Portraiture occupies perhaps the most important place in the work of the famous painter Konstantin Makovsky. In addition to paintings of prominent statesmen, beautiful women and figures from St Petersburg's musical and artistic circles, Makovsky produced a large number of children's portraits, managing always to imbue them with a distinct expressiveness. Whether in elegant or simple peasant clothing, his children are surprisingly charming, mischievous and lively. The artist was able to comprehend the emotional world of a child, and precisely convey their characteristic facial expressions and gestures, which are far from accessible to every master. He often painted the children resulting from his marriage to Iu. P. Makovskaya (neé Letkova),Sergei and Elena, while in the late 1890s-early 1900s the children from his third marriage to M. Matavtina (1869-1919) served as his models. The artist met Maria Alekseevna in Paris in 1889 and in 1891 they had their first child, a son called Konstantin. In 1893 Olga followed and in 1896, Marina. Makovsky was only able to marry Maria Matavtina in 1898 after which their children were subsequently legitimised by the St Petersburg District Court. From then on portraits of Makovsky's new family members began to appear often in exhibitions and in reproductions.
The present portrait of the artist's children (his son Konstantin, who later became one of the first Russian aviators, and his daughter Olga) was shown in Moscow in 1902 at the 10th Exhibition of the St Petersburg Society of Artists. The exhibition opened on 16 April in one of the Historical Museum's buildings. Makovsky's works were rated highly by the critics, and the painting Portrait of the artist's children: Konstantin and Olga was reproduced in the appendix magazine of the newspaper Moskovskii listok [The Moscow Sheet] (1902, no. 32, p. 5). Prior even to this, an engraving created from a photograph of the painting was published in the popular Niva magazine (1899, no. 1, p. 9). The following text appeared next to the image: 'It is a pleasure for anyone to admire children as lovely as those of the artist K. E. Makovsky, which he has painted on canvas, posing gracefully as a gentlemanand lady walking arm in arm. (...) K. E. Makovsky is a great master and all of his paintings are distinguished by an amazing vitality. The unaffected ease of the pose and his painting technique are, as always, a distinctive feature of this talented artist, the rendering of accessories is, as usual, brilliant' (op. cit., p. 15).
Portrait of the artist's children: Konstantin and Olga is a wonderful example of this genre within Konstantin Makovsky's oeuvre. Highly affecting and painted with a special warmth and love, the work once again demonstrates the unquestionable talent and virtuoso technique of this wonderful Russian painter.
We would like to thank Professor Elena Nesterova, Senior Researcher at the StateRussian Museum, St Petersburg, for providing additional catalogue information and this catalogue note.