In the late 1890s – in this extremely fruitful period for Vrubel – he creates several outstanding works of the portrait genre. First of all, the portraits of KD Artsybushev and his wife (the latter is not finished). Artsibushev is a business associate and a close acquaintance of Savva Ivanovich Mamontov. lover of art; Vrubel was also close to him, Artsibushev acquired his “Venice” panel.
Portrait of Artsibushev – the most traditional of Vrubel’s works of this genre both in composition and in painting. The artist does not at all try to find in Artsybushev the features of any legendary character. He writes a middle-aged intelligent man – a business man – in his office, near a shelf with books, at his desk. Absolutely realistic portrait
But that elation over the ordinary, which is so characteristic of all Vrubel’s works without exception, is present here. Artsibushev belonged to a type of personality, self-contained, inclined to self-deepening, turned more inward than outward. This is clearly seen in the portrait. “Business man” is depicted deeply thoughtful, and his thoughts, of course, are not about deeds. He leaned back in his chair, and his right hand froze, looking at the papers, “The papers seem so unnecessary.” The view of Artsybushev is turned into the soul, this is the view of a person when he mentally contemplates a lived life and thinks about its meaning.
According to the memoirs of the artist N. Ulyanov, VA Serov spoke of Vrubel: “Here is an artist who, like nobody else, can do everything equally well: decorating, painting, illustrating a book, even a portrait can do, and a wonderful portrait!” Why did Serov say “even a portrait”? Probably, because he, as a portraitist, knew well what a complex art, requiring a special gift – the gift of a psychologist. Perhaps he had in mind the portrait of Artsibushev. Vrubel could be an outstanding portraitist-psychologist – when he wanted to (but he rarely wanted to). Portraits Artsybushev and Artsibusheva organically enter the gallery of psychological portraits of the Russian school of painting and occupy one of the first places in it.