Painting XIX century
Aivazovsky I. K.
Ivan Aivazovsky is the most interesting phenomenon of 19th century art. He gained international fame at the age of 25, was elected a member to five European Academies and was awarded the medal of the French Legion of Honor. Delacroix referred to him in reverence and Turner called him a genius.
Aivazovsky's name is intricately bound with the sea. In his best seascapes (and in a legacy of about 6000, there are some works which condescend to his artistic ability and others which merit singular artistic attention) he has revealed his inner self through the spirit of the times, his ideals of humanism, and the love of freedom. The artist lived by those ideals; the love that he had towards the oppressed, the help he offered and the work that he did for the public good make him an exceptional individual and a true son of his times.
Aivazovsky was born to an Armenian family in the city of Theodosia in the Crimea.
At the age of twenty he graduates from the Art Academy of St. Petersburg with a gold medal. He goes to Italy to continue his studies and returns as an internationally acclaimed seascape painter. Neither financial security nor life in Palace interests him. He returns to his native land, builds a workplace on the seashore and, until the last days of his life, dedicates himself to the work that he loves. He participates in exhibitions all over the world. He gets recognition and glory as a representative of Russian art greatly helps in familiarizing it.
In Aivazovsky's creative work one finds such aspects of Armenian culture and national temperament that it becomes impossible to separate his art from his native people. It is this characteristic that gives Aivazovsky's creativity its unique quality.
Even in the early years, Aivazovsky had a vivid and emotional understanding of reality. He always remained a romantic at heart even through his art could never separate itself from his academic background. The Artist's expressive language was in complete harmony with the techniques that he used. As a young boy Aivazovsky had known the sea, had loved it passionately and had known the secrets of its movements. It was this memory, together with his imagination, that was responsible for his best works. Rather than merely "reproduce" the sea, Aivazovsky tells us its fables and thus makes a symbolic statement.
Aivazovsky made his mark in contemporary art through his own rules and his own world view; he was true both to his academic background and his romantic inclinations.
The concept of light is all important to Aivazovsky. The perceptive viewer will observe that while painting the waves, clouds or sky space, the artist's emphasis is on the light. In Aivazovsky's art light is the eternal symbol for life, hope and faith. This is light the creator, the concept of which has its roots deep down in Armenian culture and its continuity in the next generation of Armenian artists.
To eliminate "The Armenian Question", Sultan Abdul Hamid, in 1895, ordered a series of massacres which claimed the life of hundreds of thousands of Armenians. Numerous Armenian cultural monuments were burned or destroyed. This tragic reality shocked the artist: "My heart is full of grief for our ill-fated people; for this tragic and unprecedented massacre", he wrote to the Armenian Catholicos Khrimian. He threw into the sea the medal that the Sultan had given him years before. He painted and exhibited canvases depicting the massacre. It was with pain and grief that he painted his last canvas "The Explosion of the Turkish Ship", which he could not finish. The date was May 2nd, 1900.
Aivazovsky's house in Theodosia became a place for artistic pilgrimage. Armenian artists were invited there and actors and musicians performed there. It was there that artists like Bashinjagyan, Sureniants, Makhokhian and Shabanian started their creative life. Aivazovsky's dream was to create a union of Armenian artists from all over the world.
During his long period of creative life, and especially after 1868, Aivazovsky executed tens of canvases with Armenian themes. His landscapes depicting life in Tbilisi, Lake Sevan and Mount Ararat popularized the genre in Armenian art. He also had a series of works with themes from he bible and from ancient Armenian history. Two of his works, which were exhibited in the Church in Theodosia and have inspired patriotism ever since, are reproduced here for the first time.
According to his wishes, Aivazovsky was buried in the Armenian Church of St. Sarkis in Theodosia. His tombstone has a quotation from historian Khorenatsi's "History of Armenians" - "Born a mortal, he left immortal memories". The "memories" condense in them the spirit of the times and the most precious spirit of all time - that of Humanism.
Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky was one of the most popular artists of his times.
Borisov-Musatov V. E.
Vikior Borisov-Musatov, who became known as the creator of what one might call elegies in painting was the son of a railway official and was born in Saratov. When he was three he fell and damaged his spinal cord, and this childhood injury had a certain effect on the future artist's character: even at an early age he tended to be dreamy and reserved and liked to be alone.
In 1884 Borisov-Musatov entered the Saratov college, where he was taught drawings by F. Vasiliev, and later by V. Konovalov, who arrived from St. Petersburg. Both teachers noticed his unusual abilities, and soon Borisov-Musatov left the college to concentrate himself seriously to painting. From Konovalov he received his first technical skills and his first aesthetic values. At this period he drew a great deal (mostly domestic scenes) and painted the picture "A Window" (1886), which gives a detailed, but almost illusory impression of a corner of the garden as seen from a window of his house.
In August 1890 the young artist went to Moscow and joined the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Dissatisfied with his studies there, he left after a year for St.Petersburg where he attended the Academy as an external student and also the private studio of the well-known teacher Pavel Chistyakov. In the spring of 1893, after an operation, the artist had to leave St. Petersburg because of its climate and returned to Moscow and the School there.
Borisov-Musatov usually spent the summers in Saratov, where he painted a large number of etudes, principally landscapes. His success in painting from nature is evident in the picture *May Flowers* (1894, RM). In this sunny landscape one can feel the immediate fresh perception of life which was so characteristic of Borisov-Musatov's work of this period.
In the autumn of 1895 the artist went to Paris. In order to complete his artistic training he studied under the historical painter and teacher Fernand Cormon - did a lot of drawing, and visited the Louvre?where he particularly admired the Botticellis. Of the French artists he met, he was closest to Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.
On his return to Russia three years later he settled once more in Saratov. From now on his works began to show his own distinctive hand, his own vision of the world.
Borisov-Musatov's career in art came on the threshold of a new century?a complex period, rich in great creative personalities. And like Vrubel, Nesterov, Serov and Levitan, he developed a distinctive, highly original approach to art.
The real beginning of his career can be considered his "Self-Portrait with Sister" (1898), for which there is no analogy in Russian art. The picture's composition is unusual?in the center is a pensive young girl in an old-fashioned white dress, while the figure of the artist is partly lopped off by the edge of the canvas. This introduces an element of fortuitousness, recalling the pictures of the impressionists. The style of painting is new; colour and form are
generalized? especially in the background landscape, which resembles theatrical scenery. In this picture we see for the first time an expression of Borisov-Musatov's dream of a perfect harmonious world; we see his attempt to escape from the disorder of reality into an ideal world of his imagination.This mood, which affected many members of the Russian intelligentsia at the turn of the century, became the central theme of Borisov-Musatov's art. His works
do not reflect any concrete historical period: 'it is just a beautiful age', as the artist himself said.
The self-portrait was followed by a cycle of lyrical pictures?"An Autumn Motif" (1899, Radishchev Art Museum, Saratov), "Untitled Motif" (1900), "Harmony" (1900, in collection of A. V. Gordon, Moscow). Here Borisov-Musatov conveys the atmosphere of autumn's fading beauty and the quietness of old country-estates; there is an aroma of past life, and the sad poetry of a love long departed. The content of these works was to some degree inspired by his summer trips to the estate of Sleptsovka, where he visited his godfather, who was steward there; here, for the first time, he deeply felt the charm of times gone by.
Borisov-Musalov reached the peak of his talent at the beginning of the twentieth century, when he produced such works as "Spring" (1898-1901). "Tapestry" (1901), "The Pool" (1902) and "Emerald Necklace" (1903-1904).
This new creative period was opened by the picture *Spring* which, though completed only in 1901, had been planned some time before. In this work the artist completely got rid of all elements of action or narrative. The emotive imagery is the result of the musical lines and the soft full colours. Everything is in delicate harmony: the white cherry blossoms, the down of dandelions in the fresh spring grass, the pink glow of the sky and the light figure of a girl in a
lilac dress and red shawl.
In the summer of 1901 the artist visited Zubrilovka, an estate owned by the Prozorovsky-Golitsyn princes. From that time on the landscape of the Zubrilovka park was a constant source of inspiration and was incorporated ?poeticized by the artist's rich imagination in many of his works. Impressions of this trip found their way into the picture "Tapestry". Amid the decoratively reproduced vegetation of the park are two women, caught in a light, elegant movement, entirely at one with the landscape. The title of the picture is significant: both the landscape and the figures are painted in a very generalized flat manner, the colouring consists of large patches of soft muled shades, and all this creates a shadowy, mirage-like impression. At the same time the decorativeness and delicacy of the colouring evoke associations with the noble colours of an antique tapestry. The success of the painting at an exhibition of the Moscow Fellowship of Artists, which Borisov-Musatov joined in 1899, helped greatly to bring about a change in people's attitudes to his works, which were not at first understood or appreciated.
The artist's real masterpiece was "The Pool", in which his poetic visions were expressed in a perfect complete form. The picture was painted at a happy time in the artist's life, when the girl he had long loved agreed to marry him. In the summer of 1902 he stayed at Zubrilovka with his sister Lena and his fiancee V. Alexandrova, and both girls posed for etudes and sketches for the picture. In "The Pool" everything is balanced and conforms to a distinct complex musical rhythm of lines and shapes. The colouring too, is strictly rhythmical, based on the repetition of blues, soft lilacs and greens in various combinations. The painting is both monumental and lyrical; the most intimate workings of the artist's soul find expression in an arrested wonderful moment, in a bewitching magical world of beauty. In 1903-04 Borisov-Musatov painted the unusual panel entitled "Emerald Necklace", in which the female
figures moving against a background of variegated green are almost woven into the pattern of grasses and leaves. Nature and man are so fused together that an impression arises of the naturalness and primitiveness of being.
In 1903 Borisov-Musatov painted two more canvases: "A Walk at Sunset", which is serene and calm in mood, and "Ghosts", a sombre work, full of melancholy and inner tension. "Zubrilovka Park" with women's shadows now turns into a hazy mystical apparition: the fading colours seem to vibrate and blur outlines.
In the spring of 1903 the artist married, and in December he moved with his wife to Podolsk, nearer to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Early in 1903 Borisov-Musalov had joined the Union of Russian Artists, which was organized in Moscow by a group of artists who left the 'World of Art' society. His works were now gaining fame not only in Russia but also abroad: in Germany and France, for example, there were successful exhibitions of his works.
More and more Borisov-Musatov was acquiring a taste for monumental paintings, and in 1904-05 he did studies for decorative murals. The first group of studies was done for a competition run by the Moscow Electric Traction Board and was unsuccessful, but the second cycle?commissioned for a private house?roused great interest. It consisted of four studies around the theme of the seasons?"Spring Tale", "Summer Melody", "Autumn Evening" and "The Deity's Dream". All are allegorical, and in their emotionality they recall Borisov-Musatov's earlier works. The studies were not destined to be turned into murals, however. In the spring of 1905 the artist left with his wife and daughter for Tarusa on the Oka, where the last months of his life and work passed. At Tarusa he painted his best landscapes: "On the Balcony; Tarusa" (1905), "A Nut-Tree" (1905) and "Autumn Song" (1905), all of which are executed in gentle, melting colours and have great power of generalization. Their basic theme? the fading of nature into autumn?was close to the artist's state of mind.
At Tarusa Borisov-Musatov produced his final work?a large water-color entitled "Requiem" (1905), dedicated to the memory of his friend P. Yu. Stanyukovich, the wife of the well-known writer, after her early death. Requiem is a sad solemn work, symbolically conveying the joys and sorrows of human life.
The work was fated to be the painter's own requiem too. On the night of 25-26 October 1905 Borisov-Musatov passed away. He was buried in Tarusa, on a high bank over the River Oka.
Briullov K. P.
Karl Pavlovich Briullov is Russian painter, portraitist, genrist.
When Briullov was born in 1799, the Neoclassical style in Russia still reigned, but the period of its greatest productivity and popularity was over. Perhaps this influenced Briullov's early distaste for the return to classicism; at any rate, despite his education at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts (1809-1821), Briullov never fully embraced the style taught by the Academy. After distinguishing himself as a promising and imaginative student and finishing his education, he left Russia for Rome. Here he worked until 1835 as a portraitist and genre painter, though his fame as an artist came when he got involved in historical painting. His most famous work, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830-1833), created a sensation in Italy and established Briullov as one of the finest painters of his day.
The topic is classical, but his dramatic treatment and generous use of chiaroscuro render it somewhat farther advanced from the neoclassical style. In fact, The Last Day of Pompeii exemplifies many of the characteristics of romanticism as it manifests itself in Russian art, including drama, realism tempered with idealism, increased interest in nature, and a zealous fondness for historical subjects. According to Hamilton, Sir Walter Scott is reported to have looked at the painting for an hour and declared afterwards that it "wasn't a painting, but an epic". Although by today's standards we may find the painting somewhat theatrical and lacking in life, it is certainly an important achievement for an artist in the early nineteenth century, and a significant step in the development of historical painting in Russia.
Soon after The Last Day of Pompeii, Briullov returned to Russia , where he was joyously received. While teaching at the Academy (1836-1848) he continued his own artistic efforts, but was unable to produce a work comparable to his "masterpiece." His portrait painting, however, was more successful, at least in retrospect. His portrait style combined a neoclassical simplicity with a romantic tendency that fused well, and his penchant for realism was satisfied with an intriguing level of psychological penetration. A transitional figure between Russian neoclassicism and romanticism, Briullov may be considered the first Russian artist of international fame
Fedotov P. A.
Pavel Andreyevich Fedotov (1815-1852)
Pavel Andreevich Fedotov was born in Moscow, in 1815, the son of a retired officer. Graduating from the Moscow Cadet School, he served for ten years in the Finland Regiment of the Imperial Guards in St. Petersburg. When still in the Army, Fedotov, like many of his fellow-officers, was concerned in art and occupied his leisure with playing the flute, taking part in amateur performances, and doing a lot of drawing and painting. Amateurism, thriving in the first half of the 19th century, largely determined the tastes of the Russian educated milieu and became a reserve for professional art. At one time, Fedotov attended the evening classes at the Academy of Fine Arts. As a student he was not particularly outstanding, yet, in the Army, he gained a reputation as a regiment painter by his portraits of officers and regiment scenes. Fedotov had already mastered the technique of the then popular watercolor portrait. He began to turn to caricature, but satirical subjects, like that of the Police Commissary's Reception Room the Night before a Holiday (1837), were rare. At that early period Fedotov preferred to depict what he had seen at firsthand enjoying every manifestation of life's beauty. He had not yet started painting in oils, limiting himself entirely to graphic techniques (pencil and watercolor).
The career of a regiment painter, however attractive, did not appeal to Fedotov, who understood that a true creative artist should devote himself to art completely. In 1844, he retired to give himself entirely to painting. It wasn't an easy decision - his officer's salary was his only income, from which he also had to support his kin in Moscow. Fedotov concentrated his effort on portraiture, he painted small portraits, mostly of his friends or their relations. Thus he produced a series of portraits showings the members of the family of Zhdanovich, Fedotov's friend in the regiment. The portraits, in no way ceremonial, are simple and unsophisticated; they all have an air of the genre and are characterized by a deep insight into the model. The Portrait of Natalia Zhdanovich at the Harpsichord (c. 1850) is especially striking by its serenity and perfect spiritual harmony, and revels the painter's concern with the inner life of a human being.
Fedotov began to paint in oils in 1846, his first attempt at the new technique and also his first genre composition, the Newly Decorated, Difficult Bride, Untimely Guest, are full of satire and criticism. The supreme achievement of this period of the artist's maturity is the Major's Marriage Proposal (1851). Fedotov's works were recognized as a new word in art at the exhibitions of 1849 and 1850 in St. Petersburg and Moscow and brought the painter success that promised his prosperity and, hence, the possibility to continue his work.
However, after the trial of the Petrashevsky social-democratic group, with which he was closely associated, Fedotov found himself in isolation. Fedotov wrote in one of his letters, 'The furor my works created: appears to have been a gnat's buzz rather than a thunder, since at the time, a real thunder was heard from the West when thrones were shaking in Europe.' To the revolutionary events of 1848 and 1949 in Europe the Tsarist government responded by persecutions against freedom of thought in Russia. Sharing the fate of the many democratic-minded intelligensia, Fedotov was crushed by the reactionary tide. But before he perished, Fedotov had produced his, probably, best works imbued with a feeling of desperate sorrow gradually growing until it reached its climax in the Encore, Encore!, Gamblers, and Young Widow.
In 1852, after a period of suffering, he died in a mental clinic.
Ivanov A. A.
Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806-1858)
He was artist - painter, master of historical picture and landscape, author of a huge natural picturesque and graphic heritage; first plein-airist; representative of an idealistic direction.
Alexander Andreevich Ivanov was born in 1806 in St. Petersburg. His father, Andrey Ivanov, was an artist, the professor of the Academy of Arts . It was his father who first taught Alexander art, and since 1817 till 1824 he studied in the Academy of Arts. One of his first notable works, made while in the Academy, was Priam Asking Achilles to Return Hector's Body (1824). For the picture Joseph Interprets the Butler's and the Baker's Dreams in a Prison (1827) he was awarded a Major Gold Medal by the Society for the Promotion of Artists and sent to Italy as a pensioner of that society.
He went to Italy in 1830 and after 1831, settled in Rome. He travelled all over Italy, studying the masterpieces of art. During his first years he painted Apollo, Hyacinth and Cypariss Singing and Playing Music (1831-1834) and The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene (1834-1836) which were greatly appreciated by his contemporaries and approved of by his sponsors in St. Petersburg. At about 1833 Ivanov conceived a plan to paint a large picture The Appearance of Christ to the People (1837-1857). This picture truly became the work of his life, he worked on it for twenty years. Over 100 sketches, numerous detail drawings, and large-scale designs, most of them in oil, preceded the monumental composition. Its size is 540 x 750 cm (18' x 25'). In the foreground of the picture there is a number of male figures, some already undressed, awaiting to be baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. While John the Baptist, in his garb of animal skin under a long mantle, a crosier in his left hand, turns and raises his arms dramatically towards the lone figure of Christ, who appears on a rocky rise in the middle ground, behind him a broad plain and distant mountains.
Ivanov also painted several genre pictures such as Ave Maria (1839), Bridegroom Buying a Ring for His Fiancee (1839) and very beautiful landscape studies: Olives Near Cemetery in Albano. New Moon (1842-1846), A Tree Branch (1840s-1850s), Via Appia (1845), Water and Stones Near Palacculo (1850s). In the 1850s, he conceived another grandiose plan to paint a series of large frescos illustrating the Bible, in a palace specially built for this purpose. In preparation to this project he painted dozens of sketches in watercolour with various scenes from the Bible. Ivanov died from cholera in St. Petersburg in 1858, several month after his return to Russia.
Kiprensky O. A.
Orest Kiprensky, the great portraitist of the early ninteenth century, was born in the Oranienbaum district of Petersburg Gubernia, on an estate belonging to the landowner A.S. Diakonov. The future artist was entered in the register of Koporye church as the illigitimate son of the peasant Anna Gavrilova, who a year after the birth of her son was married to the landowner's manservant Adam Schwalbe.
In 1788 Kiprensky was sent to the school run by the Academy of Arts and nine years later he entered the class of historical painting, which was usually reserved for pupils who displayed some ability. His teachers were the professor of historical painting G.I. Udryumov and the master of profound and decorative painting Gabriel-Francois de Doyen.
The artists won his first gold medal in 1805 for the historical canvas Dmitry Donskoi on Sustaining Victory over Mamai (RM). But it was not historical paintings that brought him fame.
As early as 1804 Kiprensky painted one of his most talented works - a portrait of his father, Adam Schwalbe (RM). The portrait is impressive because of its remarkable maturity, its deep understanding of human nature, and the level of mastery attained at such an early stage in the artist's career. We see a self-willed man, full of dignity and spiritual strength. The work is realised in warm colours with free sweeping brushwork, built on contrasts of light and shade.
This brilliant portrait impressed Kiprensky's contemporaries. In 1830 it was displayed at an art exhibition in Naples and, as the artist himself wrote, 'the Academy here concocted the following ideas ... some considered the portrait of my father a Rubens masterpiece, others thought it was a Van Dyck, while a certain Albertini went as far as Rembrandt!'
The artist's early works included a Self-Portrait (1808, RM). The easy-going, elevated character of this inspired image, and the distinctive style of painting and composition were clear signs of a new attitude to portraitures.
Both the personality and the work of the artist were suffused with the spirit of the liberal first decade of the nineteenth century. Kiprensky was a romantic artist, the first of the portraits to catch the tenor of the age and to poeticise the value and beauty of man's spiritual wealth. 'Who said that feelings deceive us?' he wrote in an album of drawings.
The year 1808 saw the start of Kipensky's friendship with the well-known collector and art patron A.R. Tomilov, whose house was one of the centers of artistic life in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
It was around this time that the artist painted portaits of A.R. Tomilov (1808, RM), I.V. Kusov (1808, RM), A.IKorsakov (1808, RM) and also another Self-Portrait (1809, TG).
On 27 February 1809 Kiprensky left for Moscow, where he was to help Ivan Martos complete his work on the monument to Minin and Pozharsky. In Moscow the artist's contact widened. In Rastopchin's salon and at Mme Muravyova's house, he met the poets K.N.Batyushkov, P.A. Vyazemsky, V.A. Zhukovsky, S.P. Marin, and also Denis and Yevgraf Davydov. He was enormously influenced by the atmosphere of such meetings and creative discussions, by Rastopchin's private art gallery (which had something like 300 exhibits, including pictures by Velazquez, Van Dyck and Tintoretto) and by the pre-war mood of Russia society.
Abounding in impressions, Kiprensky's life in Moscow was conducive to intensive artistic activity. 'Kiprensky is half-crazed by his work and by his imagination,' wrote Rastopchin to the conference secretary of the Academy of Arts, A.F.Labzin.
Among the works of the Moskow period, 1809-1812, are portaits of A.A. Chelishchev (1810-1811, TG) Ye. P. Rastopchina (1809, TG) and Ye. V. Davydov (1809, RM) In his full-dress portrait of Ye. V. Davydov, a hero of the 1812 war decorated with the gold sword for his bravery, Kiprensky strove to depict a man of a progressive turn of mind, a forerunner of new social forces in Russia. The attraction of the portrait lies in the nobility, dignity and emotional elevation of the character.
In March 1812 Kiprensky returned to St. Petersburg. For several of his portraits - including those of Ye. V. Davydov, Prince Oldenburgsky, I. A. Gagarin and A.I.Kusov - he was awarded the title of academian of portrait painting.
Kiprensky reached his peak as a portraitist at the time of the 1812 war. As though in a rush to record the heroes of the war, Kiprensky made numerous pencil drawings. A series of graphic portraits depicted the artist's friends: the brothers M. and A. Lanskoi, General Chaplits, the home guard A.P. Tomilov and P.A. Olenin, the poets KN. Batyushkov, I.I. Kozlov and V.A. Zhukovsky, and the fable-writer I.A.Krylov.
Some of Kiprensky's best painting also date from this time - including his masterly portrait of D.N. Khvostova.
During his years in Italy (1816-1823) the artist continued to work intensively. However, his mood and to some extent his works of this period were affected by the hostile attitude towards him of the civil servants in the Russian embassy in Rome, who kept an eye on their pensioners, and by the upheavals of the revolution in Italy. Among his best works of these years were his portrait of A.M. Golitsyn, his pencil portrait of S.S. Scherbatova and his famous Self-Portrait of 1819, wich was commissioned by the Firence Academy for the Uffici Gallery.
This self-portrait brings out new traits of the painter's work. Here, nothing remains of the sparkling immediacy and thirst for life that were the keynote of his earlier self-portrait. The world around him had lost its joyful attraction and was daubed in sombre hues. Kiprensky was acutely aware of the dichotomy between ideals and reality.
In July 1823 Kiprensky returned to his home-land, which was going through a period of cruel reaction under the auspices of the chairman of the Military Department Arakcheyev. Arakcheyev and Minister Guriev were made honorary members of the Academy of Arts. 'The Academy,' wrote Kiprensky on his return to St Petersburg, 'has grown mouldy.'
The suppression of the Decembrist Uprising in 1825 threw Kiprensky into a state of grief and disillusion. There is no information available on the artist's attitude to the Decembrists' secret society, but he did meet many of them at the house of the officer of household cavalry D.N. Sheremetiev, and was most certainly deeply moved by their fate, as was a considerable part of the Russian society.
There was a general feeling of indignation at the fact that Kiprensky, who had made such impressively realistic drawings and paintings of participants in the 1812 War, was not asked to paint portraits for the official 1812 War Gallery. Alexander I passed over other Russian artists too, and gave the comission to the English artist George Dawe.
'I went to Italy, ' wrote Kiprensky, 'with the sole purpose of bringing to Russia the fruits of a more mature talent, but instead, on my return I was covered by the envy of my adversaries. Ignoring this envy, I always strode firmly onwards, knowing that sooner or later time always reveals the truth.'
At the end of the twenties he again left for Italy. His marriage to his former pupil and inspiration Maria Falcucci failed to brighten up the last years of his life.
Orest Kiprensky died on 5 October 1836 and was buried in Rome.
'The celebrated Kiprensky has died,' wrote the artit A.A. Ivanov from Italy. He was the first to bring a Russian name to Europe... Kiprensky was never decorated and never granted favours by the Court - and proud to seek such things.'
Konstantin Alexeyevich Korovin (1861-1939)
He was Russian painter, master of realistic plein-air painting. He painted emotional landscapes and conversations. Under influence of impressionism he has developed a free decorative manner. Korovin created colourful entertainment theatrical scenery.
Konstantin Korovin was born in Moscow on December 5th, 1861 into the family of businessmen. His grandfather, a self-made man was the founder of the family business; his father, Alexey Mikhailovich, after graduating from the University had to go into business as well, though he never liked it and was more interested in art and music. As a result, soon after the grandfather's death the family went bankrupt and had to move into the country. Constantin and his younger brother, Sergey, also a future artist, were brought up in an artistic atmosphere, they received drawing and painting lessons since their childhood.
In 1875, Constantin entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, among his teachers were I. Pryanishnikov, E. Sorokin, V. Perov, and A. Savrasov. 'These fair and kind teachers left deep traces in my soul. They are all dead now; and I remember them with admiration and a sad love; they seem alive, before me, these pure and honest people:' At School Korovin became friends with I. Levitan.
In 1881-1882, Korovin spent a year at the Academy in St. Petersburg, but returned disappointed to Moscow. That year a new professor came to the Moscow School, a distinguished painter Vasily Polenov, who impressed his students not only with his painting but also with his knowledge and enthusiastic attitude towards contemporary Western art, especially French. Korovin stayed with the new teacher at the Moscow School until 1886. Polenov introduced his student to the famous patron of arts Savva Mamontov and his Abramtsevo group. The group included artists who favored the school of national romanticism in Russia. They were the first in the country to stage operas, produce experimental architectural works and design books in the new ('neo-Russian') style. They projected the image of a universal artist: painter, furniture and tableware designer, designer of stage costumes and settings, architect. With Polenov's recommendation S. Mamontov invited Korovin to work for his private opera. Thus Korovin got engaged with theatre, for which he worked till the end of his life. Korovin was the first to introduce the Impressionist style on stage.
In 1885, Korovin made his first of many trips to Paris and Spain. 'Paris was a shock for me: Impressionists: in them I found everything for what I was scolded back at home, in Moscow.' In 1888, Korovin traveled with S. Mamontov to Italy, then visited Spain, where he painted one of his best works In Front of the Balcony: Leonora and Ampara. The artist traveled widely within Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia, exhibited with the Itinerants' Society of Traveling Exhibitions ('Wanderers'), painting in an Impressionist and later an Art Nouveau style.
In the 1890s, Korovin became very active in the World of Art group ('Mir Iskusstva'). These artists adopted a new aesthetic approach to the world's artistic heritage; they popularized the traditions of folk art and of Russian art of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
In 1896, Korovin designed, to great acclaim, the pavilion of the All-Russian Exhibition of Arts and Crafts at Nizhnii Novgorod. In 1900, he designed the decorations for the Central Asia section of the Paris World Fair; the same year he was awarded the Legion of Honour.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Korovin began to take a more close interest in the theatre. Working for the Bolshoi theatre he upheld new principles in designing operas and ballets. His evolution as a stage artist is directly linked to his mature painting. The peculiar features of the Russian Impressionist school became increasingly pronounced in his works of this period: the predilection for decorative effects, the emphatically expressive coloristic solutions and the pronounced romantic note. Korovin's subjects were quite diverse, they included townscapes and rural landscapes, portraits and still lifes.
The first years of the 20th century were undoubtedly the peak of his creative career. In 1905, Korovin received the title of the Academician of Painting, and in 1909-1913 taught at the Moscow School of Painting.
In 1923, Korovin left Russia never to return. He spent the last 15 years of his life in France supported by Shalyapin, he worked for theatre as a stage designer. He also became famous as a book illustrator, but this period is obviously inferior to his former achievements.
The artist died on September 11th, 1939 in Paris.
Konstantin Korovin always protested against attempts to place him into any artistic school or movement. Nevertheless he became the first Russian Impressionist painter, moreover, he was the creator of the national variant of this International school.
Kramskoy I. N.
Ivan Nikolayevich Kramskoy (1837 - 1887)
He was artist -painter, master of a historical, fantastic picture, theorist of art, art critic, teacher, representative of critical realism.
Ivan Nikolayevich Kramskoy is an outstanding representative of the democratic culture in Russia of the second half of the 19th century. He is known as a wonderful painter and draughtsman, a remarkable art critic and theoretician of art, a talented teacher. Besides, he was an originator and ardent inspirer of the first independent artistic organizations, namely the Itinerants' Society of Traveling Exhibitions and St. Petersburg Team of Artists, which had played an important part in the development of art in Russia.
Born into the family of a provincial state clerk, Kramskoy had no opportunity to study art during childhood. At the age of 15 he became an apprentice to an icon-painter, a year later a photographer took him as a retoucher. Only in 1857, he managed to come to St. Petersburg and enter the Academy of Arts. There he soon became a popular leader among the students. In 1863, he was among the 14 best graduates who refused to fulfill the diploma work on a given mythological theme. All 14 were dismissed from the Academy, and Kramskoy headed the St. Petersburg Team of Artists, a commune where artists shared studios and household. The young wife of Kramskoy, Sophia Nikolayevna, née Prokhorova, took care of their mutual household.
Ivan Kramskoy is famous mainly as a portraitist; his portraits of the 60s are not large, and very often monochrome, reminding of photographs. At the same period (1863-68) Kramskoy taught in The Drawing School of the Society for Promoting of the Artists; his pupils, among others, were Iliya Repin and Nicolay Yaroshenko.
Since 1869, Kramskoy started to receive regular commissions from the collector of Russian art Pavel Tretyakov. Tretyakov commissioned portraits of personalities of Russian culture and science. These portraits have become an innate part of the Russian art and social history. For Kramskoy it was a feat to preserve, for the generations to come, the likeliness of his outstanding contemporaries. Portrait of the Author Ivan Goncharov. Portrait of the Sculptor Mark Antokolsky. Portrait of Dmitry Mendeleyev.
In 1869, St. Petersburg Academy chose him an academician. The same year he made his first trip abroad: he visited Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Düsseldorf, Antwerp, Paris, and Vienna, where he studied famous art collections. After his return to Russia he started organizing the Itinerants' Society of Traveling Exhibitions. The aim of the Society was:
1) to give the opportunity to everybody in Russia to get acquainted with its contemporary art;
2) to develop love for art in Russian society;
3) to make selling their works easier for the artists.
In 1872 Kramskoy painted his masterpiece Christ in the Desert, a traditional topic, yet, in Kramskoy's work it acquired new social interpretation and deep philosophical meaning. Christ in the Desert carried the idea of man's moral duty to society and therefore it greatly impressed the painter's contemporaries, who found a definite affinity to their attitudes and feelings in it in the crucial period of Russian history, which demanded personal heroism and sacrifice for the sake of people. 'The best Christ I ever saw'- Leo Tolstoy.
In 1873 Tretyakov commissioned the Portrait of Leo Tolstoy for his gallery. Tolstoy had refused several times. 'Please use all your charm to persuade him ', wrote Tretyakov to Kramskoy. And Kramskoy managed to do this, the writer and the artist were both impressed by each other's personalities. Kramskoy painted one of the best of all Tolstoy's portraits. Tolstoy was working on Anna Karenina at the time and he used Kramskoy's character as one of the secondary personages in the novel - the artist Mikhailov.
Kramskoy always understood the capturing charm of color, admired Alexander Ivanov, his younger contemporaries - Repin, Vasiliyev, Polenov, French Impressionists - ':Just a small group of laughed at painters, but the future belongs to them:', he wrote in the 70s about his French colleagues. But he himself was a poor colorist. Once during the work on the portrait of Adrian Prakhov, the mother of the sitter saw the portrait after the first day of painting and impressed by it, took it away and did not allow Kramskoy to finish it, she said that if the artist went on working he would dry it as usual. Kramskoy himself understood his drawbacks and limits, but was afraid to change his manner.
The artist died on 24 March 1887 during his work on the portrait of Doctor Rauhphus with brush in his hand.
Kramskoy's works embody the high moral and social ideals of his time. For him, artistic truth and beauty, moral and aesthetic values were inseparable. His works greatly influenced his contemporaries' ideology. Today they still affect people because the artist's attitude to life was based on love and respect of man, on his belief in truth and justice.
Kuinji A. I.
Arkhip Ivanovich Kuinji (1842 - 1910)
He was artist - painter, landscape painter, academician, the head of a class of landscape and perspective painting of the Academy of arts. The representative of a romantic direction of Russian painting of the second half of nineteenth century.
The Russian landscape painter Arkhip Ivanovich Kuinji was born in 1842 in the town of Mariupol on the Azov Sea in the South of Russia. Kuinji was of Greek descent - during the reign of Catherine II his ancestors, together with other Greek refugees, settled near the Azov Sea.
Kuinji lacked a formal education, but his eminent gift helped him attain a notable success in art. He evidently was allowed to attend classes at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, had training in the workshop of the famous marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky, visited the classes of the Society of Art Lovers. In 1868, having passed exams in general education and special subjects at the Academy of Arts, Kuinji received a diploma of a freelance artist for his independent work. His earlier paintings Autumn Weather (1870), Lake Ladoga (1870) and On the Valaam Island (1873) brought him first recognition.
In 1873, Kuinji traveled around Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria and thoroughly studied the works of great masters. On his return, however, he creates works which were absolutely unlike those he had seen in European museums.
His Ukrainian Night (1876) opened a new romantic stage in his work. He used special light effects to paint nature and achieved such astonishing results, that people, who saw the picture for the first time at an exhibition, tried to check its back, if there was any special source of light. Exhibited at the Paris World Fair in 1878 The Ukranian Night attracted the attention of the eminent French critics.
Kuinji developed a new vision in his next painting A Birch Grove (1879). It is both realistic and conventionalized; it looks as a condensed essence of reality. In 1880, he completed Moonlit Night on Dnieper (1880). The picture was a great success. Kuinji became an idol of the public. But he was not understood by his colleagues who saw in his art only illusory color effects, did not support his romantic searching. Probably it was the reason of his withdrawal from all exhibitions and public arrangements. He worked hard in his studio, experimenting much, but only his close friends saw his works.
In 1894, he accepted an invitation to become a professor of the Academy. He was very fond of teaching and his students admired him. Among Kuinji's pupils were several prominent artists such as N. Rerikh, K. Bogaevskiy, A. Rilov, V. Purvit and others. Unfortunately his career of a professor did not last long, he was dismissed for supporting students in their protests against authorities. But he continued to teach his students privately, and then paid for their trip around Europe. Later he presented the Academy with a big sum of money, the interest from which was to be used for awards to young painters.
In 1909, he founded The Kuinji Society, an independent association of painters, to which he left all his pictures and property. The next year he died.
The other well-known works of Kuinji are A Birch Grove (1879), with one of its late versions A Birch Grove (1901), The North (1879), After a Rain (1879), Sea. The Crimea. (1898-1908), Elbrus in the Evening. (1898-1908), Sunset (1890-1895), Rainbow (1900-1905), Night Grazing (1905-1908).
Levitan I. I.
Isaak Ilyich Levitan (1860 - 1900)
He was artist - painter, landscape painter, master of a lyrical landscape; teacher of the Moscow school of painting, sculpturing and architecture; representative of realistic school.
Levitan was born in Kibarta, near Verzhbolovo Station, in Suvalk province (today Kibartay, Lithuania) on August 30, 1860 and died in Moscow on August 4, 1900. He is considered perhaps the greatest landscape painter of Russia. He was born in a poor Jewish family, but was able to study, from 1873 to 1875, at the famous Moscow School of Painting and Architecture where his talent for landscape painting became evident. He was taught by Vasily Perov, Aleksei Savrasov and Vasily Polenov. The influence of the last two on Levitan's work is particularly significant. His first attempts at landscape painting clearly show the influence of Savrasov. By 1879 Levitan developed his own style and his pictures were enthusiastically received at exhibitions. During the 1880s Levitan explored different styles, trying to follow Ivan Shishkin and the French Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. This marked a new step in the development of the painter. About 1883 Levitan became acquainted with the writer Anton Chekhov, whose brother had been a colleague of Levitan at the Moscow School of Painting. This relationship would turn into a life-long friendship. In the summer of 1884 Levitan made his first trip to the Crimea, and in 1887 to the Volga. In this region he managed to capture the poetry and emotion of the landscape in an unprecedented manner. In the 1890s Levitan travelled extensively through Europe. As he was travelling, he sketched the landscapes and familiarized himself with working en plein air. More importantly, he discovered the world of the Parisian Impressionists. A good example of the Impressionist or even Post-impressionist influence on Levitan is one of his last paintings, The Lake: Russia (1899-1900), in which the free and dynamic brushstrokes and the brightness of colors indicate perhaps Levitan's familiarity with the work of Vincent Van Gogh. The increasing success of the painter was, however, counterbalanced by the growing anti-semitism in Russia. In September 1892, in connection with the expulsion of the Jews from Moscow, Leitan was confined to the village of Boldino in the Vladimir province and was allowed to return only after the intervention of some artist friends. Levitan was prone to mood changes and melancholy, and his emotions were often captured in his paintings. His main goal was to convey the grandeur and beauty of the Russian landscape. Levitan's early death cut short a very promising artistic career. In 1897 he had been made a member of the Munich Secession and he participated in the group's exhibitions in 1898 and 1899. In 1898 the Saint Petersburg Academy of Art had given him the title of Academician. Today, many of Levitan's paintings are in the collection of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, but a small Levitan house-museum in Ples, on the River Volga (Ivanovo Region) also exhibits a small selection of his works.
Nesterov M. V.
Mikhail Vasiliyevich Nesterov (1862-1942)
He is Russian painter, follower of critical realism, master of religious painting.Even though the career of Mikhail Vasiliyevich Nesterov bridges the 19th and the 20th centuries, he is best known as a nineteenth-century painter of lyrical religious scenes and one of the fathers of the artistic movement known as "World of Art". He was born in 1862 in Ufa, in a merchant family with artistic interests. From 1877 to 1881 he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the guidance of Vasily Perov, Alexei Savrasov, and Illarion Pryanishnikov. He left the Moscow Art School in 1881 and worked with Pavel Chistyakov at the Academy of Arts at St. Petersburg until 1884. In 1884 he went back to Moscow. There, he met a group of influential painters at the estate of Savva Mamontov at Abramtsevo. Being a deeply religious man he sought to combine his Orthodox beliefs with the Art Nouveau style of the time. In his attempt to revive religious art he was influenced more by French Symbolism than by old Russian icon painting.
Nesterov often traveled to the most remote parts of Russia to live and study in monasteries and hermitages. This gave him the background and information necessary to accurately depict the conditions that the saints and hermits lived in. Compositionally, Nesterov's paintings were not very complex, consisting of the simplest elements, and they always depended on a lyrical synthesis between the figures and the surrounding landscape. The figures were arranged either singly or in a row in the foreground. In the background, behind the figures Nesterov placed delicate and poetic Russian landscape -- birch trees, forests and groves, quaint wooden churches, fields and meadows. This allowed Nesterov to create a special aura of mysticism and spirituality, an artistic interpretation of Russian piety and medieval faith.
Throughout his life Nesterov excelled in painting frescoes and icons for renovated churches and creating oil paintings devoted to medieval Russia. When the new church of St. Vladimir in Kiev was built in 1882, Nesterov was given the task of decorating it with various wall paintings, which he successfully accomplished. Additionally, Nesterov's originals served as models for the external mosaics and icons in the iconostasis in St. Petersburg's Cathedral of the Savior on the Blood. The first painting to gain the critics' attention was the Bride of Christ (1887), a study of a young novice in a nunnery. The painting, full of lyrical sadness, was Nesterov's response to the death of his wife. Between 1888-1889 he painted the Hermit, which portrays an old pilgrim against a northern landscape of trees and the still waters of a lake. After the Hermit, Nesterov, who lived close to the St. Trinity Monastery, turned to the subject of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The first (and the most famous) painting devoted to the topic was Vision of Young Bartholomew (1890). St. Sergius' Youth (1892-97), The Deeds of St. Sergius (1896-7), and St. Sergius of Radonezh (1891-99) followed. Around 1900, Nesterov created The Holy Russia, remarkable for its portrayal of pilgrims and wanderers searching for physical and spiritual healing.
In last years of the 19th century, the realist preoccupation with social problems caused an artistic reaction. It became evident that realistic painting could not act as a social force to alleviate injustice. Another major flaw of this style was that it very rarely led to the creation of true works of art. Nesterov, who had an exquisite taste, came to the conclusion that formal elements were as artistically important as the ends they served. This attitude allowed the painter to become one of the primary artists responsible for launching the artistic movement Mir Iskusstva ('World of Art').
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Nesterov started painting portraits, for instance The Portrait of the Artist's Daughter (1906) and Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1907). After the October Revolution, he had to abandon his religious painting altogether and instead concentrated on portraiture. Among his sitters were the painters Alexander and Pavel Korin (1930) and the physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1935). Two years before his death he painted the sculptor Vera Mukhina (1940). In 1941, Nesterov received a State Prize and in 1942, shortly before his death, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
Perov V. G.
Vasily Grigoriyevich Perov (1834-1882) is the Russian painter, genre and portrait painter.
Vasily Perov is one of the most predominating figures in Russian painting of the 1860s. He lived at a time when an artist's indifference to social problems was considered immoral in Russia. And it was Perov who took up a vital and most complicated task of establishing the principles of critical realism. His pictures carried strong social implication and thus became an important landmark in the history of Russian painting.
Vasily Perov was an illegitimate son of the baron G. K. Kridiner, an Arzamas prosecutor. In 1846, he entered the Art School of Stupin in Arzamas, where he got his nickname of Perov (from Russian pero, pen) for his good handwriting. Since 1853 till 1861, Perov studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.
For his Sermon in a Village, painted as a diploma work in 1861, the St. Petersburg Academy awarded Perov the Grand Gold medal and subsidized his trip abroad. The same year, 1861, Perov's Easter Procession in a Village was removed from the exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of Artists for the insult to the clergy. In connection with this picture one of Perov's contemporaries remarked, 'Instead of Italy Perov might be exiled to the Solovetsky Islands.' The work was the manifest of critical realism. Both the subject matter and the handling of it were new and unusual. Perov advisedly chose to paint the reality plain and even filthy. Perov's Easter Procession in a Village marked the beginning of a new period leading to Repin's Religious Procession in the Province of Kursk.
For his foreign studies Perov chose France. In Paris, Perov, in his own words, 'made a considerable progress in the technique of painting' though he did not create anything truly significant there, and even before his stipendiary period had been over, Perov returned to Russia
In 1865, a year after he had returned from Paris, Perov completed the Last Journey, a painting with an intentionally uncomplicated subject matter clear to all and sundry. The Troika, Perov's most expressive work produced in 1866, is especially typical of his style, the diagonal ground, sky, and houses. The motion of the little tuggers too agile to harmonize with the burden they carry only accentuates the symbolically excruciating tone of the picture. The ethic tonality of the Troika is similar to Dostoyevsky's theme of the humiliated and insulted or the eternal reproach to the world of injustice and enmity expressed in his motif of 'a child's tear'. Perov's style reached maturity in the Last Tavern at Town Gate (1868). More generally, the same holds for Russian realistic art with its focus on the conjunction of social predilection and artistic completeness.
In the 1870s, Perov made some historical paintings. He produced Pugachev's Judgment (1870) and Nikita Pustosvyat. Dispute on the Confession of Faith (1880). At the same time, he was still prolific in the genre, which is exemplified by his elegiac Old Parents Visiting the Grave of Their Son (1874), widely famous Hunters Resting (1871), monumental Peasant in the Field (1876), sorrowful and disturbing Peasants Returning from a Funeral in Winter (1880), and the Pigeon Fancier (1874). But having come a long way from the Easter procession in a Village to the Found Drowned and the Last Tavern, Perov had paid his tribute to the genre: its further development towards the truly national painting was to be connected with the name of Ilya Repin.
In the 1870s, Perov made some historical paintings. He produced Pugachev's Judgment (1870) and Nikita Pustosvyat. Dispute on the Confession of Faith (1880). At the same time, he was still prolific in the genre, which is exemplified by his elegiac Old Parents Visiting the Grave of Their Son (1874), widely famous Hunters Resting (1871), monumental Peasant in the Field (1876), sorrowful and disturbing Peasants Returning from a Funeral in Winter (1880?), and the Pigeon Fancier (1874). But having come a long way from the Easter procession in a Village to the Found Drowned and the Last Tavern, Perov had paid his tribute to the genre: its further development towards the truly national painting was to be connected with the name of Ilya Repin.
In 1871, Perov, together with Ivan Kramskoy, Nikolai Gay, and Grigory Miasoyedov became a founder of the Itinerants' Society of Traveling Exhibitions. Also in 1871, Perov became a professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, he turned out to be an excellent teacher; among his students were such outstanding Russian painters as Sergey (?) Korovin, Andrey Riabushkin, Nikolai Kasatkin, Mikhail Nesterov and others.
At the end of the 1860s, Perov turned to portraiture in which he was equally pioneering. Exploring life, he discovered a variety of interesting characters and was able to convey their graphic individuality and profundity, e.g. Thomas the Owl (1868) or Wanderer (1870). These paintings were the beginning of a whole gallery of peasant portraits increased later by Kramskoy, Repin, and Maximov.
In the 1870s, Perov created a series of portraits of the Russian people of culture. Only an artist who fully understood the task and responsibility of portraiture could have achieved this characterization, passionate and devoid of everything vain and contingent. So, in the portraits of Anton Rubenstein (1870), Alexander Ostrovsky (1871), Feodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Dahl, Mikhail Pogodin, and Apollon Maikov (1872) we see a brilliant combination of a faithful and, at the same time, critical rendering and a profound delineation of character.
Life was changing, the art of painting was developing, and Perov saw and felt that he was falling behind, but he could not change his own manner. In the late 1870s the artist did not manage to create anything interesting. The painter died in 1882 from tuberculosis.
Repin I. E.
Ilya Efimovich Repin (1844-1930)
He has connected strong tradition of realism of 19 centuries to innovations of a boundary of centuries.
Ilya Efimovich Repin was born in Chuguev, in the Ukraine, in the family of a soldier-settler. He received his first lessons in art in 1858, when he started working for I. M. Bunakov, a talented icon painter from Chuguev. Commissions for portraits and religious paintings allowed Repin to collect enough money to go to St. Petersburg with the goal of entering the Academy of Arts. He arrived in the capital in 1863 and enrolled in the School of Drawing attached to the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. Working with Kramskoi, in a year the young artist developed his skills sufficiently to be accepted to the Academy. In May 1870 Repin went on a boat trip down the Volga during which he made sketches for his Barge-haulers on the Volga (The Volga Boatmen). A year later the artist finished his schooling at the Academy. His graduation work, The Resurrection of Jairus' Daughter, won the Gold Medal and a six-year scholarship (including three years of travel abroad). After traveling through Europe and staying in Paris (1872-76), Repin returned to Russia. He spent a year in Chuguev, making sketches for his famous Religious Procession in the Kursk Province. The next six years (1876-82) Repin lived in Moscow, trying to get along with the Academy, the Mamontov circle, and his old friends Stasov and Kramskoi. Tired of their constant squabbles, he moved to St. Petersburg. He made several more trips to Europe -- in 1883, 89, 94, and 1900. He taught at the St. Petersburg Academy (1894-1907) and was an influential member of the Wanderers. In 1900, during a trip to Paris, Repin met Natalia Nordman, the "love of his life" (Repin was separated from his wife), and moved to her home, Penaty (Penates), in Kuokkala (Finland), located about an hour's train ride from St. Petersburg. Together, they organized the famous Wednesdays at the Penaty which attracted the creative elite of Russia. When Nordman died in 1914, she left the estate to the Academy, but Repin occupied it for the next sixteen years. Handicapped by the atrophy of his right hand, Repin could not produce works of the same quality as those, which brought him fame. Although he trained himself to paint with his left hand, he lived his last years under a constant financial strain. Since the artist did not accept the Revolution of 1917, he did not want to go back to Russia, even though In 1926 a delegation sent by the Ministry of Education of the Soviet Union helped him financially and tried to entice him to return. To acknowledge and commemorate Repin's artistic achievement, in 1948 Kuokkala was renamed Repino.
As Fan and Stephen Jan Parker note in their monograph on Repin, "Western art historians and critics have minimized Repin's achievements and contributions either because his very "national" identity has not been grasped, or because -- and this is most likely -- Repin was neither a technical innovator nor the creator of a school of painting. Moreover, he was a realist and not a modernist. Yet in the esteem of both prerevolutionary and Soviet Russia, Repin occupies a position alongside Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Musorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. He was and is Russia's foremost national artist, whose oeuvre adheres to the requisities for national art as proposed by the noted painter and art historian Igor Grabar: it must reflect the spirit of the people, expressing their thoughts and aspirations; it must excite; and it must be understandable to the people".
Among Repin's most famous canvasses are The Volga Boatmen (1872), The Archdeacon (1877), Portrait of the Composer Musorgsky (1881), Religious Procession in the Kursk Province (1878-83), Portrait of Pavel Tretiyakov (1883), They Did Not Expect Him (1884), Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan: November 16, 1581 (1885), and Zaporozhie Cossacks Writing a Reply to the Turkish Sultan (1880-91).
The Volga Boatmen was enthusiastically received. Stasov predicted fame and success for the young artist and Dostoevskii wrote the following review in his Writer's Diary:
"As soon as I read in the newspapers about the burlaki of Mr. Repin, I immediately became frightened. The very subject is horrible: we are conditioned to believe that the burlaki more than others are capable of conveying the well-known socialist idea about the unpaid debt of the privileged class to the people. In expectation of this I was prepared to meet them all in uniforms with appropriate labels on their foreheads. What happened then? To my joy all my fears turned out to be in vain. Not one of them shouts to the viewer from the painting: 'Look how miserable I am and how great a debt you owe to your people!' Just for this alone the artist deserves the greatest merit. Good, familiar figures: the two front burlaki are almost laughing, at least they aren't crying at all, and by no means are they thinking about their social condition . . ."
Savrasov A. K.
Alexey Kondratiyevich Savrasov (1830 - 1897)
Alexey Kondratyevich Savrasov is one of the Russia's most remarkable landscape painters, the originator of the so-called 'mood landscape'. Savrasov was born into the family of a merchant. He began to draw early; in 1838 he enrolled as a student at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture (graduated in 1850), and immediately began to specialize in landscape painting. His efforts of the 1850s reveal the difficult process he was going through trying to overcome the academic tradition in depicting landscape. The Russian public liked his lyrical landscapes like View of the Kremlin from the Krimsky Bridge in Inclement Weather (1851) and gradually he made his name.
In 1852, the artist traveled to the Ukraine where he produced a series of views of its rolling steppes The Steppe in Daytime (1852), which reflect the various aspects of his favorite subject, wide-open spaces. By the invitation of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, the President of the Russian Academy of Arts, who commissioned several works from Savrasov, he moved to the shores of the Gulf of Finland in the neighborhood of St. Petersburg. Though the scenery there was alien to his spirit, he was able to find some innovations never seen in academic landscape painting before. In 1854, for his pictures Seashore in the Neighborhood of Oranienbaum and View in the Neighborhood of Oranienbaum (1854) he was awarded the title of Fellow of the Academy. In 1857, Savrasov became a teacher in the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture, from which he had graduated. His best disciples Isaac Levitan and Constantin Korovin always remembered their teacher with admiration and gratefulness.
In the 1860s, he traveled to England and Switzerland. His introduction to English landscape painting was most influential. The best works of the period include View of the Swiss Alps from Interlaken (1862), Rustic View (1867), Rafts (1868).
The Rooks Have Come (1871) is considered by many critics to be the highest point in Savrasov's artistic career. Using a common, even trivial, episode of birds returning home, and an extremely simple landscape, Savrasov managed to show very emotionally the transition of nature from winter to spring. It was a new type of lyrical landscape painting, called later by critics 'the mood landscape'. The picture made his name famous.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s there were many good landscapes, though early spring in the countryside remained the favorite subject of the artist. The most notable are A Winter Road (1870s), Country Road (1873), View of the Moscow Kremlin. Spring (1873), Spring Thaw. Yaroslavl. (1874), Rainbow (1875), A Provincial Cottage. Spring. (1878), Landscape with a Rainbow (1881), Sea of Mud (1894). The misfortunes in his personal life, may be dissatisfaction with his artistic career were the reason of his tragedy - he became an alcoholic. All attempts of his relatives and friends to help him were in vain. The last years of his life Savrasov led the life of a pauper, wandering from shelter to shelter. Only the doorkeeper of the School of Painting and Pavel Tretyakov (the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery) were present at his funeral.
Serov V. A.
Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov (1865-1911)
One of the greatest Russian portrait painters, Serov was born on January 19, 1865, in the family of the composer A. N. Serov, author of the operas Judith, Rogneda, and the Evil Power. As a young boy, Serov might have met many luminaries of Russian culture of the time -- Stasov, Repin, Ghe, Antokolsky -- who visited his father. Unfortunately, when he was six, his father died, and Serov traveled with his widowed mother to Munich and later to Paris. In Paris, he attracted Repin's attention and started his art education under the master's tutelage. Impressed by the talent of the boy, Repin advised him to return to St. Petersburg and begin formal studies at the Academy of Fine Arts under the famous art teacher P. Chistiakov. Savva Mamontov invited financially destitute Serovs to live at his estate at Abramtsevo. Serov studied at the Academy from 1880 to 1885 and met Mikhail Vrubel there; the painters even shared an atelier. Even though the artist did not finish the Academy, he sufficiently perfected his skills to begin independent work.
He became famous after exhibiting Girl with Peaches (1887) and Girl Lit by the Sun (1888), both considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of the Tretiyakov Gallery. The first canvas, a portrait of Savva Mamontov's daughter, Vera, brings to mind sunny and cheerful portraits by Renoir, but is probably more inspired by the colors of Repin's paintings, particularly They Did not Expect Him. In its colors and juxtaposition of light and shadow, the second canvas is also strongly influenced by Repin's works.
Initially a strong follower of the Wanderers and a supporter of the idea of utilitarian purpose of art, in 1890s Serov, following the example of his mentor, Repin, diasgreed with the Wanderers' "dictatorship" and imposition of standards on the young artists and left the Society; instead, he became close to the World of Art group, which allowed him to exhibit his paintings without interruptions even though he never subscribed to all points of the group's program. Popularity which Serov gained after showing his first two acclaimed portraits made him an artist in great demand. He painted almost 700 canvasses, including portraits of famous art maecenases, artists, actors and actresses, writers and poets, composers and singers, and politicians. Not surprisingly, the names of his sitters read as a who-is-who in Russian culture and politics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: Savva Mamontov (1890), Konstantin Korovin (1891), Ilya Repin (1892), Isaak Levitan (1893), Nikolai Leskov (1894), Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov (1898), Emperor Nicholas II (1900), Konstantin Pobedonostsev (1902), Anton Chekhov (1903), Sergei Witte (1904), Fiodor Shaliapin (1905), Konstantin Balmont (1905), Maksim Gorkii (1905), M.I. Ermolova (1905), Vasily Golitsyn (1906), E.L. Nobel (1909), Ivan Morozov (1910), O.K. Orlova (1910), Ida Rubinshtein (1910), V.O. Girshman (1911), and many others.
Shishkin I. I.
Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (1832-1898)
He was Russian painter and graphic artist. In epic images he has opened beauty, power and riches of Russian nature. The master of lithograph and etching.
I.I.Shishkin is one of the most popular among Russian landscape writers. Images, which for a long time became original symbols of Russia were born from this knowledge and this love.
Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin was born into the family of a merchant. His father, a self-made and broad-minded man, after long hesitations, supported his son's desire to become an artist. In 1852-1856, Shishkin studied in the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture, in 1856-1860, he continued his studies in St. Petersburg, in the Academy of Arts. He made rapid progress and got all the awards the Academy offered. Having received a Major Gold Medal for two pictures with the same name View of Valaam Island. Kukko. (1860) and an Academy grant for studies abroad, Shishkin spent 3 years (1862-1865) in Germany, Switzerland, Czech, France, Belgium and Holland. Gradually he got disappointed in his foreign teachers and European authorities in landscape painting. Now he felt free and independent and longed to return home, to Russia.
The works of this outstanding artist enjoy vast popularity in Russia; the best of them have become the classics of Russian landscape painting. During 40 years of his artistic activity Ivan Shishkin produced hundreds of paintings, thousands of studies and drawings and a large number of engravings. For contemporaries, Shishkin's personality embodied Russian nature itself; they called him 'forest tzar', 'old pine tree', and 'lonely oak'.
During his stay abroad Shishkin engaged in lithography and etching. His numerous pen drawings caught the eye of the Dusseldorf public and critics by their virtuoso hatching and filigree treatment of detail. In 1865, Shishkin painted his View near Dusseldorf for which he was awarded the title of Academician and which was shown at the 1867 World Fair in Paris.
In 1865, he returned to Russia and settled in St. Petersburg, where he joined the Itinerants' Society of Traveling Exhibitions (Peredvizhniki). One of his first masterpieces Noon in the Neighbourhood of Moscow (1869) critics called 'song of joy'. He always preferred to draw daytime scenes, full of sunlight and life. Pine Forest in Viatka Province (1872), Rye (1878), Path in a Forest (1880), Oaks (1887), Coniferous Forest. Sunny Day. (1895). His scrupulous reproduction of nature stood in sharp contrast to the academic canons of landscape painting. For his loving approach to detail some critics called his works colored pictures, which lack of life. But despite such attention to details Shishkin's paintings do not fall apart, but give full and finished impression.
Shichkin had a troubled private life, twice he fell in love and married and twice his wives died. His sons also died. But never Shishkin allowed his sorrows appear on his canvases. His last work is Mast-Tree Grove (1898). He died in his studio at the easel with newly begun canvas.
Among the Russian landscape painters Shishkin was the staunchest and most consistent exponent of the materialistic aesthetics - to depict nature in all its pure, unadorned beauty. His role in Russian art did not lose its significance even in the years, which saw the appearance of splendid landscapes by Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov and Constantin Korovin. Despite the fact that he espoused different aesthetic principles and advocated a different artistic system, Shishkin enjoyed an indisputable authority among young Russian painters of the late 19th century. The new generation did not fail to acknowledge him as a thoughtful and masterful portrayer of Russian nature.
Surikov V. I.
Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (1848-1916)
Vasily Ivanovich Surikov was born in Krasnoyarsk into a family of Siberian Cossacks, whose ancestors came to conquer Siberia with Yermak in the 16th century (The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak). The future artist grew up among brave and solid people, in severe natural conditions. Surikov said later that Siberia gave him the ideals of historical characters, spirit, strength and health.
He received his first art lessons from his school teacher, N. V. Grebnev, who, seeing the talent of the boy, started to work with him individually. After finishing school in 1868, the young man left for St. Petersburg on horse-back to join the Academy. He spent a year on his journey, because on his way he made frequent stops in the ancient towns through which he passed. In 1869, he entered the Academy of Art, where he studied excellently.
In 1874, Surikov painted his first historical work The Knyaz's (Grand Duke's) Court of Law, in 1875 - Apostle Paul explains the Christian Dogmas to Agripinna and his sister Berenice. That year he received commissions for 4 big paintings for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. To fulfill the commissions Surikov moved to Moscow, where he settled permanently.
Moscow with its old architecture impressed the artist deeply. The views of the Red Square, monasteries and cathedrals, Kitay-Gorod called to mind dramatic historical events. 'When I moved to Moscow, this center of the nation, I immediately found my way in art.' - Surikov. On impulse, he started the big historical canvas Morning of Strelets' Execution (finished in 1881). This painting defined the main direction of his work - depiction of Russians in turning points of their history. The next big painting, Menshikov in Berezovo, dealt with the personal drama of an outstanding politician. Once a mighty courtier, the right hand of Peter the Great, now an exile, Surikov's Menshikov impresses the viewers with his strong personality. Surikov's wife sat for Menshikov's daughter, Maria, who is beside her father wrapping herself in a fur coat .
After the collector of Russian art Pavel Tretyakov bought both of Surikov's canvases, the artist had money to go abroad. He visited Germany, Italy, France, Austria, studying and admiring the rich collection and different schools of painting, drawing and painting his impressions. The interesting fact is that while getting foreign impressions, the artist thought out his next work from Russian history Boyarynya Morozova. On his return Surikov started the work on this canvas.
In 1887, Surikov's wife died. Her death caused a deep depression: he gave up painting, turned to religion, and left with his children for Siberia. The atmosphere, familiar from childhood, and the caring attitude of his friends restored him to life. In 1891, in Siberia, Surikov painted his most joyous picture Taking of a Snow Fortress, which shows a Siberian game in which a horseman must jump over a snow wall, defended by young people with twigs and whips. This cheerful painting is an exception in his art, all other paintings by Surikov are very serious.
After the Taking of Snow Fortress Surikov started painting The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895). The battle of the 16th century between the Cossacks under their ataman (commander) Yermak Timofeevich and the troops of Kuchum-Khan, the ruler of Siberia, he showed with reliability of a witness. Another big canvases, devoted to Cossacks is Stepan Rasin (RAH-zin), which depicts the moment of the Cossacks return from a successful campaign against Persia.
Besides historical pictures Surikov created many portraits and self-portraits which show the gift of the master and his interest into the inner world of his models.
Surikov executed only nine historical canvases out of hundreds of portraits, studies, and sketches, but he is still considered Russia's greatest historical painter.
Tropinin V. A.
Among Russianpainters of XIX century Vasily Andreyevich Tropinin (1776-1857) is especially dear to compatriots for national heart feeling, that penetrates all his works:
excellent art portraits of contemporaries, typical images of Russian life and everyday scenes.
He was artist - painter, portraitist, representative of the Moscow school of painting.
Vasily Tropinin was one of the major Russian artists active in the first half of the XIX century. He was born as a serf of Count A. Munich and then was given as a part of Munich's daughter's dowry to Count I. Morkov. Although his artistic talent and desire to paint were expressed early, he was sent by Count Morkov to St. Petersburg to learn to be a confectioner. During those years Tropinin managed to attend now and then free drawing lessons in the Academy of Arts, until in 1799, at the age of 23, he was sent by his owner to study art in the Academy. He took lessons from S. S. Schukin. In 1804 his work Boy Grieving for a Dead Bird was exhibited in the Annual Academy of Arts exhibition and was noted by Russian Empress. The President of the Academy of Arts Count Stroganoff was going to intercede on behalf of Tropinin to get him freedom. Count Morkov, afraid of losing such a valuable possession, urgently recalled Tropinin from St. Petersburg to his Ukrainian estate Kupavka. There the artist was crudely reminded that he was only a slave. He was appointed a confectioner and a lackey, also he had to copy the works of European and Russian painters and produce portraits of the Morkovs. During the following years (1804-1821) in Ukraine, with occasional travels with the Morkovs to Moscow Tropinin continued to study art. He created a lot of portraits, landscapes and genre pictures. The most notable works of this period are Portrait of A. I. Tropinina, the Artist's Wife (1809), Head of a Boy. Portrait of A. V. Tropinin (About 1818), Portrait of the Writer and Historian N. M. Karamzin (1818).
In 1821, Tropinin with the family of Count I. Morkov moved to Moscow. Although Tropinin was still a serf, he was well known as a talented artist and his friends continued to persuade Count Morkov to give him freedom. In 1823, at the age of 47, Tropinin was finally released from bondage. In the same year he submitted the pictures The Lace-Maker (1823), Old Beggar (1823), Portrait of E. O. Skotnikov (1821) and later Portrait of K. A. Leberecht (1824) to the Academy of Arts and was nominated an academician.
The following years were the most prolific for Tropinin. He settled in Moscow and opened up his own art studio. Already the well known artist he continued to paint portraits. His models ranged from peasants to the members of the most noble Russian families. The best of his works are Portrait of K. G. Ravich (1823), Gold-Embroideress (1826), Portrait of Alexander Pushkin (1827), Portrait of Countess N. A. Zubova (1834), Woman in the Window (Wife of a Treasurer) (1841), Self-Portrait with Brushes and a Palette Against a Window Facing the Kremlin (1844), Portrait of Yu. F. Samarin in a Hunting Dress (1846), Girl with a Pot of Roses (1850), Old Woman with a Hen (Portrait of the Artist's Wife) (1856). Tropinin died on 3rd of May, 1857 and was buried in Moscow.
Vasnetsov V. M.
Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov is the Russian painter, master of historical and mythological genres, representative of Russian modernist style.
Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov was a painter whose works reveal an important facet of Russia's art during the period of Russian Revival. The son of a country priest, he attended a seminary before beginning his artistic education at the Petersburg Academy (where he studied with I.N. Kramskoi) and later, at the Academy of Arts. Although initially (as a member of the 'Wanderers," a progressive art movement) Vasnetsov created many genre scenes, his style changed as the tide of public support turned against such prosaic, "social" art. By 1880 he was busy painting historical and legendary scenes taken from Russia's colorful past, and it is in this role that he (overtly) embodies so much of what the Russian revival was all about. Although by now there are some who doubt the enduring quality of his work, during Vasnetsov's lifetime he enjoyed at least a moderate level of popularity and appreciation and fulfilled various commissions for both museums and churches.
Rosa Newmarch once wrote that Vasnetsov's work exhibits a "union" of iconographical values and modern technique; such an opinion is best upheld by examining his work in the Cathedral of St. Vladimir, which he completed at the end of the 19th century. His The Mother of God with the Infant Christ, for example, adapts the iconographic tradition to a more "realistic," lively approach.
In addition, Vasnetsov was probably the first painter (as opposed to an artisan) to create theater backdrops; he began working in this capacity during the 1880s and 1890s. These efforts were also an expression of the Russian Revival, for out of his work and that of his followers sprang the idea of "realistic theatrical décor," which contributed much to the development of the Russian theater and ultimately was quite influential in Western Europe. Vasnetsov even dabbled in architecture; both a small church in Abramtsevo and the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery (in Moscow) were based on his drawings.
Despite the multi-faceted nature of his work, Vasnetsov is best known for his work in historical and legendary painting. As Newmarch states, "the dominant note of Vasnetsov's art is his intense and inviolate nationality;" indeed, during such a period of nationalist revival it would be difficult to ignore, and unjust to denounce an artist so talented and committed to his work. A scrupulous researcher (perhaps influenced by his brother, a painter and medieval archeologist Appolinarii Vasnetsov), Viktor Vasnetsov worked hard to add a certain poetry and carefully designed atmosphere to historical accuracy. Even the landscape backgrounds of Vasnetsov's historical paintings were influential on their own, and created a profound impact on the development of Russian landscape painting. Ultimately this influence, and that of all his work, may have been the result of his skillful union of "mysticism and . . . realism" which so characteristically reflected the epic quality of Russia's early history.
The main advantage of decorative works of Vasnetsov is their colourful effect, affecting in only Russian combinations and shades of juicy, full and quiet colours.
Venetsianov A. G.
Alexei Gavrilovich Venetsianov (1780-1847)
He is the artist - painter, master of a genre art, rural life paintings, the portraitist and writer.
Alexei Venetsianov was the first artist in a history of Russian art, who not only represented a life of peasants, rural genres, but also has created a poetic image of rural Russia.
Aleksei Gavrilovich Venetsianov is one of the most important Russian painters of the nineteenth century, best noted for his natural yet dignified portrayal of peasants, peasant life, and nature. He is credited with establishing genre painting (particularly related to peasant life) and developing the features of the national Russian landscape. Venetsianov is also recognized for the tremendous role he played in the education of the young artists of limited means.
Venetsianov was born in Moscow in 1780 in the family of a impoverished Greek merchant. He attended a private boarding school and was initially trained for government service as a woodland's surveyor. He studied painting in his free time and worked as a civil servant. Art studies exposed Venetsianov to natural colors and airy atmosphere permeating the paintings of French artist Francois-Marius Granet; the young Russian painter was so impressed that he decided to employ the same techniques in his paintings. In 1802, he moved to St. Petersburg and took courses as an external student at the Academy of Arts, at the same time spending long hours at the Hermitage copying the works of great masters, especially the Dutch landscape painters. In the Hermitage, Venetsianov met V. L. Borovikovsky and became his student. In 1810, the artist received from the Academy the title of a distinguished Associate, which contributed to the growth of his popularity. Two years later, during the Napoleonic campaign, he published a series of patriotic satirical etchings aimed at Napoleon and his allies. His love of nature and the countryside and his desire to paint it in a natural way, reminiscent of Granet, prompted Venetsianov to buy a small estate in the Tver province. He retired in 1820 and summarily abandoned forever his satirical and political art. Moving permanently to his home in the countryside, he focused most of his energy on the depiction of peasants and village life. Moreover, in 1824, after selling The Threshing Barn for a large sum of 5,000 roubles, Venetsianov decided to share his good fortune and established in his house an art school for talented students who could not afford art education. Over the course of its existence, the school enrolled about 70 pupils. Among those who distinguished themselves later were G. Soroka, N. Krylov, A. Alexeyev, L. Plakhov, A. Tyranov, K. Zelentsov, S. Zarianko, and G. Mikhailov. Their knowledge of the subject and their ability to portray it in a straightforward and unaffected way helped to develop farther the genre of peasant painting.
Alexsei Venetsianov's best known works include In The Field: Spring (mid 1820s), The Threshing Floor (1821 or 1822), Sleeping Shepherd (between 1823 and 1826), The Morning of a Landlady (1823), Reaper (1820s), Reapers (1820s), and Harvesting: Summer (mid 1820s). The characteristics of his works that made a memorable and lasting impression on the Russian art scene were his disregard for the common rules and techniques used by most artists during the nineteenth century. Crossing the line dividing art and reality, Venetsianov created beautiful and somewhat idealistic representations of peasants and depicted the virtues of peasant life while using natural light and natural environment to show a realistic image of everyday life. Since Venetsianov loved nature and the outdoors, most of his paintings were created "en plein air;" this method of work gave all his paintings a certain spontaneity, freshness, and luminosity. Living and working among peasants, the artist understood their life and developed the proper perspective to paint them. His paintings were often a combination between true portraits and general types; using the works of old masters as examples, Venetsianov seemed to follow Renaissance ideas about composition and presentation of the figures.
Venetsianov's major contributions to the world of nineteenth century art included:
1. recognition and acknowledgement of the importance of light in painting,
2. blending of the figures with the landscape to create unity between humans and nature,
3. showing the virtues rather than the vices of peasants,
4. painting aristocratic subjects in informal and casual surroundings,
5. making a transition to the techniques of early Romanticism
Venetsianov died from accident in road - the sledge, which have overturned on abrupt turn, have striken him a mortal blow.
Vrubel M. A.
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel (1856-1910)
He is painter-sculptor of monuments, artist of theatre, sculptor, grafic artist, illustrator, artist of arts and crafts, Vrubel is known as the author of picturesque canvases, frescos, decorative pictures. He is the artist - symbolist, representative of a romantic direction of Russian modernist style.
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel was born on March 5, 1856 in Omsk, in Siberia and died in St. Petersburg on April 1, 1910. The son of a colonel in the Russian army, Vrubel studied history, art, theater, music, and literature in Latin, French, and German, all of which were emphasized and encouraged by the artist's father. His formal art training started in 1864 at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St. Petersburg. While studying law at St. Petersburg University during the years between 1874 and 1880, he was enrolled in painting classes. After graduating from the Law Department in 1880, Vrubel began studying at the St. Petersburg Academy of the Arts as a full time student. Here, he learned from Chistiakov who would play a significant role in the development of Vrubel's style, just as he did with other great artists such as Ilya Repin, Vasilii Polenov, Victor Vasnetsov, Valentin Serov, and Vasilii Surikov. Vrubel later wrote in his autobiography that his years at the Academy were the best years of his life. Before his graduation, Vrubel had been recommended by his teachers to Professor Prakhov who was recruiting painters to help with the restoration of twelfth century icons in the Church of St. Cyril in Kiev. Works done there included the Virgin Mary and Child and The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Vrubel used this experience to search for greater spirituality, monumentality, and plastic expressiveness through classic art. His technique and style evolved fully in 1890. It is characterized by "volume cut into a multitude of interrelated, intersecting facets and planes; broad mosaic brush strokes to model form; and fiery and emotional color combinations reminiscent of stained glass." These characteristics became defined after Vrubel moved to Moscow in 1889 and appealed not only to Symbolists but to future Cubists as well. He was an active member of the Abramtsevo art circle and worked on decorative panels, paintings of Venice and Spain, stage designs for an opera, ceramics, and architectural sketches.
However, the main subject of Vrubel's work during his stay in Moscow was Lermontov's poem The Demon. Posing questions of good and evil and putting forward his ideal of a heroic personality as he saw it, Vrubel depicted "a rebel, unwilling to accept the commonplace and unjust nature of reality, tragically alone." From 1900, his art took the form of a tragic confession. In 1902, Vrubel began to suffer from a mental illness. After a brief stay in a clinic, his health improved, only to take a sharp turn for the worse after the death of his child in 1903. As he headed towards a mental breakdown, he continued to "struggle" with the ideas of The Demon, which he understood in Nietzschean terms, creating about a dozen paintings; the last of them, indicative of Vrubel's progressively darker and pessimistic mood, was the torturous and tragic Demon Downcast (1902). Between 1902 and 1905, he created his best black and white works, remarkable for their keen insight into characters and for their clear-cut forms. During his work on a portrait of the poet Valerii Briusov (1906), Vrubel noticed that he was losing his sight -- the realization that he would not be able to paint aggravated his mental condition even more. In the spring of 1910, in a fit of depression and despair, Vrubel stood in front of an open window, hoping to catch a cold; he died when the cold turned into pneumonia.