RUSSIAN ART OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE 19th CENTURY AND EARLY 20th CENTURY
“A picture is a poem without words”
Russia’s national art school took its final shape by the second half of the 19th century: it comprised literature, music, theatre and fine arts, and held by right the pride of place in the 19th – century European culture.
The characteristic traits of this period’s democratic art were concentrated in the work of the artists who formed in 1870 the Association for itinerant Art Exhibitions1 (The Wanderers2). Their leader and ideologist was Ivan Kramskoy, an artist, teacher, art critic and theoretician, who formulated the main principles of Russian realism. The Wanderers were greatly influenced by the ideas of revolutionary democrats, they believed in the art’s social-educational mission. They organized exhibitions all over Russia bringing art to the common people. The Association united almost all the best artists, and its most active period was the 1870s and 80s. Moscow merchant Pavel Tretyakov (1832 – 1898), the founder of the first museum of Russian art, was the main collector and populariser of The Wanderers’ works, guided in his activity by the ideals of serving his people. The Gallery possesses a number of life portraits of outstanding representatives of Russian culture, which belong to the brush of Ivan Kramskov, Vasily Perov, Nicolai Ghe, Ilya Repin, Nicolai Yaroshenko, and other distinguished masters of the period: all these portraits are of great iconographic and artistic value.
Very popular with The Wanderers was genre painting. Many talented artists of the 1860s who developed this trend, later joined the Association (Vasily Perov, Illarion Pryanishnikov). Vasily Maximov and Grigory Myasoyedov handled the peasant theme while Vladimir Makovsky depicted in his works the life of different urban strata.
Nikolai Ghe’s picture ^ tackling the psychological collision of the past, determined to a great extent the further development of The Wanderers’ historical genre. The artists also paid special attention to the Gospel3 theme. The most significant works here were created by Kramskoy and Ghe: they followed Alexander Ivanov’s interpretation of the Gospels “in the contemporary sense”, seeking new connections between the eternal problems and the moral values of their time.
Landscape painters constituted the majority in the Association of Itinerant Artists. Alexei Savrasov’s picture ^ impressed the visitors of the First Wanderers’. Exhibition by the combination of the simple motif and the lofty spirit, thus becoming the lodestar of the movement. Still very popular nowadays are epic canvases by Shishkin, romantic landscapes by Kuinji, as well as Polenov’s works, full of plein-air freshness.
The extraordinary talent of Isaak Levitan, the pupil of Savrasov and Polenov, helped him depict nature’s different states and at the same time reveal deep human feelings.
Some artists who were not members of The Wanderers’ group, but were still influenced by their realistic principles, occupy a special place in the art of the period. Among them are the unsurpassed marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky, poetic landscapest Fyodor Vasilyev and Vasily Vereshchagin,
master of battle scenes.
The 1880s were the heyday of The Wanderers’ movement, connected at that time with the names of Repin, Surikov and Vasnetsov. Their tackling the national theme differed: Ilya Repin was mainly interested in contemporary subjects. His canvas Religious Processin on Easter in Kursk Province was called the encyclopedia of Russian life. This genre picture with its vast panoramic scope and powerful social generalization equals a historical one. In his portraits, Repin continued to develop the democratic tradition and brought to the fore the free and independent spirit of human personality, making each character unique. Repin rejected the pictorial asceticism of the previous decade to enrich his artistic language with plastic and picturesque expressiveness.
Vasilly Surikov was the master of monumental historical compositions in which he showed impressive national tragedies and powerful human characters.
Victor Vasnetsov’s works manifested the artist’s search for the national uniqueness of Russian life, character and history. In his pictures based on idea of nobleness and spiritual chastity. His Alyonushka was the first Russian picture to bring together the poetry and beauty of the fairy-tale motif, and the poetry of natural.
DIfferent as they were in their artistic individualities, great Russian masters of the second half of the 19th century played a most important role in the history of Russian art.
Russian painting of the late 19th century was characterised by a great variety of trends, groupings, abundant in artistic individualities. Common for all of them was their strife for new themes and means of expression, a new outlook on the mission of the artist. The art's objective was not just to reflect the social reality, but to convey the artist's ideals his comprehension of the past and prevision of the future, his ideas, of truth and beauty. In the works of Vrubel and Nesterov, the reality of life gave way to the myth, to the contemplation of the eternal human problems; rebelliousness and faith, negation and humility. And this search brings both artists to different variations of the Art Nouveau style.
At the same time, the younger generation of the Wanderers – Arkhipov, Ivanov and Kasatkin, members of the Union of Russian Artists, impart an unexpected meaning to traditional themes. Patriarchal and peasant Russia is for them the object of admiration rather than criticism. The plein-air system becomes the means of poeticizing for Korovin, making him so close to the Impressionism.
The art of Valentin Serov takes up a special place in the painting of the period. He combines the analytical perspicacity and social orientation of the Wanderers with the experimentating spirit of his time.
The leading group of the turn of the century was the World of Art. The protagonists of the culture of the past, the ,”retrospective dreamers", Alexandre Benois, Konstantin Somov and others introduced the stylization of from into their paintings, thus making them conventional and ironically aloof. Unlike them, Borisov-Musatov's pictures are full of lyricism and spirituality, and remind of painterly elegies.
Musatov's followers led by Pavel Kuznetsov founded the Blue Rose group in 1907. Striving to convey the inner sense of life, its „innermost mystery", they came to the incorporeity of painting, to the language of hints and symbols. This was the way to non-representational art; its founder in Russia was Vasily Kandinsky. In his works, the “liberated" colour becomes the means to express the spiritual essence.
The years 1900 – 1910s are the turning point in Russian art. This is when avant-garde painting was formed, which daringly opposed its idea of the beautiful to the romantic ideals of its predecessors, the idea founded on the traditions of 'non-classical', archaic or folk art, on the discoveries of French Fauvists and Cubists.
A whole spectre of trends is connected with the names of Larionov, Goncharova and Burlyuk – the founders of Neo-Plimitivism, Rayonism and Futurism. In 1910, together with Konchalovsky, Mashkov and Lentulov they organised an exhibition of the Knave of Diamonds. Another avan-garde centre was the Union of Youth which exhibited among others the works of Filonov, Rozanova and Chagall, Carried away by contemporary urbanistic rhythms the artists conveyed them through cubist shifts of the form. Nature and man were treated in a similar manner (Annenkov, Tatlin). The next step towards non-representational painting were compositions with the 'debris' of dissected objects (Rozanova). These were ensued in 1914 – 1915 by Suprematism (Malevich and Klyun) and Constructivism (Tatlin, Popova and Rodchenko), where the destroyed reality was substituted by new abstract geometrical shapes possessing symbolic or materially practical character.
The reaction to the avant-garde extremes was the return of some artists to the classical tradition which combined either elements of Cubism (Boris Grigoryev) or those of icon-painting (Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin). The traditionalists would oppose their contemplation of the dramatic fate of Russia and fidelity to her historic past, to the non-compromise innovations. The painting of the described period is up to now an inexhaustible source of artistic ideas, the model of spiritual freedom and creative search.
Artist Valentin SEROV
Creative work of Valentin Serov (1865 — 1911) is a special part in the history of Russian Art. An even in the cultural life of the last century, his works were a marking stage in Russian painting bringing together the traditions of the Wanderer' with new Russian art trends.
Valentin Serov was born in St. Petersburg on January 7, 1865 to the family of the well-known composer and musical critic Alexander Serov and the well-known pianist, composer and public figure Vilentina Serova. His talent for drawing became apparent at an early age, which was noticed by famous artist llya Repin who began to give the boy drawing lessons. In. 188Л Serov was admitted to the Academy of Arts. Here, working in professor Chistvakov's private studio, he got acquainted with Mikhail Vrubel. In 1385 Valentin Serov went to Europe to study the art of Old Masters. On coming back то Russia the same year he quitted the Academy and started to work on his own.
The Party period of the artist's work was marked by his famous painting GIRL WITH PEACHES (14R7* which became a symbol пот only of a new impressionist style but a new perception of life. GIRL IN THE SUN (1888) — another masterpiece of that period, full of fresh interpretation of the world, became one more yardstick in the history of Russian and world painting. It was in 1888 that he first took part in the exhibition of the Moscow Society of Art Lovers.
Simple rural landscapes of that time and in later years showed the harmony of mart and nature. As Grabar wrote, it was in these very landscapes, OCTOBER. DOMOTKANOVO (1395), YEARLINGS AT A WATERING PLAGE (1904), full of real poetry, that "rural" Serov vividly expressed himself.
The 1890s were characterised by the new perception of reality, discovery of the new lands, the North in particular. In 1894 Serov and his friend, artist Konstantin Korovin, went to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. The same year he visited Norway. In the 90s he created his famous portraits; those of Konstantin Korovin (1891), Isaak Levitan (1893), famous Italian singers Francesco Tamagno (1890), and Angelo Masini (1890), writer Nikolai Leskov (1894), and composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1896). All these masterpieces testified to Serov's great interest in man's individuality, his striving to show the multiple I sides of the creative personality of his contemporaries. In 1894, the artist became member of the Association of the Itinerant Art Exhibitions.
The period of the 1900s was another stage in' the development of Valentin I Serov's creative thinking; it was marked by such outstanding works as portraits of Maxim Gorky, Fyodor Chaliapine, Maria Yermolova (1905 – 1906), which I were vivid embodiments of the painter's search for the expression of man's grandeur. These works of art were followed by complex multi-figured composition – PETER THE GREAT (1907), sceneries for the opera Judith by Alexander Serov, portraits of Genrietta Girshman (1907), Olga Orlova (1911), and dancer Ida Rubinshtein. Serov became very close with the Society "World I of Art" and wok part in Diaghilev's Saisons Russes, celebrated in Paris. In the late 90s he often went to France where he worked on a huge curtain for the ballet Scheherazade. In France he got acquainted with Matisse and Rodin.
In 1907, Serov, together with Bakst, his friend from the "World of Art", made a trip to Greece which inspired him to create his well-known "classical" compositions. Here belong THE RAPE OF EUROPA (1910) and ODESSEUS AND NAUSICAA (1909 – 1911).
The personality of Valentin Serov being an integral part of major historical – cultural and pictorial quest in Russian artistic culture remains an ideal of I creative faithfulness.
Вернуться к конспектам уроков
1 The Association of Itinerant Art Exhibitions – Товарищество передвижных художественных выставок
2Wanderers – передвижники
3 Gospel – religious music that is sung in a “blues style” especially by African Americans
© Стоволосова Валентина Михайловна, 2007
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