Painting of the XIX-XX centuries, Room 3

In the last quarter of the 19th century, Russian painting shifted its focus towards the depiction of light. This was not the artificial light of a lamp or the light filtering through a studio window, but the vibrant, ever-changing natural light.

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It's interesting to recall the portraits of Ilya Repin's (1844-1930) family members. Unrestricted by the demands of commissioned portraits in depicting his relatives (in the garden or by an open window), Ilya Repin, akin to the Impressionists, creates vivid images. These works feature broad brushstrokes that produce a shimmering light effect, contrasting colors that enhance brightness, colored shadows, and generalizations that convey an instantaneous impression (rather than a process of lengthy observation). The artist seems to capture a fleeting moment filled with sunlight, ecstasy, and joy. One such work is Ilya Repin's "Portrait of a lady," displayed in the second gallery of the Painting of the XIX-XX centuries exhibition. The master (and subsequently the viewer) seems to have accidentally encountered a pensive girl in the garden. She doesn't pose – she's immersed in sunlight and her thoughts, seemingly unaware of our presence.

Natural light becomes the main "protagonist" in the works of the third and fourth painting halls. The displayed collection of paintings allows us to trace the diversity of approaches to the problem of depicting light in landscape and still life by the masters of the Academy of Arts in the last quarter of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The works of Iosif Krachkovsky (1854-1914) are displayed in the second and third galleries. Krachkovsky is known as a landscape painter, a medalist of the Academy of Arts, and a participant in the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions. His works "Borjom" (1898, second gallery of the Painting of the XIX-XX centuries exhibition) and "Mountain landscape" (1902, in this hall) are bathed in light. The artist chooses a viewpoint where nothing obstructs the light: it glitters on cliffs, tree leaves, and ripples in the water. In the still lifes of this hall, streams of light flood the bouquets in baskets, blurring specific outlines, and enhancing brightness and color. These still lifes were likely painted in a flower shop, with the bouquets prepared for sale. Thus, we become accidental witnesses to the extraordinary beauty of nature in everyday life, rather than a studio setup.

A similar approach is evident in the works of Yuli Klever (1850-1924). His landscape "Ambrosovichi" (in the second gallery) depicts a road bathed in the autumn sun along leaning huts, with colorful shadows and variances of green, yellow, and orange hues. The theme of the road is also embodied in his landscape "Rock island" (in this gallery), where the light is subdued by St. Petersburg's misty haze. In the landscape "In the wildwood" in the fourth gallery, Klever's exceptional skill as a colorist is evident: the various subtle shades of brown, yellow, and green allow the artist to create an image of a thicket, wilderness, and light obscured by dense branches, falling on tree trunks and melting snow at the roots. The play of light holds a special place in "Still life with flowers": warm pink petals cast cold shadows, and cold lilac, and blue flowers cast warm ones - in this alternation of colors and light and shadow, the viewer wonders about the actual color of this bouquet - perhaps it's white?... Again, we're presented with not a setup but casually forgotten cut flowers. The fourth gallery of the Painting of the XIX-XX centuries exhibition features a still life by Yuly Klever Junior, a graduate of the Munich Academy of Arts. His still lifes also play an important role in the interplay of color and light, but they are distinctly different from the works of Yuly Klever Senior. The painting style is significantly different: the colors are subdued, and more fragmented. His works are less naturalistic, leaning towards greater decorativeness. In his works, Yuly Klever Junior's signature usually includes "son."

The effect of shimmering light is achieved through the technique of separate brushstrokes: artists do not try to smooth the transitions between colors, but rather emphasize them, often leaving the strokes textured, and protruding. However, the separate brushstroke can vary significantly among different masters: the brush movement can be free, broad, or, conversely, thin, meticulously filigree. For instance, in the works of Ivan Pokhitonov (1850-1923), one can see fine separate brushstrokes (the master worked under a magnifying glass), which at a short distance from the painting are indistinguishable: they merge into a unified landscape bathed in sunlight.

A remarkable effect of transition from the shadowy depths of the forest to the sunlit glade is achieved with a virtuoso fine separate brushstroke in the study by Isaac Levitan (1860-1900). In the fourth hall, his study on cardboard "Twilight over the river" can also be seen. The first and fourth halls of Russian painting feature studies "The steppe river Olshanka," "Autumn," and "Telegraph mast" by Vasily Polenov (1844-1927). In the studies of these outstanding masters, one can discern the basis of their imaginative vision of the landscape: visual accents, generalized color scheme, and light-shadow work hidden behind the multitude of details in completed studio works.

The first hall of Russian painting presents a landscape by Arkhip Kuindzhi - a great master who developed the problem of light in painting. The rhythmic foundation of the work in this case is the stems of flowers: vertical strokes of various shades of green, contrasted with horizontal blue and azure strokes depicting the sea. Among this juxtaposed order of vertical and horizontal strokes, spots of yellow flowers burst forth, causing golden reflections (reflexes) on the white flowers. White flowers are tinted green in the shadowy parts of the work. Such a variety of colors, colored shadows, and reflexes allow the creation of the effect of a sunlit landscape.

Studies are sketches from nature in which artists do not aim to achieve a certain completeness of the image. It is often in them that one can see the immediacy of perception and artistic conveyance of the image, generalization, and spontaneity (reminiscent of French Impressionism).

Isaac Levitan 'Forest edge'
Isaac Levitan
Forest edge
Yuly Klever 'Still life with flowers'
Yuly Klever
Still life with flowers
Iosif Krachkovsky 'Still life with violets'
Iosif Krachkovsky
Still life with violets
Isaak Brodsky 'Steppe ravine'
Isaak Brodsky
Steppe ravine
Vilgelm-Karl Purvit 'The last snow'
Vilgelm-Karl Purvit
The last snow
Albert Edelfelt 'Shepherd boy'
Albert Edelfelt
Shepherd boy
Nikolay Bublikov 'Roses'
Nikolay Bublikov
Iosif Krachkovsky 'Mountain landscape'
Iosif Krachkovsky
Mountain landscape
Arkady Rylov 'Barks on the shore'
Arkady Rylov
Barks on the shore
Boris Kustodiev 'In a birch grove'
Boris Kustodiev
In a birch grove
Iosif Krachkovsky 'Still life with violets'
Iosif Krachkovsky
Still life with violets
Yuly Klever 'Rock island'
Yuly Klever
Rock island
Nikolay Okolovich 'Moyka river'
Nikolay Okolovich
Moyka river
Nikolay Dubovskoy 'Bakhchisarai'
Nikolay Dubovskoy
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Young apple trees'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Young apple trees
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Goryachij klyuch'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Goryachij klyuch
Ivan Pokhitonov 'At the lake'
Ivan Pokhitonov
At the lake
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Seaside'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Leo Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Leo Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Lodge gate to Yasnaya Polyana'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Lodge gate to Yasnaya Polyana
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Spring'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Ivan Pokhitonov 'Vieux Moulin u Jupille pres Liege'
Ivan Pokhitonov
Vieux Moulin u Jupille pres Liege