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Symbolism in Russian Painting of the Silver Age, Part 1
July 29, 2015 10:49


The Vision of the Young Bartholomew, by Mikhail Nesterov

What is it like?

Symbolists considerably changed not only various genres of art, but the attitude to art itself. Though representatives of Symbolism belonged to a variety of stylistic movements, they were united by the search for new ways to grasp and convey the mystic powers of the spirit that make the world go round, vague ideals of the unseen and imperceptible shades of higher meaning. However, they painted not abstract plots, but real events, real people, and real life phenomena, but in a metaphoric manner full of suggestion.

The symbol was at the heart of expressing the language of the soul. The peculiar features of the Symbolism are the image polysemy, and play of metaphors and associations.

Among the popular plots there prevailed evangelical scenes, semi-mythical and semi-historical events of the Middle Ages, and antique mythology. Art works by Symbolists are imbued with mysticism and imply the supernatural and otherworldly.

Symbolism in Russian painting significantly differed from this movement and approach in the art of Europe. Symbolism concentrates on capturing the spiritual and the divine that manifests itself in real characters and nature. Artists aspire to bridge the gap between mundane reality and the unseen realm of spirit. According to very many international critics, Russian Symbolism was the most successful in this noble mission. Russian Symbolism presented the world with priceless art works by Mikhail Vrubel, Nicholas Roerich, Konstantin Somov, and other famous Russian painters.

Symbolism in Literature as Basis

Russian Symbolism appeared in the late 19th century and had unique remarkable characteristics of its own. Its origin was associated with literary activity of famous publicists and poets, such as Zinaida Gippius, Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Valery Bryusov, Alexander Blok and other poets of the Silver Age. For them Symbolism was first of all mystical and spiritual search through their creativity. In other words, insight into a symbol worked as a phenomenon of spiritual revelation. Philosophy of Symbolism was most vividly conveyed by Sergey Solovyov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Symbolism in Russian literature is the consonance of concept, trend and philosophical meaning. However, Symbolism in Russian painting is contradictory and ambiguous. In some cases it even interferes ideologically with its literary foundation. The spiritual quest of Russian symbolist writers reverberates with pure depiction of spirituality (The Vision of the Young Bartholomew, Hermit, and Proceedings of St. Sergius of Radonezh painted by Mikhail Nesterov), whereas high-flown language and elated spirit of Symbolism in Russian literature rebound with irony and grotesque in Symbolist painting (The Spring by Mark Chagall, Bathing of the Red Horse by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, and so on). 




Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Painting Symbolism Silver Age   

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