This concentration on the material substance of things and, to a lesser extent, on the problem of light, involved a certain danger, that of illusion, which Mashkov did not altogether avoid even in his Camellia. This feature would occasionally reveal itself in some of his later works. A feeling for the three-dimensional quality and texture of objects as well as for light effects is particularly marked in the Still Life with Brocade (1914). Although the colours are vivid, the painting lacks sharpness of form; faience dish, plums, plate of strawberries, pumpkin, carafe of red wine-all are equally exaggerated in mass, although the position of these objects in perspective is not the same. Their outline is retained, but their expressiveness is lost. Mashkov's tendency towards an ever greater complexity of artistic expression is obvious in other respects as well. The artist begins to be attracted by projects of a monumental nature, though remaining loyal to easel painting. This may be seen in works of different genres. In the landscapes painted between 1910 and 1915, the fragmentary and rather static method of portrayal typical of Л Town View and Л Town View in Winter gives way to complex three-dimensional arrangements aimed at conveying majestic images (Italy. Nervi, 1913; Lake Geneva. Glion, 1914). His portraits display a similar attempt at resolving the problem of monumentality. Though less successful and thorough-going, his searches here led him in various directions. In the portrait of Fiodorova-Mashkova (Lady with a Double-Bass, 1915-16), the artist's interest in problems of style brings him close to the painters of the World of Art group. Like them, he was fascinated by the problem which confronted Russian portrait painters in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - namely, that of combining decorative appeal with a feeling for detail and subtle modelling. However, Mashkov aimed not at creating deeply psychological portraits, nor did he take any great interest in the objects surrounding his models. His portrayal of man and his surroundings is no departure from the conventions of still-life painting. Imitating the naive manner of old portraiture, with its peculiar ostentation, he tries not to conceal the model's pose, indeed he emphasizes it, though making only outward use of this device. A different approach to the problem of monumentality is apparent in the portrait of N. Usova (1915), which is comparatively simple in design, j Although the portrait is executed in a strictly stylized manner, the artist does succeed in conveying the living features of the model. Here, too, one is aware of the element of pose, but this time Mashkov, as in his Cubist experiments, takes the expressiveness of the folk toy as his point of departure.
The still lifes painted by Mashkov between 1914 and 1917 are amongst his most remarkable creations. He probes more and more deeply the problem of conveying in art the tangible substance of things. This may be seen in such works as Pumpkins (1914), Still Life with a Horse's Skull (1914) and Still Life with a Samovar (1916), where his tendency to experiment gives way to the achievement of a powerful synthesis, and where what was problematic in his artistic vision is renounced in favour of a forceful affirmation of life. In his earlier works a somewhat generalized method of portrayal tended to conceal the concrete nature of objects. Now, he manages to convey more convincingly than ever before the material character of things, their full diversity of colour, density, texture and weight.
Some of the above-mentioned still lifes (Still Life with a Horse's Skull, Still Life with a Samovar) reflect the dramatic tensions of the period. With the sharpness of his artistic vision, Mashkov noticed how useless everyday household articles had become, like so much scrap metal. With their uneasy rhythms and their dark, harsh colours, his still lifes symbolize the spirit of those difficult and restless times. Mashkov's rare talent for expressing the mood of his age reminds one of the words uttered by Mayakovsky in 1914: "You are no artist if you do not see reflected in the shining apple of a still-life composition an image of those that were hanged at Kalisz. You may choose not to depict the war, but you must paint in the spirit of the war."
The forceful perception of reality displayed in Still Life with a Horse's Skull and Still Life with a Samovar testifies to the artist's attempt, well before the October Revolution, to reveal the inner essence of his subjects.
Mashkov tried to reflect the reality of Soviet life in works of different genres. Although he painted some interesting portraits and landscapes, his talent manifested itself most clearly in the field of still life, where he would attain the true artistic realism so typical of the second half of his creative career. The few works produced by Mashkov between 1918 and 1922 revealed his desire to express that special optimistic mood which was characteristic of Soviet society in its early years. Mashkov's paintings of this period, such as Model (1918), Still Life with a Fan (1922) and the Portrait of N. Skatkin (1921-23), show great variety.
In his Model the principles underlying Mashkov's painting of still lifes of the 1914-1916 period are replaced by a search for monumentality and expressiveness. The emotional quality of his work reflected the new mood of a free society, which was very different from the dramatic outlook of the previous decades. Now the artist was interested not so much in conveying the tangible substance of things as in expressing the energy of life itself, and he indulged in bold combinations of colour and form. Monumentality was achieved by means of compositional devices, as well as by the manner of pictorial representation as a whole. The small size of the canvas brings the portrayal of the model into greater prominence, while the strong build of her body is sharply emphasized. Mashkov was not at all concerned with depicting her body, the draperies or the furniture in their real colours. His brushstrokes are vigorous and unconstrained; he does not divide his canvas into separate areas of colour, however, but rather juxtaposes various shades of pink, red, lilac, golden-brown, blue and green. The darkish gold of the body is spotted with emerald and lilac with a sprinkling of a cold, dark blue. He abandons full verisimilitude of colour here so as to enhance the expressive value of the portrait.
In Still Life with a Fan a feeling of energy and animation is conveyed by it? very design and richness of colour.
Mashkov's desire to achieve an ever fuller expression of his age is also apparent in the portraits. The method developed in still-life paintings, however, was scarcely appropriate to the demands ofportraiture. Of poor compositional design, the portraits of this period are usually overloaded with accessories; the artist was interested in depicting the