Tag: russian art

19th century Russian portrait painting by veronica winters

19th century Russian Art & Portrait Painting: eyes are the window to the soul

Russian Portrait Painting

In this blog post I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite 18th and 19th- century Russian portrait paintings that I fell in love with when I was a child. These portrait paintings made a considerable influence on my aesthetic and desire to learn traditional oil painting techniques in adulthood. Some of these paintings represent the collision of classical ideals with Romanticism that is obvious in artists’ choice of subject and color schemes.

Art became a source of inspiration early in my life. Many oil paintings were printed in public school textbooks. Russian art occupied the last few pages in those textbooks that were printed in color and on thick paper unlike the rest of the material (the 1980s Soviet Union). Besides one art class in the elementary school, we didn’t have art as a subject back then, so those color reproductions and my parents’ art book collection became my first introduction to Russian art.

Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

Ilya Repin is one of the most well-known Russian artists of his generation. Excellent figurative painter, he is one of my favorites for his moral views and social purpose he channeled through his art. His portraits depict a variety of characters that all share the enormous artistic power and thoughtfulness.

Ilya Repin, Portrait of Garshin, 35×27,” 1884, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This portrait is one of several that Repin made of Russian artists and intellectuals following his return from graduate study in France. The artist begged the Academy to let him return home, so he could work on the national themes in his painting.

Here is an excerpt from the Met about this painting. “Russian author Vsevolod Garshin specialized in short stories expressing his pacifist beliefs, love of beauty, and aversion to evil. In the early 1880s he became friends with Repin, a leading progressive painter who shared his concern for contemporary political and social problems. Four years after it was created, Garshin, scarred by the suicides of his father and brother and his own mental illness, threw himself down a stairwell and died.” http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437442 )

Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1826)

Russian artist Borovikovsky
Vladimir Borovikovsky,  Portrait of Maria Lopukhina, 1797, 72×53 cm, State Tretyakov gallery, Moscow

Created at the end of the 18th century, this painting reflects the sentiment of the epoch where a man is part of nature. The artist fuses the model with a natural, but decorative landscape behind her where Russian landscape becomes more prominent than it used to be shown in Russian painting. This oil painting has a through balance of color. The blues of tiny cornflowers in the background are reflected in her beautiful blue sash, and the gold of the rye mingles with her jewelry and the golden sash accents. The color of a dull pink shawl wrapping around her figure is similar to the quiet roses blooming by her side. Her white gown finds similar tones with a couple of trees, repeating the diagonal of the figure.

Otherwise standard, diagonal three-quarter view of the woman depicts the beauty of a young Princess Lopukhina (1779-1803) who belonged to the Russian royal family of Tolstoy and died of tuberculosis in her early twenties. Her masterfully painted face shows beautiful restraint. Soft transitions between warm and cool tones, light pinks on the cheeks, greenish shadows, the riveting depth of the eyes, and gentle, rosy colors of the mouth – everything breathes with life. I love this portrait for its quietness, elegant confidence and a masterful balance between colors and shapes.

Borovikovsky created numerous portraits after his work in the military, and then graduation from the Academy in St. Petersburg. He found fame among the imperial court including Catherine II.

Karl Briullov (1799-1852)

Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 183 x 256 inches, 1830-33

Karl Briullov was the last great classical portraitist in the 19th century Russia. Trained in the Academy in St. Petersburg, the artist was influenced by the classical ideals of Rome. Painter of royalty, Briullov had a tremendous skill set that he showed off in his most famous historical artwork titled “The last day of Pompeii, 1830-33” that brought him a widespread fame throughout Europe. Realism and idealism, classical and neoclassical ideals collide on a huge canvas that depicts people in action, running for their lives during the eruption of Vesuvius. After receiving the highest honors at the Academy, Karl Briullov won a golden medal to travel to Italy. Immersed in the classical tradition of painting, the artist had spent three years studying each figure for the Last day of Pompeii, completing numerous drawings. There is movement and balance in every figure, buildings and horses. Every element is painted with great detail and mastery of the form.

Russian artist also produced many paintings featuring royalty as well as idealized Italian themes with lighthearted women doing regular tasks, like picking up grapes or washing clothes. Although those paintings were painted masterfully, they lacked vision and the reflection of some important societal changes happening in the country. Those changes were painted soon thereafter by the Itinerants.

Detail from “The last day of Pompeii”

Detail from “the last day of Pompeii”

 

Karl Briullov, Portrait of the princess Elizabeth Saltykov, 1841, The State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg.

 

veronica winters colored pencil drawing
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Nikolay Pimonenko (1862-1912)

Nikolay Pimonenko, Yule fortune telling, detail, 1888

This painting has such a bold use of color! Strong, single light source illuminates two peasant girls who read the fortune. In the old tradition, girls placed the melting wax into a cup with cold water to capture the “frozen” profile of a future husband. Here they look at the wall projection cast from the melted wax, trying to figure out who the man is. I love how spontaneous and fresh the brushwork is and how vivid colors harmonize to depict festive mood.

Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887)

Ivan Kramskoy, a leader in the Itinerants movement, was one of the strongest portraitists in his generation of artists. Like other artists in the movement, he believed in public duty and service to people through his art. He was interested in painting national themes, but Kramskoy was also a great portraitist. In 1869 he exhibited his portraits at the Academy for which he won a rank of an Academician. One of his famous artworks depicts a woman who could be either decent or not, but her facial expression is captivating. Every texture is richly painted: the feathers, silk, fur, and velvet. Light yellow light envelops the distant buildings and describes the contours of the figure. The artist puts the same color into the hat’s feather and her face to carefully harmonize the painting.

Ivan Kramskoy, Stranger, 1883, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Russian art
Kramskoy, the forester,  1874 (84×62 cm or 33×24,5 inches), The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

The gaze of this peasant man is just riveting! Tragedy, disturbance and hidden force reside in his enigmatic eyes. The artist shows a specific type of a man who doesn’t like to settle or to tolerate the abuse of the forest by men. Or perhaps the painting is about poor villagers  who are tired of their endless suffering and are getting ready to revolt against their wealthy masters.

Russian artist Ivan Kramskoy
Ivan Kramskoy portr. of artist’s daughter Sofia 1882

This portrait was painted in the end of the 19th century that marked the transition between the classical and modern art. The artist depicts his daughter in less controlled manner with loose strokes and colorful shadows that show the classical mastery of the anatomy and oil painting techniques. Her thoughtful face possesses no classical idealization, but expresses inner strength and depth of character that’s so hard to reach in a painting. The restrained position of her hands and mouth depicts a very young woman wrapped up in thoughts. Trained by her father, Sofia became a professional artist as well. She received recognition for her artistic skills but had a very complicated life after the revolution.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy, Portrait of Ivan Shishkin

Ivan Shishkin was a great landscape painter who posed for this masterful portrait by Kramskoy. The background and the pose are so simple that all our attention goes to the face of the artist, which channels so much humanity and life that seems impossible to describe in paint.

Vasily Tropinin (1776-1857)

Vasily Tropinin came from a family of the serfs and received his freedom only at the age of 47. He often depicted scenes of ordinary peasant life that feature women doing hard or meticulous work. Those paintings have jovial mood, celebrating ordinary, domestic life.

Russian art, Tropinin
Tropinin, the lace-maker, 1823 , The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

I’m fond of this painting because it shows the old Russian tradition of lace-making, something I learned how to do in my teenage years, taking a class for a year. A pretty, peasant girl creates intricate pattern with numerous bobbins and thin threads. Captivated by her task, she quickly glances at the viewer only to return to her work. I love the gentleness in her face and a hint of a smile that’s subtle and kind.

 

To Read about Russian genre painting, click on the image below.

19th Century Russian Artists and Genre Art: the Itinerants movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn what makes a painting great Video #1 Part 2: Composition, Color, Lines and Emotion

In this video in the series you’ll learn about composition, color, emotion, painting techniques, use of lines, and other artistic elements artists used to produce their greatest works of art. This video will help you understand the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century.

Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

You’ll find my video notes below!

 

Jacques-Louis_David_madame recamier
Jacques-Louis David, madame Recamier, 5’9″x7’4″, 1800, the Louvre

Composition

All beauty is the result of fine proportions. – Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), architect

Greeks were the first to invent and to use the mathematical proportion, linear perspective and the concept of divine proportion and scale in art and architecture (the Pantheon). Because of a conversion to Christianity, these postulates were abandoned in the Middle Age Europe only to reappear in the Italian Renaissance art several centuries later.

Man is the measure of all things becomes the mantra of the Renaissance artists in the 1400-1500s as they explore the concept of rational thought by creating art that’s three-dimensional, visually balanced, mathematically proportioned and color unified. (The principles of the mathematical perspective were devised by Filippo Brunelleschi).

Composition becomes central to the creation of representational art.

Pentagram
pentagon and decagon in a circle veronica winters video series
Pentagram and decagon in a circle

In this diagram you see the fundamental principle of geometric division of space or the divine proportion. A symbol of unity, the circle holds a pentagon inside with the 5-pointed star of Pythagoras drawn inside it. Renaissance artists used this model to place their figures in a visually pleasing composition. (Source: Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications)

Raphael Ansidei Madonna pentagon composition, veronica winters video series
Raphael, Ansidei Madonna, 1505-1507 | pentagon composition

 

The school of Athens, Raphael, veronica winters video series
The school of Athens, Raphael, 1510, fresco in Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican, Rome | pentagon composition

This painting represents the exaltation of rational thought. The artist paints his contemporaries as models to represent ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle standing right in the center of the composition. We see Leonardo as Plato, Bramante as Euclid, Raphael as Apelles and Michelangelo as Heraclitus. Raphael incorporates the architecture of the room by creating a balanced composition that proportionally relates to the interior. The fresco has 5 circles. The height of figures and their placement corresponds to the mathematical divisions seen in the picture.

Also see:

Poussin (French), “A dance to the music of time” (pentagon composition)

Besides using pentagons, artists create symmetrical and unsymmetrical balance with triangular compositions, the golden section rule, and several other devices.

Masaccio_ the holy trinity perspective
Masaccio (Italian), The Holy Trinity, fresco in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1428  | perfect linear perspective

In this painting while the iconography is standard, the unusual part is its perfect linear perspective. It marks Masaccio as the first Renaissance painter who achieved visual realism of the figures receding in space naturally with correct foreshortening.

Adam's Creation, Sistine Chapel_ceiling'_by_Michelangelo
Michelangelo (Italian), “The creation of Man,” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome

In this artwork, the curving S-shape creates an equal movement and balance of shapes on both sides of the painting.

Also see:

Caravaggio (Italian), “The inspiration of St. Matthew” 1602. This painting features the S-shape design as well.

 

rogier_van_der_weyden_descent from the cross composition
Rogier van der Weyden, “Descent from the cross”

 

We can see examples of triangular compositions in religious art where a cross divides the space in half or is placed at a diagonal. In this painting the artist arranges the figures in a way that mimic the shape of the cross. The diagonal of Christ repeats itself in Mary’s shape.

virgin and child van eyck composition
Jan van Eyck, “The Virgin and Child” | triangular composition

The triangular shape was a popular element to design a composition. It creates balance with a line falling from the apex of the pyramid diving the picture in half.

claude lorraine_the embarcation of st. ursula golden section
Claude Lorraine (French), “Embarkation of St. Ursula,” National Gallery, London | the golden section

Lorraine consciously designed his paintings following the rules of thirds or the “golden section,” which is widely used today by photographers and artists alike.

Also see:

“Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,” 1682.

The artist also “framed” his landscapes with trees placed on both sides of a painting to create a circular motion, so a viewer never leaves his picture. He was also a master, creating a complete balance between the light and dark masses of trees, buildings, water and sky.

The Arnolfini marriage
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini wedding” 1434, National Gallery, London

The artist strikes an equal balance of shapes around the middle where we see the joint hands.

 

Emotion

Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail
Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail

Emotion is the strongest reason for artists to create art and for people to look at it to own it. Art is a visual expression of our soul. We respond to a painting or a sculpture instantly using our feelings as opposed to logic, and that’s what makes us human. Meaningful art helps us connect with our inner life. It confirms a record of our emotions dwelling within our memories. Art is not only a cultural and historical object, but also a remedy that speaks universal language. Artists have a vast emotional landscape to reach deep to convey a story in a meaningful way.  It’s the feeling that draws us into the picture. Because we all have a unique set of experiences, we respond to the art in different ways. Some paintings leave us untouched, while others haunt us with their beauty, melancholy, joy or fear. Painting is a record of  artist’s interior life, and his/her ability to see beauty in both the beautiful and the ugly.

Because feelings can’t be quantified in immediate dollars and cents unlike brand named stuff, many don’t see value in art, think it’s useless, and try to cut funding for school art programs and art organizations. As a consumer driven society we are conditioned to ignore craftsmanship, uniqueness and beauty produced in singular products because a cheaper version of artistic creation is all around us for free on social media, TV, magazines, shop posters, book covers, pillow designs and so on. We see art but we don’t really study it. Only our encounter with the original artwork has that immediate impact, raw emotion that enriches us as human beings.

Images:

Caravaggio, Head of Medusa, oil on canvas, 24×22”, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

(In Greek mythology, the terrible Medusa had the power to turn anyone who looked at her into stone: a power she retained after being killed by Perseus.)

Frans Hals, The Jolly Toper, 1628-30, oil on canvas, 32×26”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Flaming June, Frederic_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)
Sir Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), Flaming June, 47” square, 1895, Puerto Rico

 

Vasnezov Sirin and Alkonost. The song of happiness and sadness
Vasnetzov, The song of joy and sorrow, oil on canvas, 133×250 cm, 1896, The Tretyakov gallery, Moscow
Russian painting vasili perov
Vasily Perov, Trine (Troyka), oil on canvas, 1866

Also see:

Isaak Levitan, Over the Eternal Peace, 1894, oil on canvas, 150x206cm, the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Ivan Shishkin, Winter, 1890, oil on canvas, 125 x 204 cm, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1890, oil on canvas, 161 x 118 cm, Museum of Russian Museum, Kyiv

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, tempera and casein on cardboard, 36×29” (91x74cm), Oslo, Norway

 

Romantics:

Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon
Caspar David Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon | The Met | http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438417

In this section I’d like to mention the 19th century Romantic Movement. Romanticism grew as a rebellion against the static, cold ideals of the Greco-Roman art, against religion and social order. Romantics were liberals who produced art that excited viewers with emotions, especially the fear and the power of wild, changing Nature as the source of the sublime. Romantics channeled these ideals via painterly movement and color. They wanted to reflect on real life, not some distant ideals. Artists celebrated freedom of creativity that found its support from new patronage of successful entrepreneurs and business class.

The funeral of Atala,1808,Girodet_de_Roussy-Trioson
Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, The Funeral of Atala, 1808, oil on canvas, 5’6”x6’10” (1.67×2.10 m), the Louvre, Paris

 

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-the polar sea
German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich, the Polar Sea (The Wreck of Hope), 1824, oil on canvas, 38×50” Hamburg, Germany

Also see:

Spanish artist Goya (1746-1828), The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Los Caprichos, 1798, etching and aquatint, 8×6”, the Met, New York.

He creates horror scenes with monsters and owls, depicts his nightmares that’s said to criticize Spanish society as corrupt and demented. The artist was for the French revolution and against the king of Spain, yet was very popular as a court painter to Charles IV. Late Goya shows highly emotional art, already being a thought after portraitist, painting royalty as individuals with psychological insight into their personalities that lacked idealization on purpose.

Goya, The Family of Charles IV, oil on canvas, 9’2”x11’, Prado Museum, Madrid & the Third of May, 1808, oil on canvas, 8’9”x 13’4”, 1814-15. (In this painting the artist shows the execution of Madrid citizens dying for Liberty).

Swiss painter, Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) painted somewhat erotic, moody and supernatural pictures of dramatic Shakespearean scenes and dreams that ignited fear. In his painting the skill of drawing is given away in favor of emotions and imagination. He painted several variations of the painting The Nightmare, oil on canvas, 102x127cm, Detroit institute of arts

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) The nightmare. 1790-91 version

Another Neo-Baroque French painter, Gericault (1791-1824) explored human extremes and violent action in his art. He painted people in action with the exuberance and energy of Baroque artists.

Mounted Officer of the Imperial Guard, 1812, oil on canvas, 9’7”x6’4”, the Louvre, Paris. He completed this artwork at just 21 years of age.

Other Romantic artists to check out are Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and J.M.W. Turner.

 

Color

1880_Frederic_Leighton_-_Self_portrait
Sir Frederic Leighton, Self-portrait, 1880

We can divide representational art into two opposing groups. One is dominated by the composition design (Michelangelo), and the other by the use of color and light. While thoughtful design stands for rational thought in art, beautiful play of light and color evokes strong feelings.

Those of you who have tried oil painting know how hard it is to achieve color unity. It’s not only the skill of color mixing, but also the artistic vision and sensibility to color. In masterpieces we see hues that interact and support each other. The complexity of a color comes with deliberate color mixing, dragging or glazing of the paint, overlaying, and letting one hue dominate and complement the rest. (Ingres, David, Simon Vouet). The tradition of color descends from Titian to Rubens, to Van Gogh and Picasso. Seurat developed his own scientific color system – pointillism that didn’t get traction among artists, however.

Jacques-Louis_David death of marat
Jacques-Louis David (French), The death of Marat, 1793, neoclassicism  

 

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy baby, pastels on paper, 1910, impressionism 

The Impressionists redefined the use of color, not painting with black in the shadows. Unlike the majority of artists who worked in the studio, the impressionists painted outdoors, capturing the weather conditions at different times of the day. That’s why you see numerous paintings done of the same subject but in various lighting conditions. We can look at Claude Monet’s waterlilies and Edgar Degas’ dancers to understand how artists were interested in atmospheric and light perception of places and people – the impression, rather than the actual copying of details. The impressionists revolted against the Academism and its annual Salon painting competitions to organize their independent shows that exhibited unconventional, colorful art.

In Russia we see a rise of national landscape painting with artists like Shishkin and Kuindzhi who depicted vast, luscious and vivid landscapes of the countryside. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gauguin become the post-impressionism artists who focus on the spiritual in painting channeling it through color and symbols.

kuindzhi birch grove 1879
Kuindzhi, birch grove, 1879
Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910), the moon night | Impressionism & realism

 

Use of shapes, lines and negative space

michelangelo drawing of Libyan Sibyl
Michelangelo, drawing of Libyan Sibyl

Line is the most vital element in visual art. Contour lines describe form and the initial drawing design. Drawings exist as personal records of artist’s idea and thoughts, having unique handwriting, gesture and energy. Line drawings can be very expressive if an artist varies shape, thickness and completion of the line. Rembrandt’s drawings capture everyday activities in sketchy but confident, almost child-like lines. Drawings of Michelangelo are beautiful studies of models where the lines define the physical anatomy and monumentality of male figures frozen in action. Da Vinci’s drawings perfectly describe the subject with soft, gentle lines reminiscent of the softness we see in his paintings. It’s amazing to see how Ingres describes figures in his hollow drawings of just contour lines with minimal shading. Japanese printmakers, Hiroshige and Hokusai became the two masters of woodblock printing in the country. They exercised great influence onto the Impressionists with their approach to composition design and the simplification of shapes. Hiroshige’s artwork is very linear and creates simplified shapes and patterns with the lines of varied quality.

Hiroshige, “Travelers passing Mount Fuji” woodblock print, 1831, Honolulu
Alphonse Mucha, The precious stones: Topaz, Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, details, 1900, color lithograph, 26×11” each

The leading Art Nouveau designer and painter, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) used geometric shapes, mosaics, and diagonals to create beautiful lithographs of women as idyllic symbols. Czech artist gave birth to his unique “Style Mucha” with his posters of a famed actress Sarah Bernhardt that made him prominent in French Art Nouveau. His use of definitive, contour line is central to his illustrative style.

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) employs lines, patterns and shapes to create a unique visual experience. His figures are made of patterns with contour and geometric lines defining form.

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life, 1909

 

As spectators we often don’t pay attention to the artistic use of negative space. Negative space is simply the background you see behind an object. It often affects how we perceive what’s in front of us by carefully controlling the tone, color and shapes in the background space. Let’s look at one of the Spanish realist artists – Cotan who uses the negative space to his advantage.

Juan Sanchez Cotan, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, 1602, oil on canvas, 27×33”, San Diego Museum of Art

Because the Spanish court and the Catholic church employed foreign painters (Titian) in the 16th century Spain, native artists were not popular among the two major patrons, and therefore they were able to develop their still life painting that was nonexistent before the 1590s. Cotan (1561-1627) becomes a pioneer in still life painting. A deeply religious man, he painstakingly arranged simple objects at a curve, juxtaposing bright objects against the dark tones, where rich background reinforces the realism of foreground shapes.

Similarly Caravaggio used the dark background to bring his subjects forward. He defined and mastered chiaroscuro – the balance of light and dark in his paintings. So much so that when a viewer stands in a dark interior of a church he sees abstracted patterns of light and shade. When the light is turned on, the entire painting changes to a story we see in a design. His mastery of color, negative space and contrast play with our perception of reality. (David and Youth bitten by a lizard).

 

Texture, paint and brushwork quality

Jan van Eyck (Dutch), painting detail that shows glazing techniques with seamless brushwork.
Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist. | This painting shows the effect of glazing where color (red) is built up in many layers of thin paint (glazing).

Our eyes travel across canvas to notice the unusual texture and brushwork, or purposefully to see none. Strokes of paint can describe the textures and shapes of fabric, skin and space. They can also generate an emotional response to the subject itself. The artistic ability to do it freely takes years of experimentation and practice, like we see in Sargent’s painting. Sargent’s art has spontaneous brushwork quality that’s actually deliberate and skilled. He was masterful at hitting the right ‘note’ in a single stroke, and when he was not, the artist wiped it off with a rag, and did it again. His paint strokes have relaxed elegance and fluidity.

Traditional methods involve several painting techniques. Here I’d like to mention the glazing techniques used by Ingres and David as well as the impasto method of painting perfected by Rembrandt. Glazing creates depth and sophistication of a color by using thin, transparent layers of paint. The impasto technique creates texture in thick, opaque strokes. These two seemingly opposing methods are often combined together in a single work of art, like we see in the Rembrandt’s paintings that create the glow in his portraits. The Jewish bride.

Jan Van Eyck (Dutch, 1390-1441) was a fundamental figure in northern Europe, the first to perfect the oil painting technique. He had strong interest in optics and light effects to create painstakingly detailed realism. (Ghent Altarpiece, oil on panel, detail). In this kind of art you don’t see any brushwork to convey realism. The artist uses lots of glazes to build up the color.

Rembrandt, the Jewish bride, oil painting detail showing the impasto technique.

Impasto (to put in paste, Italian) is applied thickly on a canvas or panel with a brush or a palette knife that raises the paint surface and makes the strokes visible. Impasto creates textures in clothes, jewelry, and skin that looks like a suggestion of the fabric or skin rather than a direct representation of it. The relief-like surface makes the lights pop more to attract our attention to the focal point. Rembrandt, Velazquez, Titian and Goya used this technique.

A lot of artists use a combination of techniques that include glazing, impasto, scumbling and more that produce different effects like you can see here.

Detail of a painted gown
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift med Alexander Roslin.

Action step:

Pick an artwork that you really like, and try to explain why you enjoy looking at it in terms of composition, color, and subject. Practice your understanding of paintings, and your art appreciation will grow exponentially!  Have fun with it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching my video and discovered how story, composition, emotion and texture – all contribute to and influence on our perception of the masterpieces. A great painting offers a lot more more than a good composition, realism, or a vibrant color. A great painting gives you an emotional experience, something poetic and spiritual that transcends time and place, and allows you to understand yourself and the world around you!

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Coming up next: Video #2 Contemporary Painting

In my next video you’ll learn what to look for in contemporary art.

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great

Video #1 Part 2 – you are here!

Video #2 Contemporary Art – coming soon!

Video #3 How to take care of your art collection – coming soon!

Video #4 How to frame art – coming soon!

Video # 5 Why you don’t need an interior designer to buy and display art in your home – coming soon!

Bibliography:

The Metropolitan Museum of art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

History of Art, 5th edition, H.W. Janson

The gilded age, E. Prelinger

Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications

Wikipedia & tons of art history classes in college! 🙂

 

Click on the image to subscribe to my art notes and receive a FREE download with my art, inspiration and demonstrations!

 

 

 

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19th Century Russian Artists and Genre Art the Itinerants movement

19th Century Russian Artists and Genre Art: the Itinerants movement

19th-century Russian Genre Art

As Russian art is not studied in most art history classes in the U.S., I’d like to introduce you to Peredvizhniki movement, a group of realist painters. 19th century is a fascinating time period in art history of Western Europe, because the Church and the State lost their former influence in the patronage of the arts, which allowed for the birth and development of several artistic movements in Europe. While Russian art remained quite reserved, developing new ideas slowly in comparison to the Western Europe, it did break away from cold Academic painting in its depiction of common people and the countryside.

Peredvizhniki (the itinerants) appeared in 1863. It was the group of male artists who organized traveling shows and painted common folk, Russian landscape, and portraits. Their aim was to bring the arts to its people. Russian artists refused to depict the Bible scenes and Greek mythology, and focused on painting the world around them instead. They often showed inequality between the rich and the poor, the noble men and the inferior women. They also brought to people’s attention a widespread abuse of children, who often engaged in hard manual labor.  As a result of such movement, Russian art preserved its traditional approach to painting in terms of the technique but changed its themes drastically.

Here are a few great Russian genre paintings completed by the Peredvizhniki.

Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

Russian art, Repin
Ilya Repin, They Did Not Expect Him, 1884-88, The State Tretyakov Gallery

Ilya Repin grew up in poverty and hardship, living among the military. (His father served in the military). He showed passion for art at 13 and began to take art classes at a studio of a local artist. Soon, he became so good that he received commissions to paint the icons, which gave him financial freedom to fulfill his dream. In 1863 the artist travels to St. Petersburg to study art at the Academy. Not admitted the same year, he works on his drawing to get admission next year. Repin becomes quick at gathering medals and awards for his studies and achieves great success with his final Academic project. At the same time he completes a commissioned piece – “Barge haulers.” After his travels in France, he comes back home to paint with the Itinerants.

Repin believed in moral and social purpose in his art and painted peasant life like no other artist of his time. He depicted daily struggles and overwhelming poverty of workers and peasants who lived in stark contrast to well-dressed high society. In this painting of Barge Haulers we see the never-ending bank of the Volga river where the blinding sun  is as strong as the people below it.

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Repin, Barge haulers on the Volga river, 1870-1873

 

Pavel Fedotov (1815-1852)

Pavel Fedotov was born in a large and poor family in Moscow and spent his childhood years among his neighbors. His parents put him into the cadet corps at eleven years of age where the artist showed himself as a brilliant student. He began to sketch the caricatures of his teachers and teacher aids on the pages of his notebooks as well. When he graduated as the ensign of the Finnish regiment, he was found of music and poetry, translated articles from German and sketched his friends. Being very poor, he couldn’t participate in his friends’ parties and continued to work on portraiture and caricature. After a considerable conviction of his friends, he left the service and entered the Academy to study art.

His art instructors doubted his talent because Fedotov ignored the academic principles of battle painting composing horses and soldiers, and spent his evenings painting genre scenes remembered from his childhood. Poor, the artist lived very modestly, sending part of his service pension to his family back home. However, his sense of humor never let him give up on himself and eventually his talent got noticed by a famous Russian fabulist Ivan Krylov, who wrote him a letter asking to give up the Academy and work on his genre painting.

Pavel Fedotov left the Art Academy, and in 1847 showed his first painting “Just knighted. Morning of the official who received his first cross.” The artist loughs at a proud clerk who is shown after his party, living in devastating poverty. The second painting “The Picky Bride” followed the same year to impress his former teachers from the Academy.

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Just knighted. Morning of the official who received his first cross, 1848, oil on canvas, 48x42cm, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

 

Fedotov, Widow, 1851

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Picky Bride, oil on canvas, 37x45cm, TheState Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1847
Pavel Fedotov, Matchmaking of a major, oil on canvas, 58 x 75 cm, 1848, The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

The artist exhibited his masterpiece titled “The Matchmaking of a Major” in 1848 that prompted him an honor award of the Academician.  He depicts a beautiful bride running out of the living room as soon as she saw her future groom appear in a doorway. Richly dressed, her mother catches the bride by her gown. This paining brought the artist fame and financial success. Fedotov wished to travel to England to study genre art, but his friends noticed a change in the artist in 1852. Soon, he was placed in the asylum where he died the same year.

In his short life, the artist left tremendous legacy in Russian art by opening a new direction in Russian genre painting. Most of his oil paintings, sketches and portraits can be seen at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

 

Vasily Perov (1834-1882)

Vasily Perov  received his school education from a local deacon, who taught the boy math, language and the Bible. The boy showed great success in calligraphy and his teacher named him Perov (‘Pero’ sounds similar to a ‘feather’ in Russian).  Perov’s parents didn’t allow their son to enter a local art school, but let him take some art lessons privately nevertheless. Thanks to one of his relatives, Perov enters the art school later in 1852 and studies there to receive awards. After his graduation, he spends two years in Paris but ‘unable to paint anything worthwhile’ in his words, he begs the Academy to let him come back home. (Best artists received scholarships to spend 1-2 years in Western Europe after their graduation at the Academy).

Besides masterful portraits, Perov paints great genre paintings that capture the reality of Russian life and its people. His art explores the disparity between the rich and the poor as well as hypocrisy of the church clergy. Despite his fantastic abilities and successful exhibitions, the artist didn’t consider himself worthy of attention. He lived modestly and died in poverty. Most of his paintings can be found at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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Vasily Persov, Easter rural procession, 1861
Perov, Three students carrying water, 1866

Here the artist depicts children carrying water in freezing conditions of Russian winter.

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Perov, The drowned woman, oil on canvas, 68 x 106 cm, 1867, The State Tretyakov Gallery

In this painting, the artist shows an indifferent policeman sitting and smoking over a dead body of a poor woman (presumably a prostitute) that happened so often that the officials expressed no interest in the lives of the disadvantaged.

Makovsky, to the marriage, 1894

There are more Russian artists who contributed to the legacy of Russian art in the Itinerants movement that included Ivan Kramskoy, Vasiliy Polenov, Vasiliy Surikov,  Vladimir Makovsky, Mikhael Klodt, etc. Female painters were nonexistent until the 20th century in Russia.

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To read about the 19th-century Russian portrait painting, please click on the image.

 

19th century Russian Art & Portrait Painting: eyes are the window to the soul