Nature morte à la cafetière à la guitare, c. 1918
b. 1881, Moscow, Russia
d. 1958, Paris, France
Serge Férat (né Serguei Zhastrebzov) was a French-Russian artist. He was a close friend to the writer Guillaume Apollinaire, who inducted him into the Parisian creative community of the early twentieth century. Férat grew up outside of Moscow, the son of Russian nobility, and as a young man he studied at the School of Fine Art in Kiev before traveling around Europe with Yelena Zhadviga Mionteska. In 1901, the two settled in Paris, where Mionteska adopted the pseudonym Helène d'Oettingen. She opened the literary salon Boulevard Bertier, which soon became a hub for artists and writers. Férat met Pablo Picasso at the Boulevard Bertier, and Picasso in turn introduced him to Guillaume Apollinaire. Férat and Apollinaire quickly became fast friends; in fact, it was Apollinaire who suggested the name "Serge Férat" as an alias. Férat soon found himself surrounded by an entourage of painters and poets who were attracted, in part, to his ostentatious displays of wealth.
Férat collected works by his peers Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Giorgio de Chirico, and others, and began taking painting classes under the instruction of William-Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian. He exhibited his works at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, 1910, 1911, and 1912, and at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1906, for which he won a prize. In 1914, Apollinaire offered Férat the directorship of his artistic and literary review, Soirées de Paris and, a few years later, asked Férat to design the program, sets, and costumes for his play Les mamelles de Tirésias.
Unfortunately, the convergence of the Russian Revolution, along with his dear friend Apollinaire's death in 1918, left Férat ruined, both emotionally and financially. Apollinaire's illness, compounded with his financial difficulties following the Russian Revolution, affected both Férat and his painting style: the unusually somber colors in Nature morte à la cafetière et à la guitare are perhaps an indication of his internal distress. In the aftermath of these two events, many of Férat's purported friends abandoned him. Férat continued to sell his art, but by the time he died in 1958, he was alone and destitute.