Russians love eating bears.
Including myself. I can never resist taking a bite, if there’s a Clubfooted Bear on the table.
It is the oldest brand of Russian sweets, introduced in the early 1890s by a German entrepreneur (whose factory was nationalized and renamed into The Red October by the Bolsheviks).
The Soviets changed the name of the factory but kept the brand, which stayed the tastiest kind of chocolate sweets throughout the USSR’s uneventful history of confectionery branding.
The design of the wrapping was modelled after the painting with which I illustrated my previous post about the symbolic Russian bear. Russia’s top collector, Tretyakov, bought the painting in 1889, when the paint had barely dried. A few years later, Einem the chocolatier saw it in his collection, and licensed the image for the sweets.
The name of the painting is “The Morning in the Pine Forest”. It may be the most famous painting in Russia. The brand of sweets surely made it the most reproduced one. The painting is admired by millions of people, who may know very little about arts, but their love for the brand spills over. Everyone knows the painter, Ivan Shishkin, even though many would come back with a wrong name of the painting, if someone cared to ask. It has many aliases: “The Clubfooted Bear”, “The Three Bears” (there were a few versions of the wrapping with the fourth cub removed that have created a mess with the number of bears), or “The Bears in the Forest”.
What few people know is that the idea of the painting and the bears were not Shishkin’s. It was one of his buddies, also a painter, who suggested the idea and painted the bears in, after Shishkin completed the forest. The guy’s name was Konstantin Savitsky. Tretyakov (the collector) believed that Savitsky’s signature should be removed from the canvas, because most of the job was done by Shishkin, and bears were not, in his opinion, essential. It’s good he didn’t ask Shishkin to paint the bears over.
For 25% of the sale price, Savitsky ceded his copyright claims, and Shishkin removed Savitsky’s signature from the canvas. It is still possible to see traces of it:
Today, Shishkin is a household name, and Savitsky is known by a few art historians. It should be vice versa. It is the brand of sweets that made Shishkin’s masterpiece the most recognized painting in Russia (equivalent in its fame to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in Europe or his Starry Night in the US). The irony is that the brand and the painting are loved and known for the bears, not the forest.
I am not saying Shishkin’s forest is inferior. He was a great artist, and I wrote about his winter forest here. Perhaps, his summer forest is worth talking about too, for Shishkin’s technique is an interesting example of a counter-impressionist approach.
I will do it in one of my next posts, and, perhaps, Savitsky also deserves a roundup of his most prominent paintings.