Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 8

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

‘…it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born – so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 6-7

*

In beginnings and in ends,

artists, let your faith be strong.

Know where hell and heaven await us.

It is your gift to measure all you see

with dispassionate eyes.

Let your gaze be firm and clear.

Rub out the incidental details

and you’ll see the splendour of the world.

Find out where the light shines

and you’ll know where lies the dark.

Let all that’s sacred in the world,

and all that’s wicked, pass in unhurried flow

through the fire of your heart and the cool of

your mind.

Alexander Blok, from the poem ‘Retribution’

Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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Five Russian souls 3

Osip Braz, Portrait of Anton Chekhov, 1898. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Osip Braz, Portrait of Anton Chekhov, 1898. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Nikolai Kasatkin, Peat-worker. Study, 1901. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Nikolai Kasatkin, Peat-worker. Study, 1901. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Valentin Serov, Portrait of Maria Yermolova, 1905. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Valentin Serov, Portrait of Maria Yermolova, 1905. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Zinaida Serebriakova, Portrait of Polia, 1915. Tempera on paper. The Russian Museum

Zinaida Serebriakova, Portrait of Polia, 1915. Tempera on paper. The Russian Museum

Nikolai Feshin, Portrait of a Woman, 1908. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Nikolai Feshin, Portrait of a Woman, 1908. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Source: Russian Portrait of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, I. Pruzhan, V. Kniazeva, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers, Moscow, 1980

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Five Russian souls 2

Zinaida Serebriakova, Making Her Toilet, 1909. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Zinaida Serebriakova, Making Her Toilet, 1909. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Boris Grigoryev, A Girl, 1917. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Boris Grigoryev, A Girl, 1917. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Yulia Kustodieva, the Artist's Wife, 1903. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Yulia Kustodieva, the Artist’s Wife, 1903. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Mikhail Vrubel, Portrait of the Artist's Son in a Pram, 1902. Water-colours, whiting and lead pencil on paper pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Mikhail Vrubel, Portrait of the Artist’s Son in a Pram, 1902. Water-colours, whiting and lead pencil on paper pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Sergei Maliutin, Portrait of Vera Maliutina, the Artist's Daughter, 1909. Pastel on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Sergei Maliutin, Portrait of Vera Maliutina, the Artist’s Daughter, 1909. Pastel on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Source: Russian Portrait of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, I. Pruzhan, V. Kniazeva, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers, Moscow, 1980

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Five Russian souls 1

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Mikhail Kuzmin, 1909. Water-colours, gouache and whiting on paper pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Mikhail Kuzmin, 1909. Water-colours, gouache and whiting on paper pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Zinaida Serebriakova, Self-portrait, 1910s. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Zinaida Serebriakova, Self-portrait, 1910s. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Alexander Blok, 1907. Lead pencil, crayons and gouache on paper. The Tretyakov Gallery

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Alexander Blok, 1907. Lead pencil, crayons and gouache on paper. The Tretyakov Gallery

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Georgi Vereisky, 1917. Lead pencil and sanguine on paper. The Russian Museum

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Georgi Vereisky, 1917. Lead pencil and sanguine on paper. The Russian Museum

Isaac Brodsky, Portrait of Maria Andreyeva, 1910. Oil on canvas. The I. Brodsky Home Museum.

Isaac Brodsky, Portrait of Maria Andreyeva, 1910. Oil on canvas. The I. Brodsky Home Museum

Source: Russian Portrait of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, I. Pruzhan, V. Kniazeva, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers, Moscow, 1980

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Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 16

Georgy Vychegzhanin, plate with the monogram 'RSFSR.' 1921

Georgy Vychegzhanin, plate with the monogram ‘RSFSR.’ 1921

Sergei Chekhonin, plate with the emblem of the RSFSR. 1921

Sergei Chekhonin, plate with the emblem of the RSFSR. 1921

Bazilka Radonič, 'The New Government.' Plate. 1921

Bazilka Radonič, ‘The New Government.’ Plate. 1921

Alexandra Shchekatikhina-Pototskaya, 'Bell Ringer.' Dish. 1921

Alexandra Shchekatikhina-Pototskaya, ‘Bell Ringer.’ Dish. 1921

Sergei Chekhonin, 'Coral Ribbon.' Plate. 1919

Sergei Chekhonin, ‘Coral Ribbon.’ Plate. 1919

Source: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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The battle for art – part six: the ideological function of a stamp

stamp

Stamp of the RSFSR, The Liberated Proletarian, 1921

Stamp of the RSFSR, The Liberated Proletarian, 1921

Top image

Bottom image: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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Be daring now and forever

Rudolf Vilde, Plate with the inscription ‘Be daring now and forever.’ 1921

Rudolf Vilde, Plate with the inscription ‘Be daring now and forever.’ 1921

Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 15

Sergei Chekhonin and Piotr Konchalovsky, cover of the journal Russkoye Iskusstvo (Russian Art), 1923, No 1

Sergei Chekhonin and Piotr Konchalovsky, cover of the journal Russkoye Iskusstvo (Russian Art), 1923, No 1

Vladimir Favorsky, cover of the journal Pechat i revolutsiya (The Press and the Revolution), 1923, No. 4

Vladimir Favorsky, cover of the journal Pechat i revolutsiya (The Press and the Revolution), 1923, No. 4

Vladimir Favorsky, cover of the magazine Makovets, 1923, No. 3. Xylograph

Vladimir Favorsky, cover of the magazine Makovets, 1923, No. 3. Xylograph

Vladimir Favorsky, Still Life with Books, 1919, Xylograph

Vladimir Favorsky, Still Life with Books. 1919. Xylograph

Vladimir Favorsky, View of Moscow from the Vorobyov Hills. From the series Views of Moscow. 1918. Xylograph

Vladimir Favorsky, View of Moscow from the Vorobyov Hills. From the series Views of Moscow. 1918. Xylograph

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Images: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

Prokudin-Gorsky photography

Excellent post. Beautiful images. I was surprised to see that elements of some of them (including those in the video) look very much like what is in paintings from the period (e.g. Rodin’s ‘Red-headed girl with Parasol’, Monet’s ‘Woman with a Parasol’ [1875, cf. the post-1902 photo by Adolf Miethe]; I think also of a grainy black and white image [in the video] taken in 1846, on display in Texas, that is very reminiscent of early Cubism [specifically, paintings by Braque of L’Estaque] and an early black and white photo I have seen of L’Estaque, and of another which is very reminiscent of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings). I wonder if there might have been any cross-influences between these photos and paintings or vice-versa?

I hope to be remembered for my atrocities!

Prokudin-Gorsky_-_Perm._Headquarters_of_the_Ural_Railway_Administration

Prokudin-Gorskii-12

Signal tower in the village of Burkovo

These are actually not colorized photographs, they’re color photographs by a man named Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. He’s a Russian who really pioneered in, and made the field of color photography something worth funding. He was given funding by Tsar Nicholas II to take 2 trips through Russia photographing everything that came to mind. He went on 2 trips, one in 1909, and one a bit later in 1915.

Gorsky was one of the later photographers in this medium, but he certainly wasn’t someone who fades in comparison. The earlier individuals are people who were experimenting with different methods, cameras, exposures, and emulsions (The light-sensitive coating that was smeared on the glass plate to permanently imprint the image after the exposure). Individuals like Adolf Miethe (who was active in 1902 onwards), and Edward Raymond Turner (The Englishman who filmed the first color photographs in 1902) have one thing in common –They all…

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Chernyshevsky: the aesthetic relation of art to reality – part two

Vasily Perov, ‘Portrait of Fyodor M. Dostoevsky’, 1872, oil on canvas, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Vasily Perov, ‘Portrait of Fyodor M. Dostoevsky’, 1872, oil on canvas, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The author’s task was to investigate the question of the aesthetic relation of works of art to the phenomena of life, to test the correctness of the prevailing opinion that true beauty, which is regarded as the essential content of works of art, does not exist in objective reality, but is attained only by art. Inseparably connected with this question are the questions of the essence of beauty and the content of art. Investigation of the question of the essence of beauty has led the author to the conviction that beauty is life. After arriving at this conclusion it became necessary to investigate the concepts sublime and tragic, which according to the usual definition of beauty are elements of the latter, and we were forced to the conclusion that the sublime and the beautiful are not subsumed in art. This proved an important aid to the solution of the question of the content of art. But if beauty is life, the question of the aesthetic relation of beauty in art to beauty in reality solves itself. Having arrived at the conclusion that art cannot owe its origin to man’s dissatisfaction with beauty in reality, we had to ascertain what needs gave rise to art and to investigate ins true purpose. The following are the chief conclusions to which this investigation brought us:

  1. The definition of beauty as ‘the perfect manifestation of the general idea in the individual phenomenon’ does not stand criticism; it is too broad, for this is the definition of the formal striving of all human activity.
  2. The true definition of beauty is: ‘beauty is life.’ To man, a beautiful being is that being in which he sees life as he understands it; a beautiful object is an object that reminds him of life.
  3. This objective beauty, or beauty in essence, must be distinguished from perfection of form, which consists in the unity of the idea and the form, or in the object fully answering its purpose.
  4. The sublime does not affect man by awakening in him the idea of the absolute; it hardly ever awakens it.
  5. To man, the sublime is that which seems to be much bigger than the objects, or much more powerful than the phenomena, with which he compares it.
  6. The tragic has no essential connection with the idea of fate or necessity. In real life the  tragic is most often adventitious, it does not spring from the essence of preceding events. The form of necessity in which it is clothed by art springs from the ordinary principle of works of art: ‘the denouement must follow from the plot,’ or else is due to the artist’s misplaced surrender to the conception of fate.
  7. The tragic, according to the conception of recent European learning, is ‘the horrible in a man’s life.’
  8. The sublime (and its element, the tragic) is not a variety of the beautiful; the idea of the sublime and the idea of the beautiful are two entirely different things; between them there is neither inherent connection nor inherent contrast.
  9. Reality is not only more animated, but is also more perfect than imagination. The images of the imagination are only pale and nearly always unsuccessful imitations of reality.
  10. Beauty in objective reality is fully beautiful.
  11. Beauty in objective reality fully satisfies man.
  12. Art does not spring from man’s desire to make up for the flaws in beauty in reality.
  13. Works of art are inferior to beauty in reality not only because the impression created by reality is more vivid than that created by works of art: works of art are inferior to beauty (and also inferior to the sublime, the tragic and the ridiculous) in reality also from the aesthetic point of view.
  14. The sphere of art is not limited to the sphere of the beautiful in the aesthetic sense of the term, of beauty in its essence and not only in perfection of form; art reproduces everything that is of interest to man.
  15. Perfection of form (unity of the idea and the form) is not the characteristic feature of art in the aesthetic sense of the term (the fine arts). Beauty as the unity of the idea and the image, or as the perfect realisation of the idea, is the object of the striving of art in the broadest sense of the term, or of ‘accomplishment,’ the object of all man’s practical activities.
  16. The need that engenders art in the aesthetic sense of the term (the fine arts) is the same as that which is very clearly expressed in portrait painting. Portraits are not painted because the features of the living person do not satisfy us; they are painted in order to help us to remember the living person when he is not in front of our eyes and to give those who have not had occasion to see him some idea of what he is like. By its reproductions, art merely reminds us of what in life is of interest to us and strives to acquaint us to some degree with those interesting aspects of life which we have not had occasion to experience or see in reality.
  17. Reproduction of life is the general characteristic feature of art and constitutes its essence. Works of art often have another purpose, viz., to explain life; they often also have the purpose of pronouncing judgement on the phenomena of life.
Vasily Perov, ‘Self-portrait’, 1851, oil on canvas, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev

Vasily Perov, ‘Self-portrait’, 1851, oil on canvas, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev

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N.G. Chernyshevsky, ‘The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality’, MA thesis, 1855, in Selected Philosophical Essays, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953, 379-381

Image sources: 1st/2nd