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Spring 2007 Overview
Russia and its World:
History and Culture
The Nationalist School of Art: The Itinerants
Lecture 24 Background: The Academy
The Nationalist School of Art: • From the early eighteenth century during Peter the Great’s era, Russian art gradually looses
its former, almost exclusively religious, orientation and takes on a distinct, secular character.
The style of Russian painting changes dramatically as well: artists begin to show the visible The Itinerants
world as a three-dimensional image. Techniques also change: paintings are executed
primarily in oil color on canvas, while the main materials of old Russian icons were wood
panels and egg tempera. All of these changes entail assimilation to Western art.
• The first genre to develop in this direction is portraiture.Topics
• From the mid-eighteenth century, the Russian school of painting and sculpture had been
controlled by the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg (founded in 1757):Overview
1. Ivan Kramskoy (1837-87)
2. Nikolay Ge (1831-94)
3. Vasilii Perov (1834-82)
4. Ilya Repin (1844-1930) • The Russian academy, like its model the French academy, was conservative:
– The techniques of Italian art were adequate for all purposes. We just have to learn how to use them.5. Vasilii Surikov (1848-1916) – Admissible subjects:
• Portraits6. Ivan Shishkin (1832-98)
• Subjects should be of mythological, historical, or biblical origin. 7. Ilya Levitan (1860-1900)
– From our immediate surroundings, only portraits.
8. Others 2 • On the other hand, the academy had certain advantages, such as funding, teaching 4
positions and scholarships for study abroad (essential!).
1The Itinerants-3The Itinerants-1
The Peredvizhniki were progressive not only in their art itself, but also in the
way they reached their audience.
• In the relatively liberal atmosphere under Alexander II, there was – The Association was called "traveling" because after closing an
growing discontent among some artists with the traditionally exhibit in St. Petersburg, it would move to the provinces. Usually, it
conservative attitude of the Academy of Arts. In 1863, a group of took one year to cover the route and return to St. Petersburg. The
Association covered the major cities of the Russian Empire such as students at the Academy rebelled at the proposed topic for the
Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Kishinev, Warsaw, and, less often, annual Gold Medal painting competition: "The Entrance of Odin into
Riga. Valhalla." They felt that this mythological fantasy was too remote
– The Association organized 48 exhibition before it stopped functioning. from the real life of Russia that, they believed, demanded their
The idea of taking art to the provinces was an innovation, sinceartistic attention. Thirteen painters and 1 sculptor resigned from the
before the Peredvizhniki there were no traveling art exhibitions at all. Academy in protest, thereby threatening their careers and
– Artists were extremely interested in participating in the Association’s professional opportunities.
traveling exhibitions, because besides St. Petersburg and Moscow -
• Soon after they withdrew from the Academy, the thirteen formed an which already had art markets - the provinces offered a chance to
Artists' Cooperative Society. earn more money.
• In 1870, they formed the "Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions," and – At its height in the 1880s about 80,000 people were visiting the
shows every year. The average annual audience figure was betweenthe painters became known as "Peredvizhniki" (in English, they are
30,000 and 50,000 people, with between six to 10 cities visited a
known as “Itinerants” (sometimes called the Wanderers" or year. Between 100 and 300 works comprised the exhibitions on
– It was essentially a collective: the artists shared the proceeds from
5 7the art sales.
The Itinerants-2 Two key figures who were not artists ...
•The Peredvizhniki committed themselves to populist themes painted
in an accessible realist style and believed their art might serve as a
vehicle for social reform and promote the development of a national
consciousness. Realism and naturalism.
that did a lot to shape the art of the peredvizhniki• Goals:
– Respect for traditional Russian life, such as that of (Russian) peasants
and the non-Russian ethnic groups (for their exotic appeal)
– See and represent things as they are (representational art) – Pavel Tretiakov (1832-98, rich industrialist
– Aspire to social and political reform
– Give the opportunity to everybody in Russia to get acquainted with its and art collector).
– Develop love for art in Russian society – Vladimir Stasov (1824-1906, art critic)
– Make selling their works easier and more profitable for the artists.
• Although the leaders of the Peredvizhniki were conscious of
European movements, their own agenda was a Russian one.
Among their constant themes were the Russian peasantry, the
Russian landscape, and the Russian clergy. Some accuse them of
being provincial (in European terms).
2Portrait of Tret’jakov by
Repin (1883) Precursors
•Tretiakov was interested in collecting
paintings that reflected Russian national
existence. Tretiakov (together with his
brother) collected 1,757 paintings • The academy
between 1856-1893, set up a permanent
exhibition hall in 1874, which he donated
• Aleksander Ivanov (1806-58)to the city of Moscow in 1893. It was the
first public art museum in Moscow. This
is the Tret’jakov Gallery in today’s – The Appearance of Christ to the People"
Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow
A. A. Ivanov: The appearance of Christ to the PeopleRepin: Vladimir Stasov 1883
• Vladimir Stasov was
interested in developing
the idea of a Russian
national art (so that one
could look at a painting
and say that it was
Russian, the same way
that others could look at a
painting and say it was
French or Italian).
• His brother Dmitrii
played a similar role in
developing a Russian
10 12national school of music.
John the Baptist
Portrait of an older
Kramskoy by Repin (1882)
From a self-portrait (1867)
Kramskoy: L. N. Tolstoy (1873)1. Ivan Kramskoy (1837-87)
• Ivan Nikolayevich Kramskoy, art critic and theoretician of art, was an originator and
ardent inspirer of the Peredvizhniki. Born into the family of a provincial state clerk,
Kramskoy had no opportunity to study art during childhood. At the age of 15 he
became an apprentice to an icon-painter, a year later a photographer took him as a
• Only in 1857, he managed to come to St. Petersburg and enter the Academy of Arts.
There he soon became a popular leader among the students. In 1863, he led the
famous walk-about, whereby the 14 best graduates refused to fulfill the diploma work
on a given mythological theme. All 14 were dismissed from the Academy
• Kramskoy headed the St. Petersburg Team of Artists, a commune where artists
shared studios and household.
• Ivan Kramskoy is famous mainly as a portraitist Since 1869, Kramskoy started to
receive regular commissions from the collector of Russian art Pavel Tretyakov, who
commissioned portraits of personalities of Russian culture and science. These
portraits have become an innate part of the Russian art and social history.
• Brilliant mind and a great organizer
• In 1869, St. Petersburg Academy chose him an academician. The same year he
made his first trip abroad: he visited Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Düsseldorf, Antwerp,
Paris, and Vienna, where he studied famous art collections.
4Also portraits, but very Kramskoy: Dmitrij
Insulted Jewish boy
A Russian girl in a
blue shawl (1882)
Kramskoy – Pavel Tret’jakov
Kramskoy: Old Peasant (1872)
52. Nikolay Ge (1831-94)
A Russian artist born into a
noble family of French origin
emigrated from France during
the French Revolution). He
was brought up by his serf
nurse, who taught him, as he
later said, compassion for the
humiliated and insulted, a
keen sense of other people’s
Portrait of Ge by Repin (1880)
Kramskoy: `Unknown woman’ (1883)
Kramskoy: Christ in the Wilderness (1873)
Ge: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1884)
6Ge: Peter I interrogating the carevich Perov: Easter procession in a village (1861)
Aleksey at Peterhof (1871)
3. Vasilij Perov (1834-82)
•Co-founder of the Society of
Travelling Exhibitions (along with (1861)
Kramskoy and Ge) in 1871.
•Sometimes criticized as
producing `postcards’ (Norman
28 30Portrait of Perov by Kramskoy
7Perov: Dostoevskij (1872)Perov: Troika: Apprentice workmen carrying
Perov: Final farewell
8Repin: Volga boatmen (1873)
Repin: Unexpected return (1884)4. Repin (1840-1930)
• Ilya Efimovich Repin was born in 1844 in a small
Ukrainian town of Tchuguev in the family of a military
settler. As a boy he was trained as an icon painter.
• At the age of 19 he entered the St. Petersburg
Academy of Arts. His arrival in the capital coincided
with the ‘Riot of the Fourteen’, the rebellion of the
• In 1873, Repin went abroad. For some months he had
been traveling in Italy and then settled and worked in
Paris up to 1876. It was in Paris that he witnessed the
first exhibition of the Impressionists, but, judging by the
works created then and by his letters home, he didn't
become the ardent follower of this new Paris school of
painting, though he didn't share the opinion of some of
his country-men who saw a dangerous departure from
“the truth of life” in Impressionism.
9Repin: Musorgskiy (1881) Repin: Tolstoy as Plowman (1887)
Repin: Tsarevna Sophia Alexeevna in Repin: Tolstoy (1887)
the Novodevitchy Convent (1879)