Nicolas Tarkhoff (1871-1930)
View from the atelier of the artist in Spring in Orsay

Nicolas Tarkhoff (1871-1930)
View from the atelier of the artist in Spring in Orsay

signed ‘N. Tarkhoff’ (lower right)
oil on board
43 x 32.8 cm


The painting was executed circa 1911-1920

The authorship of the painting “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay” belongs to the brilliant, subtle, intelligent artist, one of the outstanding Russian Impressionists, “Russian Parisian”, Nicolas Tarkhoff. Undoubtedly, the one can compare this artist, who throughout his life never changed his unique painting style, with such famous Russian virtuosos as Konstantin Korovin (1861 - 1939) and Igor Grabar (1871 - 1960). These artists are also united by the fact, that most of their lives they painted in the style of Impressionism, — the occasion which is extremely rare in Russian art. A number of Russian painters of the first half of the XX century had such a period of creativity when they were fond of Impressionism; however, not always it was a successful experiment. Tarkhoff is an exception to this rule; he, a self-taught artist, was able to show his talent and individuality so vividly that his work was highly appreciated by the artist's contemporaries, such eminent cultural figures as Kazimir Malevich, Sergey Makovsky, Sergei Diaghilev, and Alexander Benois. Nicolas Tarkhoff turned out to be the only Russian artist with whom collaborated one of the most significant Parisian art dealers of the late XIX-early XX century, Ambroise Vollard — the same legendary art dealer who made a substantial contribution to the spread of modernist, in particular, impressionistic works among the largest and most important collections in the world, and also worked with such great artists as Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Matisse, Gauguin and many others.

The “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay” was created in the period between 1911 and 1920, when the artist moved from the boisterous, overwhelming, crowded Paris to the outskirts of the city, in a quiet place called Orsay. Tarkhoff achieved considerable success in Paris in the 1900s: he took part in numerous exhibitions in Paris and Europe as a whole, as well as in his historical homeland in Russia, which made his name quite famous. Even during the life of the artist, his works were bought by the Luxembourg Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum, various small museums in France, as well as private collectors, including Rothschild, Diaghilev, Andre Derain, Fyodor Schechtel, Morozov, Kusevitsky. Sergei Makovsky, Russian poet and art critic, who organised an exhibition of Tarkhoff’s art in the editorial office of the magazine "Apollo" in 1910 was sure that “it's time for us, Russian, to understand that Tarkhoff is not “anyone”; that this self-taught artist, who has so seriously fallen in love with art, has a great natural talent. It's time to bow to his deeply truthful, sincere, beautiful creativity”. However, after reaping the benefits of fame and success, the artist still craved to leave behind this urban artistic environment, and, thus, he relocated close to nature to Orsay, where he tirelessly was working from life. 

The viewer is presented with a view from the window of the house of Nicolas Tarkhoff with a branchy, blossoming tree in the spring. The canvas is filled with light, a key element of Impressionism; the palette used by the artist is cheerful, harmonious, close to the natural shades of earth, sky, leaves, which produces a calming effect, but at the same time, the vigorous brushwork and the bold brushstrokes create a constant sense of movement. This quality is characteristic of many Tarkhoff’s works because he is inherently a passionate artist, who imbues even a static still life or landscape with a lively swiftness of life. This quality of Tarkhoff’s work was confirmed by Alexander Benois, when he said that at first Nicolas Tarkhoff could be seen as similar to the French Impressionists for their common subjects and likeness of technique, but Tarkhoff nevertheless has an ardent Russian soul that emerges in the form of a lack of some consistency and monotony in his work. Kazimir Malevich has proclaimed Tarkhoff such a master, who can be put on a par with those virtuosos who are able to turn painting “into the force of nature that manifests itself in the movement of colour elements”, thus testifying, “a departure from the subject-oriented painting into an independent Republic of painting”. Benoit also noted this ability of Nicolas Tarkhoff, claiming that he: “literally “catches” paints and their relations; catches, and hastily, but aptly and skillfully, attaches paints with a brush to the canvas”. The artist himself explained this feature of his works by the fact that he devoted all his active energy to the search for a painting equivalent to the bright colours of life and the world. Indeed, it is this search, and not adherence to some principles of any movement, style or school that makes Tarkhoff’s work, including the “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay” exceptional, eye-catching, heartfelt art, which was particularly admired by contemporary art critics.

The presented painting shows a typical Nicolas Tarkhoff’s passionate and impulsive brushwork. It entails the influence of many great artists: Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, early Pablo Picasso, but also containing some peculiar aura of the Russian touch, which is difficult to grasp, or, in other words, another perception, born in the Russian soul of the artist. Undoubtedly, the fact that Tarkhoff was working in France next to the great Impressionists, this close proximity to the most prominent representatives of Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and even Fauvism, formed a unique, extraordinary artistic manner. It is particularly evident in the one will recall the absence of an official, academic training of Nicolas Tarkhoff. Undoubtedly, the friendship with Konstantin Korovin and those classes in his studio in Moscow, which Tarkhoff attended at an early stage of his career, attracted the young artist to the world of clean, vibrant colours and rapid, energetic brushwork of the impressionistic style. However, Alexander Benois confirmed that Tarkhoff always perceived all the influences through his own, personal prism: “Tarkhoff can be recognised Paris Salons among thousands of paintings at once. Starting from his nervous, often even convulsive artistic manner, ending with his tone, which is hot, bright, and even “loud”; all the best in it belongs to him and only him. Tarkhoff even in Paris, even next to his inspirers – the French Impressionists, shines with skill; his art seems no less vital than the best of French Impressionism”. Traditional Tarkhoff’s brushwork includes long vertical and diagonal lines that divide the plane into many spaces. The inside, — inner, intimate, personal world of the house merges, thanks to the colour harmony, with the outside world of the garden, which is full of movement and air, or, at last, the flowering of spring, the awakening of nature. The composition of the picture resembles a quick photographic shot. The development of photography was something that had been genuinely fascinating for many artists of the early XX century, and it is not surprising that echoes of these advances in technology can be embedded in painting. 

Looking at the “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay” evokes the image of the incredible oeuvre of the French modernist, post-impressionist, Pierre Bonnard (1867 - 1947), who often used the motif of the “external and internal world” in his works. The “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay” demonstrates the quintessence of Tarkhoff’s work between 1911 - 1920, namely, observation of nature and bliss, the happiness of the family, secluded world, as well as a celebration of those details, the little things that constitute life. Open wide window on a fresh, warm spring day; the sough of young leaves and blossoms on the tree, which is under the window of the artist’s house, his fortress; a chair in front of the window left unoccupied as if for a moment but reminiscent of a thoughtful contemplation of the beauty and fleeting life; all permeated by light and glare — the atmosphere of ease, movement, life itself permeates the “View from the artist's atelier in Spring, Orsay”.