The portrait of the writer Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy was made using lithography and graphics techniques in 1909. The following materials were used for the work: gray paper, pencil, watercolor, ink, whitewash, gold, silver.
In portrait painting, Leon Bakst showed himself as a magnificent portrait painter, able to convey the characteristics and mood of a model. For this, not only shadow patterns and colors were used, but also bolder means of expression – the contrast of three-dimensional and flat images, the use of various techniques.
In the portrait of Tolstoy, the combination of a voluminous head with a practically disembodied body is clearly expressed. Thus, the artist keeps the viewer’s attention on the face of the writer, not allowing him to lose contact with the hero. Expressive eyes look at the observer with some reproach. The tension around a tightly closed mouth does not even allow us to imagine that a writer can smile, laugh, or relax. Fatigue of life, frustration and suspicion are visible in the face.
Perfectly drawn hair – strand to the strands, separate lines, repeating the shape of the head. Some strands are knocked out of the hairstyle and thus give vitality to the portrait.
Clothing is given only by hints – a few strokes create the contours of a tie, collar. Rather thick, confident lines tracing the upper part of the suit gradually fade, lose clarity, severity, emphasize the importance of facial expression, speaking model’s eye.
Despite the fact that the viewer sees only the head and shoulders of the writer, the impression is that the hero will now rise, shake his reverie and go about his business. The energy characteristic of L. Bakst’s work, the desire for movement, freedom, is also present in the portrait of A. N. Tolstoy.
The painting is kept in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.