Painting. The Russian national style in painting has a well-defined form in the century. XV. The “pre-Mongolian period” and the sec. XIV were but periods of preparation and hesitation; on the other hand, the centuries following the 15th already offer the image of a slow evolution towards different forms and also towards the absolute negation of the previous forms. In the Russian style, the Byzantine forms undergo a progressive and radical transformation, under the purely national influence of religious consciousness. Over the centuries, ancient Russian painting has not abandoned the characteristic features drawn from the Byzantine style: it remains forever a two-dimensional art, founded on line and pure color. Essentially decorative art tending towards generalization, it first of all raises the rigorous problem of the composition and balanced distribution of the constructive elements, whether it is mural painting (in the strict sense of the word mosaic or fresco) or painting on pictures (icons), since until the end of the century XVIII there was a close link between the murals and the icons, although they reversed at the end of the century. XV their relations, and since then the icons have had an influence on the murals, which thus at least partially lost their monumental character. Ancient Russian painting, essentially idealistic, like the Byzantine, retained only the necessary features of reality so that the religious image was not reduced to an abstract scheme powerless to act on the imagination and on sentiment; it tended to bring the religious concept closer to the universe (limited and imperfect conception of the idea of the absolute) giving this idea an artistic and poetic form. The particularities of the subject do not interest the Russian artist because they distance him from the main purpose: that of the spiritual contemplation of the invisible. It is the images of immutable moral states that interest the painter and not the expressions of emotions or passions. All balanced and rhythmic composition is subordinated to a guiding principle; and if for a religious conscience it is the expression of the fullness and intensity of moral existence, for the uninitiated it appears as a cold crystallization. Throughout the second half of the century. XIV we are witnessing in Russian painting the contamination of two main artistic currents of a local character.
The Novgorod school, formed in the century. XIII, has as its main characteristic the audacity of research, the original and independent style. The 11th and 12th centuries had left her a very rich artistic heritage: the frescoes of the churches of Novgorod (Saint Sophia, the Nativity of the Virginin the monastery of St. Anthony) and those of the churches of Spas-Neredica and of St. George in Staraja Ladoga were magnificent models of decorative painting, and in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries they facilitated the development of their art. The perfect mastery of the Byzantine style was the basis for the development of their own art for the Novgorod painters. They reduced that style even more to two dimensions; they gave color an independent importance: they also created a Russian national iconography. The Greek Theophanius in the second half of the fourteenth century, with his talent and virtuosity, exercised a profound influence on his Russian contemporaries in Novgorod, although he was more realistic than them. When he went to Moscow, he came into contact with the school of that city, heir to the schools of Rostov and Suzdal ′, arrested in their development and destroyed by the invasion of the Tatars, towards the middle of the century. XIII. Near the end of the century. XIV the Novgorod and Moscow schools contrast with each other, and in the latter the contribution of the last Byzantine Renaissance of the Palaeologus is grafted onto the national style, perhaps accompanied by Italian influences. Then the national style crystallizes in the work of Andrea Rublev: and its tradition still lasts until 1500, as the frescoes by Dionisio in the monastery of Terraponte attest. The Muscovite school in the 9th century XVI increasingly aimed at a popular character with realistic tendencies. The composition becomes complicated; we go in search of the picturesque, the local color, the ornament; the colors become heavy and dull, the workmanship neglected and vulgar. From the centuryTruth, the Seasons, the Reason, with almost naked figures, and subjects drawn from national history, the result of the influence of German and Flemish engravings. At the end of the century XVI, by reaction against Western influence, podlinniki are formed and fixed, that is, the schemes of religious subjects which, made canonical, halt the iconographic evolution. Nonetheless in the second half of the century. XVII painting hesitates between the ancient traditions of icon painting and the influence of Western painting. The painter who best embodies the confused aspirations of that era is the contemporary Simon Ušakov. His art is the compromise between the idealistic tradition and the realism that came from the West. He introduces the use of etching among Russian artists. If until then the only important painting had been religious painting and especially mural painting, the new trends that made themselves felt up to the century. XVI ended towards the end of the century. XVII in a splitting of gender: the ikonopis′ (Icon painting, dominated by mural painting), in vogue since the century. XI to XVIII, of Byzantine origins, intent on tracing the usual patterns using the fresco and tempera technique; and, brought by Western painters, modern painting, zivopis′, Dedicated to profane subjects, mostly treated with the oil technique. Near the end of the century. XVII and the beginning of the XVIII, foreign painters introduced the art of portraiture in Russia (Hans Detterson, Stanislao Lopucki, Daniele Wuchters, etc.). Among these the Marseillaise Luigi Caravaque (1716-54) exerted a notable influence on young Russians. Andrej Matveev and the Nikitin brothers (first half of the 18th century) were the first to have a scholarship abroad. The foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts, under the influence of foreign masters, gave rise to the training of good Russian portraitists, under the influence of the French painters of the century. XVIII (Legrenée, Doyen, Tocqué, Roslin, Vigée-Lebrun, etc.) and of the Italians (Rotari, S. Torelli, GB. Lampi, etc.). The first Russian historical painter, AP Lossenko, was affected by the training he did in the Restout and Vien studies; Argunov is a pupil of Grooth, and Rokotov owes his art to Rotari. In the portrait, the most original and most important representatives are Levitsky, Borovikovsky, Kiprensky (v.), VA Tropinin in Moscow. The landscape is linked to the names of Fedor Alekseev (a pupil of Bellotto and Hubert Robert), of Silvestro Ščedrin, of Lebedev. At the same time there are engravers such as A. Zubov, Ivan Sokolov, the Vinogradov, E. Čemessov, the Bersenev, the Skorodumov, NH Urkin. At the beginning of the century XIX classical academicism becomes romantic academicism; Russian painters Bryullov and Ivanov were formed in Rome and no longer, like their predecessors, under the influence of French painters. Their influence was quite widespread in Russia and also abroad. The Bruni and Siemiradzki painters derive from Bryullov and the German influences of the time. Genre painting moved by the French painter J.-B. Le Prince. Also worth mentioning are A. Orlovskij, AG Venecianov, the Fedotov. The end of the century XIX sees the formation of two secessions against the Academy and the reawakening of the truly national character. They are the “itinerant” or “peredvižniki” painters (1870-1890), with their exhibitions, and the companyArtistic World or Mir Iskusstva(company that was formed in 1899 around the magazine of the same name), which at the end of the century. XIX and the beginning of the XX present different phases of this evolution. The “peddlers” place their realism at the service of social tendencies, art being in their spirit an instrument of popular education; and they are sometimes affected by the influence of German art. In religious painting all traditional links with icons are abandoned: IN Kramskoj, N. Gay, the Palenov, are at the head of this new current. V. Vasnetsov who is part of it represents a slightly different trend as he tries to revive the semi-Byzantine and semi-French art of the Usakov. A little isolated appears the figure of Nesterev, a painter full of mystical and religious sentiment, who underwent the influence of fra Angelico and Puvis de Chavannes. Among the “itinerants” the best known history painters are: IE Repin, VI Surikov, VV Vereščagin, Rjabuškin, A. Vasnecov; among the genre painters: VG Perov, Savickij, Mesoedov, Prjanišnikov, the two Makovsky; among the portraitists most of the painters mentioned, and in particular Kramskoj, Gay, Repin; among the Kuingi landscape painters, C. Šiškin. In reaction against this thesis painting, theArtistic worldproclaims art for art. One of the greatest Russian colourist painters excels in religious art: MA Vrubel ′. The other genres give artists in which national art makes itself felt more in the manner than in the subject, and they are: II Levitan, VA Serov, Somov, Borisov-Musatov, Bilibin, Dobuginskij, Golovin, Korovin, Grabar ′, A. Benois; and the younger generation: Sudeikin, Bakst, Jakovlev, Grigor′ev, Goncarova, Larionov, etc. Most of these painters excelled and still excels in decorative art and especially in scenography. The revelation of the Russian ballets (1909) by Sergio Diaghilev (Djagilev) owes them its greatest success. Alongside painting, illustration and engraving, despite their foreign origin (English, German, French),
Sculpture. – In the second half of the eighteenth century, despite the prohibition of the Orthodox church, some small essays of religious sculpture on wood appear, under the Italian and German influence, which penetrated through Poland. But this genre is smothered in the bud. As for the profane sculpture, it shows itself under the reign of Peter the Great.
Among the first artists, foreigners should be mentioned: Schlüter, Osner, Carlo Rastrelli, Nicolas Pineau. A Russian school was born only in the second half of the century. XVIII, after the foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts, and remained for a long time under the exclusive dependence of the French school. The examples of great artists such as the Falconet, called to Petersburg (1766-78), the teaching of French professors at the Academy (NF Gillet, etc.), the practice of “collegiate” sent abroad, played a predominant role in the development of Russian sculpture. The first Russian sculptors, Šubin, Kozlovskij, pupils of Gillet, descend from Houdon and Pajou; so did Šcedrin and Gordeev, both of whom were affected by their stay and practice in Paris. The most important of the early sculptors was IP Martos, whose influence dominated his entire generation, and is reflected in Sokolov, Halberg, Krylov, Pimenov, Orlovskij, etc., artists of the time of Alexander I and Nicholas I. Sculpture is also to be remembered decorative of the century. XVIII, and in particular the imperial porcelain manufacture. The sculpture that follows this classical period shows only mediocre interest. The best known artists, Antokolskij, Baron Clodt, Mikešin, Trubeckoj and the younger ones, Gunzburg, Bernstamm, Aronson offer derivations of their masters, mostly French: Rude, Barye, Carpeaux and Rodin. Prince Trubeckoj of the company Mir Iskusstva is perhaps the most original. Of greatest interest are the sculptors who sculpt wood next to stone, namely Konenkov, Sudbinin, Chana Orlova.
The “minor arts” (miniature, goldsmithing, enamel, carving, ceramics, embroidery, etc.) have been affected since the earliest times by the predominance of oriental aesthetics. The Russian artisans of the Middle Ages underwent the influence of Byzantium (Kiev enamels: 11th-13th centuries); later relations with the Caucasus introduced Persian, Sassanid, Caucasian currents, etc. Western influences had a certain importance only from the century. XVIII. Nonetheless, the so-called popular art of the kustari (workers in rural industries) still attests to the artistic heritage of the Middle Ages. Among the national artistic industries, the aforementioned imperial porcelain manufacture (now state-owned) and those of Gardner and Popov are noteworthy.