The canvases on the themes of the festive provincial life are distinguished by a special, only for Kustodiev, characteristic brightness, multicolor and life reliability of the smallest details. Folk festivals and celebrations are reflected in many works of the artist over the years. While still a student of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, Kustodiyev chose a picture for a similar subject as the theme of his thesis. He traveled to villages, wrote etudes – portraits of peasants, landscape sketches, genre scenes. “Christmas Bargaining”, a work created by the artist in 1918, belongs to the same topic. Singing the life and customs of the Russian provinces, Kustodiev miraculously combined painting with verbal and musical folklore – with song and a fairy tale.
An attentive, thoughtful viewer not only sees, but also “hears” the work of the artist. The picture, most likely written from memory, does not have an exact geographical address – this is Russia in general, and not the Astrakhan or Kostroma Christmas tree market. The action on the canvas occurs as if “in a certain kingdom, in a certain state.” The spacious sky and the gilded domes of the church over the bustling human anthill – who is not among this motley crowd!
The real is surprisingly combined with the fantastic: a colorful fairy tale full of living details appears before us. And the artist, like a real storyteller, emphasized all that was funny, toy, that is in this simple narrative, hiding everything serious that can be hidden in it. The Christmas bazaar is depicted by the artist as a festive spectacle. The space of the picture resembles a stage area. The arrangement of the figures, at first glance, is given randomly: the image can be continued both to the right and to the left.
The openness of the composition, its peculiar fluidity further reinforce this general impression. A large place is set aside in this genre scene for the landscape – church domes seem to be fabulous against the background of a snowy sky, fir trees are removed in elegant winter clothes – the main subject of bargaining at the fair. The artist made a brushstroke on the canvas easily, smoothly, even somehow delicately. Great importance attached Kustodiev line, pattern, game color spots.
Chiaroscuro in this case does not matter much, the light becomes very conditional. Local color spots form a harmonious decorative whole. The sky closed by the clouds has no depth, the domes of the church are intense in color, thanks to which the difference in plans is reduced almost to nothing. On the one hand, Kustodiyev spotted and transferred to the canvas the authentic types of the Russian province, the real atmosphere of the pre-New Year fuss was conveyed, and on the other – the festive performance, the artist himself plays the fancy-dress performance with beautiful decorations. Joyful, incomparable feeling of being filled with life and movement permeates the canvas.
Life in this work is visible everywhere: people bother, rejoice and bustle, snowy winter draws its intricate patterns in the sky, and all this action is enveloped in fresh coniferous aroma of the spruce-beauties. The world in the picture of Kustodiev is like a magic lantern with constantly changing pictures – you can endlessly observe its diverse, so simple, unobtrusive life and at the same time full of meaning. Blue and soft white paint paintings appease, delight as if lulled, creating a gentle and poetic atmosphere of waiting for a miracle on the eve of the holiday – timeless, always modern. They remind us, always busy and in a hurry somewhere, that everything in this world is wonderful, that life is amazing only because it is life. Used materials of the book: T. Kondratenko, Y. Solodovnikov “Krasnodar Regional Art Museum named after F. A.