Born into a family of artists and intellectuals, Zinaida Serebriakova (1884 – 1967) was a Ukrainian painter that was bound to follow into her relatives’ footsteps. Her own uncle, Alexandre Benois, was a well-established painter that founded the art group Mir Isskustva. Serebriakova lived a happy, content life, gaining recognition throughout the Russian Empire for her talent, until the break of the October 1917 revolution.
In 1919 her life suddenly took a turn for the worse. Her husband was arrested and died, leaving her behind with four children and a sick mother. Later that same year the family estate Neskuchnoye, where she had created most of her early works, was looted and burned, forcing her to move back to St. Petersburg in her grandfather’s apartment.
It was then when Serebriakova produced her saddest and most tragic painting, a depiction of her children playing in House of Cards (1919). The abundance of blues used reinforces the sadness of the scene. The children should be happy playing, but they have assumed the seriousness of adults, as if all grown up, looking down solemnly at the house of cards that might crash at any second. Nothing could be taken for granted anymore, in Zinaida Serebriakova’s eyes.