Ivan F. Choultsé

This is number seven in the seasonal series of snow scene themed posts. (Don’t try to say that with a mouthful of crackers.)

The first time I came across the work of Ivan Fedorovitch Choultsé, (1877 – 1932) I couldn’t make up my mind whether he was a colourist genius or an early incarnation of the sublimely vulgar Thomas Kinkade.

On reflection, I have to give Choultsé the benefit of the doubt, because he steers well clear of the mawkish saccharine* sentimentality of America’s “Painter of Light”, and he also seems to have been able to get out of the house (or bank, in Kinkade’s case) a bit more, and do some painting from life. I would not be at all surprised to learn that Kinkade was “influenced” by Choultsé, however.

The picture of his that genuinely stopped me in my tracks was this one:
thumbnail of Landscape in Winter
Landscape in Winter
(Click the thumbnail to make it much bigger)

Choultsé liked snow –
thumbnail of Winter morning, Engadine
Winter morning, Engadine
You have to admit that those colours are being stretched just a tad beyond the bounds of credibility. Perhaps it was an effect of the altitude…

Here he is with a non-winter subject –
thumbnail of The Parthenon After a Storm
The Parthenon After a Storm

Gooogle his name to find out about his German origins, his upbringing in Russia, and his travels as an emigré in many lands, and learn how even though he was once almost completely forgotten about, the value of his work is rising rapidly, especially with the nouveau riche oligarchy in the Russian Federation.

*=Aspartame, nowadays, but it doesn’t make such a good alliteration.

There are some potted biographies below the fold…>>>
From Reh’s Galleries website:

Ivan F. Choultse´s ability to capture light as it bathed a Mediterranean garden or skated across a snow filled landscape is what separated Choultse from many of his contemporaries. Choultse´s manipulation of light gives his work a bizarre and fantastical mood which few artists can achieve so naturally and skillfully.

Born in Petrograd in 1877; he received his first formal art training from Czar Nicholas II´s celebrated court miniaturist Krijitski.

Choultse´s artistic popularity dates from his first exhibition at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, Petrograd, in 1903. Following this noteworthy debut, he not only became an honored exhibitor at all the major galleries in Moscow and Petrograd, but was also elected court painter to Czar Nicholas II.

With this newly earned success, he was encouraged to travel abroad to explore a varied array of landscapes. Traveling throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Arctic regions he was able to devote a considerable amount of time to the study of nature and the characterization of her light.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Choultse, because of his ties to the Czar, felt obliged to leave Russia and soon established residency in Paris … where he began to exhibit and would received a number of awards and honors.

In 1923 he displayed his first work at the Salon des Artistes Français where he not only attracted great attention but was ranked among the most prominent Salon artists. Demand for his work was increasing and his first one-man show in Paris, held at the Galleries Gerald Freres, sold out on opening day. Similar success was seen at his first one-man show in London, where all his works sold within the first six days.

Several exhibitions were arranged in New York. In 1928 the Edouard Jonas Gallery held a solo exhibition and described the artist´s landscapes as:

“…the most perfect expression of nature seen from an open window in which light is depicted with a strength and reality never before equaled … and that which fascinates above all is the freshness and harmonious strength of his colouring.”

John Levy Gallery held an exhibition of his work in 1931 and described his snow scenes as:

“…brilliant and beautiful as that aspect of nature herself.”

New York´s Hammer Galleries held a jubilee exhibition of 150 Years of Russian Painting in 1935 and described Choultse´s reputation as:

” …beloved among American collectors as a great master of snowy landscapes gilded by slanted sunbeams.”

Throughout his life Choultse was appreciated universally as a brilliant and analytical portrayer of nature. A London Times article summarized his aesthetic achievements perfectly when they stated: “It must be seen to be believed.”


Russian, 1877 – 1932

Choultse was a landscape painter, born in Petrograd, Russia in 1877. He studied painting with Constantin Krighitsky and became the court painter to Czar Nicholas II. After the Russian Revolution, he immigrated to Paris and in 1923 began exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français. Although Choultse continued to paint Russian scenes whilst in Paris, he also undertook several trips to Switzerland´s Engadine. He was fascinated with the mountainous landscape of the area surrounding St. Moritz, especially in the winter.

Critics wrote that no other artist was ever as adept at transferring the texture of settled snow to canvas. In his 1979 biography Memoirs of an Art Dealer, Toronto art dealer G. Blair Laing wrote:

He painted spectacular snow scenes in which the light seems to come from behind the canvas and glow. The critics scorned these pictures as photographic and called them non-art – but today this style of painting is called “magic-realism” and is much admired by critics and museum people. When I was at university I saw a small exhibition of his work at Eaton´s and marveled at the technical competence of the artist, but my professor of aesthetics warned me the pictures were bogus and would be forgotten in a few years. Today they are more expensive than ever.


Ivan W. F. Choultsé
1877 – 1932

Ivan W. F. Choultsé was born in St. Petersburg in 1877 to a family of German origin named Schultze. He was first trained by Constantin Krigitsky, a court painter to Tsar Nicholas II who painted miniatures and he made his debut at the Fine Art Academy in St. Petersburg in 1903.

Choultsé´s work was well received and he continued to exhibit his work at other major galleries in St. Petersburg and Moscow and was eventually elected court painter himself. However, these were troubled times in Russia and after the Revolution of 1917 and the Tsar´s abdication, Choultsé left Russia and travelled to Europe. This is probably due to his ties with the Tsar but also because the artistic climate in Russia during this period was difficult.

Choultsé travelled to the Mediterranean and painted many summer landscapes but it was his sojourn to Switzerland which influenced the artist´s development. Whether it was because the snowy Swiss landscape reminded him of his native Russia or because he just fell in love with the monumental vistas of Engadine and St. Moritz, Choultsé was profoundly affected by what he saw there. He concentrated his efforts on studying the effects of light on nature and developed his best known themes of glorious snow-filled landscapes which are sparkling and vibrant.

Eventually settling in Paris, Choultsé adopted the French transliteration of his name. He began to exhibit his work in the Salon des Artistes Français in 1923 and he had a very successful one-man show at the Galleries Gerald Freres. Exhibitions in London and New York followed and an article in The Times summarised the artist´s achievement by saying “it must be seen to be believed”. In 1935 the Hammer Galleries held a jubilee exhibition of `150 Years of Russian Painting´ and described Choultsé´s reputation as “beloved among American collectors as a great master of snowy landscapes gilded by slanted sunbeams”. Other critics wrote that no other artist was ever as adept at transferring the texture of snow to canvas. G.Blair Laing, the Toronto dealer, wrote in his `Memoirs of an Art Dealer´ in 1979 that Choultsé “painted spectacular snow scenes in which light seems to come from behind the canvas and glow”.

Ivan Choultsé never returned to Russia, although his work was always recognised there during his lifetime and subsequently actively sought after.

34 thoughts on “Ivan F. Choultsé”

  1. Good point, Linca. When I go to the mountains, it’s usually in Summer. It’s a long time since I have been above the snowline in Winter, and the last time I did, it was solid snow and near zero visibility. Very difficult for navigation, and impossible for painting, I guess.

  2. very interesting michael. on one hand, i think one can trust one’s eyes: he’s no kincaid (who himself may be no kincaid–you think maybe he leaves it to his computer to paint them for him?), but there is something that makes them, while stunning, seem like not great art.

    but i can’t say why either. is it that parrish has stolen that light and made it his own? is it like listening to, for example, steve martin, early in his career (which you remember listening to then and gasping in laughter) and feeling that they sound derivitive! their very influence has “polluted” them?

  3. @lotus, Some nice gritty ideas in your comment. I like the notion that one can be derivative of oneself.
    In the end, it was probably just the startling exaggeration of colours and colour relationships that intrigued me. If I’m put off by anything, it’s Choultsé’s handling of the paint itself that leaves me underwhelmed. Have a great Christmas / Solstice / Yule!

  4. I have what I believe is a print of a painting by Choultse, It was in my grandmother’s home as far back as I can remember which would be the late 40’s. My grandparents were of modest means but this piece has an ornate frame, was well covered in the back and is behind glass. It is a winter scene with mountains in the background and a bridge in the foreground. It is signed as Ivan Choultse in what appears to be his signature. Can you offer me any information on this piece

  5. Hi Mary, sorry to take so long to get back to you.
    I’m afraid I can’t offer you any opinion on the picture you have unless I can see it. Perhaps you could send a picture (without using flash) and e-mail it to me:- art(dot)text(at)articlesandtexticles(dot)co(dot)uk

    I’d be happy to have a look at it.

  6. You’re right, mp. The sky in the top picture, contrasted with the purples of the foreground are much in the manner of Parrish. Both artists used planes of colour in their compositions, and sometimes they were strongly complementary colours.
    That’s an interesting screen name you have, btw. Any relation to the “MP” in question?

  7. In the past 40 years we have sold over 65 original paintings by Ivan F. Choultse. I have purchased almost every Choultse that has been offered to us and recall having sold them around the $ 3,000 at the beginning. Last Year one of his paintings which we sold some 15 years ago has resurfaced in Switzerland and a year later in London, fetching well over 300,000 US dollars(!) not bad for a painting that sold some 15 years ago to a Suisse collector for less than 10% of this record price. Why do I elaborate on this. First of all I should invite Mary to carefully examine here Choultse with a strong magnifying glass and look for fine dots of a typical print. If there are no stretchers at the back, it most likely is a print. Choultse without fail has titled by pencil on the verso of the stretchers each of his paintings, mostly in French.
    Lastly I do believe that we deal here with a phenomenally good artist and as a high realist artist he is sometimes unjustly being referred to as a fine technician. I invite you to view a selection of the many paintings that have been placed in some of the finest collections around the world by our gallery.
    Kind regards to all readers, Odon

  8. To the best of my recollection we have seen smaller paintings, maybe 12 x 12 inches, which might have been painted on wood, but it is not usual that he did. I would suggest to submit a photo of your painting to this forum and possibly and based on the photograph I could authenticate the painting. Best, Odon

  9. @ronda: Robert Rauschenberg once erased a De Kooning drawing, which then became more valuable. A good picture by a good artist still holds value even if it is worn.

  10. have just inherited an Ivan choultse ‘a garden in nice’ oil on canvas,handed thru my family from sirwilliam gage of Toronto to my grandfather sir Donald Mcleod tohis daughter
    then to her daughter-me. it is quite large 54cm x 66cm am seeking furtherinfo about the artist & his work.

  11. Hello Stefani, We are located in Toronto and our gallery is qite specialized in then paintings of Ivan Choutse. Since you say that you have inherited the painting from a Mr.Cage of Toronto, your and the painting might not be far from Toronto. Would you like to contact us per telephone 416 962 0438 and we could advise as to its value. Best, Odon
    also see Odonwagnergallery.com under “modern” and “Choultse” to see tham many we sold in the past.
    Sincerely, Odon

  12. for sum reason i couldnt get the pic. to up loud?heres a ? the art work i have i have seen the same painting i have on a other site does that mean mine if a fake it looks very old

  13. bridgemanart.comfor sum reason i couldnt get the pic. to up loud?heres a ? the art work i have i have seen the same painting i have on a other site does that mean mine if a fake it looks very old?the pic they have is on canvas mine i think to be on a panel the site ishttp://www.bridgemanart.com/image/Choultse-Ivan-Fedorovich-1874-1920/Silver-Frost-Engadine-1910-oil-on-canvas/3ee6a18fb542411095230623e61ae1a0?key=&artistid=10419c7c-c403-4e67-9099-997ec4116a19&thumb=x150&num=15&page=1

  14. michael,trying to contact you at web sight mentioned above, but comes back as invalid. can you send me e mail so i have right address?

  15. Hi Roger, try using the contact form in the “About” section at the top of the front page, (in the bar under the header image!) or use :hirsh (dot) michael (at) gmail (dot) com

  16. We have inherited a very large painting by Ivan Choultse Called “Midnight in Kings Bay – Spitzberg. It looks like an original and measures 31 by 45. Could you tell me anything about it and it’s value? Much appreciated. God Bless. Mary Ann Moore

  17. Dear Mary Ann, exciting news and congratulations. I would be pleased to authenticate the painting if I could receive a photograph of the painting and the signature. Since Choultse almost always titled his pantings in French on the stretchers in pencil I would like to suggest that you look for such inscription on the back of the painting. I assume that you have read the title “Midnight in Kings Bay – Spitzberg” on a plaque attached to the frame, hence it is in English?

    All sounds very interesting and you may have a painting of a particularly rare subject matter by this artist. Regards from Toronto, Canada, Odon odonwagner@odonwagnergallery.com.

  18. I recently found a Choultse Print in the Salvation Army…and wanted to find out a little more about it. In the blog above, Mary Crittenden, posted Feb. 2009, mentioned the same print..with the mountains in the background and a wooden bridge in the foreground. It is rather large and I wonder if you found out any more info on this.

    Thank you

  19. I found a Choultse paiting entitled “Blanket of Snow” in my mother’s storage. It appears to be on a possibly wood backing under glass. It looks like a print to me, however I am no expert. The back does have a label with the title. Any idea how I can learn more about this painting.

    Thanks for help from anyone. ac

  20. Dear Ms. Christian, the easiest method to establish whether your find is in fact a print, is to use a magnifying glass and look for tiny dots typical of a print. Good luck and wishing you that you do NOT see the dots and thus may have an original!
    Odon Wagner

  21. odonwagnergallery.comOn Oct. 14, Mary Ann posted an inquiry about a painting by Choultse painted in Spitzbergen, Norway.
    I am pleased to give you the link to this fabulous painting which has gone conservation treatment and cleaning. The story accompanying this art work is of great interest and is being further investigated at present. I would be pleased to to keep you and your readers updated. Greetings, Odon

  22. @Odon Wagner: Thanks for showing us this cleaned up version. It looks fabulous compared to its earlier state.
    Shouldn’t the name be “Midnight Sun in Kings Bay, Spitzbergen” as in the hand written words on the back of the stretcher?

  23. I was recently married and my MIL has two Choultse painting on her wall. According to her, they belonged to her mother and when she died, my MIL inherited them. She told me they are valuable, but could not tell me anything more about them. They are both large. One is of a Native American squating looking at several pieces of pottery. The other is similar to what others are describing here. Several trees in the background, a semi frozen lake in the forground and (possibly, going from memory) footprints going away from the lake. Anything you can tell me about this would be great.

  24. Hi Brian. I am not an expert in pricing paintings, so I’m probably not the right person to ask. Others (see the comments in this post) have consulted Odon Wagner of the Odon Wagner Gallery. Look in comment 11 for a link. Other experts exist of course. Good luck!

  25. I am currently researching a book on artists’ impressions of the arctic island of Spitsbergen (throughout the last 400 years!) and would be very grateful for any details or information about Choultse’s visits and works relating to this island.

  26. I have a 1935 lithograph of Choultse titled Blanket of Snow. is it worth anything?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *