The Russian years
He is 20 in 1904 when he enters the Imperial Fine Arts Academy in Saint-Petersburg.
One of his professors there is a good friend of his: the Polish painter
Zionglinski. Roubtzoff specialises, as himself writes it, in interior
paintings. Among them are the famous Red Lounge and Yellow Lounge bought
by the Fine Arts Museum. One of these works has him awarded the Great
Prize of the Academy and a four year scholarship to help him travel in
Spain and Tunisia.
His first orientalist works mostly deal with daily life scenes. His subjects
evoke the domestic chores of housewives: grinding, cooking, spinning or
weaving. Roubtzoff is above all interested in the gestures and attitudes
of his models. He also considers the costume and tatoos.
Trained to observe reality and capable of faithfully reproducing the features
of his models, his talents are often required as a portraitist. His clients
are wealthy families of European settlers. In his portraits, Roubtzoff
does not make show of new ideas but rather initiates a real relation with
From 1915, Roubtzoff starts exploring the country. He goes back to the
South, the part he likes most, in 1918, by a different path from the one
he took the first time. Unlike the other orientalists who mostly stayed
in the East for a while, and usually close to the coast, before going
back, Roubtzoff goes further deep in the country, geographically and culturally.
He travels to the very South, in areas barely inhabited.
The 20's are dedicated to numerous travels across Europe. Roubtzoff often
goes to his Tunisian friends' houses: in England, France, Turkey with
the Orient-Express in 1924. He visits a lot and tries to reflect in his
paintings the local architecture. From 1924 onwards, year of his being
naturalized French, he claims to be "French born in Russia".
The 20's are hence the time when France as a whole represents a major
part of his life and work.