Konstantin Korovin was a leading Russian Impressionist painter. In the best of Korovin’s portraits, man and nature merge together, the beauty of each complementing the other. In the evening twilight or in the morning haze, his colours loose their concreteness and form a system of vibrating patches, and objects become less clearly defined. Yet in Korovin’s best works, as well as conveying an emotional state, he also gives objects an almost tangible material quality.
During the First World War Korovin worked as a camouflage consultant at the headquarters of one of the Russian armies. Despite his poor state of health (an old nervous illness and heart disease) he was often at the front line.
Apart from being incurably ill himself, Korovin had an invalid son who could be treated only in Paris, and on the advice of the People’s Commissar for Education Lunacharsky, he moved to the French capital. Here an exhibition of his works was to have taken place, but his pictures were stolen and the artist was left penniless. He was forced to agree to any kind of work. Under these circumstances Korovin signed various shackling agreements and in a short period, for a negligible fee, painted forty picture of a ‘souvenir’ type—countless ‘Russian Winters’ and ‘Boulevards of Paris’. The rich colours and sweeping style that had marked much of his earlier work now became almost excessive. Indicative of his continuing interest in Russian music and culture was his scenery for a production by the Turin Opera House of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel. In the last years of his life he worked fruitfully in many of the major theatres of Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Konstantin Korovin died in 1939. The artist Konslantin Yuon had this to say about his “Korovin’s painting is the embodiment in imagery of the artist’s happiness and joy of living. All the colours of the world beckoned to him and smiled at him”.