Nikolai Alexandrovich Sergeev

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Signed in Cyrillic and dated 98 l.l., oil on canvas. Early Morning Fishing was exhibited in 1898 at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, where Nikolai Sergeev had first studied under Lev Lagorio. Immensely well-regarded during his lifetime, Sergeev was highly decorated and exhibited often with the Peredvizhniki; his paintings were acquired for the Imperial Collection and hung in the lavish St Petersburg mansion belonging to Baron Sergei Pavlovich von Derviz (F.Bulgakov, Nashi khudozhniki, p.167). A comparable Ukrainian landscape by Sergeev, Collecting Apples in Chernikhov, also painted in 1898 belongs to The State Russian Museum. Nikolai Sergeev's landscapes are prized for the subtle harmony of mood and subject. As an image of ordinary people at work in a rural setting. Early Morning Fishing is typical of the greater naturalism in landscape painting that had developed over the century. Here, and in other paintings by Sergeev such as Trawling the Dnepr 1898 (Irkutsk Regional Art Museum, fig 1), the peasants are scarcely individualised -their function serves rather to underline the emotional link between the human figure and the serene mood of the landscape, evoked here in Sergeev's delicate depiction of early sunlight illuminating the mist and distinctive Dnepr embankment. The cusp of the century was a fascinating transitory period for the Imperial Academy: in 1898, Ivan Shishkin, whose influence had arguably brought landscape painting to fruition and confirmed its position as a leading genre, died at the age of 66. In the same year the first edition of the World of Art journal was printed and a movement was born that would renew debate and jockeying for position among the arts: In its lyrical combination of poverty and beauty, Early Morning Fishing incorporates elements of humanism inherited from the Peredvizhniki though the influence of the Society would soon wane in the face of an art based purely on socialist ideals, often lacking the admirable depth and painterly dexterity evident in the offered lot. As Professor David Jackson comments, "The very notion of landscape painting presumes a class with sufficient leisure time and money to be able to view the land as a source of contemplation, rather than a place of work." (Russian Landcape, National Gallery, 2004).