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Russian Engraving Art and its Development, Part 2
March 15, 2015 23:11


Previous: Russian Engraving Art and its Development, Part 1

At the invitation of Peter I foreign engraving masters came to Russia to teach Russian artists to the technique of metal engraving that was new to the latter. Peter the Great paid much attention to this art form and even exercised the etching technique himself! He appreciated its mobility and mass-production ability and discerned its outstanding opportunities for promoting the idea of statehood. He attached special significance to the images of Russia’s victorious battles in the Northern War. By his order the artist Marten Jr. living in Paris painted three battle-pieces, which became the basis for fine prints.

After the reign of Peter I was over, the engraving art ceased to serve the purposes of documentary and educational character. Engraving masters resorted to baroque art instead. They came to glorify greatness and magnificent life of the Imperial House. However, the subject of St. Petersburg that was popular under Peter I remained important. The city was depicted in all its beauty, with the views of its palaces, central embankments of River Neva and boulevards.

From the mid 18th century a peculiar genre of “boulevards”, i.e. streetscapes, mostly with the views of St. Petersburg became widely spread in Russia. Its development was greatly contributed by the Russian engravers who were trained and later worked in the Engraving Chamber of the Academy of Sciences, G. A. Kachalov and Ya.V. Vasilyev among them. The engraving masters worked on the fine prints attached to The City Plan of St. Petersburg presented to the Empress Elizabeth of Russia on the day of her accession to the throne on April 25, 1753. Those works of engraving art combined real-life precision and documentation, as well as splendor, and elegance inherent in the Baroque era. 
From the mid 18th century the Academy of Arts founded at that time was the center of engraving art. It was associated with the highest achievement of engraving art of the late 18th – early 19th centuries - a series of views of St. Petersburg palace suburbs based on originals by Semen Shchedrin. A landscape engraving class was founded in the Academy of Arts specifically for this purpose.

The portrait took an important place in Russian engraving as well as in painting. One of the brilliant masters of this genre was E. P. Chemesov, called “a true genius in engraving” by his teacher G. F. Schmidt, the Prussian king’s court artist, who came to St. Petersburg in 1754 for teaching the newly opened engraving class of the Academy of Arts. E.P. Chemesov created a peculiar style of engraved portrait: chamber in its form, but ceremonial in essence. In the second half of the 18th century D. G. Gerasimov became the successor of Chemesov’s tradition.

At the beginning of the 19th century engravers mastered new ways of copper plate printing. One of them was a sketch engraving, with outlines only. One of the most interesting works made in this technique was a series of illustrations to the poem Sweetheart written by I.F. Bogdanovich. The series created by F. P. Tolstoy is one of the paragons of engraving art of the Classicism era. 

Next: Russian Engraving Art and its Development, Part 3

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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Engraving Applied Arts Arts and Crafts Prints  

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