ILYA IVANOVICH MASHKOV
. . . These fruits, loaves and meat are depicted with a skill almost comparable to that displaced by the masters of the Dutch still life in their achievements hitherto unsurpassed. Mashkov's canvases are not only truthful to the point of illusion but are possessed of a rare beauty and radiance. His use of colour resembles the swelling chords of an organ.
THE NAME OF ILYA IVANOVICH MASHKOV is associated above all with still-life paintings remarkable for an elemental intensity of colour which verges at times on the violent. Displaying a scope and boldness unusual in his contemporaries as well as an acute feeling for the materiality of things, Mashkov's bright canvases are striking for the breadth of their pictorial range, for the deep sonority of their colours.
Mashkov was one of the boldest innovators in Russian painting at the beginning of the twentieth century, an outstanding painter whose works contributed to the development of Soviet art, an experienced teacher who passed on his skill to many who would later become famous artists. Each of these aspects of his creative activity is instructive and deserving of special attention. Mashkov developed as a painter in the years preceding the Revolution, at a time when artistic life in Russia was unusually complex and full of contradiction. In the field of art there were clashes between various principles and ideas, manifested as a struggle between numerous schools. Painters of an older generation, — members of the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions (the Peredvizhniki), the World of Art and the Union of Russian Artists, — were still active. At the same time a host of aesthetic and artistic conceptions, precarious in their theoretical foundation, were receiving wide attention. The overthrow of traditional forms, aesthetic nihilism, the loss of firm links with reality could not, however, delay the development of art. The search for new paths and new creative principles went on, and Russian art was enriched by some remarkable achievements. Just in this period there appeared a number of talented young artists.
Despite the diversity of the new ideas and trends, one may clearly discern in Russian painting of this time a general tendency towards the perfecting of artistic form. Artists were striving for a certain synthesis, they wished to reveal the generalized meaning of phenomena not susceptible of concretization in time, and therefore not infrequently they refused to represent movement and action in their work. As a result of this loss of interest in the subject painting, the still life became the dominant genre. Landscape and portrait also occupied an important place. And particular attention was paid to the renewal of painterly techniques.
The evolving of a new system of pictorial representation advanced through a series of agonizing explorations, which were often far from successful. The principle of verisimilitude, which had prevailed in nineteenth century painting, was supplanted by that of conventionality. This testified to the inner bond linking the new trends in Russian painting with Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Expressionism, for the exponents of those schools sought support not in the traditions of European Post-Renaissance realism, but rather in principles adopted from the visual arts of different peoples and ages. The search for formal solutions appropriate to these new stylistic norms was of decisive importance. This tendency is not difficult to perceive in the works of such artists of the late nineteenth — early twentieth centuries as Ruble, Servo and K. Korovin. It was characteristic of the members of the World of Art and the Blue Rose associations, but most strongly developed in the work of artists of the Jack of Diamonds group and other representatives of the so-called avant-garde in the beginning of this century.
In the artistic movements at the beginning of the twentieth century there was much romanticism, much anarchic rebelliousness. Inner contradictions were most sharply revealed in the various trends of the avant-garde movement where subjectivism, having reached the limit of non-representational depiction, was opposed by the real achievements of a few artists of the Jack of Diamonds group, like Konchalovsky, Mashkov, Falk. Lentulov. Kuprin, Larionov and others. These painters discovered a successful balance in which expressiveness of colour, plasticity and decorative composition helped express a particularly intense, yet at the same time integral perception of reality.
Ilya Ivanovich Mashkov (1881—1944) was born in the village of Mikhaylovskaya in the Don area. His parents were of peasant origin. At the age of fifteen he lost his father, who had pursued various trades and had had to endure constant poverty. From an early age Mashkov displayed an aptitude for handicrafts; he also liked to draw. How