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Famous Russian painters in France

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

10 artists painters of Russian origin recognized in France and around the world (20th century)

1. Vassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)

Composition 8 (1923) - Vassily Kandinsky

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

A pioneer of abstract art, Vassily Kandinsky (born in Moscow) revolutionized painting in the first half of the 20th century. Like most Russian artists of the time, he decided to flourish in Europe (Germany then France). Gradually attracted to abstraction, influenced by the evolution of music, he returned to Russia to refine his style between 1914 and 1921. In the Bauhaus school in Germany he developed his idea of integrating geometry and degraded colors in painting, creating a new style and revolutionizing art.

Art price ( 2019/2020)

N°98/500 TA $21mln Top bid $8mln


2. Kazimir Malevitch (1879-1935)

Suprematist composition with airplane in projection (1915) - Kazimir Malevitch

Kazimir Malevich is the Russian / Ukrainian painter. Born in 1879 in Kiev (Russian Empire).

Malevich's Black Square, created in 1915, has become a symbol of the avant-garde and the manifesto of the new art where resemblance to the real world is not the main criterion. The triumphal procession of suprematism invented by Malevich out of the USSR began in the late 1920s - a major exhibition of the artist was held in Warsaw, then in Berlin. The paintings he himself selected for the exhibition did not return to Russia, and can now be seen at the Stedelik Museum in Amsterdam and MoMA in New York. Malevich remains the most expensive Russian artist - in 2008, his Suprematist Composition was sold at Sotheby's for $ 60 millions dollars.


3. Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Moishe Chagalov, Marc Chagall francized when he moved to Paris in 1910, is a surrealist painter strongly influenced by his Jewish origins. Active during the Russian Revolution, where he ran an art school in the city of Vitebsk, he returned to France after some setbacks. Close to artists such as Blaise Cendrars, Guillaume Apollinaire and Ambroise Vollard, however, he had to flee Europe in 1941 to avoid being rounded up. He spent a few years in the United States before returning to France.

Marc Chagall is famous for his very colorful paintings, full of symbols and poetry.

The Poppies (1949) - Marc Chagall

Sold at Sotheby's for 721,500 EUR

Art price ( 2019/2020)

N°26/500 CA $89mln, Top bid $7,9mln


4. Nicolas de Staël (1913-1955)

Nicolas de Stael - Baron Nikolai Vladimirovich Staël von Holstein, born in Saint Petersburg in 1913 and died in 1955 in Antibes - is a French painter of Russian origin. Through its evolving abstract style, which he himself described as "continuous evolution", it remains an enigma for art historians. He committed suicide at age 41 in Antibes.

One of the most expensive painters in the world and the most expensive among Russians after Mark Chagall according to "The Art Market in 2019" published by in 2020.

Top bid $ 22mln with total sales of $ 55.9M in 2019.

Famous artworks:

The Grand Concert: The Orchestra

The Concert (1955) - Nicolas de Staël

Oil on canvas 3,5x6 meters (Musée Picasso d'Antibes)


5. Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)

Composition (1954) - Serge Poliakoff

Serge Poliakoff (Sergiei Poliakov) is a French painter of Russian origin belonging to the new School of Paris.

Passing through Sofia, Belgrade, Vienna and Berlin, Poliakoff settled in Paris in 1923 where he continued to perform in Russian cabarets. In 1929, he enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. His paintings remained academic until his discovery in London - where he stayed from 1935 to 1937 - of abstract art and the luminosity of the colors of Egyptian sarcophagi. He soon became friends with Kandinsky, Sonia Delaunay and Robert Delaunay, Otto Freundlich and Jean-Michel Coulon.

In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent designed a Poliakoff dress and a Mondrian dress.

He encouraged Arman to paint.

Art price ( 2019/2020)

N°243/500 CA $7mln, Top bid $0,6mln


6. Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979)

Autumn, color lithograph (1965) - Sonia Delaunay

Born in Odessa (Ukraine) in 1885 (Russian Empire). With Robert Delaunay, she invents an aesthetic based on the simultaneous movement of colors and geometric shapes, called "Orphism" or "simultaneism". Refusing the distinction between fine arts and decorative arts, she paints, but also creates costumes, decorations or tapestries.

Composed of circular shapes that meet, this lithograph reveals flat areas of color that complement each other according to Chevreul's theory of simultaneous contrast of colors.

7. Zinaida Serebriakova (1884 – 1967)

Self-portrait at the dressing table (1909) - Zinaida Serebriakova

Of French origin, her maiden name being Lanceray, it was naturally to this country that Zinaïda turned in 1924 in order to flee the disastrous situation of Leningrad (Soviet name for Saint Petersburg) in the aftermath of the civil war. . She will thus spend no less than 43 years in exile in France, where she will receive multiple commissions for portraits of other eminent representatives of the Russian diaspora.

She traveled in Italy in 1902-1903 and settled in Paris in 1905-1906, where she studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

Thanks to her skill with the brush, she would become the first Russian woman to be recognized as a major painter.

The painting "Study of a Sleeping Girl" (drawn after her sleeping daughter Katya) was sold at Sotheby's for £ 3.8mln. Acquired for $ 500 in 1924 by Boris Bakhmeteff at the Russian Art Exhibition.

Study of a Sleeping Girl (1923) - Zinaida Serebriakova

70x98 cm, Oil on canvas


8. Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)

The Groom (1925) - Chaïm Soutine

Chaïm Soutine is a Russian Jewish painter emigrated to France, born in 1893 or 1894 in the village of Smilovitchi, at that time in the Russian Empire, and died in Paris on August 9, 1943.

Often described as very shy or even unsociable, it goes through several years of misery among the bohemian Montparnasse, recognition only arriving in the 1920s, after its "discovery" by the American collector Albert Barnes.

Soutine, who spoke very little about his pictorial conceptions, is one of the painters usually attached, with Chagall or Modigliani, to what is commonly called the School of Paris. However, he kept away from any movement and developed alone his technique and his vision of the world.

Most of the permanent exhibition at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris is dedicated to Chaïm Soutine.

Art price ( 2019/2020)

N°129/500 CA $16mln, top bid $10,9mln


9. Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)

Self-portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) (1929) - Tamara de Lempicka

Born Maria Górska in 1898 in Warsaw (Poland, then in the Russian Empire) and died in 1980 in Cuernavaca (Mexico), is a Polish painter representative of the Art Deco movement.

Daughter of Boris Górski, a Russian Jew, and of a Polish mother, her childhood was spent in an affluent and cultivated environment between Saint-Petersburg, Warsaw and Lausanne. In 1914, she was detained by the war in Saint Petersburg where she enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1916 she married Tadeusz Łempicki (1888-1951), a young Polish lawyer. The October Revolution turns her life upside down and, after a detour through Copenhagen, she reaches Paris.

Tamara de Lempicka occupies a special place in the art of the twentieth century: despite a modest production (barely 150 paintings in its best period, which is between 1925 and 1935), her works evoke and reflect style and fashion. the roaring twenties of the interwar period.

Art price ( 2019/2020)

N°93/500 CA $22mln Top bid $13mln


10. Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962)

The Harvest (1909) - Natalia Goncharova

Sold in 2007 at Christies for £4,9mln

Nathalie Gontcharova (Natalia Goncharova) born in 1881 in Ladyjino (not far from Moscow, near Toula) and died in 1962 in Paris, is a painter, designer and theater designer of Russian origin naturalized French in 1939 under the name of Nathalie Gontcharoff.

In 1906, she participated in the Russian art exhibition organized at the Salon d'Automne in Paris by Serge de Diaghilev. In December 1909, during the third exhibition of the Golden Fleece, Larionov (her husband) and Gontcharova launched neo-primitivism.

In the 1920s, she was one of the main painters of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and notably designed the sets for Stravinsky's Les Noces. She also works for Ida Rubinstein, the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo.

In 2019, the Tate Modern in London is organizing for the first time the first retrospective exclusively on Nathalie Gontcharoff.

Credits: Wikipedia, Christies.

Ekaterina Aristova

Paris, 2021


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