Saturday, August 16, 2014

Leonid Andreyev - his Autochromes, and two portraits by Repin

Circa 1910.

Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev (21 August/9 August 1871, Oryol – September 12, 1919, Mustamäki), Russian playwright, novelist, short-story writer, and photographer, one of the great literary representatives of the Russian "Silver Age".  His style combined elements of the realist, naturalist and symbolist schools of literature. 

Portrait by Ilya Repin (1844 - 1930), the most famous Russian artist of the nineteenth century, 1904.

Born into a middle-class family, Andreyev originally studied law in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg, then became a police-court reporter for a Moscow daily newspaper.  He wrote poetry during this time, but was unable to get his work published.  After his first short story appeared in a Moscow newspaper in 1898, his work was brought to the attention of Maxim Gorky, who would become a great friend and supporter.  By 1901 he was a literary celebrity.  His work was both popular and controversial, strongly political and sexually candid.  Of a wild and depressive nature - he made several more or less serious suicide attempts - he was also a very heavy drinker.

Portrait by Repin, 1905.

The last he stopped completely after marrying Alexandra Veligorskaia in 1902.  Together they had two sons, Vadim and Daniil, before she died soon after childbirth in 1906.  The infant Daniil - who would go on to be a writer, poet, and Christian mystic, and would be persecuted under the Soviet régime - was given by his father to his mother's sister to raise, while he kept his older son with him.  He apparently only rarely saw his younger son.  His elder son, Vadim, also became a poet.

Daniil and Filip Dobrov, Daniil's guardian and uncle - the husband of his mother's sister - visiting Vammelsuu, circa 1912.
Daniil, circa 1912.

He remarried in 1908, to Anna Denisevich; they would have three children together.  Having been imprisoned and then exiled for his connections to the revolutionaries of 1905, in 1909 he built a vast wooden house on the Gulf of Finland at Vammelsuu, forty miles west of St. Petersburg, where he indulged his other interests, including painting and Autochrome photography.  (The Autochrome Lumière was an early color process which was patented in 1903, and had only begun to be marketed in 1907.)  He lived there until his death.

Circa 1910.
With - I believe - one of the children from his second marriage, circa 1910.
With his second wife, Anna.
Luncheon party at Vammelsuu; the author is at back center, 1912.

After 1914, Andreyev published little aside from his political writings.  At the Revolution, though no believer in the Tsarist régime, he felt that the Bolshevik takeover was a catastrophe for Russia.  In his writing, he appealed to the Western powers to come to his country's aid.  His last few years were increasingly overtaken with poverty and despair, and he died of a heart attack - or cerebral hemorrhage, depending on the source - at the age of forty-eight.

"Andreyev and the Devils" - Andreyev posed in his study at Vammelsuu in front of copies he had made of Goya etchings.
Sunset at Vammelsuu.

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