Konstantin Somov painted Twilight. Evening landscape with a lilac bush on the right in Petrograd during the white night of 13 June 1921 from 1am-7am. He painted the canvas after his watercolour sketch Pale evening sky with light clouds against green treetops, which was also executed during a white night, only twenty-four years earlier - at 11pm on 8 June 1897, according to the artist's diary entry.
Three years later, already in Paris, Somov sold the landscape for 100 dollars (2000 francs) to Elena Sergeevna Pitts (1891-1974), the wife of Joseph Pitts, an Englishman with Turkish roots who was a wealthy banker and art lover. In the words of the artist, he 'was very pleased [with the sale]', since the white nights of St Peterburg depicted in the painting had not long ago formed a large part of both his and the new owner of the landscape’s existences. Mrs Pitts was Somov’s acquaintance from St Petersburg and a decorative arts artist who had survived the execution of her first husband, an officer, and then for a short while was married to the artist Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942). In his letters to his sister Somov described Elena Sergeevna as 'a very nice and clever lady', and 'attractive, chic and elegant'. Two years after the sale of the landscape, the artist painted her commissioned portrait, which is now located in the collection of the State Russian Museum (Portrait of E. S. Pitts-Bilibina, 1926).
We are grateful to Elena Yakovleva, Doctor of Art History, Senior Researcher of the Russian Institute of Art History, St Petersburg, for providing this catalogue note.