Hyacinths at Night. 1912
Oil on cardboard
There hyacinths shine beneath
Beneath the white and sharp shine
They are all lit up and stand, grief-stricken.
These lines by Nikolai Gumilyev seem almost to have been written as he looked at Mikhail Shemyakin’s still life. The artist depicted the flowers under the warm light of an electric lamp against the background of a frost-covered window in the evening. Undoubtedly, the hyacinths were painted in the apartment of the painter’s father-in-law, George Grizhmali, the famous violinist and professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Grizhmali occupied rooms in the right wing of the Conservatory, where student classes are now located. In the family’s tradition for a Catholic Christmas, they grew hyacinths, so only in this work can you see hyacinths against a background of a Christmas tree.
Many Russian painters noted the beauty of these warm colors, but nobody created images like Shemyakin’s. Like Korovin’s roses, hyacinths often appear in his works. Occasionally hyacinths were represented with ceremonial beauty, and sometimes drooping and with a solemn appearance. The artist took pleasure in pairing hyacinths with different backgrounds to reach the desired effect. In this painting he underlined the effect of blue twilight outside the window with warm sunny green leaf shoots and tender snow-white flowers.