Portraiture is an important genre in Vassiliev’s oeuvre. His subjects are predominantly drawn from his close circle of family and friends and they are typically painted in a landscape, or less often an interior. These works are not to be taken as mere psychological studies, for the individual is seen here as part of a larger social and cosmic reality, one of the hallmarks of German Romantic art which Vassiliev was interested in and is a key to understanding his work.
Among the most successful of these works are his self-portraits and pictures of his wife Kira. In ‘Twilight’ we find her reading alone by an open window. She is framed inside a massive, black rectangle and although it dominates, the composition appears balanced and harmonious. What at first appears to be black space is a dark wood at dusk, punctuated with three thin white lines. As we contemplate the subject and her surroundings, the artist has us move between light and shade, the figurative and the abstract, with day turning to night and its promise of dreams. In ‘Twilight’ Vassiliev embodies the one he loves most – his wife and muse - with his memories, to the extent that the subject and his own memories become inseparable. The work was painted in 1990, the year the artist and his wife left Russia and settled in the USA.
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