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Progressive Russian painters of XIX century, "Peredvizhniki"

A progressive movement in art in Russia at this time is represented by "peredvizhniki", the painters. Wikipedia writes that the origin of the movement dates to 1863 when 14 of the most outstanding students of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg made a request to be released from an official assignment, which was to create a painting from a subject of a Scandinavian mythology; they wanted to exchange this for a free assignment, i.e. to paint a picture on a subject freely chosen by the painter. The Council of the Academy, headed by a member of the Tsar's family, refused this request. The 14 students left the Academy and became free painters. This event became known as "the rebellion of the 14". They had no one to support them and often led miserly lives. However, this did not stop them from organizing in 1870 "A Comradeship of Wandering Art Exhibitions", or, in Russian, "Peredvizhniki".

The peak of their influence was in 1870's and 80's. This company included such painters as Ilya Repin. Material support was provided by the members of the capitalist class, which was in opposition to the tsarist regime. This included Pavel Tret'yakov (the founder of the famous "Tret'yakov gallery" in Moscow) and Savva Mamontov, an industrialist.

Peredvizhniki have appeared as a rebellion against the official art, meaningless and conservative. We have already seen how Ilya Repin managed to capture many of the most important personages of his epoch. He was capturing "history" in the contemporary people around him.



Surikov stepan-razin


Another member of the "peredvizhniki" circle was Vasily Surikov, 1848-1916. Some of his most famous works include "The Noblewoman Morozova" and "Stepan Razin". In the Morozova picture we see a member of the ruling class which is rebelling against the tsarist regime, and for this she was sent to an exile in Siberia. In Stepan Razin, we see the famous leader of the peasant rebellion (see "The cossack-peasant rebellions "). Together, these two paintings give us an idea of foreboding revolution in Russia.

Vladimir Makovsky, 1846-1920, portrayed the lives of poor people, which seems to have been a popular topic for the times (the first novel of Dostoevsky was called "The Poor People").


The Rooks Have Returned

The works of A. Savrasov (1830-1897) is a continuation of symbolism (first example of symbolism we see in a poetry of Fet ). One of his more famous pictures is "The Rooks Have Returned", which is a sign of the renewal of life.

Vassily Maksimov (1844-1911) has painted "A Boy Mechanic", in 1871, which foreshadows the coming industrial revolution in Russia.

Konstantin Savitsky (1844-1905) has adopted a realist style to paint "Repair Works at a Railroad", in 1874. (Realism was the style adopted by the most

progressive artists and writers of the times, in opposition to Romantism, which was associated with the declining nobility. Thus, realism was the style of such writer as Emile Zola, in France, and Leo Tolstoy, in Russia.)

Victor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) painted personages from the Russian fairy tales. Behind many of these paintings we feel a coming of revolutionary changes. For example, the painting "A Princess Frog", based on a popular fairytale, shows a woman who was formerly a frog and later became a beautiful princess. 

This painting is in stark contrast to the novel "The Heart of a Dog ", by M. Bulgakov, in which we see an unsuccessful attempt to make a man out of a dog. Bulgakov, a counter-revolutionary critic of the Stalinist regime, thinks that an attempt to make a beautiful human being out of a common street "dog" is doomed. (There is a very good Soviet film "The Heart of a Dog" , with English subtitles.)


A student

A painter who painted the narodnik movement and the people was Nikolai Yaroshenko (1846-1898). Among his paintings we find "The Student". And here is a short poem about such students, who went to agitate among the people (the poem is by M. Muravsky):

"A passport, a duffle bag, a dozen of various publications, A pair of strong legs. An array of plans and dreamings"


A girl student

Another painting of Yaroshenko is called "A Girl Student". One of such girl students was Sofia Perovskaya, a member of "The People's Will". A.I. Kornilova-Moroz writes that Sofia Perovskaya "from 16 years of age became a student, which, according to the mores of the times, was not acceptable in the higher society, and even in other, more modest circles, was considered pernicious and immoral". Kropotkin writes that many noble parents did not allow their daughters to attend courses. Some of these girls poisened themselves, and others ran away from their homes.
Yaroshenko has several pictures which depict common people of the times. In the painting "Life is Everywhere" shows how people are able to enjoy life even in prison-like conditions.

Next, Narodniki, part 6

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