The Window. 1886 - Russian impressionism museum
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The Window. 1886

Valentin Serov

Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard

"Lelka, my dear! Sorry it has taken me so long to write to you. Oh, I know I'm a scoundrel," so Valentin Serov started his letter to Olga Trubnikova. "Look, don't fall out of love with me. Yours forever, Valentin Serov," he added at the end. At the beginning of August 1884, Serov was a guest of the Mamontov family in Abramtsevo, while Olga Trubnikova was spending the summer in the Pskov province. They would meet after a long separation only in the summer of 1886. Olga would arrive from Odessa at the village of Yedimonovo, and Valentin Serov would think of painting her portrait at the window. The small painting would be a sketch for a future portrait. The girl is nowhere on the canvas, but one can feel the sheer mystery, the high spirits of the artist, the joy of his anticipation of his meeting with his beloved fiancée, his excited expectation filled with anxiety. The air of the sketch is filled with summer light. "All I wanted to achieve was that special kind of freshness which you could always feel in nature and you can never find in paintings," Serov said. The portrait of Olga Trubnikova, unlike the sketch, was too dark, and the painter did not like it at first. Only later would Serov write in a letter to her: "You know, sometimes I take your summer portrait sketch, you must remember, it was taken next to the window. I look at it with pleasure, though it's dark, I do like it, and you look like yourself. I always start to feel good about my paintings, sooner or later.” Olga Trubnikova met Serov at his aunt's house. She was a young girl of aristocratic origin, but an orphan. Serov’s uncle, who had been Olga's mother’s doctor, took Olga into his own home. His big family became attached to her, and called her Lelya. She helped to raise the children, and worked in the kindergarten and elementary school. On Saturdays, students of the Academy – including Valentin Serov and his friends, Mikhail Vrubel and Vladimir von Derviz – would visit the big house. By the time he had created this sketch, Serov was firmly determined to bring his fiancée back from Odessa, where she was working as a home tutor in a prosperous family.