Saturday in the Museum with Elena

Image: Elena Kiseleva, In the Restaurant, Paris (1911).

This week our art post highlights a Russian painter exploring Parisian nightlife after the turn of the century.

Elena Kiseleva was born into an academic family, and she initially followed in her father’s footsteps as a student of mathematics.  But, after about bout with typhus, she switched her focus, picking up with the drawing she had done as child.  She enrolled at the Academy of Arts, and assisted, as a student, on dioramas celebrating the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg.  She was the first woman to graduate from the Academy and was granted a pension for studying abroad.  She had made trips to Paris as a student, now she went to live there.  After a few years in France and Italy she returned to Russia in 1911 (the year of this work).

She lived a period in Odessa, where she met her second husband, a professor of mathematics.  His profession eventually took them to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) in 1920, where he taught at the University of Belgrade. The next fifty years would see her bury her son (who was interned at a concentration camp by the Germans in World War II) and then her husband.  In her later years she lived under a vow of silence.  In 1967, an art critic from her hometown of Voronezh, Margarita Ivanovna Luneva, tracked her down and managed to revive her reputation.  She died in Belgrade in 1974 at the age of 95.

Kiseleva made her mark as a painter of women.  She noted that “I am first and foremost a portrait painter in heart. I always enjoyed painting magnificent and interesting women.”  She donated the bulk of her work to her hometown museum.

This painting is a joyous portrait of Paris dining. It captures a man as taken with female beauty as the artist.  It is in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

She continues to receive modern critical attention as one of the great painters of “the Silver Age” of Russian art.


In the mood to celebrate with a fine dinner?  If you are in D.C. then we can help with that.  On Saturdays we post on art (usually related to food), but the rest of the the time we are a D.C. dining guide with more than 300 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.

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