THE YELLOW KITE
Sergei Yurievich Sudeikin
With faint authentication in Cyrillic dated 1921 by Konstantin Aladzhalov on the reverse. Oil on canvas. A classic example of the pastoral motif in Sudeikin's work of the early 1900s, The Yellow Kite depicts a festive village scene in the artist's typically ironic Primitivist idiom. A closely related work, In the Village (1908, formerly in the collection of the artist's wife, Olga Glebova-Sudeikin), was published in Apollon (No.8,1911) to illustrate an article on the artist by Sergei Makovsky. In the offered version, Sudeikin has exaggerated the size of the bright yellow kite which hovers above the lush canopies of the trees and doll-like figures below, to further emphasise the impression of childhood and festivity. The influence of the Russian lubok, or woodcut, is central to Sudeikin's stylised depiction of this folkloric 'grotesque'. The theatrical elements of the composition and the manner in which the main figures are positioned in a single plane in the foreground, as though in a frieze, while the background acts almost as a stage backcloth, reflect Sudeikin's extensive experience as a stage designer. His designs had been used for Savva Mamontov's Hermitage theatre as well as Vsevolod Meyerhold's productions at the Moscow Arts Theatre and the Komissarzhevskaya Theatre. Diaghilev would later commission designs from Sudeikin in 1912-13 for his prestigious Saisons russes in Paris. The iconography of The Yellow Kite is indebted to the theatrical innovations of his friend and close collaborator, Meyerhold, whose productions drew on the colourful and expressive traditions of the Commedia dell'arte. This form of Italian street theatre is apparent in the art of the Rococo, another source of inspiration for the Russian artist, particularly Watteau's paintings, which are often set in similarly sumptuous gardens and pastoral idylls. In The Yellow Kite, Sudeikin reinstates these Renaissance traditions on Russian soil. The figures that populate Sudeikin's art were once described by Sergei Makovsky as 'doll-like characters straight from ancient woodcuts and grandpa's china' (S.Makovsky, Silhouettes of Russian Artists, Moscow, 1999, p.304). The mischievous, playful depiction of a halcyon past in The Yellow Kite, an idealised world of fairy-tale motifs is in keeping with the principles of both the Mir iskusstva (World of Art) and the Blue Rose groups to which he belonged. Yet in his approach to this world, there is an unmistakable touch of irony too: in the words of Alexander Benois, a certain 'scurrillousness ...'a sly smile and theatrical puppetry...' (Makovsky, op.cit. p.308).