Mikhail Shemyakin. An entirely different artist - Russian impressionism museum
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Temporary exhibition

Mikhail Shemyakin. An entirely different artist

13 October - 16 January

From October 13 to January 17, 2017 the Museum of Russian Impressionism is proud to host the Mikhail F. Shemyakin retrospective, a Russian Impressionist artist of the first half of the 20th century. The exposition will include more than fifty works of the painter from Russian museums, Russia’s “near abroad” and Moscow private collections. Works from the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the Nizhniy Tagil State Museum of Fine Arts, art museums of Astrakhan, Penza, Tula, Ryazan and many others will be exhibited, some for the first time. 

With this exhibition, the Museum of Russian Impressionism refers to its mission to speak about the Russian Impressionists. We will talk about the master Mikhail Shemyakin, whom Konstantin Korovin compared with Raphael, and Vladimir Mayakovsky recognized as a "realist-impressionist-cubist". Not working in the contemporary style, but as “an entirely different artist”.


Mikhail Shemyakin studied under Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. From tutors, the young artist learned to love the portrait genre and bold impressionistic manner of painting. The skill of the draftsman Shemyakin improved in Munich, in the studio of Anton Ažbe. One of his last drawings "Monk", made in the school of Ažbe, will be presented at the exhibition. This painting was noticed and appreciated by Feodor Chaliapin, who once visited Jan Hřímalý's apartment. The artist’s son recalled: "Approaching the drawing, without looking back, he silently examined it. Then he looked back, and guests saw two ‘Monks’: one on the picture, and the other perfectly played by Chaliapin. There was a friendly applause. ‘It's great!’ Chaliapin said and shook my father's hand."

It is interesting that at this time Mikhail Shemyakin preferred a three-color monochrome palette, thereby filling the painting with a special pearly light. The artist mixed ceruse, light ocher, and black ivory, giving a warm black shade. Subsequently, Mikhail Shemyakin would devote several years of life to the study of the color black and its shades.


In 1901, the artist married his fellow student Lyudmila Hřímalý, daughter of the renowned Czech violinist Jan Hřímalý. For many years, Shemyakin lived in his father-in-law’s apartment, located in the right wing of the Moscow Conservatory. In the living room, the master repeatedly wrote to his relatives, who were musicians, and their friends, who often visited the hospitable family. Mikhail Shemyakin was called the "musical Moscow’s chronicler" of the first half of the 20th century, and therefore the portraits of musicians were given a central place at the exhibition. Visitors will see a series of portraits of great performers, among them the artist’s father-in-law Jan Hřímalý, composer Alexander Goedicke, violinist František Ondříček, cellist Anna Lyuboshitz, singer and soloist of the Bolshoi Theater Nadezhda Salina.

Mikhail Shemyakin. Violinist’s portrait


A separate part is a series of family portraits. Mikhail Shemyakin loved to paint his wife Lyudmila Hřímalý and sons Feodor and Mikhail (who would also become artists in the future). Shemyakin was able to convey the joy of motherhood, the charm and significance of everyday household chores, and the serene peace of a child brightly and poetically. The portrait of the famous grandfather of the artist - the manufacturer Alexey Abrikosov – is particularly racy. The portrait was so life-like that a stoker who entered Abrikosov’s office in the morning, clutching a bundle of firewood, exclaimed: "Excuse me, Alexey Ivanovich, I did not know that you awoke." After entering the museum collection, this painting was never exhibited. The Tretyakov Gallery, where the portrait is now kept, gave the Museum of Russian Impressionism the right to present the canvas for the first time to the public.

Mikhail Shemyakin. The Portrait of Alexey I. Abrikosov (1902


Shemyakin's female portraits deserve special attention. Among them are numerous images of the artist's wife, the sumptuous "Lady in White" - a portrait of Lyudmila Shemyakina's sister, Anna Egorova. But the most attractive are the images of models. Shemyakin often painted Valentin Serov's favorite model - Vera Kalashnikova. Her expressive gray-green eyes and a head of dark hair are instantly recognizable and attract the eye. The master was dissatisfied with his first sketch of Vera: he threw the cardboard image into the corner of the workshop, where it lay for almost twenty years, until Apollinary Vasnetsov’s etude so pleased the artist that he hung it over the bed. A year later Mikhail Shemyakin made another attempt to portray Vera Kalashnikova. The drawing turned out to be unusually subtle, for which the painter deserved approval from the very chary of praise Valentin Serov, and Konstantin Korovin did not hide his delight: "Raphael!"

Mikhail Shemyakin. The Model (1905)


It is impossible to imagine an exhibition of Mikhail Shemyakin without hyacinths. The artist had a special love of them: he often painted these tender flowers, which always appeared in his house for the New Year. It was customary in the Czech tradition to decorate houses for Christmas with spring flowers. The son of the artist, Mikhail Shemyakin, recalled: "The tree was big. There were many ornaments on it. Colorful candles burned. Multicolored glittering glass spheres and figures shone with glare <...> There were many living plants and flowers in the living room: large ficus, hydrangeas, cacti, hyacinths. The children, my elder brother and me, were waiting at the door in a large adjoining room-the ‘hall.’ Dad opened the high doors, and in front of us was a tree, in all its brilliance and radiance! My father <...> wrote in the painting ‘Hyacinths by the Christmas Tree.’” Leo Tolstoy once presented a wicker basket with hyacinths in pots, which the artist depicted, to Jan Hřímalý.

Mikhail Shemyakin. Hyacinths at Night (1912)


The life story of Mikhail Shemyakin is full of similar details. Fate brought him with many outstanding contemporaries, each of whom could not remain indifferent to the artist's work. Once, while collecting mushrooms with children near Akulova mountain, where the Shemyakins rented a house, the artist met Vladimir Mayakovsky. Together with Lilya Brik, they often came to their courtyard for pink peonies. "Suddenly, a tall, broad-shouldered figure without a shirt, in smoothed trousers, with a towel on the shoulder, grew up in front of us”, - the artist's son Mikhail recalled. -  "Ah, Shemyakin!" - Said the poet. – “I saw your work at the exhibition. You are a Realist - Impressionist - Cubist. " This paradoxical characteristic is surprisingly perceptive. As a realist, Shemyakin did not allow himself to simplify and distort nature for the sake of a picturesque effect. Like the Cubists, he always approached nature at the same time analytically and with fervent curiosity - as if he had seen the face of a man or a bouquet of hyacinths for the first time. But from the very beginning of the creative path and until the end of his life, the methods of Impressionism were his most beloved.

An illustrated catalogue with previously unpublished archival materials will be published for the exhibition.