Art and Faith

Monday, 25 February 2008

Ilya Repin. A Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov. 1873

Filed under: 19th century,fine art,human study,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

A Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov (Ilya Repin, 1873)

Art critics of the proper sort DO serve a purpose… they do, Bill, shut up, and listen!

Vladimir Stasov (1824-1906) was the towering figure in both the art and music worlds in Russia in the last half of the nineteenth century, and he had as much influence as any practising artist or musician, his “backdoor” influence being exceeded only by the art professor Pyotr Chistyakov (the teacher of most of the early Peredvizhniki).

He was one of the first to see the revolutionary impact of the composer Mikhail Glinka and he was the patron of the so-called Krepki Pyatom (the Mighty Five): Cesar Cui, Aleksandr Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky, and Mily Balakirev. Thus, he was, so to speak, the “midwife” of the birth of the Russian national school in music. Russian composers incorporated the motifs of Russian folk song and liturgical chant into their work, making their oeuvre completely distinct from that of the West.

He equally far-seeing in his art patronage. He played the same role with the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) as he did with the Krepki Pyatom. Thusly, he played as an important role in the foundation of a truly Russian national school of art as he did in the formation of a distinctive Russian musical style. Russian artists abandoned classical themes and looked for inspiration in the life of the Russian peasantry, who preserved the Old Russian way of life and customs more so than the urban population. Artists such as Ilya Repin, Vasili Surikov, and Ivan Kramskoi were his friends and beneficiaries of his influence.

Without Stasov’s labour, there may have not been a Russian national school of art and music. All we Russians owe his memory an indelible debt. Vechnaya pamyat, rab bozhii Vladimir! Eternal Memory, servant of God Vladimir!

Ilya Repin. A Portrait of the Composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 1893

Filed under: 19th century,fine art,human study,portrait,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

A Portrait of the Composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Ilya Repin, 1893)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was one of the group of Russian nationalist composers known as the Krepki Pyatom (the Mighty Five). The influence of this group of musicians cannot be underestimated, as they, in essence, created the Russian national “style” in composition, working upon a foundation laid by Mikhail Glinka in the previous generation.

Rimsky-Korsakov lacked formal training as a musician, as did most of the “Five” (except for Balakirev). His early schooling was as a naval cadet, and he served in the Russian squadron that visited New York in 1862. He served in the navy until 1873, although he became a professor at the Conservatoire in St Petersburg in 1871 as well. This was despite the fact that lacked higher musical education of any sort. He served as a professor until his death in 1908, although he lost his situation for a short while in 1905 due to his political opinions. During the period 1883 to 1894, he also served at the Imperial Chapel in St Petersburg. On top of all this, he maintained an active schedule as a conductor as well as being a composer.

Rimsky-Korsakov is known mainly for his symphonies and operas, which are on Russian national themes in the main. He is probably the greatest orchestrator who ever lived, and his works are known for their bright colour and verve in their instrumentation. It is worthwhile to mention that there are stories that he was a closet atheist. They are false, being spread by communists and leftist Orthodox (unfortunately, there are such). Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky are the two giants of symphonic music in Russia in this period, and whilst the former was a thoroughgoing nationalist, the latter was thought more of a Western-tinged romanticist. Although undoubtedly true to a point, Tchaikovsky made as much use of Russian themes and leitmotifs as Rimsky-Korsakov, and what distinguishes him from the “Five” is the fact that did receive a formal musical education.

Ilya Repin. A Portrait of the Composer Aleksandr Glazunov. 1887

Filed under: 19th century,fine art,human study,portrait,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

A Portrait of the Composer Aleksandr Glazunov (Ilya Repin, 1887)

Aleksandr Glazunov (1865-1936) was a child prodigy, for he wrote his first symphony in 1882, when he was 16. He was a conductor, composer, and professor, teaching at the St Petersburg Conservatoire (later, the Leningrad Conservatoire) from 1899 to 1928, being its director for part of this period. In 1928, he left Russia, claiming “ill health” (was it the “Red flu”? one wonders…). He lived the last years of his life in Paris. In all he wrote nine symphonies, five concerti, three ballets, and numerous smaller-scale works.

Tatiana Fedorova. Pyotr Chaikovsky. no date (2000s?)

Filed under: contemporary,fine art,historical,human study,portrait,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

tatiana-fedorova-pyotr-chaikovsky.jpgPyotr Chaikovsky (Tatiana Fedorova, no date (2000s?))

This portrait is obviously not taken from life, as it was painted over a century after the composer’s death. Pyotr Chaikovsky (1840-1893) was not one of the “Five”, yet, he was their contemporary, and was, arguably, the more famous as a composer. Unlike them, he had a formal musical education. His output consists of six symphonies, five operas, three ballets, and numerous smaller-scale works. Chaikovsky composed in the “Imperial style” in favour with the tsar and the nobility. That is, the harmonics were often “Western”, wedded to Russian melodies. Perhaps, that is why he is the most famous Russian composer in the West.

Oh, yes… “Tchaikovsky” is the French transliteration of “Chaikovsky”, both are pronounced identically.

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