Collection of Alexander Burtsev, St. Petersburg
Abram Naumovich Krimmer, St. Petersburg, 1917
Thence by descent
Private Collection (acquired directly from the above)
At the Ball is a rare, early composition by Grigoriev. Dated 1912, it was executed in St. Petersburg at a formative stage in the artist's stylistic development. Until the Revolution in 1917, this work belonged to great folklorist and collector Alexander Burtsev, and it was reproduced numerous times in Burtsev's landmark artistic and literary publication, Moi Zhurnal. It is primarily thanks to this publication that we can now identify the early corpus of works executed by Grigoriev from 1910-1913.
In the early 1900s, Grigoriev immersed himself in some of the most creative circles in St. Petersburg. As a young artist, he dabbled in various movements as he sought to define his own artistic style. He adapted elements from the Itinerants, Impressionists, Symbolists, Primitivists and Futurists, among others. His own style was distinguished by its unique pairing of the theatrical and the grotesque, which he conveyed through flattened or fractured planes and expressionistic distortion of forms.
At the Ball epitomizes not only Grigoriev's early experimental style, but also the focus on dance within his repertoire from 1912-1914. Dancers were popular subjects in Western Europe at the time, especially among such masters as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Kees van Dongen. Like these giants of Post-Impressionism, Grigoriev infused his dance-related images with a profound psychological tension: a dark range of colors, dominated by a brooding tone of red, permeate this scene, while provocative women move with exaggerated gestures, their faces painted with garish makeup. Though Grigoriev's figures are dressed elegantly, his technique strips them of their elegance. He thereby underscores the theatricality of their performance, and meanwhile portrays the starker layer of beauty that he finds beneath the surface. It is through this important, early work that we see Grigoriev's innate talent—and lifelong fascination with the human soul—take shape against the backdrop of the best-known artistic movements of the time.
We would like to thank Tamara Galeeva for providing additional catalogue information.
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