This portrait, At the Dressing Table was painted in 1909 and is remarkable for the dynamism of its composition; it also looks thoroughly modern as does Zinaida, who having been born in 1884, was then just 25. The sweep of the hair which extends from the mirror behind, combined with the arms adds to the energy and sense of novelty in the portrait. The hat pins in the foreground are splayed and are perhaps a reminder that this is a painting that according to the fashions, is indeed some hundred years old. This is a candid and charming, beguiling portrait. The lightness of the colours, the contrast and the surrounding items all engage the attention as does the intimacy and immediacy of the artist herself.
Zinadia Serebryakova was born on December 10, 1884into what is now the Ukraine, on the estate of Neskuchnoye near Kharkov. Her maiden name was Lanceray. She was born into the cultured and artistic family known as the Benois – a fascinating family of architects, musicians, painters and sculptors. Her name in Ukranian is Зінаїда Євгенівна Серебрякова; and the Benois were the descendants of the French confectioner Louis Jules Benois, who came to Russia in 1794 after the French Revolution. More information can be easily found about the talented Benois at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benois_family. There is also a moving piece about her on another wordpress blog at http://01varvara.wordpress.com/tag/zinaida-serebyakova/
In 1901, Zinadia studied painting under the famous Russian artist, Ilya Yefimovich Repin, also a Ukranian artist perhaps most famous for the grandeur of his panoramic realistic paintings like the “Religious Procession in Kursk Province“, 1880–83. He also painted an interesting portrait of Tolstoy and the chemist, Dmitry Mendeleyev, who made the discoveries which led to the Periodic Table. After studying under other portrait painters, Serebryakova, went to Paris in 1905 after visits to Italy. It was the year in which she married her first cousin, Boris who became a railway engineer.
She must have felt stimulated and perhaps at home in Paris, where she was later to return and forced to stay when exiled in 1924. In the intervening period she was to experience the full force of the repression following the October Revolution. Her husband died in a Bolshevik jail in 1919. However, the period of 1906 to 1916 were happy and productive. She lived in St Petersburg and Moscow as well as upon her country estate. She was a wonderful painter of the countryside and of children, especially her own. Having been widowed and with the family estate plundered she was sadly left responsible for raising her four children and caring for her mother at a time of penury and impinging civil strife.
In fact what is remarkable about Serebryakova’s work is its variety and its elegant peacefulness. It would seem that her work has become much more recognised in Russia with more frequent exhibitions. She lived in Paris without seeing her older two children for some 36 years and only achieved recognition in the Soviet Union in 1966. However, her innate zest for life and her inner serenity shines through her work and in the treatment of her sitters. An awesome selection of 411 of her works may be seen as a slideshow at http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/zinaida-serebriakova.Another interesting website in French may be found at http://femmes-russes.russian-women.net/femmes-russes/Zinaida-Serebriakova.shtml. There is also an intriguing short photographic sequence in colour circa 1910 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJ8VRxS4nkE.There is a very useful and detailed link at http://artoftherussias.wordpress.com/category/ukraine/zinaida-serebriakova/-enjoy!There is also a short new You Tube Clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=Wo8v6EWrUmk If you are interested in her ballet paintings and want to improve your Russian there is also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot17l5na1Zw