Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov
Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov
Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov

Football by Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov

  • A stunning early painting by renowned Russian artist Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov
  • This painting depicts a match during Russian football’s first appearance in the Olympics
  • This early work is almost certainly the only known period painting of this beloved sport
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Item No. 29-6396
Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov
1882-1967 | Russian


Signed in Cyrillic “F. Zakharov” (lower right) and signed again and inscribed “Fedor Zakharov/Football” (on reverse)
Oil on card laid down on panel

Undoubtedly, football, or soccer, as it is known in the United States, is the most beloved sport in the world, commanding the attention of billions of enthusiasts worldwide. However, the energy of its early days in the modern era has seldom been chosen as a subject for fine art. This thrilling, early painting by celebrated portraitist Fedor Ivanovich Zakharov, entitled Football, is one of a very few that captures the excitement of this international pastime. This colorful oil on canvas depicts a match between Russia and either Finland or Germany at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Zakharov skillfully portrays the dynamic subject of the match at a pivotal point, carefully manipulating reflections, light and shadows to increase the intensity of the scene.

1912, the year this work was painted, was a historic year in Russian soccer. The establishment of the Football Union of Russia took place that year, and Russia sent a football team to the Olympics for the very first time. In this sense, Football represents a significant step taken in the history of Russian sport, but also the country’s emergence onto the world stage.

This large oil was painted early in Zakharov’s career, and depicts a subject matter that is most distinguished in his repertoire. Zakharov built a successful career as a portraitist, yet here, he turns his attention to a much more kinetic subject, at a significant moment in time both for the players and for the institution of Russian soccer. Football exhibits those elements that would come to distinguish Zakharov’s work during the rest of his career, such as his adeptness at capturing light. In its energetic style, one can see evidence of its influence on the fast-paced future work of Leroy Neiman, who is known for his colorful sporting scenes, while its colors and brushstrokes call to mind Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist works, such as the tranquil Boating on the Seine by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Haying Time by Camille Pissarro. The painting also hints at a Mannerist influence, with the players’ slightly elongated bodies caught in mid-movement. Football also distinguishes itself from earlier sporting paintings in its portrayal of human athletes, as opposed to the racing horses so favored by artists like John Frederick Herring, Sr. and Sir Alfred James Munnings.

Born in Astrakhan, a major city on the shore of the Caspian Sea, Zakharov studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1910-1916. He began to exhibit in 1911, an amazing accomplishment for a young artist. He was invited to be an exhibitor and member of the committee organizing the Russian Art Exhibition planned for New York City in 1924. Like many other émigrés who escaped the Russian Revolution and following civil war, Zakharov subsequently settled in New York, where he opened a studio in Central Park South in 1932. His paintings soon gained a significant following among affluent society. He received a number of commissions from important patrons, including Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and painted a portrait of the wife of philanthropist Charles R. Crane, who also supported the work of renowned artist Alphonse Mucha. It was at the Russian Art Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace in 1924 that Crane met Zakharov. Over the years Crane commissioned numerous other portraits from Zakharov, and continued to support him.

Zakharov exhibited both as a solo artist in cities such as Paris, New York and Philadelphia, and as a contributor to the International Exhibition of Modern Art held at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh. Enjoying such great success in America, Zakharov never returned to Russia and became a society portraitist in New York. He won a number of prizes, and today, his work is exhibited at in number of prestigious collections all over the world. In 1965, this work was the focus of a retrospective at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where it was formerly part of the permanent collection.

Circa 1912

Panel: 27” high x 36 1/2” wide
Frame: 37 7/8” high x 47 1/4” wide

The artist, at least until 1965;
Elsie and George Kramer, New York;
Bequeathed to the North Carolina Museum of Fine Art, Raleigh, NC

Select Artist’s Museums:
The White House Collection
Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan

Artist’s Awards:
Walter Lippincott Award, 123rd Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy, 1928
Popular Prize, 15th Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1937
Artist: Zakharov, Fedor Ivanovich
Framed: 47 1/4"W x 37 7/8"H
Unframed: 36 1/2"W x 27"H
Period: 1815-1918
Origin: Russia
Subject: Genre
Width: 47 1/4 Inches
Height: 37 7/8 Inches
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