Band of Early Russian Painters Gets Its Due

By Marien, Mary Warner | The Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Band of Early Russian Painters Gets Its Due


Marien, Mary Warner, The Christian Science Monitor


The Itinerants: The Masters of Russian Realism

By Elena Nesterova

Parkstone/Aurora 255 pp., $55 It always comes as a surprise that the first art of revolutionary Russia was tenaciously experimental. Painters and sculptors like Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and Vladimir Tatlin embraced the idea that art should serve the needs of the state. Since they associated communism with a new vision, they enthusiastically turned to abstract art as a way to express a fresh future. They snickered at realistic representation, which they held to be the disagreeable residue of the corrupt past. The experiments of the early Soviet artists still inspire contemporary international art and design. Indeed, the continuing influence of this brief historic moment is so vast that it overshadows the other Russian art, the populist realism of painters known collectively as the Society for Itinerant Art Exhibitions. Elena Nesterova's profusely illustrated text, "The Itinerants: The Masters of Russian Realism," attempts to amend the situation by revealing the varieties of Russian Realism from the late 19th century to the early years of the Russian Revolution. Like many European painters, the so-called Itinerants adopted realistic depiction in the middle years of the 19th century. With photographic detail and clarity, they delineated scenes from the everyday life of the middle class, a segment of society that was emerging as a prominent patron of the arts. Teetering between sentiment and insight, these paintings dwelled on domestic life rather than grand historical events. Scenes of romance and weddings were highly favored. Occasionally melodrama gave way to stinging social comment, as in Nikolai Nevrev's "Bargaining: A Daily Life Scene From the Serfdom Era" (1866). Until 1861, Russian landlords had the right to buy and sell serfs. The painting depicts the indifference of a landowner who has lost a female serf in a card game. During the 1870s, when the Society for Itinerant Art Exhibitions was formally founded, realist painters enlarged their purview. They moved away from mawkish narrative to genre scenes that rendered life throughout Russia. The drudgery and the consolations of peasant life occupy a significant place in this surge of Itinerant painting. At the same time, the Itinerant artists developed a philosophy of art that attempted to break away from French influences and move toward a distinctly Russian approach. Nevertheless, elements of French Impressionism seeped into Russian Realism. Ilya Repin, the best-known painter outside of Russia, infused Impressionist light into Russian scenes like "A Religious Procession" in Kursk Province (1883). Portraiture remains the most intriguing type of Itinerant painting. These painters depicted themselves and other artists in works that were more unsparing than those done for patrons.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Band of Early Russian Painters Gets Its Due
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?