I had the good fortune to be in Florence last summer. My wife and I were in a restaurant one rainy evening and the couple sitting next to us turned out to be a Russian art professor from St. Petersburg and his wife.
While we were having fun trying to carry on a conversation about art with gestures, nods, sketchbooks and the help of his wife’s limited English (certainly better than our non-grasp of Russian), the question came up about how much Russian art I was familiar with. I realized to my surprise that the answer was almost none. For some reason, even in the post-cold war climate of the last several years, Americans have some familiarity with Russian music and literature but almost no exposure to Russian visual art.
Even when I thought about it later, the only Russian painters I could think of were Chagall and Kandinski and I tend to think that’s because they both achieved notice in Paris. Russian painters who lived and worked in Russia were a blank to me. So I made a point of looking up some Russian Art on the web.
For many years of Communist (and particularly Stalinist) rule, the only art style that wasn’t actively discouraged in Soviet Russia was Socialist Realism, so there are lots of images depicting the nobility of toil and smiling workers carrying the revolutionary ideals forward, etc. Even within those oppressive limitations, Russian artists achieved great beauty and there was a surprising flowering of Russian Impressionism. That’s mostly what I’m showing here: clockwise from top left: Victor Koshevoi, Sergei A. Kolyada, Vladimir Sosnovsky and Konstantin Lomykin. I’ve become particularly impressed with the work of Vladimir Sosnovsky whose simple and direct version of impressionism reminds me of my favorite under-appreciated Impressionist, Alfred Sisley.
These images were found in the two main resources I came across on the web. The Russian Art Gallery has nice online images of work they have for sale from Russian artists working in various styles.
The Museum of Russian Art is a museum in Minnesota devoted to promoting awareness of Russian art in this country. They recently provided the art for a well-received exhibition at the Guggenheim Museumâ€™s Sackler Center. There is a good online gallery associated with the museum’s own exhibit, Perspectives on Russian Art.