Balalaika: Art and Music

NOR Balalaika
Thorvald Hellesen, Balalaika (NOR), 1916, oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm, Source: Nasjonalmuseet, The Fine Art Collections

“The balalaika has its origins in Russian

folk music and is often used to articulate a

quick, repetitive rhythm, and

both musicality and rhythm typify Hellesen’s painting.”

Øystein Ustvedt

 

Why Paint a Balalaika?

Although we do not know why Thorvald Hellesen chose to depict a balalaika in this painting, musical instruments in general were a frequent motif in cubist paintings. The relationship between the different art forms, such as music and painting, was also a theme that preoccupied many of the artists of the era.

The balalaika has its origins in Russian folk music and is often used to articulate a quick, repetitive rhythm, and both musicality and rhythm typify Hellesen’s painting. The clear colours and the way in which the image is abstracted and dissolved into recurring forms help create a dynamic, pulsating visual harmony.

Text: Øystein Ustvedt
From “Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945”, Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0

zscreenshot_2019-01-20 thorvald hellesen, balalaika – nasjonalmuseet – collection
Thorvald Hellesen, Balalaika (NOR), 1916, oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm, Source: Nasjonalmuseet, The Fine Art Collections, detail.

Who Is Thorvald Hellesen?

Around 1920, Hellesen was a member of the progressive art community in Paris and became friends with artists such as Fernand Léger. He was one of few Norwegian artists to be inspired by cubism, but the painting also evinces a keen awareness of the other nascent movements of the time. Along with Ragnhild Keyser, Charlotte Wankel, and others, he is one of the leading Norwegian abstract modernists from the 1920s.

Hellesen was forgotten for a long time. Compared with his Norwegian contemporaries, his selected style was different and radical. He disappeared from the Norwegian art scene after his paintings met little understanding in his native country around 1920, and a decade later he stagnated as an artist. Around 1970 his production was rediscovered, however, and the subsequent appreciation of his art has ensured him a more rightful place in Norwegian art history.

Text: Øystein Ustvedt
From “Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945”, Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0

Click For Enlarged Detail

 

 

What is a Balalaika?

stamp-russia2014-musical-instruments-block
Russian postal stamps via wikimedia

BALALAÏKA, a stringed instrument said to have retained its primitive form unchanged, very popular in Russia among the peasants, more especially in Ukraine. The instrument has a triangular soundboard to which is glued a vaulted back, forming a body having a triangular base, enabling it to stand upright. To the body is added a fretted neck strung with two, three or four strings, generally so tuned as to produce a minor chord when sounded together. The strings are generally plucked with the fingers, but the peasants obtain charming “glissando” effects by sweeping the strings lightly one after the other with the fingers or side of the hand. The Balalaïka is common to the Slav races, who use it to accompany their folk-songs and dances. It is also to be seen in the hands of gipsies at rural festivities and fairs.

Wikisource contributors, “1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Balalaïka,” Wikisource , https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Balala%C3%AFka&oldid=4967022 (accessed January 22, 2019).

balalaika

Details: Music

  • Concert variations on the theme of the Russian folk song “Valenki”
  • Artist: Anastasia Tyurina (balalaika)
  • Osipov Russian Folk Orchestra
  • Conductor – Vladimir Andropov
  • Tchaikovsky Concert Hall
  • Moscow, September 13, 2018

Click For Enlarged Images

Details: Art

 

Thanks for Visiting! 🙂

~Sunnyside

10 Comments Add yours

  1. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    That is one tremendously talented young lady!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spunky little thing, isn’t she?! Thanks for visiting, EC. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoroughly enjoyable. Art and music definitley do go hand in hand. I had never seen a Balalaika before, I was attracted to it because I have a passion for stringed instruments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I decided to post before completing this morning, but have just updated. The instrument is so interesting to me that I wanted to read some more. Knowing you enjoyed this through your love of guitar makes my day, Ally. Thanks for visting! 😊 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome my friend. Take care and be well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely 😊. I really liked your idea of putting the video with rhe painting. What a little prodigy!!! Thank you for raising our awareness to new flavor combinations. Happy Sunday!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She is remarkable! 🙂 Thanks for visiting, Jennifer, and Happy Sunday to you also! 🙏

      Like

  4. I always learn something here. I cannot say I am a fan of cubist art. Instead, this post drew my attention b/c it featured the balalaika. My mother loved the film “Doctor Zhivago” which, also, featured the balalaika. Thank you for reminding me of her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anna, so sorry for the delay. I’m pleased that you shared your memory of your mother and the balalaika. I haven’t watched “Doctor Zhivago” in many, many years and did not even remember a balalaika. Thank you for posting! ❤️

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s