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"I do not know if I've been successful in expressing what I wanted to express in my works; love of life, happiness and cheerfulness, love of things Russian- this was the only 'subject' of my paintings...."
Boris Michailovich Kustodiev
Kustodiev was a genre painter, portrait artist, illustrator, and stage set designer. He thought that in the minds of ordinary people art was always connected with celebration. Many parts of his genre scenes he created from memory – what he called the keeper of what is deeply ingrained in the mind. What we love, we remember. He remembered his childhood by the Volga (Asktrakhan), living among rich tradespeople populating the town. These people he later explored in his work.
Kustodiev's first studies were in Theology, even though he had drawing lessons from age 16. At age 18 he decided to enter the Art Academy in St. Petersburg, and two years later he was a student of Ilya Repin.
...The French academic style taught at the time was foreign to Kustodiev as a Russian. Later in his painting career he infused his work with traditional Russian folk designs and bright colors – Especially red, being Russia's favorite color; in Russian the word for red is a synonym for beautiful.
,,,after his studies he married and had children, traveled to Paris, Spain (where he made copies of Velazquez paintings), and Finland. He always felt the pull of his motherland, whereto he returned.
...In 1909 he was discovered to have tuberculosis of the spine, which made him paraplegic in 1916. He summarized the situation as such: "Now my whole world is my room". This forced him to work from memory. His physical suffering is not to be spotted in his paintings at all. He amazed everyone by being jolly despite everything.
During this time he explored the character of the Russian Merchant woman who he remembers from his childhood as stately, healthy, well dressed...