signed in the lower left
oil on canvas
57 x 47.5 cm
Price on request
Nikolai Baskakov, Soviet artist and one of the leading representatives of the Leningrad school of painting, is most widely known for his paintings in the genre of Social Realism and depictions of Lenin. However, one of the versions of the painting "Alyosha Panev" vividly demonstrates what an excellent portrait painter was Baskakov. Another slightly different version of the painting is reproduced in the "Nikolai Baskakov" album by V. Kirillov. Portraits of workers and peasants, his family and friends, as well as famous personalities, constitute a significant and impressive part of this talented artist's oeuvre. Baskakov has claimed that he likes to paint portraits from memory, not from nature, and explained this by the fact that there is much more space for creativity if you are allowing your imagination to interfere. Indeed, despite the commitment to Realism and deep respect for the artistic heritage of Russian art, which were cultivated extensively by the Painting Department of the Repin Institute, where Nikolai Baskakov had studied, the distinctiveness of Baskakov's artistic style is rooted in his unique energetic, expressive, zealous manner.
Such recognisable, characteristic features of his work Baskakov has acquired during his mature period of activity, in the 1950s and 1960s. The artist has expressed himself in bold, sculpting, broad brushstrokes following the tendencies of Russian Impressionism, which generates a dreamlike, light-hearted, fabulous atmosphere combined with the harmony of the colour scheme. The emotional dimension of the portrait "Alyosha Panev" is an unclouded, joyous, peaceful image of childhood. Shades of piercing red, deep blue, warm gold create a sense of festivity, solemnity, splendour. The painting gives a certain feeling of Russian folklore in its visual manifestation, something very traditional, profoundly national. Interestingly, despite the fact that the portrait is made according to the canons of Realism, the background appears to be quite stylised. It does not represent the common elements of the interior, but the pattern of blurred flowers, possibly roses, which, in fact, is more reminiscent of post-impressionistic trends. These stylistic aspects and craving for bright, expressive, contrasting colours are particularly strongly manifested in Baskakov's works in the 1970s and 1980s. The child in the picture is depicted in profile and seems to be deeply engaged in his activity; he is holding a pencil and a notebook, most probably, he is drawing something. How often great artists are become fascinated by drawing starting from their early childhood, embarking on the artistic journey even without realising it.
Nikolai Baskakov as well as Alyosha, depicted in the portrait, loved to spend time drawing. The boy grew up in a village on the Volga, seven kilometres from Astrakhan, and he was usually spending his spare time drawing with pencil. His first album for drawing was brought by his father, and since then young Nikolai began to escape outdoors more often to capture his favourite places on paper. Even though he was first educated as a carpenter, following his father's career's path, Baskakov still entered the Astrakhan art school at the insistence of his friend in 1933. Later, once graduating from the Repin Institute, Nikolai Baskakov has joined the Leningrad school of painting in its heyday. This artistic group has fully met the spirit of his art and his ideological priorities. The theme of childhood and youth has been generally a quite popular subject matter in the Soviet painting of 1950s-1980s. The renowned masters of the Leningrad school of painting, such as Alexander Samokhvalov, Nikolai Pozdneev, Yuri Tulin, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Elena Kostenko, Alexander Schmidt, Lev Rusov, Vera Nazina-all these artists have often approached children's images in portraits or genre paintings. All of them, including Nikolai Baskakov, were united by their relationship with the progressive traditions of Russian art and the school of the pre-Soviet period, by nurturing their talent studying the best examples of Russian and European painting, by exploring inherited traditions and their own sources of development rooted in a pronounced national basis, the ideas of kindness and humanism. The Leningrad school is characterised by the preservation of the traditional Russian understanding of the goals and objectives of art. Thereby, Baskakov reveals the beauty of the world and the charm of youth, referring to the eternal, enduring values in his inspiring, beautiful, harmonious world, part of which is the portrait of little Alyosha Panev.