Russian Masters

From Aivazovsky to Repin

The exhibition will provide a cross-section of 19th century Russian art from romantic landscapes to realistic portraits. The works include elaborate seascapes, serene rural scenes, folk tale motifs and portraits. Works from about thirty artists from Finnish art collections will be on display as well as pieces from private collections shown in public for the first time.

  • 11.2.–8.5.2016
Tickets: with a museum ticket
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

The early 19th century was a restless time in Russia. Democracy and radical thinking were gaining ground. A wide social campaign arose for the abolition of serfdom. Artists also participated actively in the public debate. They started to take an interest in their own era and the Russian people. In the exhibition, artists representing that time are Sylvester Shchedrin, Ivan Aivazovsky, Alexey Bogolyubov and Karl Bryullov.

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817−1900) was a Russian Romantic landscape painter. He was fascinated by extreme weather conditions and the sea in all its manifestations. The Bay of Naples (1844) is a romantic seascape depicting a drowsy, almost stagnant ambience at sunset.

In the latter half of the 19th century, nearly all significant Russian artists belonged toPeredvizhniki, the Wanderers. The founders of the movement left the Imperial Academy of Arts and formed an artists’ cooperative free of academic restrictions. These wandering artists reformed Russian fine arts into a more realistic direction. Their works started to show social criticism and a strong political dimension. The Wanderers were not accepted to exhibit their art in galleries. Instead, they brought art to people and organised their own travelling exhibitions in the countryside in 1870−1923.

Our exhibition includes interpretations of the notion of landscape of the time by some of these wandering artists, such as Isaac Levitan, Ivan Shishkin, Vasily Polenov and Mikhail Clodt. Ivan Shishkin’s (1832−1898) favourite topic was the forest. Analytical studies of nature were typical of his art. His works seem very real with the peaceful atmosphere of the forest.

The exhibition has several works by Ilya Repin (1844−1930): paintings, watercolours and drawings. Repin depicted his surroundings in a deliciously exuberant and direct way without shunning social criticism. Scytheman (1876) is a good example of Repin’s portrayal of rural life. The man with the scythe looks confident and thoughtful, like he has faith in the future. He has interrupted his work for some reason, and the left knee of his pants is muddy.

Moreover, a privately owned high-quality collection of Ilya Repin’s pen and ink drawings will be exhibited for the first time since it was shown in Ateneum Art Museum twenty years ago.