Ah, Russia, you Troika, whither do you fly?
- N. Gogol, 'Dead Souls'
Born into a peasant family in the Kazanka Orenburgskoi province, Filipp Maliavin's talent was quickly recognised and encouraged by a number of the time's most eminent artists, amongst them Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, Alexandre Benois and Ilya Repin, who taught Maliavin at the St Petersburg Academy. After seeing Maliavin's work at the Academy's student show, Benois exclaimed enthusiastically: 'finally we see a talent not bound by a Chinese slipper, but boldly and joyfully prancing about. Repin and his entire system deserve tribute and honour for not extinguishing this flame" (quoted in O.A. Jivova, Philip Andreeivich Maliavin, 1869-1940 p. 68).
While Maliavin's humble origins and undeniable talent secured for him important commissions to draw both Lenin and Trotsky, in 1922 the artist quit the Soviet Union and took up residence in Paris. In this comparatively late work the familiar choice of colourful peasant life as subject, executed in Maliavin's characteristically dynamic and vibrant style, suggest a certain longing for joyous Russian village existence. The painting however, with its lavish use of colour and the vigour of the plunging horses captured with thick vibrant brush strokes, is entirely devoid of melancholic nostalgia; rather it is a celebration of life and vitality.