MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY RUSSIAN ART

Alexei  Harlamoff


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Art Collection of Zhiltsov.


Alexei Harlamoff, The Portrait of an Innocent Girl from a Poor Family

Harlamoff's "Heads" make up a big part of his creative heritage. They are distinguished from his other portraits by an exquisite coloration. The painter contrasts his ideal of beauty with the imperfection of the real world.

Painting "Heads" and genre-pieces of the kind in 1880s, Harlamoff was searching for new graphic techniques. He switched from using heavy body-colors in the early period to covering the canvas with a thinner layer of paint, which sometimes shows the ground color. It allows us to suppose that the portrait was painted in 1880s or later, when the painter reached the peak of popularity - because artists date their works very seldom. The type of the "Head" also changed, more distant now from the Italian-Gypsy type, typical for the 1870s: now it's girls with airily-painted blond hair.

Harlamoff 's contemporaries used to say about the new type of the "Heads": "A ' Harlamoff 's Head' is almost a proper name for these small graceful children's heads with big eyes, either sad or thoughtful, with tender and subtle features, with porcelain skin, reminding of some dream; such heads are easier to find in the dreams of the poetic artist than in the real life." Starting from this period, more and more sentimental features appear in Harlamoff 's works.

The Portrait of an Innocent Girl from a Poor Family is different from the most of "Heads" produced by Kharlamov, as it lacks the sentimental hint. Inspired by the inner state of the model, he managed to finely convey the child's soul.

Harlamoff often used the same model, or his daughters, for the paintings like this. The model in this portrait appears for the first time and is never seen again in any of Harlamoff 's works. The girl belongs neither to his family nor to a privileged class - judging from her clothes, which are not accentuated in the painting and serve as a background; the clothes seem to have been painted carelessly, which is not typical for Harlamoff 's academic manner. He emphasizes the inner state of the model; chosen because of her looks, she only appears in one Harlamoff 's painting. Ignoring his own rules, he deliberately omits the details of her clothes to emphasize the main thing - the model's soul.

Harlamoff 's skill is amazing: he managed to convey the freshness of the skin, the speaking eyes and the magnificent hair of the girl - with great love. All these make the portrait one of Harlamoff 's outstanding masterpieces.

The portrait is in perfect condition. It was placed on a stretcher by the painter himself, in a frame, matching the epoch. The frame needs renovation. The portrait bears a clear signature - A. Harlamoff, made by the painter himself, in his recognizable manner, in the bottom left corner.