Hidden Impressionism

Impressionism was not an exclusively French style, Russia was an active participant in it as well. However, little is known about it due to it’s history of brute criticism. Impressionism in Russia hit its peak in the mid-1900s that unfortunately unfolded at the same time as the avant-garde and neoclassical artists. As a result, Impressionism was overshadowed. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the totalitarian ideologies suffocated individuality and fostered negativity toward Impressionism. Anti-Impressionism prevailed even until the late 1970s. This means there weren’t even exhibitions or publications on Russian Impressionism. Special care from art critics saved the likes of Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, and Isaac Levitan by omitting Impressionism from their descriptions. None the less, Impressionism can be felt in timeless pieces from Serov, Levitan, Repin, Grabar, and Larinov.

Before the aforementioned artists time, Impressionism took root. Similarly to the rest of Europe, Impressionism was perceptible in Russian art in the 1820s and 1830s. Landscapes by Sylvester Schedrin and Mikhail Lebdev began experimeting with reflection, light, color, and air. Later, Alexander Ivanov took it a step further and painted tones of light and atmosphere. By the 1850s and 1860s, his work influenced artists at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. Thus, there was a new relationship between painting and nature. By the 1860s, Fyodor Vasilyev began tackling color more directly. In Country Morning (1868-1869), pink reflects onto the earth and shed to convey more warmth and modesty in the Russian countryside.

While Impressionism did exist in Russia, it did not have the same luxuries as in the rest of Europe. Even later on, Russian Realism and Impressionism was put to the side compared to Socialist Realism of the 20th century.


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