Oil Painting -> Zinaida Serebryakova

Zinaida Serebryakova

Zinaida Painting

Zinaida Serebryakova

Zinaida Evgenyevna Serebryakova (December 10, 1884 - September 19, 1967) is the first Russian woman-painter of distinction.


Zinaida Serebryakova was born on the estate of Neskuchnoye near Kharkov (now Ukraine) into one of the most refined and artistic families of Russia.

He was arrested and murdered in the German concentration camp Auschwitz.

She belongs to the artistic family of Lansere (sometimes spelled Lanceray). Her grandfather Nicolai Leontievich Lansere was a famous architect, chairman of architect's society and member of Russian Academy of Science. Her uncle Alexandre Benois was a famous painter, founder of Mir iskusstva art group. Her father, Yevgeniy Nikolaevich Lansere, was a well-known sculptor, and her mother, who was Alexandre Benois's sister, was good at drawing. One of Zinaida's brothers, Nikolai Evgenievich Lansere, was a talented architect, and her other brother, Yevgeniy Yevgenievich Lansere, had an important place in Russian and Soviet art as a master of monumental painting and graphic art. Great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and Russian-English actor and writer Peter Ustinov were also her relatives.


In 1900 she graduated from women's gimnasium and entered the art school founded by princess Tenisheva. She learnt from Repin (since 1901) and from portrait artist Braz (1903-1905). In 1902-1903 she traveled to Italy. In 1905-1906 she studied at Academie de La Grande Chaumiere in Paris.

In 1905 Zinaida Lansere married student (later railroad engineer) Boris Serebryakov and took his surname.

Happy years

Ever since her youth Zinaida Serebryakova strove to express her love of the world and to show its beauty. Her earliest works—Country Girl (1906, Russian Museum) and Orchard in Bloom (1908, private collection)—speak eloquently of this search, and of her acute awareness of the beauty of the Russian land and its people. These works are etudes done from nature, and though she was young at the time, her extraordinary talent, confidence and boldness were apparent.

Broad public recognition came with Serebryakova's self-portrait At the Dressing-Table (1909, Tretyakov Gallery); first shown at a large exhibition mounted by the Union of Russian Artists in 1910.The self-portrait was followed by Girl Bathing (1911, Russian Museum), a portrait of Ye. K, Lansere (1911, private collection) and a portrait of the artist's mother Yekaterina Lansere (1912, Russian Museum)—mature works, strict in composition.

She joined the World of Art movement in 1911, but stood out from the other members of the group because of her preference for popular themes and because of the harmony, plasticity and generalized nature of her paintings..

In 1914-1917 Zinaida Serebryakova was in her prime. During these years she produced a series of pictures on the theme of Russian rural life, the work of the peasants and the Russian countryside which was so dear to her heart: Peasants (1914-1915, Russian Museum), Sleeping Peasant Girl (private collection).

The most important of these works was Bleaching Cloth (1917, Tretyakov Gallery) which revealed Zinaida Serebryakova's striking talent as a monumental artist. The figures of the peasant women, portrayed against the background of the sky, gain majesty and power by virtue of the low horizon.

When in 1916 Alexander Benois was commissioned to decorate the Kazan Railway Station(*) in Moscow, he invited Yevgeny Lansere, Boris Kustodiev, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Zinaida Serebryakova to help him. Serebryakova took on the theme of the Orient: India, Japan, Turkey and Siam are represented allegorically in the form of beautiful women. At the same time she began compositions on subjects from classical mythology, but these remained unfinished.


Zinaida met October Revolution in her family estate of Neskuchnoe. Suddenly all her life changed. In 1919 died of typhus her husband, Boris. She was left with her four children and sick mother without any income. Hunger. All reserves of Neskuchnoe were marauded. She had to stop oil paining for less expensive techniques of coal and pencil. This was the time of her most tragic painting House of Cards showing all her four orphaned children.

She did not want to switch to popular in the earlier Soviet art futurist style nor paint the commissar's portraits, but he found some work in Kharkov Archeological Museum, where she made pencil drawings of exponents. In December 1920 she moved to Petrograd to her great father’s apartment. After October Revolution inhabitants of private apartments were forced to share them with new inhabitants sent for podselenie. Lansere's family was given actors of MKhaAT theater. This was the time of her theatric series of paintings.


In the autumn of 1924 Serebrvakova went to Paris, having received a commission for a large decorative mural. On finishing this work she intended to return to Russia, where her mother and two children remained. But life turned out differently and she was not able to return to Russia and became separated from all of her beloved children.

Serebryakova's long years away from Russia and her family were full of nostalgia and brought her neither joy nor creative satisfaction. She struggled to obtain even small money to send them back to her children in Russia.

Zinaida Serebryakova traveled a great deal. In 1928 and 1930 she travels to Africa, visiting Morocco and Algeria. Landscapes of Africa's north astonished her, she paints Atlas mountains, Arab women, Africans in ethnic clothes. She also paints a cycle devoted to Britannia's fishermen. The salient feature of her later landscapes and portraits is the artist's own personality—her love of beauty, whether in nature or in man. And yet, the most important thing was missing—the connection with what was near and dear to her.

During Khruschev's Thaw, the Soviet Government allowed contact with her. In 1960 after 36 years of forced separation she was visited by her daughter Tatiana (Tata), who became a theatrical artist working for MKhaAT. In 1966 a large exhibition of Zinaida Serebryakova's works was mounted in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. She instantly became very popular in Russia, her albums were selling by the millions and she was compared to Boticelli and Renoir.