Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Russian Impressionism- Part II: The Soviet Influence

Last week's subject was the French Impressionists' influence on Russian artists before the Russian revolution. This week's blog is how Russian artists continued to evolve while isolated behind the Iron Curtain.

When the Communist Party came to power, they suppressed all forms of art that had roots in foreign techniques or style. In spite of these dictates, Russian artists managed to use the techniques of impressionism in combination with subjects acceptable to the Soviets.

The result was a uniquely Russian style. When the Iron Curtain fell away and the art of 5 decades (appx. 1930-1980) was finally available to view, it was clear that Russian art had developed in a very different way than in the West.

The West had evolved from Impressionism into styles such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Expressionism. By contrast, Russian artists used a more realistic approach.

They portrayed the lives of the Russian citizens. Their art was realistically full of optimism, hope and dreams of the ordinary people. The style and subjects are now referred to as "Russian Impressionism."

Have you seen Russian Impressionism before? What do you think of this style that continued into the 1980s?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Russian Impressionism - Part 1: The French Influence

In my blog of May, 2010, I described my experience at the D'Orsay Museum in Paris and the special exhibit of Russian Impressionism. It made me aware of the influence of the French Impressionists on Russian artists.

Russia's art history was very much linked to the rest of Europe - until the Soviets came to power. Prior to that, Russian nobility preferred the realism and representational art works - just as the rest of Europe before the French Impressionists.

With the rise of Impressionism, Russian artists found new inspiration and direction. Like some of the French anarchist artist of the Industrial Age (Archive: Luce, Feb. 2010), Russian artists not only painted landscapes but also the poverty and suffering of the people.

When the iron curtain fell, Russian artists were prohibited from painting modern art for the "elitist." Instead, they were required to paint realistically so that it was understandable to the masses.

Interestingly, Russian art evolved to generate modern art paintings together with subjects acceptable to the Soviet government. This combination is known as "Russian Impressionism" and is the subject of next week's blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pissarro: The Impressionists' Father Figure

In early Modern Art, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was one of the most influential Impressionists. Nowadays, his contributions to art and artist seem to be overshadowed by other Impressionists such as Monet and Degas - that would be unfortunate. It was his experiences and personality that held the Impressionists together.

For one thing, his experience of the world was different from these French painters. He was not a native Frenchman. He was born in St. Thomas (now part of the Virgin Islands.) His father was a Portuguese Jew and his mother was Creole.

There was a great intolerance for the mixed marriage and the siblings were sent to all-black primary school. At age 12, Pissarro's father sent him to France to study art.

Perhaps it was the segregation on the island that made Pissarro show "sympathy and understanding" as Cezanne described him. When the Salon des Beaux Artes refused the paintings of the Impressionists, it was Pissarro with his strong sense of fairness who created the first charter for the artists' group. (It was this group that formed the "Salon des Refuses")

Pissarro's personality held the disparate group of artists together. (It certainly helped that he was a gray beard by age 43.) The other artists including Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Degas, considered him a kind and patient father figure.

Yet, it wasn't only his demeanor. It was also his extensive contributions to the techniques of Impressionism. In the history of art, Pissarro is referred to as "the Father of Impressionism." (In recognition of Pissarro after his death, Paul Cezanne referred to himself as "Paul Cezanne, pupil of Pissarro." )

His kindness, fairness and tolerance as a father and teacher would extend even to his own children. As a matter of fact, more than 150 years after his death there are famous artists and curators in his direct lineage who proudly carry the name "Pissarro."

Father, indeed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Artist of Limitless Space

Vija Celmins (1938-) is an extraordinary visual artist. Celmins' early works were astonishingly realistic paintings of objects such as kitchen appliances and airplanes.

She has always had a great eye for detail regardless of the media. She has produced ultra-realistic works in oils, charcoal, pencil, sculpture and print. It is hard to imagine such control in some of those media which are not considered conducive to fine workmanship.

Celmins has evolved in her drawings and paintings. Nowadays,her works give no reference to the viewer of horizon or central points of interest. It is all about the vastness. The viewer knows that even though the scene is cropped, it actually extends well beyond the limitations of the frame.

Below are more recent completed works from her various series based on seas, night skies and webs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good News! 20 More "Progressions" Completed!

More progress on the "Progressions...." I've now completed 20 of the 26 that I promised to the gallery for my solo exhibit in July.

As the date gets closer, I'll be sending out invitations . In the meantime, please mark your calendar to join me on July 15th for the opening of the show. It's a Friday evening and, hopefully, a warm summer night. Gather friends and make it a fun road trip.

Below are numbers 15-20... Enjoy!