Beautiful Things to Look At

I was looking for pictures of watermelons and discovered Boris Kustodiev, who is a Russian artist from the turn of the last century.  Did I ever tell you guys about my brief attempt to learn Russian?  See, I went to some piddly high schools and I got to college and everyone had taken Spanish, so I was afraid to take Spanish for fear that I would be terribly behind, so I took Russian as my language requirement, because I figured no one would have a leg up on me there.

I also worked in the cafeteria with a lanky Russian and a cute Ukrainian.  I worked on the line serving food and they were the guys who ran you full dishes of, in this case, lasagna.  And that evening they were insisting that I practice my basically non-existent Russian skills.  They would not bring me more lasagna until I asked for it in Russian.

So, imagine, if you will, me, finishing up the pan and I shout out “Я кончу” thinking that I’m yelling “I’m finishing.”  “What?!” they say, in English, too, so I knew I was in trouble.  “Я кончу?”

“Oh, ha ha ha ha ha.”

Turns out, in Russian slang, if you don’t say what you’re finishing, you’ve just yelled out across the cafeteria, “I’m having an orgasm.”

Hmph.  The lasagna wasn’t that good.

Still, once you can say “пиво” in one Slavic language, you can pretty much make yourself understood in all of them, and that, my friends, is what’s important.

And if any drunken Russian three year olds want to talk about cows, cookies, milk, or vodka, I am ready to chat.

Anyway, where were we?  Oh, beautiful things to look at.


The Merchant’s Wife.  See?  Watermelon!


Russian Venus, which is, I believe, what is says right there on that piece of paper.

Speaking of women as gods, have y’all seen this?

12 thoughts on “Beautiful Things to Look At

  1. you keep posting these scandalous photos and Campfield will have you named in one of his bills.

    (those are amazing – in all my years of art school, never ran across these particular paintings or the artist – wow)

  2. Yeah, these are great. I take it that he was deemed insufficiently revolutionary, which is why all these voluptuous redheads have disappeared from general notice? Or is it because the nude woman looks happy and the bed behind her is obviously rumpled with use?

  3. Those are some glorious paintings.
    Curiously – or not so curiously, since this is related to my dissertation – I was just reading about scenes of eating or laid tables (not another sex pun!) in paintings. I’ve already had a long fascination with still life in Dutch painting – glorious, detailed work to make you salivate but also recoil a little because inevitably something is rotting on the table. But the book I was reading introduced me to some paintings in which people were shown eating. If it was an allegorical painting, as many were, the eater frequently looked distressed or gluttonous or some other unattractive feeling.

    But that lady? She’s just like “What’s up, pussycat?” with her vivid and nowhere-near-rotting food and her pretty teacups. Rock on.

  4. I had never seen this artist before either. I don’t know anything about him. But these paintings tickle the shit out of me. They are stunning.

  5. I did once have a lasagne that almost gave me an orgasm but the lettuce saved me as most lettuces stink. I prefer sex for that sort of thing, sorry about that.

  6. I googled the artist and I think the reason we’re not so aware of him as a portraitist isn’t politics, but the fact that he went into book illustration and theater design for the last half of his career. And I saw a mention of a couple of books he had illustrated, a couple of which I happen to know are considered classics of book art in Russia. Could be that the graphic arts folks are more aware of him than the rest of us.

    The watermelon, now, has a fine history of indicating sex in Russian literature and visual arts. So I think this all ties together.

  7. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
    The colors are so vivid in the first painting, and I love the only slight shade of coyness of the second one.
    BTW, that is one giant samovar and a truly happy cat. I wonder if there’s some milk for it in the saucer she’s holding.

  8. That merchant’s wife totally looks like you, too, with her dark hair, bright blue eyes, and voluptuous, porcelain skin.

  9. I love, too, how, in case you missed it, the cat’s tail is pointing out the jutting pinnacles in the background that let you know this is all about sex.

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