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Born on January 19, 1865, Valentin Serov was one of the greatest artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He started his career exhibiting with artists from the Itinerant movement, but later struck out on his own and was branded a traitor to realism. He was certainly no traitor, but he was an exceptionally original artist who did not share the mindset that predominated among his fellow artists. For them, painting was primarily a means of exposing the truth and representing the suffering of the common folk. Serov’s contributions to Russian art included a renewed focus on beauty, a subtle sense of form, and an innovative approach to the portrait. Had he not met an untimely death in 1911, he no doubt would have left us many more striking images of his contemporaries. The Girl with Peaches (1887), his best known work, epitomized for many the joie de vivre and delight in beauty that his paintings reflected.
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