Was ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’ really painted by Shishkin?

Ivan Shishkin; Konstantin Savitsky
Seeing the painting ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’ in the Tretyakov Gallery, visitors smile at it like an old friend. But, if you look closely, you can notice another name on the label of the painting - K. Savitsky. So, who really is the author of the masterpiece?

Traveling friends

Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky were friends. Both were members of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions (‘Peredvizhniki’). They helped each other: according to the recollections of Savitsky's second wife, Valeria Dumoulin, her husband “always wrote figures” in Shishkin's paintings.

They shared not only successes, but also grief: Konstantin was the godfather of one of his colleague’s sons. When the three-year-old boy died, they both grieved. They spoke words of comfort, having lost their loved ones: In 1874, Shishkin’s wife died of tuberculosis. A year later, Savitsky's first wife, Catherine Vasilyevna, committed suicide.

Creative ideas were also shared. The same Dumoulin recalled how the idea of working together on ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’ was born: Savitsky was working on the painting titled ‘To War’ when he came up with a new idea. He spent the whole night making sketching ‘Bears in the Forest’. Shishkin, having seen the sketch, was delighted and Savitsky offered to continue working together: “You know the forest better than I do!” And so it turned out. Shishkin painted a waking pine forest, while his friend - funny bear cubs climbing a fallen tree.

“We killed the bear & shared the hide!”

“Once I started a painting with bears in the forest, I got hooked on it. Shishkin took it upon himself to paint the landscape. The painting “danced” and a buyer was found in the person of Tretyakov. Thus, we killed the bear and shared the hide! But, this sharing happened with some curious hesitations!” This is how Savitsky described the situation with the painting to his relatives. 

The painting was presented to the public at the 17th exhibition of the ‘Peredvizhniki’. Famous collector Pavel Tretyakov offered a rather large sum for it - 4,000 rubles, of which Savitsky received... only a quarter of it.

In catalogs, only Shishkin was listed as the author. There are different versions on this matter. Perhaps, there was some misunderstanding between the artists and Savitsky erased his surname. It is possible that both authors were originally specified and that Savitsky was “removed” by Tretyakov personally. 

The patron of the arts had a complicated relationship with the artist, because of his painting ‘Meeting of an Icon’. Having bought it, Tretyakov eventually began to notice that the paint layer had begun to crack. Savitsky promised the gallery founder to correct the defect, but decided to do it in his absence. Moreover, he chose the wrong shade of paint, which is why the renewed clouds became very pink and stood out against the overall cold, gray background. Tretyakov ordered the original color to be immediately returned, albeit with cracks. As they say, the painting has regained its original form, but the residue remains.

Therefore, according to one version, having seen Savitsky's last name on ‘Morning...’, the collector, who did not tolerate changes in the purchased paintings, washed it off.

Dear readers,

Our website and social media accounts are under threat of being restricted or banned, due to the current circumstances. So, to keep up with our latest content, simply do the following:

  • Subscribe to our Telegram channel
  • Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter
  • Enable push notifications on our website
  • Install a VPN service on your computer and/or phone to have access to our website, even if it is blocked in your country

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies