The Great Saratov Triad of the Early 20th Century
Saratov is justifiably called one of the most significant centers of the artistic culture of the Russian Near-Volga Region. When analyzing the condition of that domain of the plastic arts represented by painting and graphics, it is necessary to state that during the course of the entire 19th century (not to mention the previous century) the figures of the artists were merely episodic: Jean Baptiste Savin, a Frenchman in his origin (famous for his portraits and watercolors), watercolor painter Maria Zhukova, Andrei Godin (who was the first teacher of Mikhail Vrubel) and Feodor Vassiliev (the first instructor of Victor Borisov-Musatov), portraitists and church painters Lev Igorev and Nikolai Rossov. For the most part, the artists who worked beyond the confines of Saratov were its natives, who were veritably well-known artists – Vassily Zhuravlev and Alexei Kharlamov.
The high flourishing of painting in Saratov at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century was prepared by the activities of Hector Baracchi, originally from Italy, and graduate from the St. Petersburg Academy of the Arts Vassily Konovalov. They exerted a decisive influence on the local artistic school, the main representatives of which were Victor Borisov-Musatov, Pavel Kuznetsov, Piotr Utkin, Alexander Savinov, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (a native of Khvalynsk), as well as sculptor Alexander Matveyev.
However, there were three names which have become the most “celebrated” for Saratov, which led the brilliant assemblage of remarkable artists pertaining to the visual arts and were in the vanguard of the so-called era of “cultural boom,” as the high artistic accomplishments of the late 19th and early 20th century are sometimes referred to. They are Victor Borisov-Musatov, Pavel Kuznetsov and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. The present essay is devoted to them.