An artist who tells the story of women’s lives.

The invasion of Ukraine changed the international cultural landscape.
The Russian artists I knew were Russian to me, but I found out that some were born in Russia others were born in Ukraine.
I stress before you even read the post, that there is an atrocious war and I know exactly who is the invader and who are the invaded people.
I have tried to keep a balance and leave out of the war any kind of culture concerning those countries.
We are only talking about art here.

I firmly believe in the democratic value of art and I trust that culture helps to bring together the best of peoples, their highest and noblest expressions.
And maybe it helps to find peace everywhere in the world.
As you may know, if you read my blog, my attention is almost always directed towards female artists because I believe that we do not yet have the space to express ourselves.

At the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, I created paintings that if sold, would go to help the Ukrainian people.
But at the same time I started studying Ukrainian and Russian women artists to learn more about them.
I discovered an artist that I really like, Zinaida Serebrjakova.
A Russian artist but actually born in Ukraine, in present day Kharkiv to a decidedly artistic family.
Her grandfather Nicholas Benois was a famous architect, her uncle Aleksandr Nikolaevič Benois a famous painter, her father Yevgeny Nikolayevich Lanceray a famous sculptor and her mother a designer.
Zinaida‘s brothers were also one an architect and the other a painter and graphic designer.

The first artistic formation of Zinaida Serebrjakova.

In 1900 she graduated from a high school for girls and then studied for a short period in Italy and Paris.
A classic in the formation of an artist.
But given the historical period, also a revolutionary act to be able to train in a purely male world.
Her painting of the early twentieth century is post-impressionist, with scenes of life in the Russian countryside.
Plastic, doughy bodies, I really like this close perspective this joyful light. It seems to describe Tolstoy’s countryside with an unusual elegance.
The women are strong, joyful, young and robust.
There is no trace of propaganda but it almost seems to be trying to describe the beauty of the world through the work of the fields.
The ritual action of working the fields is full of dignity and beauty.
The painted figures are often close up and in perspective and take on the grandeur of statues, as if they were gods and goddesses in sacred places.

The collapse of the Russian Empire and the life that changes.

In 1924 happen incredible facts that completely upset the life of Serebrjakova.
Her husband dies of typhus in 1919, a disease contracted while he was in the Bolshevik prisons.
Zinaida is left alone with four children and a sick mother. They are looted and remain without food. The artist manages to make some portraits for commission but life is now too difficult in the new Russia.
Not feeling close to futurist painting and therefore not being able to enter the art that at that time could have made her live better and especially not accepting to portray the political commissars, she decided to look elsewhere and found a job in the archaeological museum in Kharkiv where she made some drawings and works.
In 1920 she moved to his grandparents in St. Petersburg where she made some pastels.
But it is in 1924 that she leaves for Paris where she is commissioned a mural.
Serebrjakova leaves for Europe but without her children.
At the end of the work, not being able to return, she managed to expatriate her two youngest children Alexandre and Catherine (in 1926 and 1928) but she did not succeed with her older children (Evgenyi and Tatiana) that she will see again many years later.

The international art of Zinaida Serebrjakova.

Paris, then, for the Russian artist born in Ukraine. But also Africa between 1928 and 1930, Morocco in particular.
In her artist’s eyes, above all, North Africa. She painted Arab and African women and Breton fishermen.
Her painting embraces the world, telling us that a world of peace and culture can exist.
In 1940, during the Nazi occupation of France she had to renounce her Soviet citizenship and became a French citizen, it was only after the thaw by Chruščёv that the Soviet government allowed her to resume contact with her family.
In 1960, after 36 years of separation, her daughter Tatiana was finally allowed to visit her.
Zinaida Serebriakova‘s works were exhibited in the Soviet Union in 1966, in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev where they were very successful.
The preparation of these exhibitions took five years and Zinaida was already old and no longer painting. But she waited with trepidation for the reaction of the public.

The success was incredible, the Russian artist who had never returned to Russia, had her works in major Russian cities and today we say also Ukrainian.
The war had divided her family, her life had the connotation of a stateless person in search of a space of expression.
And her art was understood both in Europe and in Russia and Ukraine.
Zinaida Serebriakova died in Paris on September 19, 1967 at the age of 82. She is buried in Paris at the Russian Orthodox cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.

Art can unite us, art can bring out the best sides of human beings.
It was wonderful to discover this artist, not only because her story is so relevant right now, but also because of the beauty of her paintings that look at the vast world of self-discovery and place.

A curiosity: at least two hundred works are in Russia but most of her work is in France.

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