Friday, January 18, 2019

The Sad Fate of Konstantin Kryzhitsky

Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) Early Morning in the Fields, 1897
A Ukrainian-born Russian painter named Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) killed himself when it was found out that he copied from a photo.

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Snow
According to art historian Natalya Gorlenko: "It turned out that Kryzhitsky used a still [photo] in his painting called “A Whiff of Spring.”

Konstantin Kryzhitsky, A Whiff of Spring, 1910
"Another painter, Yakov Brovar, used the same still in his piece “A View in Bialowieza Forest”. The resemblance in both images struck the eye, and a debate in the newspapers ensued."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Spring
"Kryzhitsky was accused of plagiarism and, unable to withstand the disgrace, killed himself." Wikipedia says: "His maid found him in his office, where he had hung himself and left a suicide note."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Before the Rain
Gorlenko continues: "Usually, artists were disinclined to reveal that they made use of photographs in the course of their work on paintings, and even mentions of photography with respect to their art are hard to find. It became a matter of general consensus that the painter disgraced himself when resorting to photography. And yet photography was a permanent fixture in artistic activities, and painters could no longer ignore it."
Wikipedia on Konstantin Kryzhitsky
Read Natalia Gorlenko's full article in Tretyakov Gallery Magazine: "Anticipations of Photography. Notes on painting and photography in Russia" 
The info about Kryzhitsky comes from Grigory. "The Fate of the Artist: Remembering Konstantin Kryzhitsky." Kiev, 1966. Pp. 62-64.)


Kessie said...

How far we've fallen. :-p

brine blank said...

I tried to find the two paintings that caused the issue but unfortunately was unable to locate anything on the net. I would be interested to see a compare contrast of the two items to see how each 'viewed' the scene. And yes, Kessie, we have indeed fallen very, very, very, very far...we've been in quite the free-fall for many decades. Talk to high school aged kids and see what the majority think about piracy, copyright infringement, and taking things that aren't yours followed by the range of excuses as to why it is acceptable. In one class I tried to hold a debate on such issues and literally couldn't find anyone willing to be on the side of such things being instead of being the moderator I wound up being the one to poke holes in their arguments, which mainly consisted of, "It's not fair someone should be allowed to own something or use their talents and commerce as they see fit. I should have access to everyone's everything because it pleases me in some fashion."

Paul Sullivan said...

I have read James' post twice and there are two different issues here. One is the practice of using photographs as visual reference and the other is the use of someone else's work—their original artwork or photography—as visual reference.

The use of someone else's work as the basis for a new work is, in legal terms, a derivative. Original creative work is automatically protected under U.S. copyright law. The opinion of people in this regard is of no consequence. Any new work that uses aspects of a preexisting original work is a derivative and as such is an infringement of U.S.copyright law. It is a outright form of theft.

Today’s technology has made it easier for a person to pirate portions of another person’s work. Students have been doing this for years using the Internet. Usually this is minor theft. In more serious cases, all that is usually needed is a letter from an attorney for the party to cease and desist. We are in the middle of a technological revolution and in the not-too-distant future the laws and the technology will be strengthened to cover the current conditions.

James Gurney said...

Regarding accusations of plagiarism, unfortunately I'm not able to read the original Russian account, but the issue was not (at first) that he used a photograph for reference or that he copied someone's copyrighted work; it was that he copied a painting by a fellow artist. Only later people realized that both paintings derived from the same photo, the same tree.

Here's how Wikipedia puts it: "In 1910, he was accused of plagiarism by the tabloid press because one of his paintings was similar to a work by Yakov Brovar (1864–1941). Apparently, the resemblance derived from a photograph taken in the Białowieża Forest, that was later used as a model by both artists, and involved a single, distinctive tree. When this was pointed out, his critics declared that using a photograph for a painting was a form of "cheating".

Karen Eade said...

Such a very sad story. What a waste of an incredible talent. I found what I think are the two paintings and although there is one distinctive tree they seem otherwise very different, but i am not 100% sure i found the correct Brovar to compare with. The artist’s ‘A breath of spring”, which is truly lovely, is praised on more than one site for being “just like a photo”. It is deeply ironic that the use of photographic reference can be regarded as cheating when a photographic render is considered a marvel. Poor man.

Ted B. said...

I wonder if the uproar would have happened if it had been a photograph he had taken himself, rather than cribbing from someone else's original? If Kryzhitsky taken the "reference photograph" himself, he would have both "experienced the place" by being there, and made the artistic decision to record it via photography. It's terrior, it's artistic essence.

That two painters would crib from the same source speaks to the power of the original image.

James Gurney said...

Ted, I've read that artists often bought photos from photographic studios because the artists didn't always have the equipment to shoot their own. Those studios sometimes misled the purchasers into thinking they were one of a kind shots. In itself, using a photo for reference was a common practice among many painters, though they didn't want to admit it. In this case, the revelation that two paintings copied from the same source brought the embarrassing issue to the forefront.

hanshiro said...

Here is what I believe is the Brovar painting (link) on a postcard site.

Unthinkable that a painter was driven to suicide over this.

jeff said...

I for one can't blame any painter for using a photo for a winter scene in Russia. Chances are the temperature in the forest was in the minus 10's to 20's or below. That said it does seem his career was ruined by the scandal. I've seen a fair amount of what can only be called plagiarism of out painters work online. I think one recent incident was with David Jon Kassan's recent work.