Sunday, January 1, 2017

Russian Paintings in London

Several well known folklore paintings from Russia's classic age of imaginative realism are on show in London at the Mall Galleries.

Ilya Repin, Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom

Sadko is a hero from a medieval epic. Musician, gambler, and adventurer, he traveled to the sea floor where the "Sea Tsar" or king of the mermen provided him with his choice of a bride.

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov, The Flying Carpet
According to a press release, these paintings were acquired by Art Russe from a noble family.

EDIT. The Sadko painting and perhaps some of the other ones in the London show may be copies, done either by Repin or another artist. The original of Sadko is on view right now in Holland (Link for more info). Thanks, Damian and Annelotte.

Victor Vasnetsov (1848–1926) Alionushka
1881, Oil on canvas, 167 × 107 cm
They're currently part of an exhibition on Russian folktale art at The Mall Galleries, London until January 6. It's free to get in, but check the website because it may only be open to the public tomorrow and the next day.

Not included in the exhibition are the following studies for Repin's Sadko painting.

He probably painted the color comp from his imagination, and then the head studies from models.

Thanks, Damian Johnston


Annelotte Fellinger said...

I don't think the Sadko is on show in Londen right now, it is exhibited here (the Netherlands) until april:
But there should be plenty of other paintings :)

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Annelotte, yeah, I guess I'm confused because the same painting seems to be on two different websites, and Damian said he just saw it. Maybe the one in London is an alternate version?

DamianJ said...

Hmmm, intriquing, I'm going to return to the gallery tomorrow and see if I can discern any more info. The wikipedeia entry gives it a physical size of over 3 meters in height, which would match the dimensions of the one here, but the signature bottom left will be the crucial bit, I didn't take note of that as I recognised the image and assumed there was only be one version. I'll report back. Thanks for the tip-off Annelotte.

Unknown said...

I've heard that he Repin made color studies at the Berlin Aquarium.


Nice art blog and very wonderful paintings !!!
Happy New Year 2017 !!!

DamianJ said...

Annelotte is correct, the Sadko can't be the 'official original', it has no obvious signature. Comparing it to the version on Wikipedia, it's close, but I can't attest to who painted it. I guess that makes this painting not so much 'buyer beware' as 'viewer beware' :(

Susan Krzywicki said...

Question: When is "Russia's classic age of imaginative realism"?

Peter Drubetskoy said...

It is interesting to know that Repin himself considered Sadko a failure. According to this book, he wrote in a letter to Stasov:
"I have to admit to you in secret, that I am terribly disappointed with my painting "Sadko"; with what pleasure would I have destroyed it... It is such a trash, just filth in all respects, only, please, do not tell anyone"
I think he would have used the word "kitsch", had it been around.

James Gurney said...

Peter, that's fascinating. Thank you for that insight. I was aware that Stasov was critical of anything Repin painted that was not from his own life and times, such as Ivan the Terrible and Sadko. Perhaps if the critical climate had been more favorable, he would have had more confidence in that direction.

Susan, I was referring to the period of Repin's early historical and fantastic paintings, also the Biblical, historical, and narrative paintings of Kramskoy, Makovsky, Surikov, and Perov.

Unknown said...

Repin painted Sadko from his friend Victor Vasnetsov, the author of many great paintings of the "imaginative realism". By this painting Repin wanted to say, that he, like Sadko, though was fascinated by Western treasures of art, nevertheless choose his modest Russia. He just had to paint something big -its size is more than 3x2 m, to finish "oficially" his 6 years long free trip to the Western Europe for "advancing" his painting mastery. The painting was a sort of commision, then. Repin's first big painting was Biblical, and he won the Gold Medal, and the right to go to Europe for free, as a prize.

James Gurney said...

Olga, thank you for explaining that backstory. It seems Repin extracted the best of what western Europe had to offer a young painter, and still stayed true to his core values. I suppose the same could be said of Shishkin, who learned much from the Dusseldorf school in Germany, but found his true inspiration in the Russian forests.