“Flowering Apple Tree” – Nikolai Efimovich Timkov 1973
There is an exhibition running now at the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC of Nikolai Efimovich Timkov, a prominent soviet landscape painter.
According to the exhibition website, Timkov was awarded the title, “Honorable Artist of the Russian Federation,” and his work can be found in the State Russian Museum and in the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
The exhibition should be interesting, and it’s good to see respect given to Soviet landscape painting. It is odd, though, that curator Alison Hilton points out Timkov’s attention to the spiritual and physical elements of landscape. While clearly essential, difficult and valuable, this ” dual conception of landscape,” is not rare, particularly in the strong tradition of landscape painting found in Russia. There were a huge number of master landscape painters working in Russia during the second half of the 20th century. The assertion of Timkov’s singular greatness by Hilton seems too certain for a painter whose contemporaries include Nikita Fedosev, Vyacheslav Zabelin, Yuri Kugach, and Olga Svetlechnaya, each of whose dedication and loving feeling for the landscape is surely stronger and reaches farther than in Timkov’s work.
The exhibition website features a quote from Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov on the approach to landscape. I feel that out of respect for the meaning of this statement, and out of love for the Russian landscape tradition I must reproduce that quotation here alongside a painting by Soviet landscape painter Olga Svetlechnaya. This painting of an apple tree I feel demonstrates the dimension I find in Russian landscape painting which I cannot find in Timkov’s work.
“One should paint with good sense, not for the effects or beautiful brush strokes, but for a deep and sincere expression of human feelings. Art is not just a profession, it is the highest duty of an artist, of a human being. Never try to deceive Nature, but approach it with all the love of which you are capable, as only then will it open its soul to you.”
“Garden” – Olga Svetlechnaya 1963
In the Timkov painting at the top of the page and in the Svetlechnaya painting here we have two paintings of an apple tree. And which painting do you feel has gone farther to open the soul of the space? Which painter has been less afraid, and more respectful when looking into nature? These reproductions are poor quality, but if you feel strongly about this question, please make a comment.
*Update 2/25/09: There is a very interesting debate going on in the comments to this post. Take a look.