Studio: international art — 60.1914

Page: 107
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Three Russian Painters

Three Russian painters :


Russian Art, which only the firm will and en-
lightened far-sightedness of the intelligent tyrant,
Peter the Great, succeeded in delivering from the
monotonous and exclusive repetition of religious
subjects and from the rigid Byzantine traditions
which for centuries and centuries it had followed,
nevertheless remained for one hundred and fifty
years in bondage to French art, despite which,
however, it produced some great artists, such
in particular as the portrait-painters Levitzky and

The most important movement towards its
emancipation from the suffocating and oppressive
academic dominion, and also (though only in
part) from foreign influence, was that which com-
menced in 1863 with the revolt of thirteen pupils
of the Art Academy of St. Petersburg, founded in
17 5 7 by the Empress Elisabeth. These artists
resolutely refused to submit any longer to the
exigencies of the annual competition ; so, com-

bining under the leadership of Ivan Kramskoi,
they founded a young and belligerent society which
toured its exhibitions from town to town, whence
came the nickname bestowed upon them of
“ Peredvishniki,” or “Wanderers.”

These “Wanderers,” whose ideals were fre-
quently confused by inopportune political or social
propagandist notions, were for about thirty years
the dominant factor in the artistic world in Russia.
The most original and most powerful of them is
Ilya Repine, who has now passed his sixty-ninth
year, and has achieved great triumphs both in his
own country and abroad.

The men, however, who are considered, not with-
out reason, to be the true initiators and the real
representatives of Russian painting are Isaak
Levitan, who died in 1900, before he reached the
age of forty, Valentin Seroff, who died more
recently, and Konstantin Korovine. Seroff, how-
ever, owed a great part of his fame to his robust
virtuosity as a painter of portraits. These were,
in fact, the artists who, following the example given
at first in literature by Pushkin, Gogol, and
Turgenieff, turned their attention towards their
own country, with its vast desolate and colourless
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