The art of Nicholas Kalmakoff, 1873–1955


Astarte (1926).

Kalmakoff’s beautiful paintings turn up most often (if at all) in collections of Symbolist art although most of his work comes after the Symbolist period which was pretty much killed off by the revelations of Cubism. Like Harry Clarke, Kalmakoff is one of those artists who evidently felt that the aesthetics of the 1890s required further exploration; like Clarke there’s also some interesting occult illustration going on. Unlike Clarke (whose work appeared in lavish illustrated books and stained glass window designs) he had to contend with an art world that had little time for imagination unless it was presented in a Surrealist package. Kalmakoff’s fascinating story is detailed here and there are three galleries of his paintings here.

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Austin Osman Spare

12 thoughts on “The art of Nicholas Kalmakoff, 1873–1955”

  1. I just noticed a few days ago that one of Kalmakoff’s paintings has been selected as the cover for the upcoming book of Russian decadence from the Dedalus publisher (sadly it was a game that made me aware of where they got their company name from). It definitely sparked my interest. I am hopelessly fascinated with Russian history whenever I am unfortunate enough to be near a television and the subject comes up. One would only think that an artist of ‘corrupted’ tastes living in that time in an area whose fertile history had been made so in random downpours of human blood, would do well with that genre, though its probably inappropriate to peg decadence simply as a genre. I’ve heard of books like Petersberg, the Fiery Angel, Silver Dove, and Master and Margarita, but I’ve never taken the time to read any of them.

  2. hey i just thought that this was totally awesome because i am a kalmakoff and i have been researching my family for a long time. just saying hello and i am related to this cool artist.. lol.. its cool

  3. Just browsed to this site, using Kalmakoff in Google … The site referenced above ( is an outstanding resource for both Kalmakoff’s art and background … I believe he was completely misunderstood by critics and contemporaries and was forced ever-deeper into the exploration of his darker (much darker) side … He remains in my book, one of the true great colorists os his time and a master of capturing the essence of all things flesh … Way before his time, he certainly appears to have been an influence on Vallejo, and others …

    Heather … It would be interesting to know how you trace yourself to N. Kalmakoff? … I understand he died alone and penniless in a Paris hospice, with his artwork stored shoddily where it ultimately surfaced to a triumphant retrospective (Phillipe Jullian) …

  4. i was once in a brawl with Kalmakoff. he tried to lance me with his brush. It was a dark Parisian nite. I smashed a bottle against the wal threateningly and Kalmakoff turned tail and ran…

  5. encuentro increible el estilo de arte de este hombre…era una persona demasiada avanzada para su epoca, por lo tanto su entorno nunca lo comprendio…ahora eso, segun mi parecer, ya no ocurre…y ojala nunca se repita, pues hay miles de artistas que nunca han sido reconocidos sino muchos años luego de fallecer…
    ojala nunca me pase a mi…
    me atrevo a decir que los trabajos de kamlakoff me han abierto hacia nuevas ideas de pintura…

  6. I found Kalmakoff’s wonderful gallery through a research project on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan. I return to this particular image over and over again. I am trying to find a source for Glicee Prints that may be available for this artist, does anyone know where I might locate them so I can hang a print in my home?

  7. Hi Angelica. Either yourself or a friend could make a high-res inkjet print (or a colour photocopy) of the picture you want then take that to a high street copy place which can make a larger print from the smaller one. I’ve done this myself a couple of times when it wasn’t possible to find a poster print of a painting or drawing. Places like Allposters have a good selection but they don’t have everything. Yes, this contravenes the copyright of the person who owns the picture but you’re only making a single copy for yourself, you’re not intending on selling them.

  8. Hi Seanus. I’ve no idea who controls the copyright although given that the artist died in 1955 there may be surviving members of the family who have an interest.

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