Artwork by Vasilieff

Thesis: The surroundings in Nicholas Vasilieff’s painting The Woman with White Dog indicate that the woman in the painting belongs to a particular social group from high social standing. This paper will assess such aspects of the painting as iconography and symbolism to gain a better understanding of the methods used to portray cross-cultural exchange.


A. Nicholas Vasilieff was a Russian artist born in 1887 in Moscow Russia. Vasilieff’s early life in Moscow was that of Russian Modernist Movement and his tendency towards expressionism. 

B. When Vasilieff migrated to the U.S. in 1923. He moved away from Russian’s Cubo-futurism and developed a satirical painting style of expression that resonated with the 19th-century representation of women.


Iconology, Iconography, and Symbolism

Portrait painting of a woman with a crown holding a white dog which represents a certain group of people in the society

The painting might be representing either a middle or upper-class woman with a white dog or a royal woman because of the crown on her head.

Symbol associations. The painting in itself is symbolic. 

Formal Analysis of the Artwork


The shape of the painting and its background portrays culture and women.

 The painting sits foursquare on the picture surface, and the artwork is done painterly (Kramer). This means that Vasilieff does not hide his medium of painting clearly indicating coloring.  


The artist uses Eastern color for the painting which represents ancient paintings from Russia, and this indicates that he remains true to his heritage even in modern paintings.

The use and effect of the formal elements. The chair where the woman sits is a formal one, and her posture is formal.


The perspective of gendered space. The painting was done in 1946 at a time when gendering of roles was rampant in Europe and America which implies that the artist was conveying a specific message about women in the society. 

Relating to the Readings: The readings talk about the role of women in the society and how they are restricted to the social setting. This painting is also related to women, and this shows the relationship.

Anthological lens. From an anthropological perspective, the painting speaks more about social setting of women, gendered spaces and generally how the society viewed women.  


A. From the artwork, Vasilieff uses various artistic elements to give a strong message about gender and social setting for women roles in the society. Using this painting, I would like to show the public about the strong gendering of roles that was happening in the 19th century. 

B. In this artwork, I would like the public to understand that women were assigned to specific functions and space in the society. For instance, in this painting, this woman is seated on a classic chair holding a white dog, which might indicate the changing of roles in the society because traditionally women were restricted to domestic work.

Work Cited

Kramer, Hilton. “Art: Vasilieff Discovered Again.” The New York Times, 1977, Accessed 3 March 2017.