Since the Renaissance, Italy has been a magnet and preferred destination for artists, but in the second half of the nineteenth century, Paris had gained much appeal. The French capital became a meeting place for many foreign artists, who were genuinely fascinated with its dynamism.

At the end of the nineteenth century, interest in travel was not limited to Paris. In their quest for new experiences and new subjects, artists also travelled around the French countryside, and frequently went beyond the borders of France. The picturesque landscape remained a central concern to some painters, while others, discovering new and different lifestyles, cultures, geographies and quality of light, painted new perspectives.

The coasts of Brittany, as well as Venice, Italy and Spain attracted many Canadian artists. Some even ventured as far as North Africa (Tunisia and Morocco), or the Caribbean. Russian artists also moved in the art circles of Paris, and travelled throughout France and Italy, but it was the East that particularly captivated them.

Since the Renaissance, Italy has been a magnet and preferred destination for artists, but in the second half of the nineteenth century, Paris had gained much appeal. The French capital became a meeting place for many foreign artists, who were genuinely fascinated with its dynamism.

At the end of the nineteenth century, interest in travel was not limited to Paris. In their quest for new experiences and new subjects, artists also travelled around the French countryside, and frequently went beyond the borders of France. The picturesque landscape remained a central concern to some painters, while others, discovering new and different lifestyles, cultures, geographies and quality of light, painted new perspectives.

The coasts of Brittany, as well as Venice, Italy and Spain attracted many Canadian artists. Some even ventured as far as North Africa (Tunisia and Morocco), or the Caribbean. Russian artists also moved in the art circles of Paris, and travelled throughout France and Italy, but it was the East that particularly captivated them.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Vasiliy Dmitrievich Polenov

On Tiberias (Genisaret) Lake, by Vasiliy Dmitrievich Polenov, 1888.

Vasiliy Dmitrievich Polenov
1888
oil on canvas
79 x 158 cm
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


After deciding to paint Christ and the Sinner, Polenov travelled to the East in 1881–1882, visiting Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Greece. His desire to see the places described in the gospels can be explained by his reinterpretation of Christianity after reading Renan’s book, The Life of Jesus. On his trip, Polenov painted over 50 studies of nature, architecture and typical inhabitants. The beauty of Lake Tiberias and Polenov’s thinking about Jesus Christ, who walked along its shores, enabled the artist to produce a very powerful canvas. It shows Christ in the landscape tradition more than the historical-religious tradition. The traveller’s silent solitude and the gentle and slight movement of his outline fit harmoniously into the majestic desert landscape. The old stones, the calm waters of the blue lake and the chain of mountains in the distance generate a sublime impression that makes us think about the eternal beauty of the universe.

Vasiliy Dmitrievich Polenov

After deciding to paint Christ and the Sinner, Polenov travelled to the East in 1881–1882, visiting Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Greece. His desire to see the places described in the gospels can be explained by his reinterpretation of Christianity after reading Renan’s book, The Life of Jesus. On his trip, Polenov painted over 50 studies of nature, architecture and typical inhabitants. The beauty of Lake Tiberias and Polenov’s thinking about Jesus Christ, who walked along its shores, enabled the artist to produce a very powerful canvas. It shows Christ in the landscape tradition more than the historical-religious tradition. The traveller’s silent solitude and the gentle and slight movement of his outline fit harmoniously into the majestic desert landscape. The old stones, the calm waters of the blue lake and the chain of mountains in the distance generate a sublime impression that makes us think about the eternal beauty of the universe.

Vasiliy Dmitrievich Polenov


© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Isaac Ilich Levitan

Fresh Breeze, The Volga, by Isaac Ilich Levitan, 1895.

Isaac Ilich Levitan
1895
oil on canvas
72 x 123 cm
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


From 1887 to 1890, Levitan worked during the spring and summer in regions near the Volga, the great Russian river. The painter travelled a great deal along the Volga, but mainly lived in the small village of Pliosse. The Volga made it possible for the Levitan’s gifts to develop, because the vast spaces through which this Russian river flows inspired him with its many different views. Fresh Breeze, The Volga is one of Levitan’s most joyous paintings from his Volga cycle. The dominant tone of this canvas is optimism. The artist makes courageous use of bright and dazzling colours, and his treatment of paint is dense and straightforward. Movement dominates this painting, which is imbued with feelings of great lightness and joy that result from the vast expanses of the Volga scenery. The viewer gets the impression of freshness and power from the wind driving the clouds in the sky and churning the waters of the river.

Isaac Ilich Levitan

From 1887 to 1890, Levitan worked during the spring and summer in regions near the Volga, the great Russian river. The painter travelled a great deal along the Volga, but mainly lived in the small village of Pliosse. The Volga made it possible for the Levitan’s gifts to develop, because the vast spaces through which this Russian river flows inspired him with its many different views. Fresh Breeze, The Volga is one of Levitan’s most joyous paintings from his Volga cycle. The dominant tone of this canvas is optimism. The artist makes courageous use of bright and dazzling colours, and his treatment of paint is dense and straightforward. Movement dominates this painting, which is imbued with feelings of great lightness and joy that result from the vast expanses of the Volga scenery. The viewer gets the impression of freshness and power from the wind driving the clouds in the sky and churning the waters of the river.

Isaac Ilich Levitan


© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Anonymous

Panorama of Smolensk, by an anonymous artist, 1896.

Anonymous
1896
oil on canvas
97 х 151.4 cm
© Smolensk State Museum-Reserve.


The Smolensk that appears in this painting by an unknown local painter is that of the early 17th century. The artist conscientiously depicted the relief of the town, with its hills, the meanders of the Dniepr River, and some of the loveliest and largest buildings. The town is surrounded by a wall and towers six and a half kilometres in length; it was built in the late 16th and early 17th century by a famous Russian architect, Fyodor Kon. The focus of this urban landscape is the five-domed Uspensky Cathedral (The Dormition), in the Russian baroque style. The cathedral and the wall still stand today. Many of the other buildings in the painting also remain. The special charm of the town’s architecture stems from a combination of different styles and different national traditions: Russian, Byelorussian, Polish, Lithuanian and German.

The Smolensk that appears in this painting by an unknown local painter is that of the early 17th century. The artist conscientiously depicted the relief of the town, with its hills, the meanders of the Dniepr River, and some of the loveliest and largest buildings. The town is surrounded by a wall and towers six and a half kilometres in length; it was built in the late 16th and early 17th century by a famous Russian architect, Fyodor Kon. The focus of this urban landscape is the five-domed Uspensky Cathedral (The Dormition), in the Russian baroque style. The cathedral and the wall still stand today. Many of the other buildings in the painting also remain. The special charm of the town’s architecture stems from a combination of different styles and different national traditions: Russian, Byelorussian, Polish, Lithuanian and German.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

Neapolitan Bay in Early Morning, by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, 1897.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
1897
oil on canvas
61 x 94 cm
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


Aivazovsky was the most celebrated and best-known maritime painter in Russia. His artistic heritage rests mainly on his marine landscapes. In this painting, he depicts different facets of the sea: he shows it not only as an element that obeys no laws and destroys man, but also as a call from afar, symbolizing the romantic dream. The Bay of Naples was a favourite spot for Russian landscape painters. As the famous French writer Germaine de Staël said, the Bay was so friendly and congenial in terms of nature that nothing could spoil the joy it gives us. For Russian painters, Italy was the country of sunshine, happiness, endless summer, and resplendent and passionate life. And that is how Aivazovsky depicted it for us.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

Aivazovsky was the most celebrated and best-known maritime painter in Russia. His artistic heritage rests mainly on his marine landscapes. In this painting, he depicts different facets of the sea: he shows it not only as an element that obeys no laws and destroys man, but also as a call from afar, symbolizing the romantic dream. The Bay of Naples was a favourite spot for Russian landscape painters. As the famous French writer Germaine de Staël said, the Bay was so friendly and congenial in terms of nature that nothing could spoil the joy it gives us. For Russian painters, Italy was the country of sunshine, happiness, endless summer, and resplendent and passionate life. And that is how Aivazovsky depicted it for us.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky


© 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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