1. The Zaporozhian Cossacks write a letter to the Sultan of Turkey, detail (1880–1891). Ilya Repin (Russian, 1844–1930). Oil on canvas. State Russian Museum.

    The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed IV, demanded that the Cossacks submit to Turkish rule. The Cossacks, led by Ivan Sirko, replied in an uncharacteristic manner: they wrote a letter, replete with insults and profanities. The painting exhibits the Cossacks’ pleasure at striving to come up with ever more base vulgarities.

  2. Reading a Letter (1892). Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky (Russian, 1868-1945). Oil on canvas. Sumy Art Museum, Ukraine.

    Bogdanov-Belsky painted mostly genre paintings, especially of the education of peasant children, portraits, and impressionistic landscapes studies. He became pedagogue and academician in 1903. He was an active Member of the Academy of Arts in 1914.

  3. Costume design for Salomé in ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ (1908). Leon Bakst (Russian, 1866-1924). Oil on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

    Ida Lvovna Rubinstein (Russian, 1885-1960) was a wealthy and beautiful actress, dancer, patron and Belle Époque figure who had, by the standard of Russian ballet, little formal training. Nevertheless, she proposed her role as Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, in which she would strip nude in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils. Tutored by Mikhail Fokine, she made her debut in 1908 in a single private performance in which she stripped completely.

  4. A Woman at the Grand Piano (1914). Natan Altman (Russian, 1889-1970).

    Fascinated, like many of his contemporaries, by revolutionary ideas, from 1917, Altman edited the first Soviet journal on the questions of art, ‘Art of the Commune.’ He directed the establishment of the Museum of Artistic Culture, and he created portraits of prominent Bolsheviks (notably, a bust of Lunacharsky). 

  5. Self-Portrait with a Palette (1880). Marie Bashkirtseff (Russian, 1858-1884). Chéret Museum of Fine Arts of Nice.

    Bashkirtseff shows herself soberly dressed, palette in hand, her gaze purposely directed at the viewer. Her professional identity is stressed here, undermined only by the insertion of the harp behind her, which threatens the seriousness of her painting by making it signify as one among a number of female accomplishments.

  6. A Letter from My Beau. Konstantin Razumov (Russian, born 1974).

    Razumov has painted all kinds of subjects, from nudes to landscapes. His bright colours, the smoothness of the skin in his nudes, the expressive features of his characters, distinguish his paintings. Razumov has a vibrant shimmering brushstroke plus a mastery of light and excellent draftmanship. 

  7. Young Nun at Prayer (1853). Sergei Ivanovich Gribkov (Russian, 1820-1893). Oil on canvas.

    Rosary in hand, the young nun reads and prays with a sacred text that has been well used. Gribkov’s light source highlights the nun’s face and the text with emphasis enhanced with the dark background.

  8. Portrait of Krasnosheeva, A Dancer in the Kirov Ballet (1948). Vladimir Aleksandrovich Serov (Russian, 1910-1968). Oil on canvas. Springfield Museum of Art.

    Krasnosheeva became Serov’s wife. Serov studied with V. E. Savinskii at the Leningrad Academy of Arts; he received his graduate training there, studying under I. I. Brodskii. He taught at the academy between 1933 and 1942.

  9. In the artist’s studio (c.1892-94). Konstantin Korovin (Russian, 1861-1939). Oil on canvas.

    This work is revealing as it shows the artist himself at work in the very place that Korovin claimed to be ‘an escape from a world of baseness, evil and unfairness.’ The softly curved impasto of the bright blooms provides a stark contrast to the linear strokes which delineate the buildings glimpsed through the windows, as if to highlight the artist’s ability to escape the present to another world through the use of dramatic light and colour.

  10. Reading (c.1900). Konstantin Makovsky (Russian, 1839-1915).

    In the late 19th century, Makovsky was one of the most highly appreciated and highly paid Russian artists. Many democratic critics considered him as a renegade of the Wanderers’ ideals, producing striking but shallow works, while others see him as a forerunner of Russian Impressionism.

  11. Queen Of Shamakhan from Le Coq d’Or from the Ballet Russes (1913). Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962). Pencil, gouache, watercolour and gold paint on paper. 

    Goncharova began work on the Ballet Russes production of Le Coq d’Or in 1913. This unusual production married the traditions of opera and ballet on stage. “Mikhail Fokine’s choreography was in his most charming and spontaneous vein, the décor by Goncharova, inspired by Russian peasant art, was a revelation of brilliant colour and primitive fantasy.”

  12. Design for a Costume of a Marquise for the Ballerina Tamara Karsavina (1924). Konstantin Andreevich Somov (Russian, 1869-1939). Watercolour and touches of bodycolour within a delineated border in black ink on white wove paper. © Ashmolean Museum.

    Tamara Platonovna Karsavina (1885-1978) was a Russian prima ballerina, renowned for her beauty, who was a Principal Artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and later of the Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev.

  13. Declaration of Love (1891). Vladimir Makovsky (Russian, 1846-1920). Oil on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

    The well-dressed gentleman nervously makes his declaration of love while twisting his finger and looking downward. The lady does not know how to respond or act. She appears to bring a small bouquet to her face to smell the scent while also keeping one hand on the keyboard. She is unable to look at her suitor.

  14. Portrait of a Ballerina L.A. Ivanova (1922). Zinaida Serebriakova (Russian, 1884-1967). Pastel on paper, laid on cardboard.

    In 1922, Serebriakova’s best ballet portraits - Marietta Frangopulo, Lidya Ivanova and Alexandra Danilova in their costumes for the Pas de trois in Nikolai Tcherepnin’s ballet Armida’s Pavilion, E. Svekis in the costume for her character in Sleeping Beauty and a number of others - were shown at the World of Art exhibition in Petrograd.

  15. Lady in park listening to boy playing the violin. Konstantin Razumov (Russian, b.1974).

    His bright colours, the smoothness of the skin in his figures, the expressive features of his characters, distinguish his paintings. Razumov has a vibrant shimmering brushstroke plus a mastery of light and excellent draftmanship. Faithful to early Impressionism, he nonetheless adds some modern touches which are most obvious in the faces and hands of his figures.