SEROV, VALENTIN (1856–1911), Russian painter. Born in Moscow, the son of the composer Alexandre Serov and a Jewish mother, Serov was virtually adopted as a child by the great art patron Sava Mamontov after the death of his father. At Mamontov's Abramtsevo art colony he met the leading artists of the day, including Repin and Mark *Antokolski. He was then sent to study at the St. Petersburg Academy (1880–1885), where a fellow-pupil, Mikhail Vrubel, became a close friend; in turn Serov introduced Vrubel to Mamontov, who encouraged young artists to design for his theater. At the Academy, Serov also befriended the young Léon *Bakst, encouraging his interest in stage design. Serov also became a colleague of Diaghilev and Alexander Benois, and one of the original members of the "World of Art" movement, from which emerged the Ballets Russes. He was a major influence on Diaghilev's "World of Art" movement, which heralded almost all important modern tendencies in Russian art and theater. After a period in Italy, Serov returned to Russia to establish himself as one of the leading Russian artists, painting most of the leading personalities of his time, and in 1897 was appointed official portrait-painter to the czar. His drawing of Pavlova was used for the first poster of the Ballets Russes in 1909; for the season he designed the decor for his father's opera Judith presented by Diaghilev in Paris, with costumes by Bakst, and in 1911 he painted a curtain for the ballet Schéhérazade, designed by his friend Bakst. Serov's work is mainly in the Russian Museum, Leningrad, and the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, including portraits of Mamontov, Ida *Rubinstein, the Jewish painter Isaac *Levitan, and his masterpiece The Girl With Peaches (1888), a study of Mamontov's daughter Vera.
[Charles Samuel Spencer]