Nikita Fedosov: Glazes?

Nikita Fedosov stands out as one of the most talented 20th century’s Russian Realist painters. Like Rembrandt, Fedosov used tinted glazes, a technique which allowed him to achieve subtle transitions and colors that otherwise would be unavailable. Below, you can see Fedosov’s mastery of color in how the orange sky goes from dull to vibrant, providing a sharp juxtaposition between the forest and the sky.

fedosov-end-of-sunset

Nikita  Fedosov, End of Sunset, 1968

      How does one use glazes in an oil painting? To find out, I looked into how Rembrandt did it, after all, he is the Masters’ Master. Apparently, he used a impasto with egg as a quick dry ingredient, glass, and white lead. Once it was applied thickly, Rembrandt was able to carve into it before it dried. Then he applied the glaze to be wiped off leaving dimension and gleam to his work. This technique also created a subtle bas relief effect due to the glaze darkening and glowing in the crevices. Sometimes a transparent yellow or brown would be applied on top as well for a final touch of luster. Stunning.

 Rembrandt, Detail of Man with Golden Helmet, 1650.

         Nikita Fedosov Night Sentry sunset                                                          Nikita  Fedosov, Night Sentry, 1980

       What stands out to me in Fedosov’s work is his use of vibrant orange. Where as Rembrandt use glaze to bring light forward for dramatic chiaroscuro, I believe Fedosov used glazes to set the sun on the horizon. In Night Sentry and End of Sunset,  the setting sun is maintaining the bright glow of the actual sun while still pulling the eye back into the horizon line. Further, his work is extremely painterly with defined brush strokes, that could have been created by the glaze settling into the lines of the paint brushes mark.

      Another way Fedosov’s talent shines is in the way he has painted clouds. When I was in Russia, the clouds and the sky stood out most to me. I was happy to come home, see a Fedosov painting, and be brought back to those moments. His clouds have the same appeal as they do in reality; big, fluffy, white yet with color.

 Fedosov The Road to Vorge              cropped-fedosov-gigantic-coud.jpg

       Fedosov, Road to Vorge, 1981                                      Fedosov, Gigantic Cloud, 1970

        Here, the yellow and grey are nuanced, adding the dimension to the sky and clouds, created by his use of glazes. Of course, all paintings are more stunning in person. If you visit the Lazare Gallery you will be able to see the glow of Nikita Fedosov’s work. The show Russia’s Legend- Nikita Fedosov will be on view until March 31. Most of his pieces are also for sale! Please call to make an appointment to see and or buy his work, as the Lazare Gallery is by appointment only.

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100 Years Since the Russian Revolution

While a trip to Russia sounds like the standard way to honor and recognize the centenary of the Russian Revolution, as an art lover, I would like to go to London. Currently at the Royal Academy of Arts there is an exhibit on called ‘Revolution: Russian 1917- 1932.’ This is the 15 year period when Russia was creating art that captured the optimism and the harshness of revolution and the aftermath. Artist giants included are Kazimir Malevich, Vassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Alexander Rodchenko, and Lyubov Popova. However, some lesser known (but equally as important) artists in the exhibition are Isaak Brodsky, Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev, Andrey Golubev, and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. This show also brings to light how all artistic forms became the manifest of revolution; photography, literature, sculpture, film making, propaganda, and graphic design.

 Isaak Brodsky,V.I.Lenin and Manifestation, 1919.

      However, in 1932, Stalin’s oppression shut it all down. Socialist Realism became the only acceptable art form meant to serve the communist party line. Thus art had to be optimistic, realistic, and heroic, revealing what the future could hold. Essentially, propaganda to keep the masses loyal to the Soviet and Communist cause.

     In addition to this exhibit, Martin Sixsmith wrote an article for the Royal Academy which acts as an art history review of this 15 year time period. I highly recommend reading it, if like me you are unable to see the exhibit. In short, he shows you why (in more detail than the above paragraph) Kazimir Malevich went from:

 Kazimir Malevich, Red SquareKazimir Malevich, Red Square, 1915,  to Kazimir Malevich, Portrait of Nikolai Punin Kazimir Malevich,Portrait of Nikolai Punin, 1933.

     Side note- I have been fortunate enough to see the Black Square in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, and White on White (White Square) in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Alas, by the time I got to Saint Petersburg, ready to see the Red Square in the State Russian Museum and complete some kind of art history trifecta, it was already on its way to London. So, I would REALLY love to see this show.

      At any rate, how does this connect to a 20th century Russian Realism blog? I will continue the story of Russian art briefly, where Martin Sixsmith left off.

         As we can see, realism fell from fashion in favor of something edgy and new to match the initial zeitgeist of the revolution. Representational Realism was out and avant-garde abstraction was in. During the anti bourgeoisie and tradition years, many of the Realists painters left for the countryside or painted in seclusion, as the Bolsheviks seized their schools. However, once Stalin and the Communist regime mandated Socialist Realism many of the avant-garde artists fell out of love with the revolution and consequentially, either fled or joined or died in the gulag. Stalin then saw the need for high culture to keep on par with the West, therefore, painters had to be educated. The Surikov Institute in Moscow became one of the greatest schools for fine and traditional art. So much so, that when the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941, artists and student were sent to safety in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

YK5013L.jpg Yuri Kugach, Samarkand, 1942

        While many artists did turn to and accept Socialist Realism, there were those traditional artists who rejected it, similar to the avant-garde artists. The Russian Realists did not want to be tools for propaganda but still wanted to paint in the realism cannon. They consistently produced work under dismal circumstances creating art that is representational and transcendentally beautiful due to their high technical expertise. Their work shows an organic pride for Russia as their subject matter tends to be the beautiful country side, old towns, and traditional Russian life. Socialist Realism is often too heavy-handed in the joys of Communism and Soviet life. What I believe it boils down to were those who were prideful of Russia versus the Soviet Union.

 M. Sokolov, 1958, A Mill on the River Ozerkye

     What I hope to show is that while the Constructionists, Futurists, and Supremacists dominated during the revolution years, they were not alone in countering Stalin after 1932. Russian realism presents its own rebuttal to Socialist Realism. But for 2017, it is important that we appreciate the efforts of those revolutionaries who were so daring and yet (initially) so welcomed in their extreme abstraction.

Moscow River School in the Moscow Times

The Moscow Times has done an excellent write-up on the Moscow River School’s current exhibition in Moscow. The organization of Realist painters often takes a backseat to more flashy and controversial groups in the Moscow art scene. Journalist Joy Neumeyer takes note, however, of the uniqueness of plein air painting, “where rustic landscape painting competes with newer forms of digital, urban-influenced art.”

The article only falls short in its failure to grasp just how unusual the Moscow River School’s approach and history are in 21st century art. There are not many centuries old traditions of “rustic landscape painting” competing with newer forms of “digital, urban influenced art.” The word “competition” represents a gross overestimation of the strength of academic traditions like Russian Realism. There is no Barbizon school still meeting in the countryside of modern France; there is no Ashcan School still struggling along in New York City. There is, however, against all the odds still a group of realist painters working in the Russian countryside who can trace their teachers and their teachers’ teachers back to the 19th century in a few long steps. What is more, the Academic Dacha where they meet today was founded by Ilya Repin, perhaps the most famous artist of the 19th century Realist school. I was there over the summer and it is not the bustling hive of activity we can see depicted in Repin’s At the Academic Dacha.It is still alive, however, and that makes the Moscow River School much more than “somewhat unique.”

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“A floor below the sprawling Soviet-themed exhibits at the State Museum of Contemporary History, a group of landscape painters is offering glimpses of a Russia seemingly untouched by the 20th century. With loose brushstrokes and brilliant colors, the Moscow River collective presents paintings that eschew cities’ steel and smoke for the soft light and open expanses of the countryside.

“Moscow is a chaotic city,” said artist Ilya Yatsenko, whose view of Moscow’s Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa is the exhibition’s sole urban scene. “Nature, on the other hand, is closer to a person.” ”

You can read the full article here.

“Moscow River” is on display through Feb. 20 at the State Central Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia, 21 Tverskaya Ulitsa.