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Osip Braz was recognized as one of the best portrait painters of his time. His creativity was characterized by colorful and laid-back writing, as well as a combination of various artistic styles and trends. The cherished creative idea of the master was the resurrection of the visual heritage of the Russian ceremonial portrait. Having received a European education, upon returning to Russia, Brazil was equally subject to harsh criticizing criticism - he was condemned for being stereotyped and virtuoso, but "soulless" in performance; and positive reviews - in 1896 he was awarded a diploma of the Petersburg Academy of Arts. Oddly enough, the master was awarded the title of artist not for a special competitive work, but for a series of portraits. Some of them were later acquired by P. M. Tretyakov, who later ordered Brazu a portrait of Chekhov.
Incidentally, this portrait is the only completed intravital depiction of the writer. Osip Emmanuilovich painted a portrait for two years, presenting the final version in the fall of 1898 in Nice. The audience perceived the canvas ambiguously. It is worth noting that the writer himself did not like this picture. Anton Pavlovich spoke about his feelings as follows: “... if I became a pessimist and write gloomy stories, then my portrait is to blame for this ...”
It is difficult to imagine Anton Pavlovich in this light, because the portrait was painted at the peak of his fame, and this person was always full of energy and fortitude. But neither the last, nor one of the first “trial” works of Braz, according to opponents, could recreate the lively, courageous and amazing image of Anton Chekhov. Only a few, including the well-wisher of Braz - art critic Alexander Benois, claimed that the young painter was able to objectively and authentically capture the image of the famous writer.
Braz portrayed Anton Pavlovich at the age of about forty. His whole image is elegant and breathes intelligence. He sits in a luxurious antique chair, his eyes are hidden behind his pince-nez. The pose is tense and nervous, there is a certain stiffness. The writer's face is pale, with an expression of painful sadness, presumably already then Chekhov guessed about his illness. The picture is dominated by cold gloomy tones, emphasizing the severity of the portrait and the elusive sadness hiding in the features of the face. The drop does not show a drop of that boyish mischief that was inherent in the writer and was captured in photographs. Rigidity, deep thoughtfulness and lethargy.
This portrait was the last image of Anton Chekhov. None of the artists tried to embody the image of the writer.
Ivan Kramskoy Unknown