Russia's Plains Make Plain Pictures; the National Gallery's Latest Exhibition Reveals Russian Landscapes to Be without Passion, or a Place in Art History
Byline: BRIAN SEWELL
THERE are times when a man must cry "Enough!
Enough!", as now, with Russian landscapes at the National Gallery.
For half a century I have paid some attention to them, and - apart from taking the view (unfashionable in the Fifties) that Soviet propaganda paintings of collective farms were, in spite of their political messages, of some aesthetic merit - in the whole range of Russian landscape painting, I have seen no virtue that has not been better expressed elsewhere.
This has always been the problem: Russian paintings of peasant wretchedness have, by illustrating peculiarly Russian miseries and degradations, been distinct from kindred paintings by Western European painters. So, too, with political subjects, for Russian rebellions, assassinations, patricides, punishments and retributions are always that much more dramatically dreadful for being Russian and not merely French, German or preposterously English; but with landscapes, the Russians fall behind. Russian landscape painting is mundane.
The visitor's first impression of the National Gallery's exhibition must be that he has paid [pounds sterling]7 to be transported to some neglected municipal museum in the north of England, stuffed with paintings discarded in 1911 by Alderman Reginald Ackroyd and his ilk. We have all seen them, if not in galleries then languishing in the corridors of Victorian town halls in the shires of Lancaster and York, the gilding of their ugly and over-ornamented frames dulled by dust, their …
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Publication information: Article title: Russia's Plains Make Plain Pictures; the National Gallery's Latest Exhibition Reveals Russian Landscapes to Be without Passion, or a Place in Art History. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Evening Standard (London, England). Publication date: June 25, 2004. Page number: 36. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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