In the 19th century, artist Ivan Kramskoy led the so-called 'revolt of 14' whereby a group of upstart artists broke away from the powerful but conservative Academy of Arts. The mutineers considered that art should be a force for national awareness and social change, and they depicted common people and real problems in their paintings. The Peredvizhniki (Wanderers), as they called themselves, travelled around the country in an attempt to widen their audience (thus inspiring their moniker).
The Peredvizhniki included Vasily Surikov, who painted vivid Russian historical scenes, and Nikolai Ghe, who favoured both historical and biblical landscapes. Perhaps the best loved of all Russian artists, Ilya Repin has works that range from social criticism (Barge Haulers on the
Volga) to history (Cossacks Writing a Letter to the Turkish Sultan) to portraits.
Many Peredvizhniki masterpieces are on display at the Russian Museum (p76), as well as the Brodsky House-Museum (p74).
By the end of the 19th century, Russian culture was retreating from Western influences and looking instead to nationalistic themes and folk culture for inspiration. Artists at this time invented the matryoshka, the quintessential Russian nesting doll. One of the world's largest collections of matryoshkas is on display at the Toy Museum (p118).
Mikhail Vrubel was inspired by Byzantine mosaics and Russian fairytales. Painters like Nikolai Roerikh and Mikhail Nesterov incorporated mystical themes, influenced by Russian folklore and religious traditions. All of these masters are prominently featured at the Russian Museum.
Was this article helpful?