Smukrovich’s noble family roots would become problematic for his advancement as an artist under Bolshevik rule and he would eventually be restricted to teaching, but Toilette was painted at a time when the artist was free to hark back to the era evoked by Konstantin Makovsky’s genre scenes, to delight in rich materials, explore the time-honoured servant-mistress motif and create a Russified version of Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). The intimate and decorative qualities are at the same time redolent of the World of Art movement, such as the bright and erotically-charged watercolours of his contemporary Konstantin Somov.
In 1897 Smukrovich enrolled in the Baron Stieglitz School for Technical Drawing in St Petersburg, where his earliest commissions were for decorative designs for the city’s churches including doors for the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. From 1905 he studied under Dmitry Kardovsky at the Imperial Academy of Arts alongside Boris Anisfeld, Alexander Yakovlev and Vasily Shukhaev, whose friendship brought him into the orbit of former World of Art members. Soon after graduating Smukrovich was conscripted and joined the Izmaylovsky regiment, the same regiment in which Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin served. The watercolours that he brought back from the Turkish front were published in Niva and Lukomorye. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Smukrovich returned to Petrograd where he worked on designs for public celebrations including those produced for the first anniversary of the Revolution in 1918 which are in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
We would like to thank Vitold Smukrovich, the grandson of the artist, for providing additional cataloguing information.
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