The popular ideal of beauty: puffy Russian beauties in the paintings of Boris Kustodiev
The popular ideal of beauty: puffy Russian beauties in the paintings of Boris Kustodiev
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Boris Kustodiev. Beauty, 1915

Probably no artist has caused such a number of controversies and conflicting assessments as Russian painter of the early twentieth century Boris Kustodiev… He was called the Russian Rubens, as he glorified specific female beauty in his works - the greatest popularity was brought to him by his healthy merchants and puffy naked Russian beauties. Kustodiev tried to capture the people's ideal of beauty, while he himself was not a fan of women with magnificent forms.

B. Kustodiev. Merchants, 1912

The artistic direction to which Kustodiev gravitated in the 1910s is called neoclassicism. It presupposed an orientation towards the great examples of classical art, on the tradition of academic painting. Such tendencies in many ways ran counter to the avant-garde trends of modernist art at the beginning of the twentieth century. The aesthetics of Art Nouveau were guided by other standards of beauty: refined sensuality, refined fracture, decadence and fatigue. The merchants and peasant women of Kustodiev were the complete opposite of these ideals.

B. Kustodiev. Merchants, 1915

Boris Kustodiev's appeal to the aesthetic canons of the past was a kind of escape from reality - a serious illness (paralysis of the lower body due to a tumor in the spine) chained the artist to a wheelchair, and the Russian realities of 1917-1920. forced to flee into a fantasy world from the crumbling old way of life of patriarchal Russia with merchants and festivities in quiet provincial cities. Thanks to the works of Kustodiev, we can form an idea of ​​the pre-revolutionary life of the Volga peasants and bourgeoisie, whose life was so fully and colorfully reflected in the artist's paintings.

B. Kustodiev. Merchant's wife at tea, 1918 B. Kustodiev. Young merchant's wife in a checkered kerchief, 1919

Kustodiev is the author of a whole gallery of female images. He was often accused of depicting not a popular, but a common people ideal of beauty, although his works are far from idealization - many see them as irony and grotesque. Some critics argue that his creative manner is a "dream of an unprecedented Russia", where stout women symbolize the harmony, peace and comfort of the Russian world.

B. Kustodiev. Left - Merchant with a merchant's wife, 1914. Right - Merchant's wife, 1919 B. Kustodiev. Bather, 1921

Often, representatives of the intelligentsia became models for Kustodiev's merchants - G. Aderkas, a medical student who lived next door, posed for him for "Merchants at Tea". Kustodiev's wife did not have the same curvaceous forms as his models. But when asked why he writes stout women, he replied: "Thin women do not inspire creativity."

B. Kustodiev. Merchant's wife with purchases, 1920 B. Kustodiev. A merchant's wife drinking tea, 1923

Nude curvy Russian beauties inspired not only the author. They say that Kustodiev's "Beauty" (1915) drove one metropolitan mad, who confessed: "Apparently, the devil drove the artist's daring hand when he wrote his" Beauty ", for he confused my peace forever. I saw her charm and affectionateness and forgot the fasts and vigils. I am going to the monastery, where I will atone for my sins. " Critics saw in this picture "admiration, and eroticism, and irony."

B. Kustodiev. Left - Merchant's wife for a walk, 1920. Right - Merchant's wife, 1923 B. Kustodiev. Left - Bather, 1922. Right - Russian Venus, 1925-1926

V. Volodarsky wrote about the Kustodiev beauty: "Delight before the fleshly beauty of this merchant's wife, her health, the primitive joy of being and evil irony - this is the set of feelings that I experience when I see a picture." Probably the same contradictory emotions are experienced by the modern public, looking at the artist's works.

B. Kustodiev. Left - Merchant's wife on the balcony, 1920. Right - Merchant's wife with a mirror, 1920 B. Kustodiev. Merchant's wife, 1920

Despite the modern standards of beauty, idealizing the model appearance, today there are adherents of other views - the fashion for anorexia is a thing of the past: 11 of the most sought-after puffy beauties

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