Today marks the 136th birthday of 20th century Russian artist Zinaida Serebriakova. And Google Doodle’s not the one to miss this chance to celebrate the wonderful life she lived.

 Zinadia Serebriakova became an icon of art for her masterful paintings of the contemporary life and landscapes of her Russian homeland. Her paintings and portraits have become tangible symbols of a beautiful culture. However, Serebriakova was also known for her nude paintings that were imbued with sensuality.

Family of Artists

Serebriakova was born on December 10, 1884 in an estate in the Kursk Province of Russia (now Ukraine) into a family  full of respected artists being major figures of Russian art in the early 20th century.

Her French father, Evguni Lanceray, was an equestrian sculptor, and her mother, Yekaterina, was a gifted sketch artist. Her grandfather, the painter and art critic Alexandre Benois, was a founder member of the Mir Iskusstva (House of Art). He was the one who encouraged young Serebriakova to pursue her art.

Though her family left Kursk and lived in St. Petersburg, it was the bountiful natural landscapes of the state that inspired Serebriakova’s early masterpieces. Over the following years, she studied the paintings of the Venetian masters in Italy and the French impressionists in Paris. She also was the successor of Russian artist Osip Braz.

In 1905, at 21, she married her cousin Boris Serebriakov.

Google Doodle honors Zinaida Serebriakova on her 136th birthday
Green Autumn

While the Serebriakovs were mostly happy, a wave of massive protest had spread throughout the Russia Empire. By mid-October 1905, over two million workers were on strike. Serebriakova and her mother finally left for Paris in the beginning of November 1905, and Boris followed a few weeks later.

Zinaida Serebriakova was initially excited for the move, as she had hoped to continue her training in Paris alongside her uncle Alexandre Benois. She, however, was disappointed to find modern art in such vogue in Paris.

She detested abstraction, so she resigned herself to advancing her watercolor and graphic artistry. Outside the classroom, she found inspiration in the Louvre and Luxembourg Palace and resumed copying from the masters: Monet, Delacroix, and Dega.

In 1909, her Autoportrait à la toilette brought her much recognition something so rare for a woman during that time.

Dark Time

Serebriakova’s career was flourishing and her name was already getting attention. She made her exhibition debut in 1910, where her painting “Self Portrait at the Dressing Table” was the talk of the show, and has since become one of her most infamous works.

Everything was going well when her family’s estate was burnt to the ground and her husband died of typhoid.

The artist found herself penniless, with four children to bring up. She then started to produce works with pencil and charcoal, an obvious reflection of her sadness and depression. In 1924, she went back to Paris and lived a very withdrawn life. She embarked on a cycle of landscapes portraits, depicting fishermen and peasants throughout the remaining decades of her career.

In 1966, 50 years after she was first recognized, Zinaida Serebriakova was finally given major exhibitions in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev to honor her works, and her albums were printed in large editions.

Zinaida Serebriakova died in Paris on 19 September 1967, at the age of 82.

 Agnes Alpuerto accompanied in this article. 


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