In the mid-nineteenth century, the search for transcendence that marked Romanticism began to be expressed in landscape painting. It was also to be found in Symbolism.

Symbolism, which could be described as the expression of mystical or abstract ideas through forms, rejected both the dogmatism of academic representation and the supposed scientific underpinnings of Impressionism. It appeared in the work of various painters in Russia and Canada. Artists like the Russian Mikhail Vrubel and the Canadian Ozias Leduc, though very different, represent the spiritual dimension of this style. Their works are more a depiction of the soul than simply windows onto nature.

This exploration of spirituality continued in the work of Kandinsky, a member of the Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group, who published Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1911. This work argued that harmony between colours and forms must be based on one thing only—effective contact with the human soul. Kandinsky read texts on theosophy, a spiritual doctrine that attracted new interest in the first half of the twentieth century. In Canada, landscape painting took on a transcendent quality with Read More

In the mid-nineteenth century, the search for transcendence that marked Romanticism began to be expressed in landscape painting. It was also to be found in Symbolism.

Symbolism, which could be described as the expression of mystical or abstract ideas through forms, rejected both the dogmatism of academic representation and the supposed scientific underpinnings of Impressionism. It appeared in the work of various painters in Russia and Canada. Artists like the Russian Mikhail Vrubel and the Canadian Ozias Leduc, though very different, represent the spiritual dimension of this style. Their works are more a depiction of the soul than simply windows onto nature.

This exploration of spirituality continued in the work of Kandinsky, a member of the Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group, who published Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1911. This work argued that harmony between colours and forms must be based on one thing only—effective contact with the human soul. Kandinsky read texts on theosophy, a spiritual doctrine that attracted new interest in the first half of the twentieth century. In Canada, landscape painting took on a transcendent quality with some members of the Group of Seven, in particular Lawren Harris. Greatly influenced by theosophy, Harris deepened his interpretation of nature by stylizing his representations of landscapes and reducing their components to elementary forms.


© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Young Oaks, by Pyotr Petrovich Konchalovsky (1876-1956), 1923.

Pyotr Petrovich Konchalovsky
Samara Art Museum
1923
oil on canvas
80 x 91.5 cm
© Samara Art Museum


This canvas is part of the landscape series of scenes around Moscow that Konchalovsky painted in the early 1920s. He painted the oak forests of Abramtsevo (a well-known centre of art between 1870 and 1880, owned by the patron Savva Mamontov), and at Krylatskoe. This optimistic painting typifies Konchalovsky’s art. Leaving details aside, he paints the trunks and leaves of young trees using broad thick strokes. The landscape is built around a wide variety of contrasting colours. The young trees appear to pierce the sky, and nature itself seems to be young and changeable. The confident green, ochre, yellow and blue brush strokes overlap one another and create a dense and vibrant surface, with a few violet horizontal brush strokes giving depth to the horizon.
This canvas is part of the landscape series of scenes around Moscow that Konchalovsky painted in the early 1920s. He painted the oak forests of Abramtsevo (a well-known centre of art between 1870 and 1880, owned by the patron Savva Mamontov), and at Krylatskoe. This optimistic painting typifies Konchalovsky’s art. Leaving details aside, he paints the trunks and leaves of young trees using broad thick strokes. The landscape is built around a wide variety of contrasting colours. The young trees appear to pierce the sky, and nature itself seems to be young and changeable. The confident green, ochre, yellow and blue brush strokes overlap one another and create a dense and vibrant surface, with a few violet horizontal brush strokes giving depth to the horizon.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

The Tale of Baikal, by Boris Ivanovich Lebedinsky (1891-1972).

Boris Ivanovich Lebedinsky
Irkutsk Regional Art Museum named after V. P. Sukachev
n.d.
oil on canvas
154 x 207 cm
© Irkutsk Regional Art Museum


The flora and fauna around Lake Baikal are profuse and varied. To the west, the lake is surrounded by tall mountains of up to 2,000 metres; the base of the mountains is covered in pines and their steep slopes are dotted with dark cedars. Travellers to the region from the mid 17th century until the 19th century have written about it. “Lake Baikal is replete with striking charms; it elicits in every one of us something mysterious and marvellous, and evokes in our souls feelings of fear and apprehension,” (B.I. Dybovsky). Lebedinsky carried this book with him for many years, beginning in the 1910s, when he visited Lake Baikal for the first time. The painting was preceded by many studies and sketches, as well as some other completed canvasses. Throughout all these years, he attempted to suggest the mythical origins of Lake Baikal, intending to present the geographical reality as if it were impregnated with the legend of the divine genesis of the lake. The bird’s-eye view allows the viewer to discover, in the middle of the austere taiga, the calm and majestic surface of Lake Baikal, with its crys Read More
The flora and fauna around Lake Baikal are profuse and varied. To the west, the lake is surrounded by tall mountains of up to 2,000 metres; the base of the mountains is covered in pines and their steep slopes are dotted with dark cedars. Travellers to the region from the mid 17th century until the 19th century have written about it. “Lake Baikal is replete with striking charms; it elicits in every one of us something mysterious and marvellous, and evokes in our souls feelings of fear and apprehension,” (B.I. Dybovsky). Lebedinsky carried this book with him for many years, beginning in the 1910s, when he visited Lake Baikal for the first time. The painting was preceded by many studies and sketches, as well as some other completed canvasses. Throughout all these years, he attempted to suggest the mythical origins of Lake Baikal, intending to present the geographical reality as if it were impregnated with the legend of the divine genesis of the lake. The bird’s-eye view allows the viewer to discover, in the middle of the austere taiga, the calm and majestic surface of Lake Baikal, with its crystal-clear sandy coves.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Gazelles, by Alexander Davidovich Drevin (1889-1938), between 1930 and 1931.

Alexander Davidovich Drevin
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
1930 - 1931
oil on canvas
67.5 x 89.5 cm
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


This painting, like Outskirts, was painted by Drevin during his classical period, and is part of his Altai cycle. Colour and space merge in his painting into a single, sticky and doughy substance. He presents us with an impressive creative force of almost palpable colours. The painterly approach combines light, colour and space. It stretches out into the depths, becomes dense and forms a kind of non-figurative spatial whirlwind in which our gaze becomes lost. The delicate silhouettes of gazelles running give us the impression of fleeting visions.
This painting, like Outskirts, was painted by Drevin during his classical period, and is part of his Altai cycle. Colour and space merge in his painting into a single, sticky and doughy substance. He presents us with an impressive creative force of almost palpable colours. The painterly approach combines light, colour and space. It stretches out into the depths, becomes dense and forms a kind of non-figurative spatial whirlwind in which our gaze becomes lost. The delicate silhouettes of gazelles running give us the impression of fleeting visions.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Outskirts, by Alexander Davidovich Drevin (1889-1938), in 1931.

Alexander Davidovich Drevin
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
1931
oil on canvas
68 x 71.5cm
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


Drevin’s painterly style is always recognizable. As in Gazelles, everything in this canvas is based on a single substance, a single coloured mass transfigured by light emanating from within. By condensing, swirling and spreading, this substance creates, through its movement, a variety of shapes that represent nature. It is out of this single pictorial substance that the ghost-like white house appears, apparently on the brink of vanishing into thin air once again. According to V.V. Starodubova, a specialist in Drevin’s work, this strange ghost is a real building that still exists today at the far end of Tchistoproudnyi Boulevard.
Drevin’s painterly style is always recognizable. As in Gazelles, everything in this canvas is based on a single substance, a single coloured mass transfigured by light emanating from within. By condensing, swirling and spreading, this substance creates, through its movement, a variety of shapes that represent nature. It is out of this single pictorial substance that the ghost-like white house appears, apparently on the brink of vanishing into thin air once again. According to V.V. Starodubova, a specialist in Drevin’s work, this strange ghost is a real building that still exists today at the far end of Tchistoproudnyi Boulevard.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Develop an understanding of the geographic influences on culture
  • Understand that art can represent the experience of people
  • Examine how major dominant European art movements influenced the interpretation of the landscape in Russian painting
  • Be aware of similarities and differences in landscape painting between Russia and Canada prior to 1940
  • Appreciate the development of a distinctly Russian style of landscape painting
  • Respond critically to a variety of art styles
  • Recognize the emotional impact of art

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