Their fidelity to a constructive line of artistic thought allowed the painters of the Jack of Diamonds group to achieve a synthesis of colour and form in their representation of objects from the surrounding world. They profited by the experience of Cezanne and the Cubists, Cubism being for them not so much a system as a means of enhancing artistic expressiveness. This exploitation of formal expressiveness, as well as the concentrated use of all the resources of painting, led to innovations in the pictorial structure and style of their works. Many artists of the time were at-tracted to the problem of creating in painting a sui generis artistic equivalent of what was distinctively national in Russian life. Members of the Jack of Diamonds group interpreted this problem as the return of Russian painting to traditions preserved over the centuries in folk art. This link with the principles of folk art and the desire to appropriate its expressiveness of portrayal determined the character of their endeavours. They were full of enthusiasm for the Russian lubok (popular print), the house-painter's sign, the decorated tray, the folk toy. These painters thus enriched contemporary art with the achievements of Russian folk art. The strength of their work lay in the exaggerated emotionality and distinctiveness of their portrayals, in the intensity and concreteness of their colour and in their powerful optimism.
It is well known that the struggle carried on between the Jack of Diamonds and its various opponents did not in fact unite the members of the group. Harmonious as their first public appearance seemed to be, it was quickly followed by a number of internal disagreements, which eventually led to the society's dissolution in 1917. The first signs of Mashkov's divergence from the group date from 1911, the year of his initial rapprochement with the World of Art. In 1916 both Mashkov and Konchalovsky simultaneously went over to this latter association.
By the beginning of the First World War Mashkov was already an acknowledged artist. This was the time of his greatest popularity.
During the years of the Revolution Mashkov was engaged in strenuous social, organizational and pedagogic activity. There was scarcely any time for his own creative work. He was a professor at the Free Studios (the name of the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture since the autumn of 1918). Attached to his studio were A. Goncharov, A. Deyneka and other subsequently famous Soviet artists. It was only in 1922, when art exhibitions began again, that the painter's creative activity regained its former scope. He took part in the exhibitions organized by the revived World of Art group and the Society of Moscow Artists (the former Jack of Diamonds).
On his own admission, the years 1923 and 1924 mark a perceptible turning-point in his views on the aims and purposes of art. This coincided with the general impetus of Soviet artists towards realism. In 1922 a new artistic group, the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (the AARR), had already made its appearance, and this society was to play a positive role in the formation of realistic art. At the end of 1924 Mashkov, along with his pupils, went over to this organization where he set up art classes. Although he continued to participate in exhibitions held by the Society of Moscow Artists, his creative output in the second half of the twenties is mainly associated with the AARR. He took part in exhibitions of the AARR and was a member of its Board. He left the association in the spring of 1930, when its historical role had already been accomplished. In 1928, for his services in the realm of representational art, the Soviet government awarded Mashkov the title of Merited Artist of the RSFSR. In 1930 he left for his home in the village of Mikhaylovskaya where he lived almost continuously until 1938. He completed his last works in 1943, one year before his death.
Despite the vividness of his style, it is no easy task to define the individual quality of Mashkov's art in so far as it was the product of a whole movement, many features of which were characteristic of their age and common to a fairly wide circle of Russian painters.
Mashkov differed from those close to him in creative disposition by the extreme spontaneity of his artistic talent and by his fervent attachment to the world of objects. These are not, however, the only factors which determined the painter's style. Reflecting the personal element in his creative work. his style is clearly perceived through the plastic features of his pictures. Yet while emphasizing the strong side' of his talent, it is essential not to neglect the painter's weaker aspects, which are-of no small importance where Mashkov is concerned.
In the works completed before 1909, there is as yet no evidence of completely independent talent. Nevertheless, his Model (end of 1907-beginning of 1908), painted! in Serov's class, is well above the average for an apprentice's work.
The still life Apples and Pears on a White Background (1908) was the first won I to be completed after his journey abroad and is close to the principles of late Impressionism. Indeed, it suggests some knowledge of Cezanne's artistic conception. A work dating from the same time, Two Models against a Drapery (1908, Leningrad, private collection), seems to be a compromise between the principles of Impressionism and an impulse towards two-dimensionality and generalized decorativeness.
Mashkov first achieves an individual style in the works of 1909 and 1910. These were portraits, still lifes and landscapes, some of which were shown in Moscow during 1910 and 1911 at an exhibition of the Jack of Diamonds group, while other-were displayed in Paris at the Autumn Salon in 1910. In the paintings of this time-he proclaims a new and unusual conception of beauty. The exaggerated quality of their expression, the careless sweep of their contours, often painted in black, their polychromatic intensity-all this testifies to his denial of the artistic principles of an older generation. The striking starkness of method, the deliberate simplification of technique, reveal an attempt to invest the art of painting with pristine energy, to overcome the refined aestheticism of the fin-de-siecle, with its wavering forms and its faded colours, in short, to restore art to both youth and health. Inspired in his work by the products of folk art, Mashkov was guided largely bythe formal expressiveness of the lubok
The Portrait of a Boy in a