Tag: russian painting

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

art appreciation: understanding the qualities of great art

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

In this first video in the series you’ll learn about some of the greatest works of art, art movements, ideas and artistic elements. This video will help you understand and appreciate the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century. Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

Video Notes:
Overview:

Art Movements 0:42

Art Patrons 1:49

Art Education & female artists 2:21

Why do artists create art? 3:26

Artistic Elements : Story & Subject

Story & Subject 4:29

Biblical Scenes 5:16

Historical & Mythological Painting 9:03

Formal Portraiture 14:42

Landscape art 20:33

Genre art & Dutch still life 23:13

Kramskoy, portrait of a stranger, 1883

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Next video: Video #1 | Part 2

In my next video you’ll learn about major artistic elements that artists use to design their paintings. They include composition, emotion, color, and the use of shapes, space and some painting techniques.

Painting detail of angels, art in Turin, Italy

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great – you’re here!

Video #1 Part 2 – Learn what makes a painting great, part 2

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!

Hand, painting detail, art in Turin, Italy
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! 🙂

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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.

Russian art_Repin
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.

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

 

Fedotov, Widow, 1851

Fedotov, choosy bride, Russian art
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.

russian art, perov
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.

Russian painting
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.

veronica winters

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