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Lecture 18

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 18: Mikhail Vrubel, Zaporizhia, Nanny


Department
History
Course Code
HIST 245
Professor
Ana Siljak
Lecture
18

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HISTORY 245
IMPERIAL RUSSIA
Lecture 18: The World of Art
I. Introduction
a. Flowering of arts – Russian renaissance, think about major works of art, literature, music, etc., so
much took place between 1863 - 1917. Russia announces themselves to world, not military like
Napoleon, or Economic growth, but as a cultural powerhouse. Cultural to significantly influence
movements.
b. European music, painting, ballet, opera are transformed through engagement with Russian
counter parts.
c. Predecessor to silver age, group of artists known as wanderers.
II. Realism and Nationalism in Russian Art: The Wanderers
a. 1863 – group of initially 14 artists who dramatically decide to leave St. Petersburg academy of
art, declare this institution (founded by Empress Elizabeth in 1757 outlived usefulness to society
and new one needed to emerge). Dedicated themselves to new way of painting – principles
borrowed from unlikely sources: Nikolai Chernyshevskii (revolutionary novelists who changed
way revolutionaries saw themselves, and he also influenced the way painters viewed their visual
art through text: “The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality” 1855.
i. Art was not useful, useless aspects of traditional culture that had to be discarded in
process of remaking the world. Chemists more useful than artists, emphasis chemistry,
and dissection of frogs rather than art. However, believed place of art in his newly
defined society, but only if redeemed itself, transformed itself and got rid of uselessness
and became more aligned with revolutionary principles of philosophically principle
(everything was matter) and utilitarianism (everything useful should be kept). Question:
how can art become useful – wrote out his philosophy in this text.
1. He tried to approach it scientifically. In his musings, reached conclusion – beauty
is life, an object is beautiful if it expresses real life or reminds us of real life. Art
can be both true and useful if it sticks to reality, can be seen by senses alone
depicting phenomenon of life as it really it.
a. Quote. “.”
i. If it’s realistic, art can be redeemed.
ii. Also another useful thing – art can teach about life, can explain life to people who might
not be able to read or apprehend life in another form. Artists have to teach men to life,
portray them the lives of exemplarity men and well organized societies. Arguing for art as
propaganda. Art only useful if serves up ideologically purpose – promote new socialist
men and woman and the society trying to create. Art serves revolutionist propaganda
purpose and become useful.
iii. In hands of young artists known as Wanderers, this dedication to Chernyshevskii realism
had interesting results. 1870: form “The Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions” –
dedicated themselves to portraying reality as they saw it when they wandered through
Russia. Did actually travel in Russia provinces, documented life as found it and doing so,
exposed and criticized some worst aspects of Russian society as they saw it.
1. In turn, tried to teach art to the masses. They painted life and ordinary people, but
taught ordinary people to paint, depict things artistically. (also depicted historical
events, add to historical narrative).
a. Division of the Family Property: Vasilii Maksimov

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i. When wanderers depicted ordinary life – if had socialistic
ideology, wanted to depict peasants as deplorable, but instead this
image is not wonderful image of communes, are arguing / fighting,
and they have plenty of furs and material goods. Depiction of life
as artist saw it, conflictual peasant family, structured according to
patriarchal view of how property works and relationship between
sexes work.
b. The Condemned- Makovsky – more propaganda, member of To the People
Movement,
i. He is being arrested and the peasants (didn’t happen) are begging
for his release, impression – men who worked and lived alongside
peasants, who revolutionary doctrines they have become to
appreciate, and now arrested and they are struggling against
injustice of the moment by pleading for release.
c. Miasoedov – Zemstyosdie
i. Critique of structures in Russia. Peasant aspect of Zemstyoe, not
dining, sitting among chickens eating bread in exhausted and
dejected sate. Interpretations point out that in image, someone is
dining, fine white table cloth hanging out window, and silver
polished, is nobility dining while peasants are sitting with
chickens. Class conflict depicted in painting striking.
d. Ilya Repin – They Did Not Expect Him
i. He is responsible for many images of Russia we have today, iconic
and had immense talent.
ii. Both historical and social critique.
iii. Points to heart rendering story, the unexpected man, one they did
not expect. Boots and cloak: dirty, plus how thin he is and eyes are
hollowed out, has come from exile (presumably political prisoner
coming back from exile). Old woman in foreground, standing up
and in total shock, she is old and weak, interpreters suggest that
she is going to see her son before she dies, make her centerpiece of
whole detail. Two children, presumably his, carefully depicted in
facial expression as observe the man coming in, son is happy, the
daughter has no idea who is, he arrested and exiled before she
could remember. Story then told is tragic man ripped form close
loving family, being sent to political exile and how family had to
cope with his absence. Critique of treatment of political dissident.
e. Repin – Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan
i. Ivan the Terrible murdered own son, how he did so is
controversial, might of accidental struck him with staff in fit of
rage but don’t know.
ii. Thing about this depiction is that Repin has own interpretation,
obvious before and after. How he is hugging his son, immediate
deep regret. Focal point of eyes.
f. Repin - The Zaporozhian Cossacks
i. Image of Cossacks as swass buckling heroic never do wells,
writing nasty and dirty letter to Sultan of Turkey.
g. Repin – Barge Haulers
i. Depicting one of worst jobs in Russia, were some of most worn out
and exploited of all of Russia but mystique and incredible diversity
of faces within the small ground of some most degraded characters
in Russia.
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b. Sense of taking Chernyshevskii idea of depicting reality, and used realism to create narrative
about Russia’s history that has survived into present day in which they shaped we imagined how
Ivan the terrible must of looked, how peasants, Cossacks, Ivan the terrible must of look, rely on
them for visual sense of past.
c. Although paintings – all about realism, romantic quality to them that shades into nationalism. No
doubt that wanderers introduced a national art into art, depiction of Russia that is meant to unify
and share across class lines. Wanted to depict Russia as a whole, unify Russia nationally in the
way Tsar, Slavophiles, Uvarov did not succeed. Visually Russia was nationalistic.
d. Many Wanderers stopped wandering and founded colonies, places, wealthy estates owned by rich
merchant patrons in order to supply artists with what they need, images for canvases, place to
work, sleep, companionship. More famous is the Abramtsevo Colony, owned by wealthy
merchant who bought estate because originally owned by Slavophile family. Had symbolic
significant (Russian national identity was born) but also beautiful place. Interior served to be
inspiration for paintings like They Did Not Expect Him.
i. More than place to paint: Became an artistic Russian research institution for Russians,
recover own artistic popular culture, Russia arts and crafts movement, like wood
working, take them from peasants and learn how to copy them in workshops. (Cabinets,
tapestries, table and chairs etc, all done in peasant style) – recovery of folk tradition for
basis of national Russian art. Place of exhibition to visit amazing work of artists and
peasants that inspired them.
ii. Abramtsevo also place for folklore, people would go to peasants and ask them to tell
them stories they told their children, recovery and writing story down, and illustrations
became part of canon of Russian fairy tales, redesigned and reimagined with help of
Abramtsevo colony.
1. Abramtsevo – where Russian icon painting rediscovered. Until late 19th century,
no one knew how to paint icons anymore, Russian church borrowed from German
and French, and if go to 17-18th century churches in Russia, in renaissance style.
With Abramtsevo recovered icon painting.
2. Interesting about story – history of Russia’s music followed similar path.
III. Realism and Nationalism in Music: The Mighty Five
a. Much of Russian music influenced by Chernyshevskii theories about realism.
i. Russia conservatory of Music founded late in Russia -1861, rebellious age, immediately
after foundation, group of Russian Musicians leave it in 1862, rebel and establish own
music institution – Free Music School in 1862. A lot like project instigated by wanderers.
Idea: express reality in musical form. Music was not just an empty form, not about
interplay of sounds and harmonies, music had to have a narrative and tell story through
music. Programmatic music – music with message or story. Romantic tradition. Also try
to realistically depict popular folk music, try to portray a narrative through music but also
tried to create a Russian national music through use of historical motives, sounds,
reimagining Russian past.
1. Opera: one of canvas’ musicians wrote and tried to express Russian nationality, to
portray truthfully the historical epic of the drama and depict the local colour of the
action. Combination of truth and music. Like wanderers, Free Music School also
believed that music belonged to people, gave musical teaching free to those who
wanted to learn how to play (broke students, etc.). Interest to realism and narrative
lead them to peasant world.
a. Studied folksongs and traditional church music to integrate with their own
thing, folklore, tales, medieval Russian history, all part of Russian music.
Realism – desire to capture something essentially about people, and lives
and melody shaded into kind of romantic nationalism.
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