Today’s the last day of the merry festival of Maslenitsa, and the Great Lent, with all of its abstinence and effort, starts tomorrow. However, we know what lies at the end of Lent and Holy Week… the bright feast of the resurrection of our Lord Christ, Easter. I felt that the Maslenitsa paintings of Boris Kustodiev are an appropriate end to this holiday. I may find another photo or two, but, this is, in essence, our farewell to this jolly celebration. Lent isn’t a desert, it isn’t a time for long faces, rather, it’s a time for reflection on what’s needful and good. It’s good that we have BOTH Maslenitsa and Lent. For after all, to every time, there is a season.
Russian Requiem (Boris Olshanky, 2000)
To round out this week with the art of Boris Olshansky, I chose what is, perhaps, his most evocative and meaningful painting. It is a Russian Red Cross nursing sister from World War I. One is not quite sure if she is standing still or moving towards the barbed wire.
She does appear to on the brink of SOMETHING, yet, it is something that is still hidden from her. Her facial expression is enigmatic, and hard to quantify.This canvas is filled with what we call in Russian sudba, fate or destiny. Russians are not as positivistic as Americans, and this is because we realise that there are things that are beyond our control. We lack the arrogance and hubris of the American who believes that they can change destiny through their unaided efforts. There are things that one can only endure with dignity and honour, for they cannot be changed.
I find this to be a highly-nuanced metaphor for the history of Russia in the twentieth century as seen from the standpoint of not only a new century, but, a new millennium. I have every confidence that this work shall survive as one of the great works of art of our time.