Russian Painting, again

November 14, 2008 at 2:11 pm (Art, Russophilia)

In this past Sunday’s Washington Post (11/09/08), there appeared a review of an exhibit at the Hillwood Estate entitled “Fragile Persuasion: Russian Porcelain and the Fine Art of Propaganda.” In the first paragraph, author Paul Richard states:

“It’s odd about the Russians. They’re mighty at the Stradivarius, and at the chessboard, and the writing desk, but at art you’re meant to look at, they’ve never been that great….Painting’s not their thing. They’re better at Knickknacks.

Well, this fairly took my breath away!

artjohnson In his magisterial tome Art: A New History (2003), Paul Johnson includes a chapter entitled “The Belated Arrival and Sombre Glories of Russian Art.” It begins thus:

“There are important parallels between the two great emerging powers of the nineteenth century, the United States and Russia–their infinite vastness, consciousness of immanent strength, and nervousness in confronting omni-triumphant European culture. Both produced great art during this period, but whereas American achievements are at last beginning to be understood, in all their magnitude, the process of exploring Russian painting has scarcely started.

Johnson goes on to do some exploring of his own, highlighting masters such as Vasily Surikov, Isaak Levitan, and Ilya Repin, whose portraits of Tolstoy seem to capture the essence of that great chronicler of the soul of the Russian people.

tolstoy_by_repin_1901

There is already a post on Russian art elsewhere on this blog.

Meanwhile, here are some timely reminders of the glory of Russian painting:

Portrait of a Peasant Woman in a Russian Costume, 1784

Portrait of a Peasant Woman in a Russian Costume, 1784, by Ivan Argunov

Cathedral Square, by Dmitri Alexeev

Cathedral Square, by Dmitri Alexeev

Evening the Golden Plyos, by Isaak Levitan

Evening the Golden Plyos, by Isaak Levitan

It's All in the Past, by Vasilii Maximov

It's All in the Past, by Vasilii Maximov

The Hermit, by Nesterov

The Hermit, by Mikhail Nesterov

Menshilov, by Vasilii Surikov

Menshilov, by Vasilii Surikov

Modest Mussorgsky, by Ilya Repin

Modest Mussorgsky, by Ilya Repin

Dostoevsky, by Ilya Repin

Dostoevsky, by Vasily Perov

Wild, by Ivan Shishkin

in the Wild North, by Ivan Shishkin

There’s much more where these came from; see The Russian Art Gallery . And while you’re there, have a look at the section on Old Russian Icons

Miracle of Florus and Laurus -  XV century

Miracle of Florus and Laurus - XV century

and Contemporary Russian Art.

Evident Advantages of the Point of Panoramic Viewing, by Valentin Gubarev

Evident Advantages of the Point of Panoramic Viewing, by Valentin Gubarev

Knickknacks indeed!!

***********************************************

I just found the site of an arts institution new to me: The Museum of Contemporary Russian Art. Now click here to find out where it is; this information will likely bring a smile to your face – it did to mine!

Finally, here is one of the chief treasures of my art book collection:

russian-painting-book

This book was produced by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service, in association with the University of Washington Press. The featured art is from the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the State Russian Museum in what is now St. Petersburgh. (I say “what is now” because the book was published in 1986, and the location of the State Russian Museum is given on the title page as Leningrad. The museum itself has had several names – viz this Wikipedia entry. I am reminded of Neal Ascherson’s comment in the Preface to his book Stone Voices to the effect that in Russia, “..the past is said to be unpredictable.”)

The luminous cover portrait is of Vera Repina, painted by her father Ilya Repin.

2 Comments

  1. yuli kodo said,

    the Russian Painting so very nice…i am from Indonesia jogjakarta

    • Roberta Rood said,

      I am so glad you enjoyed the post on Russian painting. It is my great pleasure to make contact with someone from Indonesia, as a result of my blogging efforts. Surely, this is one of the most rewarding & gratifying aspects of the online world.

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