Aristarkh Lentulov (Аристарх Васильевич Лентулов) (1882-1943) was a Russian avant-garde artist with a Cubist predilection. He was born in the Penza province in an impoverished family of a parish priest (his mother was widowed early with four children, of whom he was the youngest). His early education was in a religious school, following which he entered a seminary. However, when an art school opened in Penza, he was among the first entrants. He received advanced training in the arts in Kiev, followed by training at the St Petersburg-based studio of D. Kardovsky. In 1909, he moved to Moscow.
He was one of the co-founders of the famous avant-garde union ‘Jack of Diamonds’, and participated in its exhibitions between 1909 and 1917. From his first exhibition, there was much argument among the critics and the public as to his merits. The former called his works an ‘irreconcilable abracadabrist’, while to the latter they appeared to be ‘colourful jewels’.
Between 1911 and 1912, he studied at Le Fauconnier’s studio as well as the La Palette Academy in Paris. There he became acquainted with a new generation of French artists – Gleizes, Metzinger, Léger, Delaunay – and was introduced to the genre of Cubo-Futurism. His friends called him a ‘Futurist à la russe‘. But he didn’t merely imitate the Paris style – he rethought his foreign experience in accordance with his own exceptional talent and temperament. He created a wonderful ideal on canvas, sprinkling paint on the plane and complementing them with elements of collage. The rest he seasoned with the spice of Cubism that he had acquired in Paris. He diluted the strict principles of Cubism with bright colours.
Returning from Paris, the artist created a series of panels depicting the architectural marvels of Moscow. These works combine the natural impression of medieval architecture, traditional folkloric brightness and cubofuturist transformation of the form.
The riotous creativity dwindled in 1916 with the First World War. The Jack of Diamonds began to reconsider their positions. Mashkov and Konchalovsky defected to ‘Mir Iskusstvo’ movement, a year later followed by Lentulov himself. The festivity of colour had grown tired, and the artist started to review the direction of his artistic pursuits.
In 1920, Lentulov applied himself to theatre design. Four years later, he joined the commune of ‘Muscovite Painters’. In A. V. Lunarcharsky’s words, his works were distinguished by ‘profound realism’. In 1928, he was involved in the organisation of the Society of Moscow Artists.
In the 1930s, the painter found himself in the Crimea. He travelled considerably in those years around the south of Russia, where he completed many works in oils and watercolour: cityscapes, nautical and industrial landscapes. From that time, the artist addresses himself to a new system of tonal painting that didn’t prevent him from maintaining the higher coloristic skill and artistry of painting.
[Translated from Spunky Monkey’s blog, 16 January 2009. It appears that he himself might have translated it from a previous English biography of the artist. I can’t be bothered to trace the provenance…]