Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Konstantin Somov

Konstantin Somov (1869-1939) was a Russian Symbolist painter and illustrator associated with the World of Art movement (“Mir iskusstva” in Russian). Born to a father who was an art historian/curator and a  mother who was a superior musician, Somov became interested in 18th-century art and music at an early age. Growing up in a highly cultured family, he played piano, took singing lessons and started to paint. Significantly, he also became interested in men. In high school he had a passionate love affair with Dmitry Filosofov, who years later became Sergei Diaghilev's lover.

Somov (self portrait at left) studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts from 1888 to 1897. While at the Academy, he befriended Alexandre Benois, who later introduced him to Diaghilev and Leon Bakst. The World of Art movement, founded by a group of these students, promoted artistic individualism and other principles of Art Nouveau. Their magazine, with Diagilev as Editor-in-Chief, was highly influential in the world of art in the first decade of the twentieth century. Somov generously contributed to this publication.

Inspired by Watteau and Fragonard, he preferred to work with watercolors and gouache. For three years he worked on his masterpiece, Lady in Blue, painted in the manner of 18th-century portraitists.

During the 1910s, Somov executed a number of rococo harlequin scenes and illustrations for the poems by Alexander Blok. Many of his works were exhibited abroad, especially in Germany, where the first monograph on him was published in 1909. His lover from this time was Mefodii Lukyanov, and their relationship lasted more than twenty years.

Following the Russian Revolution, Somov emigrated to the United States, but found the country alien to his art. He relocated to Paris, where he lived out his days and was buried at the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Cemetery.

On June 14, 2007, Somov's painting Landscape with Rainbow (1927) was sold at Christie's auction house for US $7.33 million, a record for a work at an auction of Russian art (and seven times its high estimate). However, you might be more interested in some of his paintings of men, which are remarkable.The first of them is a painting called The Boxer (below), which sold last November for US $1.1 million, again at Christie’s auction house.

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