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Nikolai Sapunov – Russian painter

P.V. Kuznetsov. Portrait of Nikolai Sapunov. 1914-1915. State Tretyakov Gallery

P.V. Kuznetsov. Portrait of Nikolai Sapunov. 1914-1915. State Tretyakov Gallery


Nikolai Sapunov was a painter, one of the best set designers in the history of Russian theater. You know, he was a member of several associations, including the Moscow Association of Artists, Scarlet and Blue Rose, World of Art. Also Sapunov is known for a large cycle of still lifes. To tell the truth, he was one of the brightest and original figures in Russian art of the twentieth century.
Nikolai was born on December 17, 1880 in Moscow into a wealthy merchant family. His father died when the future artist was 12 years old.
The boy studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where his teachers were Isaak Levitan, Konstantin Korovin, Valentin Serov.
The first works the artist demonstrated in May-June 1904 at the exhibition The Scarlet Rose – the only exhibition of the eponymous group of artists. M. Vrubel and V. E. Borisov-Musatov were invited as honorary participants.

He worked as a set designer in Moscow and St. Petersburg and gained fame after the show Puppet Show (1906, based on the works of Blok). Cooperation with Meyerhold left a deep mark in Sapunov’s work. The inherent emotional qualities and musicality of the world outlook deepened to the nature of his talent and acquired the qualities of stability, became an organic form of expression in the painting of the symbolist idea. The theater became for Sapunov the Country of miracles, the world of magic and beauty.
In 1908 Sapunov moved to St. Petersburg, hoping to cooperate with Diaghilev and the organization of an experimental Balagan Theatre in Terioki.
Sapunov is an author of mosaic depicting Falcon in the attic of M.V. Sokol’s apartment in Kuznetsky Most Street.
By the way, Sapunov was the author of the blue rose on the cover of the catalog of the eponymous exhibition in Moscow in 1907, which has become a sign of the Symbolist movement in Russian art. In the historical perspective, the artist’s work, for all its contradictoriness and shortness, appears fully complete, significant and integral, full of high poetry and deep drama. Sapunov is a beautiful mysterious blue star in the constellation of the masters of the Blue Rose.
His favorite topics were theatrical scenes, festivities, carousels. Even his famous still lifes with artificial and fresh flowers seem to be scenes of the silent theater of things.

The artist died on June 14, 1912 in Terioki near St. Petersburg. Thirty-two-year old Nikolai drowned while boating. Death by water was predicted when the artist was very young.
Still Life With A Self-portrait embodied the tragedy of his attitude to life at the last stage. This is a kind of pictorial requiem for himself. The artist is represented there already drowned. But he is not the main subject of attention of this work, he does not even notice at once in the picture. The still life looks as if we see it through the water. It seems that the artist presented here that “the ghostly underwater realm where his soul lived for a long time”.
Nikolai Nikolaevich Sapunov is one of the bright and original figures in the Russian art of the twentieth century.
For descendants the artist remained the pioneer of festive, fantastic worlds, unearthly beauty of which was open only to him. Forgotten, like the names of many other masters of the Russian Silver Age, his name and creativity was rediscovered these days.
Source: www.artsait.ru

Nikolai Sapunov – Russian painter