the primary motive for many of his paintings. However, a new chapter of Tarkhoff’s art was opened with the move of the artist and his family from Montparnasse in the suburbs of Paris, in Orsay, where he bought a spacious house in 1911. Now the artist was closer to nature — it was what his soul has always craved. Tarkhoff also made trips to Brittany, to the North, where he painted beautiful seascapes. Despite the extraordinary inspiration and the abundance of tireless work from nature, this period in the life of Nicolas Aleksandrovich demonstrates the decline of his popularity. Perhaps this fact is mostly influenced by the reluctance of the artist to interact with art dealers, in other words, to actively participate in the commercial side of the cultural life of Paris. Nicolas Aleksandrovich’s departure from Paris almost isolated him from the artistic environment, which was so crucial for the promotion of his art. Also, Tarkhoff remained true to his preferences in painting, avoiding avant-garde influences and all sorts of innovations in his painting manner. The public was particularly fascinated by the cutting-edge revelations of the artistic world, such as cubism, surrealism and other “isms”, which have firmly taken their place in the history of art as radical experiments. After the revival of the “World of Art” group, Tarkhoff began to send his works to their exhibitions. In 1913, Nicolas Tarkhoff participated in the acclaimed Armory Show in New York and also showed works in Frankfurt at his solo exhibition.

Then, the WWI broke out, and sales of the artist's works fell to a critical point. This dramatic event complicated the already precarious financial situation of the Tarkhoff family. After the revolution in Russia in 1917, Nicolas Aleksandrovich’s works were no longer exhibited at his historical homeland. So, despite the frequent shows of Tarkhoff’s works, praising speeches of his contemporaries and his active participation in various eminent art organisations in the 1900s - 1910s, his name was forgotten in Russia for many decades. Although he continued to occasionally participate in the Salon des Indépendants and Salon d’Automne in the 1920s, as well as organising rare solo exhibitions as the exhibition of drawings and watercolours in the Druet gallery in Paris, hard times have come into the life of the artist. He was tormented by a severe illness, money was sorely lacking, and the final straw was the break in relations with his beloved daughter Hortensia in 1929. Nicolas Tarkhoff died of laryngeal cancer on 5 June 1930 in Orsay, France. In the same year, a small retrospective show of Tarkhov's works took place in the Autumn Salon as part of the annual program. Only in 1980, fifty years later, there was a posthumous solo exhibition of the artist at the Petit Palais Museum in Geneva. It was followed by a retrospective exhibition at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the State Russian Museum in Leningrad in 1983. In 2003, the State Tretyakov gallery showed more than a hundred works as part of a retrospective exhibition dedicated to Nicolas Tarkhoff.

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Николай Тархов. Каталог. (2003) Москва: Искусство — XXI век. 

Николай Тархов. 1871–1930: Живопись. Графика: Каталог выставки / Вступ. ст. Вс. Володарского и Гастона Диля. (1983) Москва.

Николай Тархов. Графика: Каталог выставки. (2006) Москва: Галерея «Наши художники».