In Russian art, the name Arkhipov is synonymous with compassionate and evocative portrayals of peasant life. Taught by the masters of critical realism and landscape, Vasilii Perov and Aleksei Savrasov, at the Moscow School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture, Arkhipov started his career as a genre artist but swiftly developed his own more expressive and poignant oeuvre.
From 1890, Arkhipov was an active member of the Peredvizhniki, the Russian exhibiting society (1870-1923), which was committed to taking art to the people by means of travelling exhibitions. Arkhipov became known for his sensitive portraits of work/world weary peasants which eloquently express the peasants' bitter fate without encouraging sentimentality.
In the early 1900s, Arkhipov embarked on a series of portraits of peasant women and girls from the Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. Dressed in embroidered national costume and resplendent in brightly-coloured headscarves, these portraits can be seen as a natural progression from his early sketches which depicted village life. Painted in a freer, more expansive manner, these portraits elevate the status of the sitters; the women fill the expanse of the canvas both physically and spiritually and are swathed in colour and bathed in light.
The present work, A Peasant woman in a red shawl, is an important work from this series and was included in the seminal Die Erste russiche Kunstausstellung which opened at the van Diemen Gallery in Berlin in 1922. One of four works shown by Arkhipov at the exhibition, the present work is a bewitching study of the Russian peasant spirit and its ability to endure.