Konstantin Somov’s style was conceived during his study at the Academy of Arts. His was a departure from the fashionable movements of the period, for he was an enthusiast of an earlier age. As the child of the senior curator at The Hermitage and a musician mother, Somov was exposed to artistic living early on, and thus experienced a wealth of impressions without much external seeking on his part. Hung on the walls of his St. Petersburg childhood home was a substantial private collection, attracting artists and admirers from all across Russia. A nurturing environment, certainly, as Konstantin must have first seen the world through the eyes of imagination instead of stark realism. He was, after all, surrounded by it.
Unlike many of his fellow artists, Somov was an admirer of Rococo when it seemed fusty and irrelevant. 1896 marks the years when he started painting his 18th century works but he continued attending to them long into his career. Over the span of his life, he would go on to complete portraits, still lifes, and landscapes from the 18th century and beyond, favoring watercolor mixed with whitewash, gouache, and bronze. He also illustrated books, including the cheeky Book of Marquise, and had a flair for capturing women. Whimsy and merrymaking pervade his earliest work, and his admiration of Watteau and Fragonard is manifest. I would consider him their lovechild, displaced in the 20th century, and with a bit of childlike delight thrown in.
Tell me what you think. Like, love, or maybe just ambivalence?
Somov’s Works – 1896 to 1930