The Filatov Family Art Fund has purchased 'Milkmaids Novella' (1962), a socialist realist painting by Nicolai Baskakov, which not only refrains from depicting a political message but shows three milkmaids in a relaxed atmosphere sharing a joke. Baskakov is a Leningrad School's master whose works are owned by the Russian State Museum.

'Milkmaids Novella' depicts three women taking a break from milking cows. They are pictured resting on the grass, laughing loudly besides the milk urns, with cows grazing behind the fence in the background. The women's simple white working robes and industrial size milk urns suggest that they work at a collective farm. One of the milkmaids is sitting comfortably with a broad smile on her face, while the other two women are so overwhelmed with laughter that they cannot even sit straight. The bright sunlight fills the whole scene, reflecting from the shining urns and pristine white robes. Bright colours further enhance the light-hearted atmosphere of the canvas.

While the painting conforms to the socialist realism principles as it depicts ordinary working people the context in which the characters are shown is unique and not typical of Soviet State Art. Baskakov, who also painted more heavy-handed political messages like portrays of Lenin, sometimes indulged in depicting working people in light hearted situations, like sharing jokes or mocking each other.

'Milkmaids Novella' contains strong impressionist elements, characteristic of the painter. The subject - collective farm workers - is a typical theme in Soviet art, but 'Milkmaids Novella' steps away from pompous depictions of rich harvests and enthusiastic workers. The milkmaids are pictured in a relaxed setting, without any signs of glorification of labour. Bright summer sun follows the socialist realist convention, but soft, vibrant colours are reminiscent of impressionists. Broad, confident strokes on the grass, milk urns and cows in the background also remind of Baskakov's expressive landscapes.

'Milkmaids Novella' comes from a private collection in the USA. An independent analysis confirmed the painting's authenticity, proving that the materials and techniques are fully consistent with the date and inscription on the painting. Another version of this well-known painting is exhibited in the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

Andrey Filatov, founder of the Fund, said: "Nicolai Baskakov is a great representative of the Leningrad school, but he was literally unknown outside of the USSR until his first exhibition in Paris in 1989. Consequently many of his best works were bought by private collectors from around the world and again became hidden from the public. I am glad that we will be able to finally bring some of Baskakov's art to the wider international audience."

Nicolai Nikolaevich Baskakov (1918 - 1993) was born in a village near Astrakhan city on the Volga River. In 1933-1939 Baskakov studied under the famous Russian art educator Pavel Alekseevich Vlasov in Astrakhan Art School. In 1939 he was drafted into the Red Army and sent to serve in the Far East, where in 1943 he participated in his first exhibition. In 1945 Baskakov enrolled at the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after Ilya Repin and graduated in 1951. From 1951 he was a permanent exhibitor of the Leningrad Art exhibition and was recognised as one of the leading masters of the time, creating battle and historical painting, genre scenes, portraits, and landscapes. His paintings are owned by State Russian Museum, in art museums and private collections in Russia, Japan, the U.S., Germany and England.

Baskakov - Milkmaids Novella

'Milkmaids Novella' (1962) 69.5 cm x 120 cm. Oil, canvas.