Studio: international art — 66.1915

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Wall-Paintings by Victor Vasnetsov

The wall-paintings of

VICTOR VASNETSOV IN KIEV
CATHEDRAL.

In the arts of Russia lie the keys to her soul.
Her literature, her music, her architecture, each
reveal in a greater or less
degree the spiritual forces
latent in the Slav.

In the art of painting
alone there is a disappoint-
ing lack of essentially
racial characteristics. The
Russian students who fre-
quent Parisian ateliers too
often acquire technical skill
at the cost of their indi-
viduality. It is evident
above all in the churches
of Russia that, for the most
part, the modern painter of
ecclesiastical subjects has
thrown off the fetters of
Byzantine tradition only to
be enslaved by a conven-
tionality that is by com-
parison lifeless and puerile.

The influence of Ary
Scheffer, of Flandrin, and
of Bouguereau is apparent,
and their art, despite the
knowledge of form which
distinguishes it, appears
anaemic and sentimental
beside the icons and
frescoes of the middle
ages.

But in this field, as in so
many others, the Russians
of to - day are rallying
round the flag of patriotic
endeavour, and the painter
is coming forward to join
his brother the writer in
bearing witness to the truth
that is in him.

A splendid example of
the fusion of foreign ele-
ments with the Slavonic
spirit, resulting in the dominance of the latter,
is afforded by the life-work of Victor Vasnetsov,
whose mural paintings in the cathedral of St. -
Vladimir at Kiev form the subject of this article.
Victor Vasnetsov was born in 1848, a memorable

year in the annals of English art, as the date of the
foundation of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.
The artist was the son of a village pope, or priest,
in the Northern government of Viatsky. Being
primarily intended for the priesthood, he received
a theological education at the Seminary of his
native town, but at the age
of twenty-two he triumphed
over the obstacles of
poverty and parental
opposition and entered the
Fine Arts Academy at
Petrograd. From that time
forward he was entirely
dependent on his own
efforts for subsistence, but
it was during those early
years of struggle and priva-
tion that, in the view of
many Russian critics, his
finest works were achieved.

They include, besides a
number of large canvases
illustrating ancient Slav
legends, the four great
frescoes depicting scenes
in the Stone Age, which
decorate the walls of the
Historic Museum in
Moscow. At the time when
Vasnetsov gave these re-
markable proofs of original
genius Realism was in the
ascendant in Russian art
circles, and “ Nature ” and
“plein-air” subjects filled
the public galleries.
Vasnetsov’s imaginative
conceptions met with in-
difference and neglect, and
he was constrained to eke
out a scanty livelihood by
illustrating humorous
papers.

Eventually, in 1876, he
w7ent to Paris, where his
talent received due recog-
nition. In 1885 he visited
Italy, and on his return to
Russia was commissioned to collaborate with three
other artists in decorating the interior of the newly
erected cathedral of St. Vladimir. The foundation-
stone of this stately monument to the first Christian
prince of Kiev was laid in 1862, but the building

263

CHRIST ENTHRONED'

MURAL PAINTING IN THE CATHEDRAL OF
ST. VLADIMIR, KIEV, BY VICTOR VASNETSOV
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