Irina Korsakova. Small Copies of Big Men. Taburet, March 2001

Some people think that Irina Korsakova paints children as adults… or adults as children. Other may think that these are only doll portraits. Whether they are children or dolls - they all seems to know black from white. Moreover, from these antique style paintings inspired by great academic masters at the back of your mind you unwillingly expect some catches, such as the toy-horse turning into the Trojan Horse. And maybe the girls sitting on rocking horses are little Lady Godiva or Klelia? And maybe the hobbyhorse is a dowser turned into horse harness, or just a blind riding horse from twilight worlds, or may be it is a cased vital shears?

Certainly its hardly children's games. Yet I've never sought to put melancholy, or anxiety, or confusion into my paintings. Hobbyhorses and pinwheels are just convenient elements to create the composition. But anyone can keep juggling with meanings and symbols, and here anyone has his favorite toys, do you agree?

At first there was a boy with a bandage over his eyes, reaching with a scissors for hanging on ropes prices. Then there were two children treating each other blind with the cake. That was ten years ago; since then I have collected plenty of such "games", but still I can paint them over and over again because in any theme, whether it is tin soldiers or tug-of-war, I always open up new aspects. The game is a universal allegory; it does not depend on times.

I have always been painting not historical, but rather quasi-historical clothing. …I enjoy capturing the texture; I like it, when velvet and batiste on canvas look like real velvet and batiste. I am mastering my skills learning from Old Masters. We were not taught to do this; everyone had to study by himself. I work slowly, it takes a long time and efforts for me just to make sketches on cardboards. One month takes to make one painting - it is for sure. In my opinion, the longer an artist paints the picture, the longer you will look at it then. That is why portraits by Vishnyakov or other Russian provincial portrait painters of 18th century, who slowly and painfully adapted the Western style of painting, are of greater importance for me then Brullov. This is particularly true with regard to children portraits. They painted children without any sentimentality, but rather as small copies of adults, an individual, with his own sword and sitting on his own horse. And you barely can tell the age: how old is Sara Fermor in her portrait by Veshnyakov, three of maybe thirteen? Children of gentle birth were addressed formally by their patronymic name since infancy, and they were dressed as adults.

Once I've painted my daughter in old-fashioned dress. Then somebody ordered me a costume portrait of his beloved granddaughter. Since then for two years now I don't paint anything but commissioned portraits. Yet I cannot say that I love each and all children, sometimes I can feel likes or dislikes toward even a three-year kid. And I usually in advance say to the parents who would like to capture their offspring on canvas, that there will be no smiles, everything will be very serious. But they don't get scared easily… Only Benois kids are smiling in their portraits, but these works are the earliest ones, and the father very much insisted on it.

Recently also the parents were attracted by my idea of costume balls, so now I paint the whole families, sometimes in Ermine coats, sometimes in musketeer dress. So that is my games.


(By Alisa Rivkind, Taburet, March 2001, pp.120-123)

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