In 1697 the famous British artist Godfrey Kneller painted a portrait of a young Tsar Peter the Great. Some three centuries later the Russian artist Sergei Pavlenko was honoured to paint Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II. The connection between two distant events demonstrates that the Russian school of painting, had since the time of Peter the Great developed into one of the finest European schools. It also acknowledges the talent of the contemporary Russian artist Sergei Pavlenko.
The official portrait is a difficult commission even for a great artist. There is always the danger of repeating oneself; the temptation using virtuoso methods, while keeping disengaged from the very subject portrayed. In fact many 'fashionable' artists, mediocre in their creative ability, work in a similar manner, treating the business of painting as mere business. The art of Sergei Pavlenko is of a different nature. The tradition of the Russian school of painting from Ivan Nikitin, the favourite artist of Peter the- Great, to Professor Boris Ugarov, Pavlenko's teacher, asserts the approach, where the individuality of the sitter, a unique blend of his/her inner and outer features, is placed in the foreground and transformed by the creative force of the painter into an artistic representation.
At the turn of XIX-XX century, a generation of outstanding Russian artists, such as Ilya Repin and his pupils, Valentine Serov and Boris Kustodiev developed a strong stylistic and typological line of portraiture painting.
Continuing this tradition, Sergei Pavlenko added a greater spontaneity and freedom of creative breath, which had been impossible in pre-revolutionary Russia, in the turmoil on the eve of fatal historical events.
As a portrait painter Pavlenko is at ease with any form of commission. He confidently composes individuals (Portrait of Lord Euston), couples (Mr and Mrs Van der Wyck) or groups (The Earl and Countess Verulam and their children). He is equally brilliant in portraying men, women (Countess Dalhousie) and children (Portrait of Olga Voyadzides). The artist's consistency signifies the maturity of his talent.
The variety of the artistic tasks are approached with an appropriate stylistic manner, very plastic and liberated. Pavlenko masterly conveys the surface and perspective of space; the tangibility of the subject and the momentum of human emotion. Pavlenko also demonstrates a flawless sense of form and colour, developed during his academic years and perfected in tireless practice.
His portraits are colourful maestri yet never gaudy. The visual opulence is in harmony with the noble constraint of the features of the sitters. Pavlenko ingeniously uses many shades of black, from the stern to most refined, reaching a colouristic balance as a whole (Portrait of The Duke of Marlborough).
Being a Russian artist Pavlenko cannot be indifferent toward his models. Whenever it is appropriate, his approach is warm hearted, respectful and attentive toward the Inner world of the person he portrays. As Valentine Serov did a century ago, Pavlenko also designs psychologically expressive 'formulas', capable of passing to future generations the truth about his times and people.
Portraits by Sergei Pavlenko are historical in many senses. Indeed, they present the prominent members of the contemporary world, yet, their historicity is expressed in their artistic truth, which elevates them above the truth of reality. Centuries will pass, while the gallery of Pavlenko's portraits will continue to appear as a poetic suite about modern Britain as seen through the penetrating insight of this talented Russian artist.

Pavel Klimov
Senior Curator of the Late XIX and XX Century Paintings,
The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg