On the 70th anniversary of Aristarkh Lentulov's death

Russian painter Aristarkh Lentulov was born on March 14, 1882, near Penza into the family of a priest. As one of the initiators of the Jack of Diamonds group (1910), which also included Vassily Kandinsky, Petr Konchalovsky, Kazimir Malevich, and others, he represented its "naive" and "national" wing. At the same time, he was the most consistent of the Cubo-Futurists. // "Churches. New Jerusalem", 1917
In 1907, in St Petersburg, he struck up a friendship with the "father of Russian futurism," David Burliuk, and his brother Vladimir, who both greatly appreciated the artist. Lentulov studied the Classics at the Hermitage, simultaneously taking part in a variety of startling events and exhibitions. // "The umbrellas", 1910
At this time, Lentulov painted many landscapes, including urban views. Gradually, his works began to exude a unique and dominating color scheme: rose specks frequently contrasted with Veronese green. The theme of bathers as a landscape background, popular since Cezanne, was for Lentulov a kind of hymn to sun-drenched nature and hedonism. // "Street of Moscow", 1910
Lentulov could not be described as a born portrait painter, but he certainly had his own inimitable vision of each person. He once said himself: "I do not recognize portraits as works of art if they only act as photographs... I consider a portrait to be a work of art only if the artist imparts his own experience and impression of the subject, and, if you like, even his own mood." // "The Portrait of Marina Lentulova (wife)", 1913
In the years 1908-1909, he created "Self-Portrait in Red," which is regarded as a landmark in his oeuvre. In 1908, Lentulov had his head turned by Cubism and even went to Paris, where the works of Picasso and Braque were on view. In 1910, while still in Paris, Lentulov enrolled at the La Palette Academy of Painting, where the lecturers were devotees of Cubism. // "Self-Portrait in Red", 1909
After returning from Paris, Lentulov took a keen interest in the futuristic idea of "chromatic compatibility," whereby all elements of a picture are perceived not in succession, but simultaneously. This system was employed in his canvases "Allegorical Depiction of the Patriotic War of 1812", "Subject of a Ballet," and others. // "The victory battle", 1914
The name "Jack of Diamonds" was conceived by chance, and Lentulov always insisted that it was he, not Larionov, who coined it. The artists who participated in the "Jack of Diamonds" exhibitions cultivated the concept of thingness and objectness. The rhythmic structure of Lentulov's landscapes gradually began to resemble architecture carved out of nature. // "The Saint Basil's cathedral", 1913
His large canvas painting of 1915 ("Ring of the Ivan the Great Belltower") was perceived by his contemporaries as the polyphonic embodiment of the many-voiced Easter chimes. The convention of form, color dynamics, and very real sense of time evoke that epoch of cataclysm, when many artists, poets, and musicians burned with "fever" on the threshold of the changes that their creativity had anticipated. // "Ring of the Ivan the Great Belltower", 1915
In 1916, Jack of Diamonds split up. After the October Revolution, Lentulov set about fulfilling state contracts to design squares and the hall of the Bolshoi Theater, among others. A great artistic success was the verdict of Lentulov's contemporaries on his opera-play "Demon", staged by prominent Alexander Tairov, an adherent of the "theaterization" of stage action // Sketch for the unknown performance's decorations, 1920s
Theaterization and the principle of acting are clearly manifested in Lentulov's landscapes and portraits, for example, his 1919 "Self-Portrait with Violin." He became slowly but increasingly enamored of the real embodiment of objects, people, and nature, admitting that he "didn't want to paint on the subject of folds of clothing, the nose, ears, etc., but to paint the actual folds, nose, ears, head, trees as they really exist..." // "Self-Portrait with Violin", 1919
After becoming the chairman of the Society of Moscow Artists (which in 1928 united most of the "Jacks"), he switched to tonal painting, preserving somewhat the shades of the forced chromaticity that once held sway; he created landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, filled with a sense of the fullness of life ("Sun above the Roofs. Sunrise," 1928, "Vegetables," 1933, etc.). // "Sunset on the Volga," 1928
In 1941, Aristarkh Lentulov was evacuated to Ulyanovsk. In the fall of 1942, he returned to Moscow, where he died on April 15, 1943, and was buried at Vagankovo Cemetery. Lentulov was keen on depicting himself as a buffoon folk-warrior, which in the main was consistent with his character and life role. // "The night on the Patriarshie pond", 1928

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