Painter and graphic artist.


110 Vera Rokhlina (Rockline) ★

Vera Schlesinger. 1912


Vera Nikolayevna Rokhlina (Rockline, née Schlesinger) was born in Moscow in 1896. Her father was Russian and her mother French. She received professional training in Moscow at the studio of Ilya Mashkov, who considered her one of his most gifted students. Afterwards Vera continued her studies in Kiev, where she attended Exter’s studio in 1918. Alexandra Exter, who personally knew the founders of Cubism Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, largely influenced Vera Schlesinger not only as an artist follower of that style but also as a personality of tremendous creative and existential freedom. Though Rokhlina did her early works under the influence of Exter, many art historians admit that the student’s works were more refined and close in palette to the manner of Cézanne.


22 Vera Rokhlina (Rockline) ★

Vera Schlesinger (right) and Antonina Sofronova. 1914. Moscow


In 1918-1919 Vera Schlesinger contributed to the 24th exhibition of the Moscow Association of Artists, the 2nd exhibition of paintings by the Trade Union of Artist-Painters, the Exhibition of Pictures and Sculptures by Jewish Artists and the 5th State Exhibition of Paintings “From Impressionism to Abstraction.”

In 1918 Vera married Mr. Rokhlin, of whom there is no information, and in 1919 she left Russia, spent two years in Tbilisi and in 1921 immigrated to France, where she subsequently obtained French citizenship. At first Vera and her husband settled temporarily at the house of her mother’s relations in Burgundy. In 1922 they moved to Paris, where at that time there was a large Russian community, with which Vera associated closely. They settled at #12 Rue de Hamburg (Rue de Bucarest from 1922) not far from the Montmartre.

From 1922 Vera Rokhlina already exhibited at the Salon d’Automne (in its Russian section from 1924), the Salon des Independants and the Salon Tuileries under the name Vera Rockline. Her works were a success, the critics and the press spoke about her, and some of her paintings even won prizes. French intellectuals, too, gave credit to her works. Raymond Escholier (1882-1971), journalist, writer, art critic and Petit Palais museum curator, called Rokhlina’s nude series “a symphony of flesh.” After getting over her enthusiasm for Impressionism and Cubism, Vera Rokhlina developed a style of her own that, according to the authoritative magazine L’Art et les Artistes, was an “artistic balance between Courbet and Renoir.”

One of her admirers – the famous couturier Paul Poiret – purchased two of her works and helped Vera to promote her art; he also introduced Vera to Charles Vildrac (1882-1971), the French poet and art lover, helped to organize Rokhlina’s solo exhibition at his gallery in 1924 and even wrote a foreword to the exhibition catalogue.

The year 1927 marked a new stage in the artist’s development. She acquired the prestigious status of a member of the Society of Salon d’Automne and, gaining independence from her husband, moved to #2 Rue Brown-Sequard in the Montparnasse. Her newly found personal and financial independence coincided with Rokhlina’s artistic evolution: her style becomes lighter and freer, largely close to the Impressionist method with a light palette of predominantly Renoir-like “pearly” hues. Rokhlina increasingly focuses on the “feminine” theme, joins the Society of Women Artists and maintains close contacts with female colleagues, Zinaida Serebryakova in particular. Nudes and female portraits predominate among her pictures of the period. It was then that she painted Zinaida Serebryakova’s portrait. Vera also maintained friendly relations with the family of Alexander Benois.

She staged a succession of solo shows at Paris galleries, including Vildrac (1925), Bernheim (1926), La Boetie (1930) and Barreiro (1932, 1933). In 1933 Rokhlina joined the art section of the Union of Russian Art Figures in France.

At the peak of her creative endeavors Vera Rokhlina, aged 38, committed suicide on April 4, 1934. She is buried in Recey-sur-Ource, Côte-d’Or, Burgundy.

Her memorial exhibitions were held at the Galerie Barreiro (1934, 1936), at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon de Tuileries (1934). Her works were exhibited at the exhibition “Femmes artistes modernes” in 1935. The Galerie Drouart staged Rokhlina’s retrospective in 1984, and the Galerie Makassar-France exhibited her works in 1991.

Although by the end of the past century the name of Vera Rokhlina was practically forgotten, her art began to attract the attention of specialists and collectors in the early 2000s. In 2002, at the grandiose exhibition “Elles de Montparnasse,” works by Vera Rokhlina were displayed next to those of Tamara Lempicka, Marie Laurencin, Hannah Orlova, Sonia Delaunay and Natalia Goncharova. In June 2008 her painting Card Players (1919) was sold at the Christie’s auction in London for £2 million, an eightfold increase over the estimate. Presently, Rokhlina’s works are in great demand at auction sales. What is more important, however, is that her art attracts new fans and admirers.


Картежники. 1919 г. Vera Rokhlina (Rockline) ★

Card Players. 1919


From the memoirs of the London-based collector, journalist and scriptwriter Alexander Shlepyanov:

I had my own interests: I’d long been looking for some artists. Let’s say, forty years ago Solomon Abramovich Shuster (Salomon Schuster) and I visited Maria Ivanovna Mashkova-Danilova, widow of Mashkov, and when we asked her about Mashkov’s disciples that he considered most interesting, she said that his favorite student was Vera Schlesinger (she remembered the name with difficulty). We had never heard anything about her and asked many people who Vera Schlesinger was – nobody knew her. Already in Paris I asked Alexander Borisovich Serebryakov, the son of the artist Serebryakova, who was a great connoisseur of the Russian émigrés and chairman of the Society for the Protection of Russian Cultural Heritage, who Vera Schlesinger was and where she came from. “Why, it’s Vera Rokhlina,” he said. A wonderful artist who committed suicide early in life, an amazing artist; Alexander Nikolayevich Benois wrote her obituary. He took me to some gallery where several pictures by Rokhlina were in the storerooms, but they were absolutely beyond my reach at 5,000 francs (then £500). I had no such money. If I’m not mistaken, these pictures today cost from £100,000 to £2 million. That’s what Vera Rokhlina is worth now. She is indeed a remarkable artist, waiting for her catalogue raisonné and for her fame in Russia.