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Artistic Culture of the 19th Century, Part 4
August 30, 2014 15:42

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The 1830s and 1840s saw the development of Realism, founded in Russian culture by Alexander Pushkin. In the tragedy Boris Godunov, reviving “the bygone century in all its truth” he depicted “the truth of passions and credibility of feelings in assumed circumstances”.

The principles of realism were embodied in his poetic novel Eugene Onegin, as well as in Belkin's Stories, Queen of Spades, The Little Tragedies, and other writings.

Pushkin's traditions were developed by Mikhail Lermontov (The Hero of Our Time). Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852) arrived at critical realism. Petersburg Stories, The Inspector General, and Dead Souls were realistic portrayals of Russian reality depicted in vivid figurative language excelling in “simplicity, power, accuracy, and closeness to real life” (V. Stasov).
The Russian fine arts made their way to realism in the genre art that took a leading role in the 1840s. The most notable representative of this genre was A. G. Venetsianov (1780-1847). He poetically depicted the scenes of rural life and peasant work, with his creative method based on reality study. Venetsianov's humane look is evident in his depiction of serfs’ life: The Barn, Morning of the Landowner’s Wife, On Arable Land. Spring, Harvesting. Summer, Reapers, Zakharka, and others. The artist portrayed his characters as the national ideal of Russian beauty. Venetsianov proved to be the master of interior and landscape.
 
The stage of critical realism in the Russian pictorial arts was opened by Pavel Fedotov (1815-1852) with a kindred spirit to creativity of Nikolay Gogol. His portraits (N. Zhdanovich Playing the Piano and others) are subtly psychological, though the artist considered them to be preparatory work for future complex compositions. He gained fame with the paintings Fresh Caballero, Legible Bride, The Major Goes Courting, 

Breakfast of the Aristocrat, Widow, Encore, again Encore. The artist was given the academician rank for his painting The Major Goes Courting. With reference to it Taras Shevchenko wrote that modern art needed “dexterous, prompt and non-caricaturist paintbrush, dramatic sarcasm rather than sneer”.
 
Graphic art of various genres and techniques was a great success in the first half of the 19th century. Its flourishing was promoted by the growth of publishing business. Traditions of Russian engraving were carried on by Nikolay Utkin (1780-1863). His most well-known works include the gallery of writers’ portraits: Gavrila Derzhavin, Ivan Krylov, and Alexander Pushkin. Other outstanding graphic artists were A. G. Ukhtomsky (1770-1852), S. F. Galaktionov (1778-1854), A. O. Orlovsky (1777 - 1832), and others.
 
New stage in the Russian art of the second half of the 19th century was developing in line with Nikolay Chernyshevsky's (1828-1889) esthetic theory. The basic principle of his esthetics – “the beautiful is life” – called for the truth in art, addressing the realities of life, life of the Russian people. It encouraged works inspired by powerful vital ideas that met the urgent needs of the epoch.
 
Realistic tendencies were found expression in the novels of the middle and the second half of the 19th century. It was Ivan Goncharov’s (1812-1891) peculiar trilogy: A Common Story, Oblomov, and The Precipice, tackling the issues of personality development in complicated circumstances of the Russian serf reality. Goncharov saw the novel as “the text book for study of interrelations, passions, likes and dislikes..., as life school, in a word”.
 
Significant role in spiritual and moral development of the Russian society as well as in the history of the Russian realism was played by Ivan Turgenev’s (1818-1883) writing. His collection of short stories Sketches from a Hunter's Album attracted readers’ attention to life of the common people. Turgenev’s novels became the moral history of Russian intelligentsia: Rudin, On the Eve, Fathers and Sons, Home of the Gentry, Smoke, and Virgin Soil. A shrewd psychologist, a singer of love, a painter of nature, a great master of language, Ivan Turgenev featured the social and mental movement of the epoch.
 

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian History    

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