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Symbolism in Russian Painting of the Silver Age, Part 2
July 29, 2015 15:08

Demon Seated by Mikhail Vrubel

Figures of Russian Symbolism in Painting

Symbolism in Russian painting is first of all associated with names of the Silver Age artists, namely Mikhail Vrubel, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Valentin Serov, Nicholas Roerich, Konstantin Somov and a number of other artists (mostly members of the art groups World of Art and Blue Rose), whose outstanding works are part of the national heritage of Russia.

Russian Symbolism of the Silver Age stands out with its focusing on a real human being (with the exception of Mikhail Vrubel’s famous works on mythological subjects), whose deep heart-felt experiences are rich in insights and revelations.

 Mikhail Vrubel was the first Russian artist to resort to Symbolism in painting. Bright, intense, mosaic-like painting by the great master is epic and monumental. His works immerse us in the era of epic heroes, and unfold the mysteries of hoary antiquity.

 A striking example of Symbolism in painting is Mikhail Vrubel’s famous Demon Seated (1890) who hypnotizes with a spellbinding gaze. It is one of the landmark works of Russian Symbolism. The well-known canvas The Pearl depicts the infinite Universe mysteriously flickering with nacreous tones reflected in a tiny pearl.

Symbolism in painting gained further development thanks to the Blue Rose association of artists. Victor Borisov-Musatov was the brightest representative of this group. The period of the artist’s creativity fell on the turn of the centuries, which was reflected in his manner of painting. Starting with Impressionist etudes, he gradually came to a new style organically conveying the figurativeness typical of Symbolism in painting. His well-known canvas Tapestry seems ordinary at first sight and has a very simple plot of two women talking. However, the manner of painting holds unfathomable depth. It creates an intense feeling that Tapestry is harbouring mysterious signs of the unplumbed higher reality. Over time the Symbolists united round the World of Art magazine.

The turning point in the history of Russia was as if predicted in the spirit of Symbolism and later conveyed and comprehended in artists’ works. In post-Revolutionary years the artistic devices of Symbolism served as the instrument of expressing the new era (New Planet by Konstantin Yuon, Bolshevik by Boris Kustodiev, etc).

The Role of Symbolism in Art Development

The aesthetics of Symbolism often provided the basis for the style of Art Nouveau prevailing in the European art at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Having pervaded fine arts of many countries, the Symbolism had a great influence on the world art and prepared the ground for Surrealism. Experimental approach of Symbolists, their aspiration for innovation, cosmopolitism and extensive range of influences served as a model for the majority of modern trends in art.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Symbolism Russian Painting Silver Age   

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