One of the favorite characters in the works of Kustodiev was a portly, health-giving merchant. Merchants artist wrote many times – in the interior and against the backdrop of the landscape, naked and in elegant dresses.
The painting “The Merchant with Tea” is unique in its impressive strength and harmonic integrity. Sitting on the balcony at the table, laden with dishes, plump, immense thickness of the Russian beauty, the image of the merchant acquires a truly symbolic sound.
The big details are carried in the canvas by the details: a fat lazy cat rubbing against the shoulder of the hostess, a merchant couple drinking tea on a nearby balcony, a city depicted in the background with churches and shopping malls and, in particular, a magnificent “gastronomic” still life.
A ripe red watermelon with black bones, a fat cupcake, buns, fruit, porcelain, a large samovar – all of this is written unusually real and tangible and at the same time not illusory, but deliberately oversimplified, as on shop signs.
In the hungry year of 1918, in the cold and destruction of a sick artist, he dreamed of beauty, a full-blooded vibrant life, abundance. However, savoring a well-fed, thoughtless existence is accompanied here, as in other works of Kustodiev, with a light irony and a wicked grin. The irony, the grotesque, the decorative stylization, the combination of natural observation and fiction bring Kustodiev together with other peacemakers.
At the same time, the work of Kustodiev is more optimistic, cheerful and national. In addition to the easel works, Kustodiyev, who also worked during the Soviet era, performed a number of book illustrations and theatrical-decorative decorations.