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Konstantin Gorbatov

The exhibition of products by Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov in "New Hermitage-1" takes place in the year of the artist's 125th birthday. The main part of the exposition comprises products from the collection of Historical, architectural and art museum "New Jerusalem" exhibited in Moscow for the first time. This is the largest collection of the painter's works in Russia received in the museum repositories from Germany in 1964 according to the will of Gorbatov wishing his pictures to return to the motherland. The uniqueness and value of the collection are in its completeness: it records practically all periods in the master's creative activity: from the early "Russian" period presented mainly by small-sized products, and the "Italian"one, the most numerous in the output, up to the latest "Berlin" period, when the artist practically could not leave the fascist Germany.

Gorbatov left Russia at the age of forty-six, when he was an experienced master and his works are difficult be understood outside Russia. Shaping the artist's concepts and manner took place at the time of general flourishing of Russian art. In the early 20th century not only masters of avant-guarde but painters adhering to the traditions of realistic art (Gorbatov was one of them) strived to renew the existing artistic language. Thematically and formally Gorbatov's art had something in common with creativity of young followers of the Society of Itinerant Art Exhibitions united in "The Union of Russian Artists". In spite of the fact that Gorbatov studied in St. Petersburg, in his searches he was very close to Moscow artists. Like K.Yuon, P.Petrovichev, L.Turzhansky, S.Zhukovsky and other masters of the Moscow section of "The Union" he was interested in the national Russian landscape, his name was connected to imaging old Russian towns, "ancient Pskov and Novgorod as well as the motives of Russian old times".

Born in a Volga town, Gorbatov knew the Russian province. His works of the 1900s-1910s with the views of ancient towns and the Volga spaces in the manner and mood belong to general context of landscape genre development of "The Union" members poetically treating simple Russian motives with birches, churches, country roads, log huts under grey sky. Following traditions of the Society of Itinenrant Art Exhibitions, Gorbatov, as well as the members of "The Union" sensitively reacted to all the new happennings in the art of that time and most especially to achievements of French impressionists. The masters' palette step-by-step was becoming pure due to open-air painting and intersts in aesthetic instead of civil problems, as it had been typical for the artists of the previous generation.

As far as Gorbatov's creativity was concerned his moving to Europe, long staying in Italy on Capri, in Venice were fruitful: he had found there an ideal aesthetic medium. Colourful, bright, well-done - these are the epithets characterizing the Italian pictures of the artist, and they absolutely coincide with Gorbatov's definition of art as "a holiday". Particularly attractive are cheerfulness and harmony in Gorbatov's canvases of the middle 1920s- the early 1930s. The best picture of this period is "The Italian Gardener" (1926) where the artist reaches almost idyllic blend of human-being and nature. The picture is also remarkable for its subject: the artist has not often depicted people on his canvases. As well as in the Russian period he was basically interested in natural motives, organically connecting them with architectural subjects, thus making a landscape to be concrete and recognizable despite generalization and decorative character of images.

The main source of inspiration for Gorbatov was nature so travels were so important for him. A remarkable cycle of small-sized paintings produced during the artist's travels in Palestine (the middle 1930s) is kept in the museum collection. The colouring of the palestinian output differs as contrasted to the Italian works: there are more sandy and golden tints, the volumes are flattened.

Gorbatov's creative work is an integral phenomenon though his artistic language changes from time to time. There is no doubt that the largest effect on Gorbatov was produced by the experience of impressionists. 1 But, remaining faithful to himselfself, the artist was influenced only by what was close to his views. Living in Berlin, he did not seem to notice modern phenomena of German art culture connected mainly with expressionism. Even after his departure from Russia he continued to paint ancient Russian towns and "blue" Russian winters. One of the artist's latest works from the museum collection representing the town of Rostov the Great was dated 1943. However, the images on his pictures had lost the density and materiality inherent in his early works, and gained some illusiveness, resembling an image of the invented town of Kitezh disappeared under the water, painted by Gorbatov again and again during all his life. In the museum collection this theme is represented by one composition made in gouache. It arouses associations with works of Russian symbolists of the early 20th century. As a matter of fact, all Gorbatov's artistry and his romantic attitude towards art, which he extolled, declaring that "only people liking art can appreciate life, only they can perceive the secrets of being", originate from the traditions of Russian art of the late 19th-early 20th centuries as well.

This is the first publication of Gorbatov's pictures from the collection of Historical, Architectural and Art museum "New Jerusalem". It is as well as the exhibition a long-overdue tribute to the artist.

Museum-gallery "New Hermitage-1" thanks the management of "New Jerusalem" for the works provided. A small part of the collection was on display in the 80s, but only in regional museums. Thus, the present exhibition will be a kind of revelation for all Moscow art lovers, the revelation being splendid. It is a great honour for our museum to introduce to Moscow the artist's fine creations returning to the heart of Russia to win finally the deserved recognition of compatriots after they have been in the half-century oblivion.

1 In articles of western critics Gorbatov's art is often related to post-impressionism.

Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov

The name of Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov has not gone down in art criticism literature as it deserves; it is not mentioned in the "History of Russian art" printed in many volumes, there are no monographies about him (1). All this can be easily explained, taking into account the artist's biography which is to be studied more thoroughly by future research workers.

There are little data about Gorbatov's life before his departure from Russia. They are basically connected to his study which has been long and included diverse subjects. Apart from painting he studied architecture, what greatly influenced his subsequent work: architectural motives were constantly present on his canvases.

Gorbatov had artistic surroundings determined by his own creativity - it was a circle of realist artists. Gorbatov regularly visited famous Repin's "wednesdays" in Penaty, was a member of "A.I.Kuindji's Society". Before the October revolution the artist's life was quite a success, he was elected a professor of the Academy of Fine Arts, his products were appreciated by critics.

Gorbatov did not leave and could not leave in his notes his opinion about the October revolution in Russia. He was almost demonstratively apolitical, and his art was far from revolutionary searches of the left. He was a realist in everything and his rejection of the revolution probably was similar to that of I.Bunin. Gorbatov's Russia and everything he had liked and poeticized in his pictures were destroyed .

After leaving Russia, Gorbatov and his wife went to Italy, at first they lived on Capri. In March, 1926, Gorbatov had exhibitions in Rome which were a great success. Italian press of that time highly appreciated the painter's art. It wrote about him as of "a born artist, a high-powered colourist vivifying modern art by his talent". Describing the exhibition taking place in March, 1926 in Rome, in the palazzo Climent X, Italian critic E.Panetta writes: "This is a Rus: the snow and the grey colour, - small pictures. But quite near our heart beats with joy, because it encounters what is dear for us: Naples, Capri, Amalfi, Venice, Ravella. The shoots of grapevine, the branches of orange trees, the terraces under the sun, above our sea. The beauty of a landscape and sun rays are softened by the artist, who seems to see the nature even then, when his passionate temperament results in exaggerations. This arouses our sympathy and the effect of empathy is so intensive, that it creates an impression that the artist's reality becomes our reality." (Newspaper "Il Messagero" dated March 14, 1926)

In 1926 the couple moved to Berlin. Here they settle in a large, well-furnished flat, they are doing well, Gorbatov's pictures are a commercial success. Judging by what is known, the master had surroundings which did not let him feel lonely outside Russia. The society of Russian artists settled in Berlin, was numerous enough. The exhibition taking place in 1929 enables us to form a judgement about Gorbatov's environment. On display, aside from Gorbatov's works, were products by other Russian artists living in Berlin: V.D.Falileyev, K.N.Kachura-Falileyeva, S.M.Kolesnikov, V.N.Masyutin, Ya.Sokolov and others.

The artist lived in Berlin up to his death. However, his Berlin life was often interrupted by trips. The geography of the Gorbatovs' travels is vast, apart from regular trips to Italy - to Capri, Rome, Venice, the Gorbatovs from the late 1920s to the middle 1930s travelled the world. It is known, that they lived in Spain, France. In 1928 they go to Finland. In Kuakkala, in Penaty, Gorbatov visits 84-year-old Repin and writes enthusiastically about creative energy of the artist: "he remained the same as he had been when I saw him for the last time in 1916, his eyes were burning with the same youthful fervour, his speech was full of wit and humour intrinsic to him, and sometimes even of genuine merriment".

Gorbatov has left documentary archives including photographs, letters and his notes. Apart from "Reminiscenses of Repin", there have remained Gorbatov's notes about his travel in 1934-1935 to Syria and Palestine. But often the role of such travelling notices played the artist's pencil sketches of views of the same Palestine and London, the Gorbatovs visited in 1935.

The trips so needed for the artist inspired by the views of picturesque places, lasted till the beginning of World war II. At the beginning of the war the Gorbatovs were barred from departure from Germany, as they were Soviet citizens according to their passports and twice a week they had to visit police as "suspects". Their new temporary passports were extended every four months by the Swedish consulate. The life of these years was obviously uneasy in all respects. The last dwelling of the Gorbatovs was a small two-room flat with a tiny kitchen in a basement. Almost up to his last days the artist worked: he painted still lives with flowers, landscapes with views of Capri and Venice and, what is most striking in the fascist Berlin, - landscapes of old Russian towns.

Konstantin Ivanovich died shortly after the end of the war: on May 24, 1945.

The life of the artist's wife, Olga Alexandrovna Gorbatova, ended tragically. In the archives of Historical, Achitectural and Art Museum "New Jerusalem" there are materials of investigation of her suicide. They contain the description of a small kitchen measuring 5,85 m x 3,90 m and a white kitchen table, on which was found a message written on yellow wrapping paper in a blunt black pencil: "Bitte um Vergebung" - "I am sorry". The other message, on a piece of white cloth, was found in the pocket of her black silk dress, in which Olga Gorbatova hanged herself: "Frau Prof. Olga Gorbatoff. Grunewald, Delbruchst, 3. Ich habe keinen Ausweg." (wife of prof. Olga Gorbatov, Grunewald, Delbruchst, 3. I have no way out)

After Gorbatov's demise the travels of his products were not finished. In the letter written shortly before his death, but not sent to the addresse in London, he made his testamentary prescription: "I am writing this letter at the tragical moment, when death threatens everybody living in Berlin. I request you after the war to send all my pictures to the Academy of Fine Arts in Leningrad, let them decide what to do with them".

The letter containing the artist's will and testament as well as his pictures was found by a Soviet tank-captain in the flat where the Gorbatovs lived before their death . It was this captain who informed the Soviet commandant's office in Berlin about his find.

Only in 1964 the artist's products found their haven: along with his archives they were handed over to the funds of the Moscow regional local history museum in the town of Istra.

The museum thanks the management of gallery "New Hermitage-1" for issuing a catalogue and exhibiting the pictures in its halls. The given project and further exhibiting the products in the Historical, Architectural and Art museum "New Jerusalem" will enable art-lovers to see little-known products by the talented painter.

Museum "New Jerusalem" Lyudmila Denisova Head of art department

1.Article by Andrei Kusakin "The Return of Konstantin Gorbatov" was recently published in magazine "Our Heritage" (No 49/1999). His concern in Gorbatov has inspired the author of the present article to study the artist's creative life.


Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov is an artist, professor of the Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts.

Was born on May 5, 1876, in Stavropol of the Samara province. Began to study art in Samara under F.Burov and A.Yegorov.

From 1896 to 1903 lives in Riga, studies at the department of civil engineering of the polytechnical school and at D.Klark's studio.

In 1903 he moves to St. Petersburg, where studies at first at the Baron Stieglitz Central school for Technical Draftsmanship. In 1904 enters the architecture department of the Academy of Fine Arts. From 1905 to 1911 studies at the painting department of the Academy of Fine Arts under V.Ye.Dubovskoi and A.A.Kiselyov.In 1911 for his picture "They've Reached the Shore" he receives the rank of artist, the pension for a trip abroad and a gold international medal at the exhibition in Munich.

In 1912 he goes as a pensioner of the Academy of Fine Arts to Rome, then on M.Gorky's invitation he moves to Capri. Travels throughout the south of Europe.

Returns to Russia, visits many ancient Russian towns, lives in St. Petersburg, in Moscow. In 1922 he leaves Russia forever.

In 1922-1926 lives in Italy, on Capri, travels in Europe. In 1926 settles down in Berlin.

When living in Berlin, he travels a lot: in 1928 goes to Finland, visits I.Ye.Repin in Kuokkala, in Penaty. Almost annually visits Capri and Venice.

In 1934-1935 travels to Palestine.

In 1935 goes to London.

In the 1940s lives in Berlin without quitting it.

On May 24, 1945 he dies in Berlin.

Participant of exhibitions from 1905: spring exhibitions of the Society of Itinerant Art Exhibitions, exhibitions of "The Society of the Independent" (1910, St. Petersburg), in Paris, Venice, Munich. After departing from Russia at his life time he had personal exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Dresden, Rome, Copenhagen, Hague, London.

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