15 June 2015

Mikhail Larionov's Van Gogh Moment

Two artists, two moments.  For the thirty-seven year-old Vincent van Gogh, 1890 was the final year of a short and tormented life that ended in July with a gunshot, a presumed suicide.  For the young Russian artist Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) the year 1904 was bright with promise.  Larionov had already met his lifelong partner and fellow artist Natalia Goncharova at art school in Moscow.  Larionov was taken with the Impressionist painters at the time, but after his first visit to Paris in 1906 he became intrigued by the Fauve style.

Larionov would go on to run through  a veritable dictionary of 20th century styles, some of which he helped to invent, like Rayonism, one of the first Russian experiments in abstraction.   Post-Impressionism, Neo-Primitivism, Cubism, he excelled at all of them, thereby providing work for future generations of art historians.

Would Larionov have been familiar with the Dutch painter's work back in Moscow in 1904?  I haven't been able to answer the question but Larionov's  Acacias  In Spring shares a similar upward-looking perspective and a season: spring.  We know from a letter to his brother Theo that Van Gogh painted Blossoming Almond Tree in February 1890 as a gift for his brother and sister-in-law Jo to hang over their bed.  The month before Jo had given birth to a son, named Vincent; the almond tree blossoms in February in southern France where van Gogh was then at Arles.

Although it is currently held in a private collection,  Larionov's The Rain is well known in France and has been frequently been nominated as an example of the japoniste influence in French art.  As Larionov and Goncharova settled in France in 1915, it may be retrospectively so.  It's similarity to van Gogh's Rain At Auvers is hard to ignore.  When van Gogh painted Rain At Auvers he had recently moved to northern France from sunny Provence, in search of treatment by a local doctor.  In a letter written from Auvers, van Gogh described the wheat fields "boundless as the sea."  The painting itself is quite small (19.75 x 19.50) and its proportions give the viewer a sense of claustrophobia where Larionov's square shaped Rain suggests someone viewing the rain from a safe, dry indoor vantage point.  If it was painted indoors, Rain At Auvers suggests that van Gogh felt the walls closing in on him.

The exhibition Van Gogh And Nature is on view at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts from June 14 to September 1.

1. Mikhail Larionov - Acacias In Spring, 1904, Russian State Museum, St. Peteersburg,
2. Vincent van Gogh - Blossoming Almond Tree, 1890,  van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
3. Mikhail Larionov - The Rain, 1904, private collection.
4. Vincent van Gogh - Rain At Auvers, 1890, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.


Marguerite (Tina) Smith Hart said...

Wonderful post! I love to read about other artists and their lives because some of their stories give me hope that I am living the life I was meant to live whether it feels that way each day or not! I had never heard of Larionov but I will definitely Google him and check out his work!
Have a great day!
Love Tina xo

Jane said...

Thank you, Tina. I hope it's better know that I retrieved the second pair of paintings. They disappeared somehow when I posted this yesterday. I don't remember who said great minds all think alike, but in this case it looks that way.

Tania said...

Very interesting link, Jane, thank you & beautiful summer!

Jane said...

Un bel ete, Tania!