As Russian art is not studied in most art history classes in the U.S., today I’d like to blog about the Peredvizhniki, the 19th-century Russian artistic movement.
This is a very fascinating time period in the history of Western Europe, because the Church and the State lost some of its former influence in their patronage of the arts, which allowed for a new blast of creativity and the development of many art movements. While Russian art remained reserved, developing new ideas somewhat slowly in comparison to France for instance, it did set cause to break away from the Academy as well. The country gave birth to a new movement-the Peredvizhniki (the itinerants) in 1863. It was a group of artists who organized traveling shows, painted common folk, and brought the arts to the people.
These were artists who refused to depict the accepted scenes from the Bible or the Greek mythology, and focused on painting the contemporary world around them instead. They often showed the inequality between the rich and the poor, the noble men and the inferior women. They also brought to attention the widespread abuse of children, who did hard manual labor. As a result of such movement, Russian art preserved its traditional approach to painting, drastically changing the themes. (Besides the genre painting, artists also created a large body of work in landscape and portrait tradition. I will include their artwork in my next post).
Here are some of the genre paintings completed by the Peredvizhniki.