We would like to thank Dr. Olga Sugrobova-Roth and Dr. Eckart Lingenauber for providing additional catalogue information. This work will be included in their forthcoming catalogue raisonné.
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF PETER V. GUARISCO
Alexei Harlamoff was born in the village of Dyachevka near Saratov on the Volga. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, and he won both a gold medal and a scholarship in 1868. The scholarship enabled him to travel to Paris, where he studied under portrait painter LÃ©on Bonnat, and by 1874 he was visited by Russian marine painter Alexei Bogoliubov, who reported back to Russia on the young artist's visible success.
In 1875, Harlamoff exhibited his portraits of Louis and Pauline Viardot to great acclaim, marking a turning point in his career. French writer Emile Zola found these portraits to be marvelous, and he too predicted the "debut of a great talent." Writer Ivan Turgenev was enchanted with the "little portrait-heads," so much that he openly called Harlamoff his favorite painter. By 1883, the artist had garnered international acclaim, and a writer for Novoe Vremia wrote of the extraordinary demand for the Russian's work from private collectors and art dealers in both London and Paris.
Harlamoff was most renowned for his masterful portraits of young girls, chosen for their charming and innocent beauty. In Young Flower Girls, he exhibits his true virtuosity, for he aptly recreates a typical portrait as a beautiful conversation piece, depicting two responsible girls arranging flowers. One seems to be instructing the other--the interactive element of teaching played an important role in Harlamoff's oeuvre. The flowers that cover the ground are another Harlamoff trademark.
In the Museum of Serpuhov hangs a very similar painting, which was the very first work that Harlamoff included in the Russian Peredvizhniki exhibitions.