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The Russian School of Painting

 

THE RUSSIAN
SCHOOL OF PAINTING

 
 

THIS WORK HAS BEEN TRANSLATED
FROM THE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN BY

ABRAHAM YARMOLINSKY

 

Валентин А. Серов - Портрет Николая II (Третьяковская галерея).jpg
NICHOLAS II
Valentine Syerov
 

 

THE RUSSIAN
SCHOOL OF PAINTING



By ALEXANDRE BENOIS

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
CHRISTIAN BRINTON

 

WITH THIRTY-TWO PLATES

 

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NEW YORK • ALFRED A. KNOPF • 1916

 

COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY
ALFRED A. KNOPF
All rights reserved




COMPOSITION AND ELECTROTYPING BY THE VAIL-BALLOU CO.
PAPER SUPPLIED BY HENRY LINDENMEYR & SONS AND LOUIS DE JONGE AND COMPANY
PLATES ENGRAVED BY THE WALKER ENGRAVING CO.
PRESSWORK AND BINDING BY THE PLIMPTON PRESS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

 

An Epistolary Preface
By
Christian Brinton

My dear Alexandre Benois:—

It is with a sense of pleasure and privilege that I assume the responsibility of commending your résumé of Russian painting to the American public. To you who are so familiar with the intellectual and artistic physiognomy of your country the preparation of these pages was a labour of love into which you put the full measure of your scholarly exposition and discriminating analysis. It was at your congenial quarters in the rue Cambon, Paris, during a memorable engagement of the Ballet Russe, where, as you doubtless recall, we first projected an English version of this work. The pressure of other matters prevented the consummation of our plans, which have meanwhile happily materialized, thanks to the discerning initiative of a young publisher who vies with us in the admiration of Slavonic letters and art.

When, my dear Benois, you and I met so fraternally in Rome, Paris, London, and elsewhere Russian art, and more specifically the art of the theatre, was at its apogee. You were then Directeur artistique of the Ballet Russe, and not only were you officially allied with that incomparable assembly of mimes, musicians, and metteurs-en-scène, you were also co-author of such productions as Le Pavilion d'Armide and the racy and poignant Petrouchka. For the time being, indeed, the vogue of the ballet obscured the more substantial and not less significant triumphs of Russian brush and palette as seen in studio or on exhibition wall. The general public was ignorant of the fact that such men as Syerov, Roerich, Anisfeld, Golovin, Vrubel, and yourself were painters in the more explicit meaning of the term. And still less did the average person realize that the ballet was but a phase of certain deep-rooted æsthetic impulses which had been coming to focus during the past score of years.

The one thing, however, the public did sense when face to face with these stimulating spectacles was their effective fusion of motives Oriental and Occidental. The Slav looks eastward as well as toward the west, and this, you will assuredly concede, is characteristic of your country's contribution to the field of artistic endeavour. Despite the drastic Europeanizing process inaugurated by Peter and continued under Elisabeth, Catherine, and subsequent sovereigns, that typically Slavonic note which we instantly recognize and relish was by no means obliterated. Changes took place along all lines of activity. And yet while Peterhof became a miniature Versailles, and French was prattled in the salons and beneath the protecting trees of Tzarskoye Sélo, much that was old continued untouched and echoes of the passionate, enigmatic East still persisted.

In art as in life a sturdy racial integrity is with each Russian an inevitable birthright. The Russ everywhere reveals his power of direct, concrete observation and his ability to grasp the vital aspects of a given scene or situation and to achieve in their presentation a convincing measure of actuality. It is such salutary tendencies that, my dear Benois, mark the earlier portions of your comprehensive and sympathetic monograph. The floodtide of realism whether historic or contemporary was, as you have indicated, reached with the work of Repin and his successor, Valentin Syerov.

The movement during the past two decades has been away from realism and naturalism and in the direction of decorative symbolism. The ideals of the "Mir Iskusstva" men have been continued by the younger spirits who to-day write for "Apollon." Your own contributions whether with brush or pen, as well as those of your colleagues Somov, Bilibin, Ostroumova, Lebedeva, and Lanceray follow logically in the wake of that striving for more purely æsthetic conquests which had its inception in the early nineties. Colour, a distinct feeling for decorative design, and the free play of fancy and passion are the characteristics of the newer school. The particular group to which you belong has revived the graces of former days and transmuted the fragrance of the eighteenth century into something spirited and modern yet instinct with poetic sensibility.

It is, however, far from my intention to usurp your function as an interpreter of Russian art. In your triple capacity of writer, painter, and dramatist you possess unique qualifications for the task in hand. I can only add that you have here achieved your habitual success, and that I am particularly happy for the opportunity of acknowledging even a small portion of the debt I owe you and your ever complex and inspiring country.

Believe me, my dear Benois,

Faithfully yours,

Christian Brinton.

Ardrossan Park,
September, 1916.

 

Table of Contents

PAGE

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
xv

Two fundamental currents in painting.—Their blending.—Methodical principles: manysidedness and proportionality.—Their application to the history of Russian art.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
17

Old church painting and its destiny.—Foreign masters in Russia under Peter I.—Efforts to implant a national art.—Andrew Matvyeyev.—Ivan Nikitin.—The reign of Queen Elizabeth.—More foreign masters summoned.—I. I. Shuvalov.—Origin of Russian painting.—General character of the Eighteenth Century Russian painting.—Art schools.—Painters.—I. Argunov.—Alexis Antropov.—Shuvalov's Academy.—Losenko.—Rokotov.—Levitzky.—His two manners.—Borovikovsky.—Other portraitists.—Nicholas Argunov.—Shchukin.—Landscape painters.—Byelsky.—Destiny of Russian architectural painting.—Topographical engravings.—Shchedrin.—M. Ivanov.—Fyodor Alexyeyev.—Landscape painters of the old school.—Galaktionov.—Martynov.—M. Vorobyov.—Other painters of the "picturesque" school.—Alexander Bryullov.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
55

I. I. Betzkoy, the new head of the Academy.—The second classical Renaissance.—Academies and Classicism.—Academicism and æsthetics.—Academicism and art technique.—"The Russian school of painting."—Akimov.—Ugryumov.—Yegorov, the "Russian Raphael."—Shebuyev, the "Russian Poussin."—Andrey Ivanov, the draughtsman.—F. Tolstoy and Ivan Ivanov.—Minor Academicists.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
67

Romantic efflorescence.—Romanticism in Russian literature.—Inferiority of Russian art to Russian letters.—Echoes of Romanticism in Russian painting.—Kiprensky, the forerunner of Russian Romantic painting.—His portraits.—His decline.—Orlovsky.—His sketches.—Tropinin, the "Russian Greuse."—Karl Bryullov, the Russian Delacroix.—His youth.—Bryullov in Italy.—"The Last Day of Pompeii."—Bryullov in Russia.—His portraits.—G. G. Gagarin.—Von-Moller.—Bruni, the Nazarene.—His life.—His "Brazen Serpent."—Nature of his talent.—Bryullov's pupils.—K. Makovsky.—"Décadence" of Romanticism.—Makovsky's paintings.—Semiradsky.—Mikyeshin.—Other epigones of Romanticism.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
96

Alexander Ivanov and Romanticism.—His education.—Ivanov in Rome.—"Christ Appearing to the People."—His Biblical sketches.—His mysticism.—Ivanov's followers.—N. Gay.—His unbeautlful art.—His portraits.—Kramskoy.—His "Christ in the Desert."—V. Vasnetzov, the pioneer of neo-idealism.—His aims.—His technique.—Nesterov.—His landscapes.—Vrubel, the true successor of Ivanov.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
114

The place of the realistic strain in the Russian school of painting.—Origin of Russian realistic painting.—The part of foreign masters.—Venetzianov.—The character of his realism.—His school and its destiny.—Realistic portraitists.—"Genre" paintings in Russia.—P. A. Fedotov, the father of "purpose" painting in Russia.—His life.—Art with a social tendency.—Fedotov's satirical pictures.—Perov, the representative of narrative and denunciatory painting.—Historical value of his pictures.—The First Secession: "The Refusal of the 13 Competitors."—Its significance.—Vereshchagin.—His pictorial ineffectiveness.—His place in the history of Russian painting.—I. Repin.—Repin and Kramskoy.—Nature of his talent.—His lack of education.—His portraits.—Other representatives of narrative painting.—The epigones: V. Makovsky.—Pryanishnikov.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
138

Historical painting favourite with Russian realists.—Repin's historical paintings.—"Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan."—"The Cossacks' Jeering Reply to the Sultan."—Other historical paintings.—Schwarz, the father of Russian national historical painting.—Surikov.—His influence.—His truly Russian colour gamut.—Ryabushkin.—S. Ivanov.—A. Vasnetzov.—V. Vasnetzov.—His influence.—His fairy-tale pictures.—His most remarkable paintings.—His school.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
150

Two currents in the evolution of the Russian landscape.—Silvester Shchedrin.—M. Lebedev.—Evolution of Russian landscape until the seventies.—Ayvazovsky.—M. K. Klodt.—Shishkin.—F. Vasilyev.—V. D. Polyenov.—A. Kuindzhi, the impressionist.—The Landscape in the eighties.—Levitan.—The narrative landscape.—His technique.—His truly Russian landscape style.—The poetry of Russian nature brought to expression.—Levitan's followers.—Nesterov.—Syerov.—His artistic personality.—His landscapes and portraits.—His historical compositions.—K. Korovin, the Bohemian.—His decorative works.—His colour gamut.—Free Realists.—Braz.—Sergey Korovin.—Arkhipov.—Pasternak.—Mary Yakunchikov.—Grabar.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
175

The critical-historical method inapplicable to the treatment of contemporary art.—Absence of a distinct æsthetic system or programme in contemporary Russian painting.—The future of Russian painting.—Contemporary masters.—Vrubel.—His themes.—His genius.—Somov.—His scope and talent.—His technique.—His place in the history of Russian painting.—Malyavin, the bard of Russian peasant-women.—Return to the national past.—V. Vasnetzov.—Count Sollogub.—Miss H. Polyenov.—Her efforts to develop art industries.—Malyutin.—Golovin.—His colour gamut.—His theatrical decorations.—Bakst.—His decorations.—His book illustrations.—The Renaissance of the Russian book.—Lanceray.—Bilibin.—Roerich.—Dobuzhinsky.—Musatov.—The phantasts and symbolists.

 

List of Illustrations

Valentine Syerov Nicholas II Frontispiece
FACING
PAGE
Dmitry Levitzky Portrait of Princess Golytzin 32
Vladimir Borovikovsky Portrait of F. Borovsky 49
Fyodor Bruni The Brazen Serpent 80
Orest Kiprensky Portrait of a Lady 84
Karl Bryullov The Last Day of Pompeii 93
Alexandre Ivanov The Head of the Apostle Andrew 97
Alexandre Ivanov John the Baptist Preaching in the Desert 100
Nicolay Gay The Crucifixion 102
Victor Vasnetzov St. Nikita of Novgorod 107
Mikhail Nesterov The Vision of St. Bartholomew 109
Vasily Perov The Arrival of the Governess 116
Vasily Vereshchagin The Mass at the Battlefield 125
Ilya Repin The Bargemen of the Volga 132
Ilya Repin Ivan the Terrible and His Son 141
Ilya Repin The Cossacks' Jeering Reply to the Sultan 144
Vasily Surikov Boyarynia Morozov 148
Ivan Ayvazovsky The Wave 157
Ivan Shishkin The Forest in Winter 161
Isaak Levitan The Breeze 162
Isaak Levitan The Pond 164
Valentine Syerov October 166
Valentine Syerov Boys 168
Valentine Syerov Ida Rubinstein 171
Valentine Syerov Portrait of Princess Yusupov 173
Mikhail Vrubel The Daemon 175
Mikhail Vrubel The Daemon (Final Version, 1902) 176
Konstantine Somov At Evening 178
Philip Malyavin A Portrait 180
Sergyey Malyutin Portrait of the Artist 189
Ivan Bilibin Illustration to a Fairy Tale by Pushkin 191
Arkady Rylov Spring 193