Three Centuries of Russian Paintings
The eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries make a new, special period in the development of Russian painting in the age-old history. If the artistic culture of the old medieval Russia or as it was also called Ancient Russia was penetrated with religious ideals, the works of the twelfth-eighteenth-centuries painting (icons and mural paintings) are typical works of art based on Christian denomination. The portrayal was in keeping with Orthodox canons. Since the eighteenth century the shift of Russian art towards “Secularization” began taking shape as well as it links with European culture.
The Russian state, created by Peter the Great, provided for reforming arts independent from the Church. By means of his reorganization Peter I cut a window to Europe. To implement his reforms he invited dozens of European scientists, engineers masters, workers of culture and arts to serve in the new capital of the country, St Petersburg. Besides, taking care of national specialists, the emperor willingly sent Russian people for training abroad. The famous painter, Ivan Nikitin, was among them. One of his master pieces is the portrait of “Peter I”. His paintings were so good and people saying that nobody could be equal with him at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Beginning with the second half of the eighteenth century, The Academy of Art played an important role in Russian art. One of the oldest in Europe, the Russian Imperial Academy was founded in St Petersburg in 1757. The works of the majority of painters were associated with it. Unlike the Western European school which turn to the Bible or Greek and Roman history, Russian Academy of Arts developed their own historical theme in Russia.
In the nineteenth century the Russian Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg was still the centre of artistic life in the country, critical realism still took the leading position in painting in the second half of the nineteenth century. The liberation movement in Russia and the reform of 1861 influenced arts. Fourteen final year students left the Academy in 1863 to protest against academic routine and the limitation of creative freedom. They organized “The artists’ association” in St Petersburg and a widen organization “The Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions”, defined the further development of Russian art.
From the late 1890 numerous art groups sprang up through Russia, replacing one another or coexisting with one another. At the turn of the century Russian aesthetic life became even more dynamic and diversified. Thus began an epoch in which individualism was gaining the upper hand, whereas in the second half of the nineteenth century the individuality of every artist revealed itself within one common method, without effecting its basic essentials, now every group not only came out with an idealogical manifesto of its own, but brought together extremely varied, at times rather contradictory individuality of every artist revealed itself within one common method, without effecting its basic essentials, now every group not only came out with an idealogical manifesto of its own, but brought together extremely varied, at times rather contradictory individualities methods and stylistic devices.
The “World of Art” group enjoyed a great popularity accompanied by a sharp controversy at the turn of the centuries. Their point of view were more or less the same as the ideas proclaimed by the literary magazine of the same name. Demands for creative freedom, denial of social tendencies, interest in refined culture of distant epochs were typical of them.
The most popular organization of painters in the 1920s was AARR (Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia). Isaak Brodsky (1894-1939), Ilya Repin’s pupil, was one of the most active participant. He began his work before the revolution. After it he became the author of a number of representative portraits of party leaders in the new government. He often used photo materials in the course of work. Documentary precision was on of the AARR’s demands to its member.
In 1921 the communist government made a decision to amalgamate all different art unions or associations to become one art organization, one in Moscow called “Moscow Artists Associations”, one in Leningrad called “Leningrad Artists Association”. In 1934, with the guidance of the communist government, artists were requested to follow the principal and style of creation of art called “Socialist Realism”. They were in most cases, leaders’ portraits, party congress, solemn meetings, confidence and happiness of people in all circumstances in demonstratively pompous character and this style last until the dissolve of USSR.
During these three centuries, Russian paintings were developing with European culture. There were great upsurges in portraiture and historical genre. There was the time when its general tempo slowed down. At the turn of the twentieth century Russian painting left behind the dynamics of new search and discoveries. Its outstanding masters influenced many foreign painters. But the most precious quality is thirst for creating pictures , deep vivid works which express great search of humanity, its inspiration by the ideas of beauty, peace and humanism.
Excerpt from “Three Centuries of Russian Painting”
在18世紀初期，彼得大帝建立起新的首都聖彼得堡亦是文化中心。 他愛好藝術, 打開歐洲之窗, 引入大量歐洲藝術家到彼得堡工作，並送俄國人到國外留學修讀藝術。 在他的時代購入大量歐洲油畫，現存在國家不同的博物館。
1863年11月9日，彼得堡美術研究院十四名畢業生，以克拉姆斯科伊（Ivan Kramskoi）爲首，提出自己選擇畢業作品主題而不是規定的宗教題材， 建議遭到院方反對，於是他們公開與學院領導決裂，離開學院後成立了“聖彼得堡畫家公社” （The Artists Association）。 畫家公社是俄國第一個獨立的美術團體。其對外公佈活動内容是接受美術作品訂貨，為出版的書作插圖，教授繪畫與雕塑等。
1870 年克拉姆斯科伊結束了自己在畫家公社活動，繼之而起的是一個新的美術團體“巡迴畫展協會”（ The Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions， Itinerants)。 協會最早的倡議人是畫家米亞索耶多夫 （Myasoyedov），強調協會獨立性，提出在各城市舉行展覽，使地方人士理解俄羅斯的藝術成就，促進社會對藝術關愛，便於畫家銷售自己的作品。在五十年間巡迴展覽舉辦了48次展會，很多名家都先後加入如列賓（Ilya Yafimovich Repin）、蘇里科夫 （SurikovVasili Ivanovich）、希什金 （Shishkin Ivan Ivanovich）、費申 （Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin）、庫因芝(A.l.Kuinji)等。他們提倡表現現實生活，民族形式和民族的典型的繪畫主題，使畫家對本身的民族深入了解。
1890 彼得堡有獨立見解的青年常聚在一起聚談開始時是文藝沙龍的性質，取名“藝術世界”，探討俄國文藝問題。 後來發展到成爲藝術界一個很有影響力 的團體。其中一人叫佳吉列夫 （Dyagilev Sergey Pavlovich）對歐洲新的藝術動向特別敏感，努力幫助俄國優秀的美術家進入西歐的藝術生活，使俄國藝術逐步加入歐洲現代藝術行列。1899年社團辦起了雜誌“藝術世界”其重點有兩個：一）是對俄國和西歐國家造型藝術現狀的評論，二）是有計劃地介紹民族民化中過去沒有被人注意，或評價的藝術作品及歷史，如俄羅斯18世紀藝術和19世紀初期的作品雜誌，辦了6年（1899-1904）後因内部分裂令雜誌解散。十月革命後，在1924 年藝術世界舉行最後的一次展覽後解散。
蘇聯美術家協會籌備委員會負責人，1947年成立的蘇聯美術研究院院長是油畫家亞歷山大，格拉希莫夫（Alexander Mikhaylovich Gerasimov 1881-1963）。1933年他畫了斯太林的第一幅肖像 ，以後又畫了三十多幅以斯太林爲主的作品，成了美術界“社會主義現實主義”的代表人物，盛大的，歡樂的、勝利的場面逐漸成爲蘇聯時期官方提倡的繪畫樣板，格拉莫夫當了美術界領導以後對稍有離經叛道的美術傾向都予以扼殺，各種流派逐漸銷聲匿跡。在社會主義現實主義創作下，出現了一批粉飾現實，美化歷史與個人祟拜的作品，有些畫家技巧甚高，如瓦 葉法諾夫（Efanov Vasily 1900-1978）後來人們稱他的畫是鼓掌派，他的作品都是人物衆多的大場面，群衆在熱烈地歡呼與鼓掌。