What do you think of when you hear the words "Russian art". To the uninformed images of propaganda posters and giant politburo faces on buildings may come to mind. Perhaps the opulent splendour of Tsarist Russia? Yes all of those stereotypes can be found, but that would be a disservice to the tremendous contribution Russian artists have made to impressionist and realist art.
Since the fall of Soviet Russia the world has been able to re-access this trove of art. Impressionism in particular was well represented in Russia. Artists in the 19th and early 20th centuries studied the art movements in Europe. The thread of impressionism, namely to depict real life, nature and light was an important form of expression in Russia. One can easily imagine the sense of freedom artists felt being able to depict their friends and neighbours going about real life activities. No more restrictive academic traditions and formulas. Colours were pure and light danced over the canvas.
Russian impressionist paintings have a distinctive feel and there is a sense of the Russian culture and heritage - both joyful and tragic - that radiates from some of the paintings. Artists like Ilya Repin believed that the Russian people wanted artists to depict the real Russian life. Artists who did this successfully became famous - national treasures. Valentin Serov's painting Girl with Peaches for instance was a sensation.
Russia is a huge country and of course the land, nature and the harsh elements were part of survival. Depicting Russian country life was important culturally and emotionally to the Russian psyche. Artists live Isaac Levitan did this wonderfully as can be seen in Golden Autumn below.
Looking to modern impressionists in the 20th century the famous brothers Alexei and Sergei Tkachev have produced stunning works. Their painting above seems to evoke so much about the fragility of life together with the universal joy of nature. Who can look at this painting and not be moved? Bold, energetic colour with contrasting lights and darks together with the emotional content makes for a powerful painting.
Take some time and look up more Russian Impressionists - it is well worth it.
For more about modern Russian art and its resurgent popularity read this article from Fine Art Connoisseur
NEW: 2 DVD SET