The Russian School of Painting/Chapter V
< The Russian School of Painting
Chapter IV
The Russian School of Painting by Alexandre Benois, translated byAvrahm Yarmolinsky
Chapter V.
Realism, and "Purpose" Painting
Chapter VI
CHAPTER V
REALISM, AND "PURPOSE" PAINTING
I
T is customary to consider Realism the chief aspect of Russian painting, the trait which distinguishes it from all other schools of painting. Since the time, however, that Realism has ceased to be a contemporary phenomenon and has been perceived in historical perspective, it has lost its supremacy in popular opinion and dwindled down to the normal proportions of a phase among other phases of Russian painting. Henceforward, Realism will be looked upon as one of the several significant currents of our school.
The origin of Russian realistic painting is to be sought among the amateurs and imitators of the eighteenth century, and also in the field of ethnological dabbling. A class of genre painting, termed "the class of domestic exercises," was established at the Academy of Arts for the purpose of forming Russian "Teniers and Wouwermans" for the lovers of native painting. More important for the development of our realistic painting were the works of various foreign ethnologists and the etchings of foreign artists, which were the first
to attract attention to the peculiarities of Russian life. Of course, these masters, such as Leprince, Geissler, Damame, Atkinson, and others were not realists in the true sense of the term. The motive of their artistic efforts was not the desire to depict the charm of everyday life; what they recorded was the peculiarities they noticed in the curious Russian customs and manners. At any rate, they attracted the attention of Russain society to the colourfulness and picturesqueness of the folk-life. A few Russian masters followed in their steps: under Catherine II—the curious, neglected Yermenyev, also Tankov, Mikhail Ivanov and the sculptor Kozlovsky; later on: Martynov, Alexandrov, partly Orlovsky, who has already been discussed, Karnyeyev, and the illustrators: Galaktionov, I. Ivanov, Sapozhnikov, and others. The most interesting among these artists is Tankov (1739–1799). He attacked complex themes, like "The Fair," "The Village Fire," and mastered them quite successfully by means of reminiscences of Dutch and Flemish paintings.
The first genuine Russian realist was, without a doubt, Alexyey Venetzianov (1779–1847), one of the most striking figures of the Russian school. As he did not become a professional painter until late in life, he escaped the levelling influence of the Academy. The
successes of his contemporaries Yegorov and Shebuyev in the field of classical art did not move him. He modestly chose a way of his own and, as he progressed along it methodically and quietly, he founded a small school of painters who considered it their main purpose to depict, unassumingly, their surroundings.
From the later phase of Realism Venetzianov's art is distinguished by a very characteristic and, from the artistic standpoint, highly valuable trait: it is not narrative. Not literary themes, not anecdotes[1] moved Venetzianov, but rather pictorial motives, sheer colour problems, directly put by nature. And Venetzianov was well enough prepared to master these problems with simplicity and artistic skill. He possessed more technical knowledge than many of his colleagues. He was lucky enough to have been at one time the pupil of Borovikovsky, and he learned from this virtuoso many a secret of the craft, which was later on forgotten. Venetzianov's best works are his portraits, his "Barn," where, following the example of Granet, he endeavours to depict the interior of a scantily lighted building; his "Housewife, Settling Accounts," reminiscent, in regard to light effects, of Pieter de
THE ARRIVAL OF THE GOVERNESS
Vasily Perov
Hooch, and his "Peasants." All these works have made good their claim to belong to the classics of the Russian School.
Venetzianov was fully aware of the importance of his efforts, and he strove to strengthen the art he inaugurated. He did not hesitate to defy the Academy when he found himself driven to it, and he founded his own Academy, with careful study of nature as its sole guiding principle. His enterprise found financial support, and at one time Venetzianov's school flourished. It sent out Plakhov, Zaryanko, Krylov, Mikhailov, Mokritzky, Krendovsky, Zelentzov, Tyranov, Shchedrovsky—all of them—modest, plain people, who, however, transmitted to posterity the true image of their times. Among them Krylov (died in 1850) and Tyranov (1808–1859) are distinguished by delicacy, but it is Shchedrovsky who accomplished most, leaving a long gallery of types, in which Petrograd of Gogol's times lives again. Unfortunately, Venetzianov's school could not get deeply rooted, and the master lived to see, in his old age, his best pupils, dazzled by Bryullov's success, desert him to pass into the camp of the painter of "Pompeii," where they rapidly lost their freshness and turned into cold, pompous academicists. Only one follower remained faithful to Venetzianov's precepts. This was Zaryanko
(1818–1870), a good technicist, but, unfortunately, a man of shallow mind, who turned the living precepts of his master into a rigid, lifeless formula. His portraits are faultlessly drawn and methodically painted, but by their dryness and lack of animation they remind one of coloured photographs.
In addition to Venetzianov, there worked in the first half of the nineteenth century several other realists, who, however, busied themselves almost exclusively with portraits. To these belong Varneck, a very spirited artist and an excellent draughtsman, who, unfortunately, used an unpleasant colour gamut; and the delicate water colour painters: P. T. Sokolov, M. Terebenev, and A. Bryullov. Several first-class intérieurs, executed entirely in Venetzianov's manner, belong also to the brush of Count T. P. Tolstoy, In these the stern empire setting is rendered graceful and snug by the intimacy of the execution. These belong to the most touching pictures of the Russian School.
In the twenties there came into prominence in the West the so-called genre, that is, sentimental, facetious or moralising stories, rendered in painting. This kind of painting was imported into Russia in the thirties. It attracted several followers among Russian painters, such as Sternberg, who died prematurely, Neff, to some extent, and, somewhat later, Ivan
Sokolov, Trutovsky, Chernyshev, and others. Their art was different from that of Venetzianov in so far as their main concern was not painting itself, but this or that subject told by means of painting.[2] They laid the first foundation of narrative painting in Russia, and soon, repeating the evolution of the West, this was followed by realistic painting of the narrow, doctrinal type.
The so-called "tendency" took hold of almost the entire next generation of artists. Aside from the main current there remained only the faithful devotees of the Academy, as well as such artists as were, by the nature of their work, confined to a simple rendition of nature: the landscape painters and the portraitists—among the latter Zaryanko and the gifted, deft Makarov. A place apart is occupied by the magnificent, but very uneven Peter Sokolov (1818–1899). He was the only one among the artists of the period from the forties to the seventies to remain faithful to painting and its direct aims. Unfortunately, Peter Sokolov was of too loose a character, and this trait is most eloquently reflected in his works. Most of his paintings are improvised insipidity. Only some of his portraits and hunting scenes and some of his sad, typically
Russian landscapes, show him as a great master and a true artist. Together with him may be named the unassuming Sverchkov (1817–1898), an artist who, although neither very gifted nor skilful, created a separate branch of painting for himself, where he gave ample expression to his artless love for the "Russian horse."
The father of Russian "purpose" painting was P. A. Fedotov (1815–1852), a poor army officer, and an ardent enthusiast for art, who turned to the "petty" kind of realistic painting, partly because, as a dilettante and self-taught man, he felt himself unequal to graver and higher tasks. The circumstances of his life played, however, a considerable part in the shaping of his talent. The son of a modest retired officer, Fedotov grew up in half-provincial Moscow, in a typical middle-class family. Here he became familiar with the every-day life of the residents of lonely city districts. Later on, in the military school and in the society of his comrades he acquired a familiarity with military circles which played so important a role under Nicholas I. Finally, when he came in contact with the artistic world, it was too late to go to school: he was already a fully formed man with well-shaped ideas and a manner of his own of perceiving and rendering things.
In the middle of the forties the "tendency" was
already in the air. After the world-woe and the abstract æstheticism were gone, the first call to reshape reality was sounded. In Russia, the "intelligentzia" split into Westerners and Slavophiles, and recent friends became embittered enemies; the dazzling pleiad of our great writers, who were to contribute the Russian intellectual mite to the treasury of general culture, were coming of age, and despite the ruthless tyranny of Nicholas's government, the air was astir with revolt. The necessity was felt of changing the skin, of being renewed, regenerated, of amending one's ways.
These moods were to find expression in painting. But it is natural that the echo could not come from the Imperial Academy of Art, a bureaucratic, half-courtly world, nor was the methodical Venetzianov with his humble pupils in a position to produce the first samples of doctrinal propaganda painting. Fedotov alone was nearly fit for such a task, but even he, a retired officer, pensioned by the Emperor, a modest, simple man, intelligent, but childishly naïve, could hardly come up to the level of the literature. He limited himself to what Gogol did fifteen years earlier, that is, to a keen, but not very caustic satire of the foibles and follies of his compatriots.
It is as such a harmless satirist that he made his first appearance before the public in 1849 with his oil
paintings, of which "The Fop" is, for those days, a bold satire on the ambitiousness of the "chinovniks" (bureaucrats), and "The Major's Courtship" is a gay, rather than sharp satire on the life of the merchant class. Then followed the series of pictures where he ridiculed the first attempts at a feministic movement, the ludicrous sides of the petty gentry, the bureaucracy, and various similar subjects—all of which were extensively exploited in the humoristic periodicals of the time. A place apart is occupied by his last works, in which he seems to turn to a quieter, more poetic, and more artistic way of looking at things. Such are his "Widow" and the "Officer at the Village," extraordinary in its poignant sadness.
Fedotov was lost for art when still young, because of a grave mental disease, which was shortly followed by death. If we take into consideration that he was all of thirty when he began to devote himself seriously to painting, it becomes clear that his art is more a brilliant "introduction" than a complete ensemble. This wide-awake artist, who with a truly astonishing rapidity developed from an awkward self-taught man into a brilliant painter—some of the "still-life's" in his pictures are worth the "old Dutchmen"—died before giving expression to the best that was in him. His immediate successor was another man from Moscow, Perov,
who was, in keeping with the new spirit of the times, a bolder, but a less attractive and a less skilful artist than Fedotov.
Perov was born in 1833. His early life was spent in the country and at the city of Arzamas, where he started his artistic education at Stupin's Art School. Then he came to Moscow and attended the School of Painting and Sculpture. With Perov, the venerable old Capital definitely enters the history of Russian art. This happened not only because Moscow was the heart of Russian life in its most characteristic form, but also because the Capital possessed an art school where absolute freedom, at times degenerating into confusion and looseness, reigned supreme. The spirit of the fifties and the sixties, which hailed as its ideal the emancipation of human personality, was, naturally, inimical to all sorts of restraint, to all traditions binding the creative effort, and, consequently, to the Petrograd Academy with its Areopagus. Herein lay, however, a great danger for the young Russian art: it was becoming freer and more interesting, but, dazzled by the magnificence of literature, it was losing its "integrity," and at the same time it was turning away from its own inherent laws. A new period of Russian painting was inaugurated, the so-called "original Russian School" was coming into being, and at the same time
"school" in the technical sense was falling into sad oblivion.
Perov was a true child of his times. A man endowed with a great gift of observation—searching, daring, passionately devoted to his work, he is incontestably a fine manifestation of Russian culture, but his pictures are cheerless as such. They are stories in colour, which would be clearer and more impressive if told in words. What he was concerned with is not pictorial themes, but tales which can be told by means of painting. Even in Paris, whither he went as a scholar of the Academy, he missed the clash of the artistic currents, which was raging in the world city, and almost from the very day of his arrival he began to search in the Parisian streets for themes for narrative pictures, which made him famous in his own country. Of course, this search resulted in nothing, and having become entangled in his study of a world strange to him, he, with rare straightforwardness and conscientiousness, gave up his enterprise and applied for permission to return to Russia. This fact is a summary of a whole page of the history of Russian painting.
Unfortunately, not only for our art, but also for the whole of our culture, the feverish animation of our social life which followed the Crimean War and Alexander II's accession to the throne, too soon subsided,
THE MASS AT THE BATTLEFIELD
Vasily Vereschagin
and resulted only in half-measures, in tragic mutual misunderstanding of the Government and the intelligentzia, and in the relapse of the masses into a state of inert brutality. After a few "liberal" years, during which we seemed to be overtaking mankind in its progress, there ensued a gloomy reaction, which had the saddest effects on our art, as well as on other aspects of the national life. The germs of an original Russian conception of the aims of art, which were contained in the works of Fedotov and Perov, perished before they could sprout. Perov, who went abroad in 1864 after producing his coarse, but pleasant denunciatory pictures, came back at a moment when there could be no question of continuing such bold work. That is why his art, and that of many other painters of that time, has remained something in the nature of a half-uttered word.
Probably the least artistic among Perov's works are his first paintings executed during the "period of the great reforms." But at the same time, these pictures: "The Arrival of the Commissary of Rural Police," "The Village Sermon," "A Tea-Party," and, especially, "The Village Church Procession" are the most valuable portion of his œuvre. As is the case in the contemporary picture "The Convicts' Resting-Place" of Iacobi, the pictorial defects in them are redeemed
by their realistic faithfulness and their daring directness of vision. As paintings they are poor, as historical documents, invaluable.
Perov's later works often betray a delicate gift of observation, a touching sensitiveness and a sympathetic attention toward life, but, on the whole, they are inferior to his first productions. From Courbet's style Perov passed in them to sentimental caricature in the manner of Knaus, and as his pictorial technique did not gain anything in the meanwhile, the result was dull and insipid. In his former manner are executed "The Meal," and "The Arrival of the Governess," a wonderfully characteristic picture worthy of the best scenes of Ostrovsky. His last large paintings, in which he turned suddenly to Bryullov and commenced to picturise historical anecdotes on a huge scale—have hitherto remained puzzling. At any rate, they point to the lack of artistic culture in the master and the utter confusion in his views. Feeling the desire to bid farewell to doctrinal art, Perov found no other way out than hackneyed academicism.
In spite of all his failings, Perov is the most prominent figure among the artists of Alexander II's reign. Side by side with him and a few years after his death there worked several interesting masters, almost all of them collected by P. M. Tretyakov in his Gallery.
One circumstance welded a part of them together and shaped them into that nucleus which later on grew into the "Society of Wandering Exhibitions." This circumstance is known in the history of Russian art as the Secession of the Thirteen Contestants.
At that time the central figure among the academic youth was I. Kramskoy, vigorous, intelligent, incomparably more mature than all his comrades. He succeeded in grouping around himself the more gifted Academy students, and gradually the enthusiasm of this group for the new ideas, which at first was rather encouraged by the Academic administration, assumed the more conscious and concrete character of a "programme." The smouldering discontent finally broke out into an open conflict, and at the Academy Commencement of November 9, 1863, thirteen competitors for golden medals refused to take the mythological theme offered by the Academy, and, having failed to obtain freer conditions for the contest, left the Academy. Finding themselves suddenly in the gulf of life, the recent pupils of the Academy felt the necessity of uniting their forces, and they founded a sort of artists' community, which they called "Artel" (Workmen's Association).
The very fact of the secession from the Academy of a group of young and bold men was of tremendous
importance. They sowed the seed of protest against a scholastic formula forced upon the artists. Henceforward the most vigorous and independent part of Russian artistic youth will cling to the "Artel," feed on its theories, if not actually become members, and be sustained by the spiritual firmness which was generated and upheld by the first private artistic community in Russia. Later on, with the establishment of the "Society of Wandering Exhibitions" (in 1870) the rôle of such "headquarters" of the most advanced Russian art passed to the Society, and remained there for more than twenty years, until the appearance of the exhibitions of the "Mir Iskusstva" ("The World of Art").
And yet the most prominent of our preachers and denunciators in art was an artist who did not belong either to the "Artel" or to the Society. To the isolated figure of V. V. Vereshchagin belongs the honour of being, after Perov, the most pronounced representative of the new artistic views.
Vereshchagin (1842–1904) is a personality very typical of the sixties and seventies. Unlike most of his fellow-artists, who came from the people and were cut off from "society" by their lack of breeding, Vereshchagin, by his origin, education, and social position, belonged to this "society." That is why his art
was more conscious and influential, and his preaching bolder, more concentrated, and sustained. It is significant that Vereshchagin is the Russian painter who has achieved the greatest popularity outside of his country. He treated Russian themes from the viewpoint of a man of Western culture—in fact, from the viewpoint of a citizen of the world. There is not a trace in his painting of naïve nationalism, of a stubborn and stupid tendency to set himself apart from the rest of the world, characteristic of many of his contemporaries. Vereshchagin was a typical Russian nobleman, a man of broad views, of an open intellect, of an innate nobility of intentions, and absolutely alien to petty and narrow patriotism.
Unfortunately, this aristocratic trait in the character of Vereshchagin loses all its importance as soon as we turn to the study of his works. And this is very characteristic of the Russian painter. Vereshchagin was a "European" in his entire programme, in all his projects, but as far as execution is concerned he remained a barbarian. The fact that he belonged to the upper class did not save him. Naturally, he could not acquire correct views of art by associating with people of his circle, who, as a rule looked upon art with little more than contempt and perplexity. Even less could he gain as an artist by associating with his
fellow-painters, for they were entirely absorbed in social problems and exhibited an absolute indifference to matters of purely æsthetic import. True, Vereshchagin had the good fortune of coming to Europe when still a young man, but his scant preparation at home made his trip little instructive for him. Mentzel, Dégas, Manet, Monet, and many other masters, overflowing with vitality and vigour, remained absolutely unintelligible to him, though he, himself, did not lack either vitality or vigour.
Herein lies the cause of the cheerless impression which Vereshchagin's art makes. What is bad about him is not the fact that he was rather an ethnologist than an artist, or that he preached absolute sincerity and told in his pictures what he saw and lived. His main defect is that his œuvre is poor in purely pictorial merits. This artist achieved nothing but an intellectual culture. He was interested in ideas, but indifferent to form.
Nevertheless, Vereshchagin will hold an honourable place in the history of Russian art. To begin with, his pictures have not lost their interest, which signifies that they conceal a great power, a great artistic potentiality. It is true that they are poorly painted and childishly drawn, but they are cleverly planned and their composition shows Vereshchagin as a highly
gifted stage manager. This is a matter of no little importance in art. But even in the purely pictorial respect, Vereshchagin, despite his failings, is not entirely valueless. In his time he was a pioneer, and many of his light and colour discoveries have retained their value until our own day. Some of his Indian sketches are indeed all fire and glow, and some of his costume studies are dazzling.
Alongside Vereshchagin must be placed I. E. Repin, as the biggest artist of the generation of the seventies. When he entered the Academy Bruni was still its director, but, in reality, Repin was the most brilliant pupil and follower of Kramskoy. It is curious that Kramskoy, in his artistic endeavours, kept aloof from the movement which he encouraged. He was too intelligent and open-minded to devote himself soul and body to the naïve artistic programme of his times. But he was fully aware of the relative temporary importance of this programme, and he strove to secure the assistance of all those who could be of use to it. It is with particular zeal that he undertook the education or re-education of these recruits, heedless of the damage he might cause by forcing on them a narrow æsthetic formula.
One of Kramskoy's victims was Repin, undoubtedly a splendid talent, vigorous and broad, who,
nevertheless, spent his life in roving over tracks which lie far from the true aims of art.
Repin was by nature a painter. He came in the period of the complete decline of our school of painting, when at the Academy there reigned supreme the precepts of Bruni, excellent in themselves, but absolutely out of keeping with the times; when the rest of the artists, following the example of Perov, cast away all thought of painting considered as such; when in our higher society the manneristic and mawkish Zichy held sway. Under such circumstances Repin succeeded in creating for himself an original and powerful manner, and in developing a true and fresh palette. It is noteworthy that in this sphere he remained absolutely independent of Kramskoy, of his pedagogical pedantry and timid copying of nature. At one stroke, Repin stepped quite aside, and reminded us in his painting of the old masters, who knew no other school than assiduous study of nature. Unfortunately, Repin, too, has been kept back by his lack of education. Repin tried hard to educate himself and left far behind him the churlish apprentice that he was when he first came from Chuguyev to Petrograd in 1863. Yet, at heart, Repin remained a painter, whose attitude toward his art is essentially unconscious. Like Vasnetzov, he went beyond the
THE BARGEMEN OF THE VOLGA
Ilya Repin
naïve conception of art, but he has never yet attained the conscious, cultural attitude toward it. The meaning of painting, in particular, has remained for him a sealed book. All his life he has been applying his splendid, but not completely developed pictorial gift to the solution of non-artistic problems, and, of course, neither Stasov's sermons, sympathetic in their sincerity as they are, nor the influence of Kramskoy, absorbed in political interests, could save him from his errings.
Nor was Repin corrected by his life abroad, where he was sent by the Academy, after he created his celebrated "Burlaki" ("Bargemen"), a work of great energy and of an excellent composition. In Rome he criticised into nothingness the classics of paintings with the candour of a barbarian, and in Paris, like all his compatriots, he became completely bewildered and started tossing about, unable to derive anything from sources which were the very ones to be of great use to him. Upon his return home, Repin could never quite come to himself. He painted all the prominent men of his time, created a series of denunciatory pictures, on subjects taken from the "nihilistic" and "gendarme" period; finally he tried his hand in the "historical variety," but almost never did he concern himself with the problems of pure painting. Everywhere
he made technique and colour effects subsidiary to rational, non-artistic considerations.
Repin's misfortune lies in that, having become a devotee of the formula of narrative painting, he also conceived the idea that he possessed a powerful dramatic talent. Of course, Repin was a great artist, and as such, a very impressionable man, with a gift for grasping things in an easy and interesting manner. Yet, his calling was not narrative painting, but painting pure and simple. By means of clever calculations, Repin succeeded in arranging his pictures so as to elicit sensational effects of great clarity (as in the "Church Procession"), or a truly tragical note (in "Ivan the Terrible"), or a broad humour (in "The Zaporogian Cossacks"). All these paintings betray great cleverness and dexterity, but there is no truly deep mood in them, no living revelations of the type we find in Ivanov and in Surikov.
Repin's best work are, surely, his portraits. But a certain coarseness mars even these. Repin is a purely external talent, yet in his portraits he tried his utmost to go into the depths of psychological analysis. Consequently, his portraits are insipid as far as colour ones and composition are concerned; they are drawn and modelled neglectfully, carelessly and painted without beauty; and, as characterisation, they are full
of gross and disagreeable emphasis. In this respect, they are far below the intelligent portraits of Gay, and even the precise portraits of Kramskoy.
Perov, Vereshchagin and Repin are the main bulwarks of Russian interpretative Realism, but alongside these there worked many artists of similar tendencies, whose works are of great interest for the history of art, and, above all, for the history of Russian culture. Especially typical representatives of Purpose Painting are the following: the stern Savitzky, the conscientious, dry Maksimov, and Yaroshenko, who immortalised the "nihilistic" youth of the seventies and eighties. Less powerful, but nevertheless typical works were produced by Shmelkov (1819–1890), by Korzukhin (1835–1894), Lemokh, Morozov and Zhuravlev (1836–1901), members of the group of "Thirteen Competitors," who seceded in 1863; also Zagorsky, Scadovsky, Popov, Solomatkin, M. P. Klodt and others. Finally, Bogdanov-Byelsky, Baksheyev, and Kasatkin are "the epigoni" of the movement, who keep on until this very day playing the tunes of the artistic programme of the sixties.
Among the epigones must be reckoned also Vladimir Makovsky (born in 1846), although he is only two years younger than Repin. Makovsky has all the characteristic traits of an epigone. His art has neither
the concentrated strictness of Perov, nor the cheerful convincing power of Savitzky or Yaroshenko, nor the mighty artistic temperament of Repin. Vladimir Makovsky, among all his surly, even gloomy and thoughtful fellow-painters, is the "jester," having always a smile on his face, ever tipping the wink at the spectator to make him laugh. But Makovsky's laughter is neither Fedotov's broad, hearty laughter, nor Perov's malicious grin. Makovsky's witticisms are those of a self-loving man, who deems it his duty to tickle the public and tries hard to attract people's attention even at moments when everybody is absorbed by a common heavy sorrow. Strange to say, this peculiarity of Makovsky's art became clear only gradually, and there was a time when he was considered just as full-fledged a champion of the "serious current" as Perov, Repin or Savitzky. Technically, Vladimir Makovsky was superior to many of his comrades, at least in the best period of his activity. Only later on, his colour gamut grew heavy and disagreeable, and the painting timid. The paintings: "The Lovers of Nightingales' Singing" (1874), "The Bank Failure" (1881), "The Acquitted" (1882), "The Family Affair" (1884), and a few of his portraits belong pictorially to the most perfect works of the "Wanderers." They possess a certain dexterity of brush and a
pictorial workmanship, which are not to be found in the works of Savitzky or Yaroshenko.
One more painter of the realistic school deserves special consideration. This is Pryanishnikov (1840–1894). His first canvas "The Bazaar," painted a year after Perov left for the West is alongside "The Church Procession" and "The Arrival of the Governess" one of the most remarkable pictures of the sixties. Pryanishnikov is, however, even more interesting, because in course of time he strove to free himself from the fetters of purpose painting, and was one of the first to seek new paths. True, "Our Saviour's Day in the Country" (1887) strongly reminds one of a photograph and is far from being model painting, but it was important, that while Repin was busy with his version of the "Church Procession," while Vladimir Makovsky kept on telling his flat anecdotes, and all the rest endeavoured to paint something "useful," Pryanishnikov suddenly threw away all intentions to instruct, narrate, or force his thoughts on people, and turned to the depiction of reality. At that time this was a bold innovation, but before a decade had passed pure realism became the motto of the entire young Russian art.
  1. His paintings with narrative themes, such as "The Last Communion," "The Recruit's Farewell," and "The Soldier's Return," do not belong to his best works. He is less veracious in them. The arrangement is awkward, and the pictorial element neglected. (Author's note.)
  2. In this same category can be classed several gifted illustrators and cartoonists of that time: Stepanov, Agin, and Timm. (Author's note.)
Last edited on 29 August 2019, at 06:29
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