Monday, March 12, 2012

Konstantin Gorbatov: A Very 1920s Painter

I've only seen his paintings via the Internet, so my opinions are provisional. That said, I find the works of Konstantin Gorbatov (1876-1945) to be pleasant to view. But that's not why I'm featuring them in this post. It's because they strike me as solidly set within my mental concept of archetypical 1920s paintings of the minimally modernist style.

It's the colors that matter most. To me, warm, toned-down reds, oranges, greens and, yes, even blues set the mood. Such color schemes were found in enough advertisements, murals and other art of the period that I'm afraid that my poor brain has been imprinted with that association.

Another 1920s feature is a painterly technique wherein a painting is built up using solid, well-defined areas of color in its entirety or else used for significant parts that are offset by areas containing color gradations. Outlining shapes in a cloisonné manner often completes the 1920s stylistic package.

Gorbatov has been typed as a post-impressionist, a label probably as good as any. His biographical information, on the Web at least, is rather thin: here is one link and another is here.

Below are examples of his work.


Town by Russian river

Sunny snow scene, Russia

View of Capri

Clifftops, Capri

Fishing Harbor, Capri - 1928

View of Venice - 1929

View of Basilica San Marco and the Ducal Palace, Venice - 1933


Railroad poster art: Salzburg - 1930

In reality, the "look" shown above is not strictly 1920s; it can be found in works from earlier in the century. And here the colors areas are small, creating a setting for "visual mixing" -- illustrator N.C. Wyeth was doing something like this around 1910, for instance. Nevertheless, this general sort of look was in full swing during the 20s for certain artists not willing to go whole-hog modernist. Consider the painting below.

This is a view of sailboats off Chioggia, Italy painted sometime 1922-24 by Edgar Payne, a leading California Impressionist. Compare to Gorbatov's Chioggia and Venice paintings above. Chioggia, by the way, is a small port city at the south end of the Venice lagoon. I've stayed there. It's an unpretentious place with a canal or two. You can travel to Venice from there by boat, but the trip takes a while. You'd probably be better off staying in Venice itself or perhaps a nearby coastal town such as Mestre, a short train ride away if the point of your trip was seeing Venice.

No comments: