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Russian Sculpture: History Outline
June 2, 2008 19:51


Uncle Grigory by S. Konenkov

Since in Old Rus’ art served exclusively religious aims and the Orthodox Church disapproved of sculpturing human figures, there was no Russian sculpture in the real sense of the word before epoch of Peter the Great. Artistically poor cast crosses, sacred images, icon settings, carved figure iconostases, and painted carved icons that emerged in former Novgorod lands under the Western influences and were devoid of any artistic significance are the only examples of rudiments of old Russian sculpture.

Those rudiments had seen no development by the 18th century and Peter the First, when starting the Russian fleet and artillery and requiring sculpture masters hired foreign casters and sculptors who were to teach their art to the Russians. But both under Peter the First and his successors sculpture developments long stayed in foreigners’ hands.

 

The Academy of Sciences open under Catherine the First had an arts department where sculpture was taught, yet it did not contribute much to progress of Russian sculpture. Still masters from abroad were employed to meet the demands of the imperial court. Out of those overseas sculptors there stood out Count Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli, famous for his statues in Rococo style. Only upon the establishment of Arts Academy first Russian sculptors started to grow up under the guidance of the talented sculptor Nicolas-Francois Gillet from Paris. Covering the requirements of noblemen who following the Western fashion wanted to have works of sculpture at their disposal, sculptors of Catherine’s epoch were engaged in creating marble monuments and manner busts that were in great demand.

Most remarkable of the first Russian sculptors were the gifted Fedot Shubin and Mikhail Kozlovsky, who worked in reign of Catherine the Second, and Boris Orlovsky from Alexander’s epoch. Having got classical education and perfected their skills in Europe they adhered to classical technique and French style reigning in Western Europe in those years, and yet at the same time they managed to add something independent and original into their creations.

 

On the contrary, Feodosy Shedrin, Ivan Prokofiev, Fyodor Gordeev, Stepan Pimenov and Ivan Martos whose activity fell on the reigning of Alexander the First and beginning of Nicholas the Second’s reign, though having good skills and technique slavishly stuck to the boring and impersonal classical style predominating at that time.

The art of sculpture saw some enlivening under the reign of Nicholas the First. Count Fyodor Tolstoy who was heading the Academy of Arts for over thirty years aroused interest of the capital public in art and set medalist craft on the artistic basis. Yet, the major merit was that of Emperor Nicholas the First who loved and patronized arts and greatly helped up promote the art of sculpture by making large-scale governmental orders. Numerous orders were mainly fulfilled by Russian sculptors, such as Samuil Galberg, Ivan Vitaly, Nikolay Ramazanov, Alexander Loganovsky, and Nikolai Pimenov. Those sculptors limited by definite orders and brought up by the Academy with tendency for imitation and pursuit of outer beauty showed little free creativity and yet some of them timidly started to join the growing aspiration for realism and national roots.

 

Faint attempts of this kind can be seen on some works by Pimenov and Loganovsky. The new tendency clearer expressed itself in creations of Pyotr Klodt who had not studied at the Academy: the horses set up on the Anichkov Bridge in 1850, monument to Ivan Krylov and statue of Emperor Nicholas the First. Those statues replaced imitation of antiques, allegories and various stratagems with intent study of nature. They brought truthfulness and authenticity into art of sculpture. The new approach that started under Nicholas the First fully developed during reigning of Alexander the Second.

Upon changing the organization of artistic upbrining in the Academy, Russian sculptor already less estranged from life, and less limited by the governmental guidance became more independent and following the overall tendency closer to the national roots. One of the representatives of this new generation of sculptors, who tried to serve realism and the national spirit, was Fyodor Kamensky, whose works were clear evidence of his determined attempt to take a free independent path and cut the strings of limiting academic classicism. During the last 40 years of the 19th century this trend asserted itself in Russian sculpture.

 

However, on the whole the new sculpture was less national than new painting and architecture. Its best works created by Mark Antokolsky, Fyodor von Bock, Vladimir Beklemishev, Parmen Zabello, Robert Zaleman, Nikolay Laveretsky, Alexander Opekushin, Matvey Chizhov, Alexander Snegirevsky, and Ilya Gintsbourg belonged in the pan-European type. Only small groups and statuettes by Artemy Auber, Eugene Lanceray, and Nikolay Liberikh give talented and realistic images of Russian living.

In the tumultuous 20th century sculpture became very contradictive and was often associated with various modernist streams and formalist experiments of cubism (Alexander Arkhipenko), constructivism (Naum Gabo, Lazar Pevzner), surrealism, abstract art and so on. Modernist trends were consistently opposed by soviet sculpture developing in the framework of Social realism.

Its development was inseparable from Lenin’s plan of monumental propaganda, on the basis of which the first revolutionary monuments and memorial plates, and later many noteworthy monumental sculptures were created Ivan Shadr, Vera Mukhina).

Tragic events and heroic deeds of the war period found especially vivid reflection in memorial constructions of the 1940-70s (Yevgeny Vuchetich and others).

Acute feeling of modernity and search of ways for renovating the sculpture language were typical of the sculpture of the 1950-70s. Modern sculptors in Russia are open to world-wide tendencies and are free to express themselves. Some of them have gained international fame: Mikhail Shemyakin, Ernst Neizvestny, Alexander Rukavishnikov and Zurab Tsereteli.

Sources:
    vitart.ru
    art.rin.ru


Tags: Russian Sculpture Russian Sculptors History of Russian Culture Perm Wooden Sculpture  

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