In 1874, Konstantin Alekseevich Korovin enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, studying under Vasilii Polenov and Aleksei Savrasov. In 1885, he made the acquaintance of the art patron and railroad magnate Savva Mamontov, becoming a member of the Abramtsevo colony and a close friend of Fedor Chaliapin and Valentin Serov. In the 1880s and 1890s, he worked as a stage designer for Mamontov’s opera productions such as Sadko, Khovanshchina, and Prince Igor, and in the late 1880s and early 1890s he travelled extensively in Europe, giving particular attention to French Impressionism, which left a profound influence on his painting. In 1894, with Serov, he travelled to the Far North of Russia, sketching and painting vernacular scenes, some of which he then adjusted to the interior design for Mamontov’s Northern Pavilion at the All-Russian Art and Industry exhibition in Nizhnii-Novgorod in 1896. In 1898, he joined the World of Art group and in 1900 was appointed artist-in-residence at the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, working on a number of major productions such as Cesar Pugni’s ballet, The Little Hump-Backed Horse (1901). Thereafter, Korovin accepted numerous public and private commissions for operatic and dramatic productions, including Les Orientales (1910) for Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. From 1901 until 1918, he taught at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture and, after emigrating to Paris in 1923, worked for a number of émigré theatre companies but with little success. His last major association was with Marie Kousnezoff’s Opéra Privé de Paris from 1929 to 1930.
Korovin was one of Russia’s distinguished portraitists and stage designers. He made his debut as a theatrical painter in 1885 when he executed the sets and costumes for the production of Snegurochka at Mamontov’s private opera company (after Viktor Vasnetsov’s designs) and, thereafter, emerged rapidly as an independent stage designer – decorating 80 operas, 37 ballets, and 17 dramas during his lifetime. Korovin brought to the Russian stage a vibrancy that was lacking in the traditional imperial theaters, revolutionising the convention of stage design as an eclectic confection or dull ethnographical exercise by emphasising vivid colour and fast movement. Celebrated for the stylistic bravura and vivid palette with which he described both town and country, Korovin is also recognised as a perspicacious portraitist and as Russia’s premier Impressionist.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Moscow (State Central Bakhrushin Theater Mus.)
Moscow (State Pushkin MFA)
Moscow (State Tretyakov Gal.): The Failure; Winter in Lapland; In the Extreme North; Idyll of the North; In Winter; Paris by Night, the Boulevard des Italiens (1908);The Cafe de la Paix; Nights; The Lilac Tree
Paris (Mus. National AM, Centre Georges Pompidou)
St Petersburg (State Mus. of Theatre and Music)
St Petersburg (State Russian Mus.): Street in Vichy (1900)