Part I: The Wanderers aka: The Immortal Itinerants, Peredvizhniki
The Wanderers aka: The Immortal Itinerants, Peredvizhniki
Click on small images to view larger images.
By the end of the first half of the 19th Century, Russian intellectuals supported the need for reform in Russia. Russia had entered the age of capital development. Influenced by the liberal ideas of Chernyshevsky and Belinski, the Itinerant movement established the first Free Society of Artists in Russia. The founding of the Itinerant’s movement was a measure calculated to express the need for rejection of the social order in Tsarist Russia. The objectives of the Itinerants were:
- the enlightenment of the people by affording them the opportunity to learn about the new Russian art;
- the aesthetic objective of forming a new artistic sense and taste;
- the economic objective of attracting new buyers in order to have a market for the new art.
Itinerants (Peredvizhniki) List:
I.Shishkin, N.Ghe (Gay), V.Perov, I.Kramskoy, I.Repin, V.Surikov, G.Myasoedov, Kamenev, A.Savrasov, Amosov, Ammon, M.P.Klodt, M.K.Klodt, I.Pryanishnikov, A.Bogolyubov, Gun (Huns), V.Makovskiy, N.Makovskiy, K.Makovskiy, V.Maksimov, P.Bryullov, K.Savitskiy, A.Kuindji, Bronnikov, V.Vasnetsov, A.Vasnetsov, Litovchenko, Lemokh, V.Polenov, Y.Volkov, Leman, Nevrev, A.Harlamov, N.Kuznetsov, Bodarevskiy, N.Dubovskoy, S.Svetoslavskiy, N.Shilder, A.Arkhipov, I.Levitan, I.Ostrouhov, Zagorskiy, K.Lebedev, A.Stepanov, Pozen, N.Kasatkin, S.Miloradovich, Shanks, V.Serov, N.Bogdanov-Belskiy, I.Bogdanov, A.Korin, I.Endogurov, M.Nesterov, Baksheev, Orlov, K.Kostandi.
With the onset of the itinerant movement, new terms to describe Russian art began to be heard. Phrases such as “enlightening,” “aesthetic objective,” “economic objective,” “new,” “fresh,” “for the first time” were heard all over the country. This was the first time in the history of the Russian world of art that the subject matter was rich and expansive. The method used by these artists was to conduct traveling art exhibits in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities throughout Russia. This set the Itinerants on a collision course with the forces of the Academy and set the stage for an entirely new type of art. Russian art has never looked back. Everyone in Russia became involved in the conflict. Critics, artists, academics, newspapers, politicians, and even the common people could not let the matter rest. Exhibition halls became battlegrounds between the new and the old. Today it is difficult to understand that the emotion of the times and the results of the movement clearly shook the forces of empire to their very depths.
The itinerant artists themselves were from all walks of life and age. Some were peasants, and some were of the nobility, but all were united in a single goal. That goal was to depict life in Russia as it really was. The difference between this path and Classicism and Romanticism was that for the first time painting was focused on present day reality. The artist’s hand was freed from the restrictions of lofty ideals. Painting reflected events and the contradictions of Russian society. The lives of common Russian people including their struggles against oppression were revealed through art. The love of the Russian people for their country and its nature was deified, and for the first time, paintings were free of social prejudice. One must be aware that all the while Russia, unlike other Western European countries, was a land where the political freedom to express oneself was strictly prohibited. Free expression was prohibited almost to the point of non-understanding in this country. It was only in the field of the arts (painting, literature, music, theater, etc.) that there was any possibility self expression. This led the Itinerants to feel as if they were given a special responsibility to effect change. The artists willingly took on this mission as a sacred duty. The great Ilya Repin wrote that artists come from the people and that the people expect art that reflects a clear understanding of conditions and nature.
This generation of Itinerants tried to analyze and determine what art was and what role it played in social life. The great Russian art critic Vladimir Stasov defined this aspiration as follows: “The artists striving to unite to setup their own society were not doing it for the purpose of creating beautiful paintings and statues for the sole purpose of earning money. They were striving to create something for the minds and feelings of the people.” This is why arguments that arose at the exhibition halls were concerned with far more than pure artistic arguments. The artists themselves were of varying talent, and different painting genres, but as members of the Society became “Universal Artists,” who worked in different forms of art. For example, the most talented of the Itinerants (Repin, Shishkin, and others) worked in both painting and drawing. As a result of their efforts, easel drawing stopped being merely preparatory work for future paintings and developed into an independent form of art.
Other examples of multi-talented artists include artists such as Vasiliy Polenov and Victor Vasnetsov. These two Itinerants worked, not only as easel painters, but each also devoted a great deal of time in reviving theater scenery painting thus laying the foundation for the tradition of Russian theater decor that reached its peak at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries. This effort was done in conjunction with artists of another artistic society, the World of Art. Vasnetsov, among others, also created many mural paintings for churches. Being universal artists, many Itinerants worked successfully in other genres. Ivan Kramskoy, Nikolay Ghe, Ilya Repin, and Vasiliy Surikov were fine portraitists and history theme painters. Vasiliy Polenov was an historical painter as well as a landscapist. Nikolay Yaroshenko worked in portrait, landscape, and genre painting. In spite of multi-talented artists that worked in many genres, one must not forget, subjects and heroes, the images of Russian nature and human destiny always remained the main themes of their creativity. While working on these motifs each artist revealed his own understanding of the fundamental problems of human existence.
Part II can be found HERE.
To find books on this topic and other related art subjects head over to our online Fine Art Bookstore.