Lyab-i Hauz with Water Carriers, 1929
Oil on canvas
The State Museum of Oriental Art
Another favourite topic for Benkov in Bukhara was hauzi — ancient reservoirs, of which were more than eighty in the city. The hauzi were filled with water from the aryk — the canal — which was called Shahrud and was part of the city’s ingeniously developed water supply system. True, by the time the artist arrived, the dilapidated and neglected water bodies had became breeding grounds for diseases: desert boil, malaria and others. The hauzi and aryks, which were formerly life-giving sources, were now living their last days and giving way to city water supplies. Open ponds, created with old stone slabs, the greenery of overgrown shrubs and vines, casting a relieving shadow on the streets burned with heat — all this brought a peculiar beauty and picturesque appearance to the city. Benkov devoted many of his canvases of the Bukhara cycle to the hauzi.
The hauzi also attracted Benkov because of the opportunity to portray the difficult work of water carriers. In the 1920s, the topic of labour became relevant and was in-demand by the Soviet authorities. This new theme entered the artist's work quite naturally due to his sincere interest in the unusual Eastern life that surrounded him. Benkov's plein-air painting, in which the figures of working people were unobtrusively included, also acquired a social meaning.