Valentin Serov and Domotkanovo

At the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow at the moment is an exhibition of the work of the great Russian painter Valentin Serov, staged to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1865. The exhibition finishes on 24 January. It has been a huge success, with the gallery having to extend its opening hours – and adding an extra week to the original end-date – to accommodate the numbers wanting to visit. I wish I could have got to Moscow to see it. There have been many interesting articles in the Russian press and on the Tretyakov’s own website about the exhibition – for example, this one about Serov’s drawings, and this, headed ‘The most moving painter of the human face’.

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Girl with Peaches. 1887. Portrait of Vera Mamontova, painted at Savva Mamontov’s country estate at Abramtsevo. Probably Serov’s most famous work

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Portrait of Genrietta Girshman. 1907

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Portrait of Tsar Nicholas II. 1900 (I have a reproduction of this framed on the wall of my study…)

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October at Domotkanovo. 1895

Valentin Serov often stayed with his friends and relatives, the Derviz family, at their country estate, Domotkanovo, near the city of Tver, 150km to the north-west of Moscow. Many of his works depict the surrounding countryside, or members of his circle in the landscape, such as this one:

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Girl in the Sunlight (Portrait of Maria Simonovich) 1888

In the summer of 2013 I visited Domotkanovo with some friends. There is a small museum containing much biographical and historical information, with reproductions of many of Serov’s works on the walls.

The quality of these reproductions in the museum doesn’t really do the works justice

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A pleasing textile connection for me is the name of the estate, derived from Dom (house) and tkani (cloth).  The area was known for its weavers, apparently. One of the rooms in the museum contained a model of the estate, showing the main house, which is now in a very poor condition, and the nearby wooden building which is the current museum.  The curator told us they have great plans to restore the house and to make the place a draw for visitors. It would be a huge task and, if it goes ahead, I hope they don’t make it too pristine or touristy. I don’t know where the money is to come from.

We were given a guided tour and then a magnificent meal, accompanied by some vigorous accordion playing and singing.  It was all pleasingly Russian and altogether a great experience. So perhaps it’s not so bad that I’m missing the Tretyakov exhibition.  I had a wonderful immersion in Serov’s life and work that day.

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At Domotkanovo in August 2013

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