Whether in the American Southwest, the Far East, or his native Russia, Leon Gaspard's most celebrated canvases capture the folk ways of many diverse cultures. Among his most distinctive paintings are his lively depictions of Russian villages and their people, of which Peasant Gathering--Siberia is one of his most triumphant works.
Gaspard was born near Moscow, Russia, in 1882, to parents who encouraged his artistic talents. He moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, where he was enthralled by the creative climate of the city. Gaspard stayed in France for approximately twenty years, and participated on several occasions at the Paris Salon. While in France, Gaspard met Evelyn Adell, an American who became his wife in 1909. For their honeymoon, the couple embarked on a two-year journey on horseback through Siberia, eventually reaching Irkutsk. Gaspard became acquainted with Siberia as a young man, when he frequently toured the province with his father, a retired army officer who traded for furs and fine rugs with the native tribes in the Siberian steppes. While his father conducted business, young Leon spent his time sketching the towns and villages they visited. The artist became intimately familiar with many remote and picturesque villages, and later adopted Siberia as a principal theme in his art.
Gaspard painted Peasant Gathering--Siberia in 1921, three years after settling in Taos, New Mexico, based on his vivid memories of Russia. Gaspard "moved to Taos on the cusp of two generations of artists to settle there; the first primarily made up of academically trained artists, the second of modernists. Gaspard is therefore a bridge both chronologically and stylistically, painting in an Impressionist style in the tradition of the artist who had uprooted the academic tradition in France, pacing the way for the twentieth-century modernists who followed." (D. Strong in P. Buster et al., an American Palette: Works from the Colelction of John and Dolores Beck, Orlando, Florida, 2000, p. 56) Peasant Gathering--Siberia manifests Gaspard's unique and powerful style, which distinguished him from his peers and has timeless appeal.
In the present work village peasants dressed in colorful native costume fill a wooded landscape that is blanketed in snow. The brilliant colors of the village dweller's skirts and headscarves as well as of the horse-drawn carriages are juxtaposed with the more muted tones of the forest, heightening their visual impact. Gaspard paints in his characteristic dashing style with bold brushwork that imbues the work with a vigorous and expressive surface. Peasant Gathering--Siberia embodies Gaspard's belief that, "Every inch of the canvas must talk and so contribute to the total effect. Art does not stand still." (as quoted in F. Waters, Leon Gaspard, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1981, p. 42)