Painting XVIII century
Antropov A. P.
Antropov was born in St. Petersburg in 1716 in a family of a military carpenter. Perhaps because Antropov was born into a craftsman's family, his artistic inclinations began to show early. When he was 15, he started his art schooling and in the next seven years was instructed by some of the best known Russian and foreign painters of the time, including A. Matveev, M. Zakharow, I. Vishnyakov, L. Caravaque, and P. Rotari.
One of the most influential Russian painters of the eighteenth century, Aleksei Petrovich Antropov is best remembered for the sincerity and directness of his portraits. However, Antropov's achievements were not limited to portraits; he was also an accomplished icon painter, miniaturist, and metal worker. He is recognized for bridging the stylistic gap between the painters of the Petrine period and those of the late eighteenth century, and for ending the artistic stagnation that characterized the 1730s and 1740s.
In 1739, Antropov became an apprentice in the Chancellery of Buildings. His instructor was Ivan Vishniakov. The early works of Antropov were still influenced by the parsuna tradition, but, learning quickly, he made the transition to Western portraiture with relative ease. In the 1740s, Antropov received a number of commissions to decorate palaces in St. Petersburg, among them the Anichkov Palace and the Summer and Winter Palaces. He also worked in Moscow. In 1752, Antropov was sent to help Rastrelli in the restoration of the church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Kiev. In four years, without helpers, Antropov completed the icons for the iconostasis and the murals. During his stay in Kiev, the artist became a mentor of Dimitrii Levitskii, who is often considered the greatest Russian painter of the mid-eighteenth century. From Kiev, Antropov went to Moscow and in two months completed two panneau in the Golovin's Palace, gaining a reputation of an accomplished secular painter. After his return to St. Petersburg, Antropov painted a number of successful portraits of aristocracy. In 1761, already a famous artist, Antropov was invited back to Moscow, where the future Academy of Arts was to be located. Since the Academy was not opened in Moscow, the artist was appointed the chief painter of the Holy Synod and an overseer of icon-copying works. In 1789, wishing to establish a private school of painting and a public college, he donated his house to the Office of Public Charity. Antropov was active as a teacher of painting and an artist until his death in 1795.
Aleksei Antropov's best known works include Portrait of Catherine the Great, Portrait of Peter III, and the portraits of V.A Sheremeteva, M.A Rumyantseva (see above), Anastasiia Izmailova and Vice-Chancellor A.M. Golitsyn. Characteristic of many of his works was great attention given to the detail and ornamentation of the setting and costume. In addition, Antropov combined the traditional patriarchal portrait of the seventeenth and eighteenth century with that of the developing techniques of realism. His portraits were a tribute to the subject, as they genuinely portrayed the person in a simple and natural manner that let the true essence of the person come through. Without either manipulating the stature or position of the sitter or adding unnecessary and distracting psychological insights, Antropov was able to reveal his sitter's true character.
Besides painting Antropov liked pedagogical activity. In 1765 he had eight pupils, and later in 1789 in " St.-Petersburg sheets " announcement of Antropov about opening of art school in his own house has appeared. Among numerous pupils of Antropov two have become history of domestic art. They are D.G. Levitsky and P.S. Drozhdin.
Borovikovsky V. L.
Borovikovsky is one of the most charming, even enchanting Russian painters of the end of 18th and beginning of 19th century.
He was born in a noble family in Mirgorod, in 1757. Despite his talent for drawing, he joined the army and dedicated himself to art only after his retirement. He divided his time between painting icons and portraits. The artist owes the change of his fate to Catherine II. During one of her trips to the south of Russia, the Empress stopped at Kremenchug and commissioned from Borovikovsky two allegorical canvasses of herself. She was so impressed with the results that she invited the artist to St. Petersburg. In the capital, Borovikovskii met Dmitrii Levitskii and became his student. The artist became so popular that he had great difficulties with fulfilling all of his commissions. Moreover, the fame of the secular world seemed to contradict his deeply religious beliefs. He always considered religious painting his main goal in life and his activities as divine predestination. At the end of his life, his dreams came true: he devoted himself almost exclusively to religious art and even considered becoming a monk. He died in 1825, but his artistic legacy was preserved and developed by one of his most talented students, Aleksei Venetsianov.
His exquisite taste can be seen in his harmonious combination of olive, lilac, and pearly silver tones with stronger primary colors. But the harmony of colors is not the goal in itself -- it leads to the world of peace, tranquility, and "sweet dreams." Through his art Borovikovsky shows his belief in the possibility of harmonious coexistence of man and nature. The women in the artist's canvasses are immersed in poetic, dreamy atmosphere. The trees in the background replicate with their branches and leaves the outlines of the figures. The details do not obscure the spirituality of the portrayed women; their inner worlds, their "eternal feminine" manifests itself in the sparks of their eyes, in their hand gestures, in their lips, in their hair, even in their clothing.
The Portrait of Anna Ivanovna Bezborodko with Her Daughters Liubov' and Cleopatra (1803) demonstrates how Borovikovskii embodies in his art such sentimentalist ideas as friendship and familial devotion, the tender unity of hearts and nobility of pure feelings. The decorative background with a landscape -- an attribute of nature, the true sphere of existence -- completes the idyllic picture of family happiness. The dignity of human relationships and the sensitivity of the human soul are reflected in the refined beauty of the portrait's form. All the elements of the painting -- from the graceful gestures of the mother and her children, through the masterfully rendered details, to the virtuosity of the drawing and the perfect technique of applying paint without leaving visible brush strokes on the canvas-- turn the work into a precious object.
An interesting contrast to Borovikovsky's female portraits can be seen in the Portrait of Aleksander Borisovich Kurakin (1801-2). The painting continues or perhaps brings to its conclusion the development of the ceremonial portrait of the eighteenth century. Following the existing tradition, Borovikovsky shows the vice-chancellor at the court of Paul I standing, in formal clothes, on the background of a column and a heavy curtain. Numerous details emphasize the closeness between the prince and the Emperor; the most important of those is the cross of the Order of the Knights of Malta (the Emperor was its founder and Grand Master), which appears four times on the Prince's tailcoat and once on the black velvet cape. To leave no doubt about Kurakin's devotion, Borovikovsky places him next to a statue of Paul, decorated with a gold double-headed eagle and the Emperor's insignia. The artist's painterly technique can be seen as an artistic metaphor for Kurakin's nickname, "The Diamond Prince." The painting looks like an expensive jewel -- this effect is achieved through Borovikovsky's amazing ability to show minute details (the lace cuffs, the diamond-studded medals, the curtain tassels) and to contrast the textures of various materials, from the soft black velvet to the crisp brocade and the solid marble and plaster. The brightness of colors also contributes to the jewel-like radiance of the painting.
Kozlovsky M. I.
Kozlovsky M. I. (1753-1802)
Though an artist of great versatility, it was particularly in sculpture that Mikhail Kozlovsky made a name for himself.
He was born into a family of military musicians. The boy's precocious talent for drawing prompted his parents to send him to the Academy of Arts. Here he entered the sculpture class and was taught by Nicolas Gillet, a French artist who trained many talented sculptors of that time. Apart from sculpture, which he attacked with great enthusiasm, Kozlovsky was also very keen on drawing, and when it came to choosing which to specialise in he vacillated for a long time.
In 1772 Kozlovsky was awarded a first class gold medal for his programm bas-relief *Prince Izyaslav in the Field of Battle (plaster, in the Scientific Research Museum of the USSR Academy of Arts), the theme of which was taken from Russian history. Here he succeeded in creating a dynamic scene: the characters (1) poses are full of expression, their gestures are exaggeratedly emotional. The artist had at this stage not yet achieved the severe restrained style which was to characterise his mature period.
Winning a Grand Gold Medal for his diploma work *The Return of Svystoslav from the Danube* (1773), Kozlovsky graduated from (the Academy of Arts and set off for Italy to continue his education. His horizons were widened, and his work profited by the knowledge he gained here of works of classical art and by his close study of canvases by Renaissance artists. Of the works he completed in Rome, however, apart, from some drawings done with enormous verve and perfection, nothing has come down to us. In 1780 the Marseilles Academy of Arts awarded him the title of an academic?a fact which testifies to the popularity of his works abroad.
On his return home, Kozlovsky worked on the decoration of many architectural monuments; bas-reliefs, for example, for the Concert Hall at Tsarskoye Selo (architect: Giacomo Quarenghi) and for the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg (architect: Antonio Rinaldi). He also made a marble statue of Catherine II represented as Minerva (1785. RM). It is an idealized, majestic image of the empress and legislatures. Catherine liked the statue and Kozlovsky obtained permission to travel to Paris to further his knowledge in his art.
In 1790 Paris the sculptor fashioned his statue *Policrates* (RM), the theme of man's striving for freedom which this work expressed, reflected the revolutionary events in France which Kozlovsky witnessed. The master portrayed the most intense moment in the sufferings of Polycrates bound by the Persians to be free. Never before had the sculptor attained such expressiveness and drama in conveying complex human feelings or such forceful imagery. He was aided in this by his excellent knowledge of anatomy and by working with models.
In 1794 Kozlovsky was made an academician, later 'in recognition of his talents', he was appointed professor, and in 1797 senior professor. His importance as a teacher at the Academy was extremely great. As an excellent graphic artist and a sensitive, attentive teacher, he commanded love and respect all around. A whole series of talented young sculptors emerged from his studio, including S. Pimenov, I. Terebenev and V. Demut-Malinovsky.
In the late 1780s and 1790s the sculptor was at the peak of his talent. At this period he was
attracted by the heroic themes full of patriotic fever. In 1797 he carved the marble statue
*Yakov Dolgoruky Tearing Up a Royal Decree* (RM). It is significant that the artist took his
theme here from recent Russian history. He was drawn by the image of Peter the Great's associate, who was not afraid to tear up an unjust tsar's decree?which laid impossible burdens on the impoverished peasantry?in the tsar's presence. The figure of Dolgoruky is full of determination and steadfastness. His face is angry and stern. His right hand holds a torch, his left the scales of justice. At his feet are a dead serpent and a mask?symbols of treachery and pretence.
Kozlovsky also took subjects from the Homeric epics and Roman history. An important place in his art is occupied by his work on the figure of *Alexander of Macedon* (1780s, RM). In the statue *The Vigil of Alexander of Macedon* the sculptor represented an episode from the training of the future leader's will. The young man's body is handsome and perfect, his movements nimble and smooth. The silhouette of the statue is well thought-out, with distinct expressive contours.
Kozlovsky based a series of sculptured and graphic studies on Homer, the most successful of which was the marble statue *Ajax Protects Body of Patrocles* ( 1796, RM) on the theme of manly friendship and devotion The tense movement of Ajax's figure, his broad stride and the vigorous turn of his head all reveal his resolution and willpower. The scene derives a sense of drama from the contrast between the lifeless immobility of Patrocles' body and the strong muscular Ajax.
Almost all of Kozlovsky's later works were marked by a spirit of heroism and valorous struggle. In the bronze group *Hercules on Horseback* (1799, RM), this was a symbolic expression of the military genius of Suvorov. The outstanding general is represented as the young Hercules, astride a galloping steed, and this figure is expressive and imposing. In a
sense, this group was a preliminary stage in the sculptor's work on his masterpiece?the monument to the great Russian General Alexander Suvorov.
It was with great zeal that Kozlovsky embarked on this project in 1799. The sketches -now kept by the Russian Museum- testify to the long complex search that led to the final solution. Only in the final versions did the artist arrive at the idea of representing Suvorov as the 'god of war' 'with a sword and shield in his hands. In order to glorify the strength and courage of the Russian General. Kozlovsky resorted to allegory, creating an idealised, generalised image of a warrior. It contains no concrete features of Suvorov's own personality, for the whole point of the monument was to express the general's bravery, resoluteness and unflinching will. He is caught in the middle of an energetic but restrained movement, swiftly and lightly taking a step forward. He holds a sword high in readiness to strike. With his shield he protects the crown and the papal tiara. His head is turned sharply to the side, and his open youthful and proud face speaks of his unruffled courage. Seen from the front, the statue is marked by solemnity, tranquility and monumental clarity. From the right the warrior's attacking movement is particularly striking, while the view on the left is most clearly of the figure's firmness and confident power. The pedestal, designed jointly by Kozlovsky and A. N. Voronikhin, is a harmonious part of the overall conception: the solid rhythmically proportioned form of the round granite column is in marked contrast to the light, graceful figure of the hero.
The monument was unveiled on May 5, 1801 on the Field of Mars in St. Petersburg, not far from The Engineers'Castle. In 1820, due to the reconstruction of the buildings on the Field of Mars, it was moved to the embankment, to the square named after the Russian general. The Suvorov monument marked the apex of Kozlovsky's career, and its construction was the greatest event in Russian artistic life of the period.
Another of Kozlovsky's finest achievements, and one of the most beautiful decorations of the fountains at Peterhof, was his Samson, the central statue of a sculptural ensemble jointly constructed by many of Russian's best sculptors?Shubin, Martos, Shchedrin, Prokofiev, Gordeyev and others. But the most important of those involved was probably Kozlovsky, whose work provides the compositional key to the sculptural complex of the Grand Cascade. Once again the artist resorted to symbolism: Samson personifies Russia, while the lion
represents defeated Sweden. This allegorical imagery was understood by everyone in the eighteenth century. Samson's mighty figure is shown in a complex twisted position, full of tensity and motion.
Kozlovsky's Samson is one of the world's finest pieces of decorative sculpture. The ensemble of the Peterhof fountains, destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War, has now been restored. And it is adorned once again by the statue Samson Rending the Lion's Jaws?a copy of Kozlovsky's work, made in 1947 by the Leningrad sculptor V. A. Simonov.
Kozlovsky's last works were gravestones, full of heartfelt sorrow for P. I. Melissino (1800) and S. A. Stroganova (1802,'Necropolis of the Eighteenth Century', the Leningrad Museum of town Sculpture).
The sculptor's life came to an abrupt end just as he had reached the peak of his talent; He died on 18 September 1802 at the age of forty-nine.
Levitsky L. G.
Levitsky was born in 1735 in Kiev. His father, a priest and an experienced engraver, instilled in young Dmitry an appreciation of art and beauty. Father became the first teacher of the future artist. Later in Kiev came A.P.Antropov, and Levitsky has become his pupil.
In 1760, young Levitsky went to St. Petersburg, invited by Antropov to assist him in the decoration of St. Andrew Cathedral. Two years later, both artists went to Moscow to work on a ceremonial portrait of Catherine II Under the Triumphal Arches, commissioned on the occasion of her coronation. At the same time, Levitsky was working on icons for the church of St. Catherine the Martyr and for other churches. He did not enter the newly-opened Academy of Arts; instead, he continued to train under the watchful eye of Antropov and visited studios of European artists working in Russia. When in 1770 Levitsky was finally able to exhibit a number of his portraits, he caused an artistic sensation. Even the foreign painters were surprised by his skill and talent. Especially interesting was the Portrait of Alexander Kokorinov (1769), showing the architect of the Academy's building (and its first director). Kokorinov was portrayed standing and pointing with his hand to the plans of the building. Even though Levitskii used in the work the traditional means of formal portraiture, the brilliance of the painting and its "official" character did not make it pompous or artificial. In Kokorinov's portrait we see a man of refined tastes, whose entire life has been devoted to the creation of the institution where arts reign supreme.
The artist's successes continued when in 1773 he received a commission from Catherine II to paint the portraits of the students of the Smolnyi Institute who participated in theatre performances. The comission resulted in the creation of several enchanting canvasses. The best known is the Portrait of E.N. Khovanskaya and E.N. Khrushcheva (1773), which shows the girls playing a shepherd and a shepherdess in a pastoral play. Levitsky presents them with gentle humor and does not try to give their faces the "required" neoclassical regularity, but preserves their youthful and sparkling appearance. Another famous picture from the series is the portrait of Ekaterina Nelidova (1773). In all the portraits of the Smolnyi Institute's students, Levitsky shows a wonderfully rich palette -- a symphony of shimmering silvery colors dotted with blue accents and pale pink ribbons and lace.
Even though the artist painted official portraits of the Empress and her courtiers, like the one for Catherine's coronation, his fame rests mainly on more intimate, cameral portraits of his contemporaries. He painted Ursula Mnishek, the wife of the Lithuanian Crown Marshall, pushing his "academic" technique almost to perfection by completely concealing the brush-strokes. His portrait of Anna Davia Bernuzzi, a notorious avanturist, actress, and singer, whose behavior scandalized the capital and affected many government officials, shows a woman of a strange, almost hypnotic beauty. Her dress and various details of her toilette stand in such contrast to the ideals of neoclassical good taste and propriety that it is easy to understand why the Empress had Bernuzzi expelled from Russia. Equally remarkable are the portraits of Levitsky's family: his father and his daughter Agasha. Creating the portrait of his father, Levitsky used Rembrandt's method: everything but the face of the subject is in deep shadow; there are no details of clothing or background. Agasha is portrayed in a sarafan, a padded jacket, and a kokoshnik headdress. She is standing next to a table, empty save for a loaf of dark bread and a glass of kvas. The girls face is open and bright, almost luminous, and her dark eyes look straight at the viewer.
The portrait of Levitsky's friend Nikolai Novikov (1797) is a good example of the master's more "personal" work. Nikolai Novikov (1744-1818) was one of the most progressive and educated men of his time, the editor of the satirical journals The Drone (Truten') and The Painter (Zhivopisets). His anti-serfdom views and his nonconformist attitude towards Catherine II and her "enlightened" reign resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in the Schluesserburg fortress (1792). He was released by Catherine's heir, Paul, in 1796. Levitsky portrayed Novikov after his release. The satirist is looking directly at the viewer. He is not a broken man, but still the same uncompromising critic of the evils of the Russian society. The light of dawn -- perhaps a symbol of enlightenment or an allusion to the newest of Novikov's ventures, the journal Morning Light -- dissipates the darkness of the night behind him. The portrait shows a thinker, a man of lofty ideals, and a confirmed believer in the unstoppable force of historical progress.
Despite his artistic success at the end of the eighteenth century, Levitsky's popularity steadily waned. He died in 1822, blind and poor. Perhaps he did not want to or could not adapt to the changes in style which affected Russian art in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. His favorite student, Borovikovsky, made the necessary transition from neoclassicism to sentimentalism and, in a way, took his master's place; in the process, however, he had to abandon Levitsky's old-fashioned objectivity in favor of the expected and preferred subjectivity.
Losenko A. P.
Russian painter, classicist, master of historical painting. Professor of the Academy of Arts in Saint-Petersburg.
Losenko was born in Ukraine in rural family, early was deserted. In youth he sang in court chorus of empress Ekaterina II.
He benefited from the opening of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg in 1757. He studied at the Academy 1758-1760, then studied and worked in Paris and Rome. Losenko was one of the first Russian professors at the Academy. Whereas his predecessors had been mostly portrait-painters, Losenko attempted historical subjects. His "Vladimir and Rogneda" (1770), is the first painting on a theme of Russian history. Losenko based his canvas on Mikhail Lomonosov's "Russian History," rather than drawing from the Bible or Greek and Roman history, as in the Western European school. Depicted is Prince Vladimir of Novgorod, who had proposed marriage to Rogneda, princess of Polotsk. Being refused, Vladimir waged war on Polotsk, killing the princess's father and brothers and forcefully made her his wife. In keeping with classicism's critique of despotism, Losenko shows the moment of repentance when Vladimir begs forgiveness for his deeds. Resonating with the principles of classicism are local Russian features. The faces of the warriors are typically Russian and the maiden is wearing a Russian dress. But the mosaic floor, antique vase in the corner, and pilasters on the walls are purely classical. The costumes resemble theatrical ones, as do some of the expressions on the faces.
Through this work, Losenko moved away from abstract idealization of figures towards capturing human passions in painting. Nonetheless, Losenko had no followers in historical painting among his contemporaries. Portrait painting continued to dominate Russian art and it would be another two generations until painters appeared who were equal to the challenges of representing Russian history in painting.
Nikitin I. N.
The life of Ivan Nikitich Nikitin exemplifies all the dangers inherent in a position of a favorite court painter. Nikitin was born about 1699; he began his career as a singer in the court choir, and received some training in art from Gottfried Dannhauer. From Peter the Great's Field Journal we learn that Nikitin completed the tsar's portrait in 1715. Probably at the same time he painted the Portrait of Tsarevna Natalia Alexeyevna that shares many stylistic similarities with the works of Andrei Matveyev. In 1716, Peter the Great sponsored a group of young Russian artists to be sent to Europe for training. Included in this group were Ivan Nikitin and his brother, Roman. Ivan ended up in Florence, Italy, where he studied at the Academy of Arts with Tomaso Redi.
The studies in Italy profoundly affected Ivan's developmant as an artist. While the Portrait of the Tsaritsa Praskovya Fedorovna, according to scholars, still shows Nikitin's "flat, awkward parsuna style," his studies in Italy changed his style to "an unpretentious and straightforward but naturalistic presentation". However, despite the changes after his visit to Italy, Nikitin never completely abandoned the teachings of Gottfried Dannhauer. The artist returned to Russia in 1720 at the request of the Tsar, and received a title of the court painter. Before moving to Moscow in 1730, Nikitin lived and worked in St. Petersburg, creating several portraits of Peter, his family, and court officials. With the death of the tsar, Nikitin's favorite position at the court was dramatically weakened. In 1732, the brothers Nikitin were involved in the "Rodyshevsky affair." They were arrested for possessing "a notebook containing a lampoon on Feofan Prokpovich, Archbishop of Novgorod." After five years in the Peter and Paul Fortress, the brothers were whipped with a knout and exiled to Tobolsk in Siberia. Recalled from exile by the Empress Elizabeth in 1741, Ivan Nikitin died on his way home.
Only a few signed works of Ivan Nikitin survive: Portrait of Peter the Great on His Deathbed and the Portrait of the Field Hetman are the best known.
One of Ivan Nikitin's best works is the Portrait of a Field Hetman. Very little is known about this painting - its subject is unknown (the man is sometimes identified as hetman Polubotko or Jan Kasimir Sapieha) and its title is based on an inscription found on the back of the canvas. However, the name of the subject is not important. More important is the way that the subject is painted. Since Nikitin's studies in Italy exposed him to the works of Italian and Dutch masters, particularly Titian and Rembrandt, it is not surprising to find in the Portrait of the Field Hetman Rembrandt's characteristic light and Titian's richness of colors. The face of the hetman expresses intelligence and wisdom while his clothes and his uniform identify him as a high-ranking soldier. "The dark background, illuminated face and richly painted clothes betray the hand of not just a diligent student, but also a talented master".
It is a pity that Nikitin's biography is not very well documented; this leads to questions about many aspects of his life, which include the exact dates of his birth and death (some scholars believe that he was born around 1699 and died around 1754). However, regardless of the lack of information about Nikitin, he is important as one of the first Russian artists educated abroad and as an example of Russian artists' successful transition to the Western style of painting.
Rokotov F. S.
Fedor Stepanovich Rokotov was born in a small village near Moscow in a family of serfs of Prince Repnin. We do not know much about his childhood and youth. He studied art in the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg and became known at the court after he created an inlaid portrait of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. Rokotov began to receive commissions to paint members of the royal family, one of them Portrait of Emperor Paul I as a Child (1761). In 1765, Rokotov was elected an Academician, but he did not work as a professor in the Academy long, because it interfered with his painting. He returned to Moscow in 1765, where he lived the rest of his life. He had a lot of commissions there, becoming one of the best portrait painters of his time. Among his best portraits are Portrait of Alexandra Struiskaya (1772), Portrait of Countess Elizaveta Santi (1785), Portrait of an Unknown Lady in a Pink Dress (1770s).
Fedor Rokotov (1735-1808) had worked with the first professor of painting at the Petersburg Academy. He specialized in the so-called "chamber portrait," or intimate portrait, which at the time was a new genre in Russian art. He created an entire gallery of refined images of women, portraying their nobility as well as mysteriousness, concealing a complex inner world. One example is the "Portrait of Countess Elizaveta Vasil'evna Santi" (1785). His pictures suggest a subdued lighting and focus the viewer's attention on the subtlety of the subject's features. His intimate portraits, often of an unusual oval shape, portray the ideal of Woman in the era of Enlightenment: free and unfettered by the fuss of day-to-day life.
Expressiveness of eyes and mimicry are very important in Rokotov's characteristic of an image , and the artist does not aspire to concrete transfer of mood, he rather wants to create sensation of elusiveness, fugacity of feelings of the person.The artist originally uses a treatment of light and shade, allocating the face of person and dissolving minor details. His works surprise with the gentle, refined beauty of color spectrum.
Shchedrin S. F.
Silvestr Feodosiyevich Shchedrin (1791-1830)
Silvestr Shchedrin, the greatest Russian landscape-painter of the early nineteenth century, was the most striking exponent of the realist aspirations of the time.
The Shchedrin family, like the Bryullov and Ivanov families was a kind of an artistic dynasty. Silvestr Shchedrin was born in St. Petersburg. His father, Feodosy, was a well-known sculptor, professor and assistant rector of the Academy of Arts. And his uncle Semyon, a professor of landscape painting, gave the young Silvestr his first lessons. -I remember being taken to the Hermitage by my uncle when I was still young-, Shchedrin recalled later. -I walked past most of the pictures and only stopped to look at Canaletto.-
Shchedrin-s first successful art lessons in the family were soon backed up by training at the Academy. From 1800 his teachers were M.M. Ivanov, F.Ya. Alexeyev, whose main interest at that time was in painting views of St. Petersburg, and the architect Thomas de Thomon, who taught him the laws of perspective.
In 1811 Shchedrin graduated with a gold medal. His graduation piece was the landscape *View from Petrovsky Island in St. Petersburg*, which conformed totally to the classical spirit. However, the young artist-s interest in depicting concrete, rather than -invented- views soon asserted itself in his first large-scale works: View of Tuchkov Bridge From Petrovsky Island and View of the Stock Exchange From the Bank of the Neva.
In 1818 Shchedrin was among the first four pioneers to be sent to Italy. His travel notes and his letters home, written with gentle humor, reveal the artist-s lively mind and powers of observation.
Having settled in Rome, Shchedrin set about painting views of the city. He was attracted by the Coliseum, his approach to which was far from classic. -Shchedrin wrote, -ordered me to paint its portrait of a building- the real-life -model-, with its powerful architectural forms and distinctive stonework, was excellently conveyed.
In the picture New Rome. Holy Angel Castle (1825, TG) the artist reveals the beauty in simple and ordinary things. The grand structures of the Holy Angel Castle and St. Peter's Cathedral become part of the general city scene. Shchedrin tried to convey the play of light on the rocks and walls, on the greenery and the boats - light which united all these objects, sometimes making them shine or sparkle, sometimes concealing or emphasizing their contours. He softened the highlights on the water and made the shadows transparent and airy. The buildings give the impression of being wrapped in air. In this painting Shchedrin passed from heavy, dark-brown shades to light silvery-greys. 'with great difficulty I have extricated myself from these dark shades,' he wrote to the sculptor S. Galberg.
In a small, iridescent landscape Lake Albano in the Outskirts of Rome (1823-24, RM), the water gleams with silver, while the verdure seems airy and suffused with pink sunlight. Light acts like a magician, transforming everything. This painting is one of Shchedrin's masterpieces.
The artist's seascapes are particularly poetic. He was enraptured by Naples and its surroundings. On his first trip there from Rome, which lasted from June 1819 to the spring of 1821, Shchedrin lovingly described the colorful life on the seafronts, the merry-making and carnivals, and the scenery of southern Italy...
'...Once again I am staying on the Santa Lucia Embankment - the best spot in the whole of Naples. The view from my window is magnificent: Vesuvius a stone's throw away, the sea, mountains, picturesquely situated buildings, people constantly in motion, walking and working - what better place for a landscape painter!'
In View of Naples Shchedrin depicted himself among the townsfolk on the busy embankment. The artist was often to be seen with the fishermen and peasants in the coastal villages. A jolly, sociable person, he was on amicable terms with local population, and portrayed them in numerous pictures.' ... Within a few days I acquired a host of friends - farmers, retired soldiers and others ... these people were so fond of me that having discovered when I usually arrived they came ahead of time not to miss me...'
At this time Shchedrin made friends with Karl Bryullov and Konstantin Batyushkov - it was with the latter that he stayed while in Naples. Together with Orest Kiprensky he began work on a portrait of A.M. Golitsyn.
Having ultimately settled in Naples in June 1825, Shchedrin undertook trips to Sorrento, Capri, Vigo and Amalfi. His landscapes and seascapes ranked among the finest plein air paintings anywhere at that time, especially the series which included On the Island of Capri, The Small Harbour at Sorrento (1826, TG) and The Large Harbour at Sorrento. Nature here accords with man, whose natural and contemplative life takes its course in the 'happy moments of being'.
About Covered with Vines and Grotto at Sorrento rely on the contrasts between the shaded area and the sunlit open countryside. The midday sun penetrates the dense greenery of the olives and grapevines, picking out the people's figures and patches of vegetation amid the shadow.
In his later period, Shchedrin moved away from chiaroscuro tonal painting in favour of heightened colour range, as is clearly illustrated by Small Harbour in Sorrento. Evening and Moonlit Night at Naples.
Shchedrin gained popularity in Italy and his landscapes sold well. Meanwhile the dates of his stay abroad had long since expired. He was put off by the thought of a future in the formal atmosphere of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. But he did not entirely abandon thoughts of the returning home: 'I am most displeased by your advice not to go to Russia,' he wrote to S Galberg.
Despite a serious, progressing illness, the artist did not lose his joie de vivre and sense of humor. His last letters from Italy were full of hopes for a recovery and for a return home. But he never did return to his native country.
In October 1830 he died, and a monument by S. Galberg was erected on his grave in Sorrento.
Silvestr Shchedrin gave his own lyrical interpretation of the scenery of Italy - something that eluded many of his contemporary Italians. His landscapes contained that poetic affirmation of the beauty of simple things which was so characteristic of Russian portraiture and genre-painting of the first half of the nineteenth century.
Shubin F. I.
Fedot Ivanovich Shubin (1740-1805)
The work of Fedot Shubin, like that of all the great eighteenth century masters, does not belong only to its own age. Covering a broad range of genres - portrait, monumental and decorative sculpture, bas-relief - it achieves such psychological depth and plastic perfection, especially in his portraits, that Shubin can be considered one of the great masters of world art.
He was born in a fishing village in the Arkhangelsk gubernia in the north of Russia. His father, Ivan Shubnoi, a free peasant, was literate and was Mikhail Lomonosov's first teacher. The Shubnoi family worked as fishermen, ploughmen, and carved bones and mother-of-pearl.
In the winter of 1759, after his father's death, Fedot Shubnoi followed Lomonosov's example and joined a group of merchants travelling to the capital with a gish transporter. For two years the young man carved snuff-boxes, fans, combs and other knick-knacks which sold well in St.-Petersburg.
In November 1761, under the patronage of Mikhail Lomonosov and the first trustee of the Academy of Arts, Count Shuvalov, he was enrolled as a student under the name Fedot Shubin.
Shubin studied arduosly and was regularly given awards and praise. In June 1766 his bas-relief *The Killing of Askold and Dir* earned him a Grand Gold Medal and 'Certificate with Sword' - which meant that he attained the first rank of officer and entered the nobility.
Shubin's academy works, including genre statuettes, have not been preserved. In recognition of his 'good success and honest, laudable behaviour' he was sent in May 1767 with a group of state-supported artists to study in Paris. Here he came under the guardianship of the Russian ambassador Dmitry Golitsyn, an enlighted, progressive man and a great connoisseur and patron of art. On the advice of Diderot, who was a friend of Golitsyn's, Shubin was assigned to study under the sculptor Jean-Batiste Pigalle, who was famous both for his allegorical and mythological compositions and for his realistic sculptured portraits. Under his guidance, Shubin copied the works of contemporary French sculptors and antique statues and modelled basreliefs from pictures by Raphael and Poussin. But Pigalle made his pupil work most of all from nature. In the evenings Shubin attended a class in the art of modelling from nature at the Paris Academy of Arts, and he frequently visited the Royal Library and the studios of wellknown sculptors. '...There is no interesting or worthwhile place in Paris', he wrote to St.-Petersburg, 'which we miss, and we spare no effort to broaden our minds.'
After three years in Paris, at the end of 1770, Shubin had the permission of the Academy to go to Rome. The next year he painted a portrait of Count Shuvalov (1771) and his nephew Fyodor Golitsyn (1771). Also successful was his marbel bust of Catherine II, despite the fact she did not sit for him. It was at this time that the Empress's favorites, Alexei and Fyodor Orlov, commissioned Shubin to paint their restraintand by the realistic tendencies in the interpretation of the models.
In 1772, while travelling with the Demidov brothers - the first Russian factory-owners - in Italy, Shubin stopped at Bologna, where he completed a series of works for which he was awarded the title of honorary member of the Bologna Academy - the oldest in Europe. The following summer, before returning to St.-Petersburg, Shubin and the Demidovs undertook one more jorney - to London.
The sculptor's first work in his home country was a bust of Prince Alexander Golitsyn, a diplomat during Catherine's reign (1775 RM, T.G.). This is one of Shubin's most brilliant works, and expressive image of an educated nobleman, in whom a sensitive mind merged with wordly refinement, and a sense of superiority with the tiredness of an aging man. The folds of his garment, which underline the turn in his head and shoulders, are marvellously fashioned. This work, which earned the praise of Falconet, gives some idea of what Shubin's contemporaries meant when they said that the marble 'breathed' under his chisel.
On 4 September 1774 the Academy of Arts awarded Shubin the title of academican for his bust of the Empress - in violation of the regulations, which started that this title could be awarded only for historical or mythological works. This exception was possible becaue the court aristocracy and Catharine II herself were known to be kindly disposed towards the sculptor. In the seventies Shubin produced a great many portraits, working quickly - at the rate of at least one bust per month. Everyone was eager to have his portrait done by the empress's favourite. Yet the sculptor's inexhaustible powers of observation andperspective meant tht he never repeated himself, always finding new solutions based not so much on the models' external characteristics as on their mental states.
In Shubin's portraits we see the high society of St Petersburg. Behind the superficial grace and elegance of the lady-in-waiting M.Panina, there are traces of coldness, imperiousness and arrogance. In his sculpture of the famous Field Marshal P. Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky the artists brought out features of a strong and important personality, without in the slightest embellishing his appearance.
Quite another character is revealed in the portrait of V. Orlov. In the sculptor's hands, his impossing exterior - his aristocratic carriage, his opulent drapery - is charged with irony. The dull, impudent face of this ungifted man who was head of the Academy of Sciences solely due to his family ties is reproduced with merciless realism.
The bust of the rich industrialist I. Baryshnikov is simple and severe in composition. Shubin saw this representative of the rising bourgeouse as a shrewd and intelligent businessman; his individual and social features are brilliantly blended.
Shubin revealed the innermost workings of the soul in the remarkably poetic image of an unknown young man. The calm composition and soft modelling convey the young man's state of deep thoughtfulness.
In 1774-75 Shubin worked on a portrait of Catherine II and on a series of 58 round marble bas-reliefs (about 70 cm in diameter) depicting princes and rulers from Ryurik up to Elizaveta Petrovna. The bas-reliefs were intended for the Round Hall of the Chesmensky Palace and are now kept in the Armory of the Kremlin. They were based upon descriptions of the various characters given in ancient chronicles.
Over the next ten years Shubin carried out many commissions for decorative works - statues and reliefs for the Marble Palace, sculptures for the Trinity Cathedral in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, a marble mausoleum for Lieutenant General P. Golitsyn. Shubin's last decorative work was a statue of Pandora to replace one of the decaying leaded sculptures of Peterhof. Its prototype was Falconet's Woman Bathing, which Shubin had copied in Paris.
A special place in Shubin's work is occupied by his statue Catherine II the Legislator (1789-1790, RM). This statue was very successful, but the sculptor received no reward from the empress, nor did he obtain a post as professor at the Academy, where portraits were considered a 'low genre'.
Gradually, interest in Shubin faded. His unembellished portraits found less and less favour among his clients from the beau monde, who wished to see themselves depicted in ideal from. He received less commissions, and renumeration fell too. He was forced to seek help from G.Potyomkin, who wrote to the President of the Academy of Arts, I Betskoi, asking him to employ Shubin as assistant professor in the sculpture class. The sculptor himself also applied to the Council of the Academy for a paying position. Both letters remained unanswered. Then, in 1792, Shubin addressed himself to Catherine II: 'Your Majesty, I am in poor health and must ask you for help...' Two years passed before the celebrated sculptor was hired as a professor - but still it was not a paying position. As it was, Shubin was a sick man, burdened by a large family, and all these adversities further undermined his health, but he did not stop working. The works dating from the nineties speak eloquently of the sculptor's ability to reveal his models' characters fully and profoundly. His gallery of portraits is varied: the dried-up old warrior Admiral V. Chichagov, the good-natured, haughty sybarite G. Potyomkin, the empty, selfenamoured beau Plton Zubov, the pedantic I. Betskoi and the dullwitted, swaggering St. Petersburg mayor Ye. Chulkov.
Shubin's bust of Paul I is a true masterpiece of portraiture. It is a complex image, comprising arrogance, cold cruelty, unhealthiness and deep concealed suffering. Nonetheless Paul liked the work, apparently because of the signs of solemn majesty which he valued so highly.
Each year Shubin's position grew more difficult. In 1797 he turned to Paul for assistance, and a year later he appealed to the Academy 'to provide at least an apartment at the state's expense, and firewood and candles'. But this request, too, was given no consideration. Shubin had no means to support his family, he was beginning to go blind, and 1801 his house and studio - together with the works it contained - were burnt down.
These blows of fate did not force Shubin to compromise. In one of his last works - a bust of Alexander I (1801, Voronezh Regional Museum of Fine Arts) - there is a strain of cold indifference behind the emperior's affable exterior. Alrxander did display charity, however, and presented the sculptor with a diamond ring. The Academy, too, was at last compelled to show some concern for Shubin, and he was given the free accommodation and candles he had begged for so long In 1803, Alexander I decreed that Shubin finally be appointed assistant profesor on the paid staff of the Academy. But his health was utterly ruined, and on 12 May 1805 Shubin died.
The sculptor's death passed almost unnoticed. His realism could not possibily meet with the approval of his titled customers. It was a tragic end to the life of a man whose art, in the words of Soviet sculptress Vera Mukhina, was the 'image of the age'