L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Le jeune Boris - portraits of Boris Snejkovsky by Konstantin Somov

"The Boxer", 1933. Somov's oil technique was never secure - and he much preferred to work in watercolor and gouache - but this painting is surely a masterpiece.

The versatile and prolific Russian artist Konstantin Somov, a prominent member of the Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) group before the Revolution, left Soviet Russia in 1923, emigrating first to the United States before settling soon after - and much more congenially - in Paris; Paris had a vibrant émigré community - the "White Russians" who had fled the Revolution - and the artist had spent time there before the war. In about 1930, Somov met a twenty-year old young man who would inspire several of Somov's best later works. He would sit for straightforward portrait drawings, beautiful, mildly suggestive oil paintings, and he may have been the model for more erotic watercolors. Somov was a homosexual, but the exact nature of his relationship with his model and friend is unknown. What is known is that the artist gifted a group of the drawings and paintings to the sitter, including a self -portrait that the young man had asked Somov to make for him. The images that seem certain to be portrayals of the artist's young muse were completed between 1930 and 1937.

Portrait of Boris Snejkovsky, 1930.
Boris Snejkovsky with a cigarette, 1932.
1933. With a dedication to the sitter: à B. S./Souvenir de Granvilliers./C. Somov./Sept. 1933
Boris Snejkovsky in a pink shirt, 1933.
Boris Snejkovsky in Profile, 1936.
Jeune homme allongé, 1936.
Jeune homme nu, 1937.
Self-portrait, 1933. Made at the request and as a gift to Boris Snejkovsky; Somov was sixty-four - he died six years later - and the model was twenty-three.


I haven't been able to gather much information* on Somov's model: Boris Mikhailovich Snejkovsky was born 23 July 1910, in Odessa. His father was a ship captain with the Russian Volunteer Fleet. At the time of the Revolution, seven-year-old Boris and his mother traveled the entire breadth of the country - from Odessa to Vladivostok - to rejoin his father and his ship. The family left Russia in May of 1919, arriving at Ellis Island a month later. We next find the family in Istanbul in 1920 then, two years later, traveling on to Gołdap in East Prussia (now Poland); his mother had a sister living there. The were not there long - less than year? - before moving to Berlin. But they only stayed in the German capital a few months before settling permanently in Paris. Boris would become a naturalized French citizen in 1937. He also married that year and began his military service; he was demobilized in 1940 after the Fall of France, and divorced in 1942. At some later date he remarried - to Christiane Karcher - had at least one child, and was listed as working as an accountant and a physical education teacher. He committed suicide 24 February 1978 at the age of sixty-seven, and was buried in the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois where many émigrés - including Somov - are buried.

Snejkovsky and his mother, Odessa, circa 1912.
Snejkovsky and Somov, the latter working on the 1936 profile portrait seen above.

*The photograph of Snejkovsky and his mother and most of the biographical information I've shared here are from a French blog written by the wife of Boris' grandson.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Mother and daughter at home in Hollywood, 1946 - three photographs by Martha Holmes

Liza was born on March 12, 1946; three months later her mother would turn twenty-four.
(One forgets that Judy Garland had freckles...!)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Some slightly more interesting fellows - a selection of paintings by Anders Zorn

The internationally celebrated Swedish artist Anders Zorn seems to have been happiest when painting lusciously nude and curvy women - the shockingly healthy Swedish female - frolicking in nature or in his studio. But his considerable personal wealth was a result of his many prestigious portrait commissions. He painted the likes of the dour King Oscar II and Queen Sophia of Sweden, bulky American presidents Taft and Cleveland, and various other wealthy and fairly charmless sitters. Despite the artist's brilliant compositional skills and bravura brushwork, the portraits of men are, in particular, rather uninspiring. But here are a few that I find just a bit more interesting.

 Clarence Johnson Barker, 1885. (A grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt.)
Diplomat Harald Bildt, 1908.
Architect Ferdinand Boberg during his student days, playing a guitar, circa 1880.
King Gustav V of Sweden, 1909.
An Algerian man and boy looking across the Bay of Algiers, 1887.
Attorney Samuel Untermyer, 1901.
Unknown, 1899.
"Breakfast in the Green", 1886.
Banker Ludvig Arosenius, 1880.
William B. Ogden, 1895. (Grandson and namesake of Chicago's first mayor.)
"Mephisto" (Consul Harald Dahlander in costume), 1884.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Count and Countess Nikolai Saltykov - three portraits by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, 1780-85

Countess Natalia Vladimirovna Saltykova, née Princess Dolgorukova (12 May 1736 - 19 September 1812), 1780.

Count Nikolai Ivanovich Saltykov was a member of the noble Saltykov family, a Russian Field Marshal, and Imperial courtier. He was head of the Russian Army as president of the War Collegium from 1791 to 1802, and Lieutenant Grand Master of the Order of Malta from 1801 to 1803. He was also the tutor of Catherine II's heir, the Tsarevich Paul and, subsequently, that of the future Paul I's two sons, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich and the future Tsar Alexander I. His military and court career appears to have been one long string of triumphs, and he remained in great favor with three successive rulers of Russia - Catherine II, Paul I, and Alexander I - no small feat when one considers the complicated and troubled relationships of mother, son, and grandson.

Count, later Prince, Nikolai Ivanovich Saltykov (31 October 1736 - 28 May 1816), 1785.
The Count and Countess with their sons Dmitri (1767-1828), Alexander (1775-1837), and Sergei (1777-1828), 1782.


Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, known as the Leipziger Tischbein (9 March 1750, Maastricht - 21 June 1812, Heidelberg), German portrait painter, a member of the prodigious Tischbein family of artists.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Wertheimer portraits - twelve paintings by John Singer Sargent

Betty and Ena Wertheimer, 1901.

Asher Wertheimer was a well-known and highly-respected London art dealer. He was the son of a self-made German Jew who had himself become a prominent London art dealer; the Wertheimer family traced its ancestry back to the court Jews of central Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in particular to Samson Wertheimer, who was in the service of Emperor Leopold I. Asher's wife, Flora, was also the daughter of a London art dealer. The couple and their family - they had ten surviving children - enjoyed a long and cordial friendship with John Singer Sargent, who apparently dined weekly with the family at their Connaught Place residence; their dining room, which housed eight of the twelve portraits, was affectionately dubbed "Sargent's mess."

Asher Wertheimer (last quarter of 1843, London - 9 August 1918, Eastbourne, Sussex), 1898. His companion here is his poodle, Noble.

The first two portraits were commissioned to celebrate the couple's silver wedding anniversary in 1898. The portrait of Asher Wertheimer was universally acclaimed when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy. However, the portrait of his wife did not find favor with its subject; a second version was painted six years later which did win Mrs. Wertheimer's approval. By this time, the first two pictures had evolved into what was eventually a series of twelve. During the decade he was working at the ever expanding commission, Sargent joked that he kept finding himself in a state of "chronic Wertheimerism."

Flora Wertheimer née Joseph (circa 1846, London - 5 December 1922, London), 1898.

The contemporary response to Sargent's work ranged from laudatory to damning At least as polarizing was his subject matter; many of his sitters - and often good friends - were wealthy Jews. Early twentieth-century English society was grudgingly beginning to accept the richest members of the Jewish faith into its midst, but the old prejudices persisted. The aristocratic gloss Sargent gave to all his portrait work probably had much to do with Wertheimer's initial commission. The art dealer worked with many wealthy collectors and traded in extraordinary examples of French eighteenth century furniture, paintings by European masters and, in particular, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English portraits, all these exactly the models and inspiration for Sargent's stunning response to and reinterpretation of portraiture in the European "Grand Manner".

Flora Wertheimer, 1904.

Two years before his death, Asher Wertheimer announced his intention to bequeath nine of the portraits to the British nation. After his widow's death in 1922, the pictures were delivered to London's National Gallery and, soon after, they were transferred to the newly constructed Tate Gallery of British Art.

Edward Wertheimer, 1902.

Edward M. Wertheimer (22 July 1873 at 21, London - 2 January 1903, Paris). A linguist and musician, the eldest Wertheimer son was the only one of the four boys who showed an interest in their father's business. He married May George Levy in 1902 and died at the age of only twenty-nine, while in France "on his honeymoon, after eating a bad oyster." This portrait was left unfinished at the time of the sitter's death.

Ena Wertheimer, 1905. 

Helena "Ena" Wertheimer (27 September 1874, London - 24 March 1936, Marylebone, Middlesex). She married Robert Moritz Mathias in 1905. Painted as wedding present from her father, the energetic sitter - an artist, herself, and later part of the Bloomsbury Circle - jokingly complained about how long Sargent took with her portrait, and the pose here is the artist's charmed response; Sargent dubbed the portrait A Vele Gonfie, an Italian phrase that translates into English as "in full sail".

Alfred Wertheimer, circa 1901, signed 1902.

Alfred Wertheimer (8 August 1876, London - 18 September 1902, Johannesburg, South Africa).  The Wertheimer's second son was studying to be a chemist before his premature death at the age of barely twenty-six in the Boer War in South Africa; chemist's flasks are featured in the background.

Betty Wertheimer, 1908.

Elizabeth "Betty" Wertheimer (16 August 1877, London - 15 July 1953, Ripley, Surrey). She married Euston Abraham Salaman in 1899. He died in 1916, and the following year she married Arthur Ricketts.

Hylda Wertheimer, 1901.

Hylda Wertheimer (4 November 1878, London - 9 April 1938, London). She married Henry Wilson Young by special license in 1905.

Hylda Wertheimer. (Detail of below.)
Hylda, Conway, and Almina Wertheimer, 1905. (This image was obviously taken while the painting was in the process of cleaning/restoration.)

Conway Wertheimer (22 September 1881, London - 2 November 1953, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire). A barrister-at-law by profession, he married Joan Cicely Young in 1917.

Almina Wertheimer, 1908. She is dressed in "Oriental" costume.

Almina Wertheimer (21 November 1886, London - 31 July 1928, Marylebone, Middlesex). She married Antonio Pandrelli Fachiri in 1915.

Ruby, Ferdinand, and Essie Wertheimer, 1902.

Essie Wertheimer (10 June 1880, London - 6 May 1933, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire). She married Eustace Henry Wilding by special license in 1905.

Ferdinand Joseph Wertheimer (19 January 1888, London - 1 April 1950, Camberley, Surrey. An artist by profession.

Ruby Wertheimer (8 March 1889, London - 3 December 1941, San Severino Marche, Macerata, Italy). She reputedly died in an Italian internment camp during World War II.


Coda: a watercolor portrait of Betty Wertheimer, taken during her marriage to Euston Salaman, 1910.