Ilya Yatsenko at Tsiolovsky Loft

Ilya2

A solo show of the work of Ilya Yatsenko has just closed at the Tsiolovsky Loft Gallery in Kaluga oblast, Russia. After spending many years in Moscow, in 2011 Yatsenko moved to the rural countryside of Kaluga with his family, setting up a new home near the Optina monastery. He and the owner’s of Lazare Gallery were interviewed by the Kaluga-based magazine Жить Хорошо just after the show’s opening in February. A translated excerpt of the full article (in Russian) is below.

Ilya

Ilya believes that the Moscow school of painting, unfortunately, is now dying.

“I am trying to continue the tradition of Realism, which I began studying at the Surikov Institute; I’m working to attain the level of mastery of my teacher Zabelin. Russian Realism didn’t enter the history of art without purpose.”

In Ilya’s opinion, true Realism is much more than the gaudy sparkle of some painters. “Loud, confrontational color is only found indoors.” The artist believes that truth is an end unto itself, which can be found in color. Realism, in it’s profoundest sense, is the idea of the embodiment of the essence of a subject on a canvas. “If we are speaking about nature, if you lie in color or in tone, the whole work will become a falsehood.” […]

John Wurdeman, the owner of Lazare Gallery in America, made a special trip to be at Ilya’s opening. But his road to art was much longer than a flight from the US to Russia. The son of the future gallery owner studied at the Surikov Institute in Moscow, and for his graduation his parents organized a New York show of Russian painting, which was a stunning success. Afterwards, the Wurdemans sold their business in decorative prints at the peak of its popularity and opened Lazare Gallery. Over the past several years, in a beautiful corner of nature near Richmond, Virginia, they have collected approximately 1100 paintings from the Soviet and Russian Realist painters. Their collection takes advantage of a great demand among the collectors of the world who are determined to find the most significant pieces of the Russian school available.

“It’s wonderful to live in the midst of this beautiful collection of art,” says John Wurdeman with heartfelt emotion.

“The people come to visit Lazare Gallery to see the collection and acquire pieces are sincere admirers of Russian painting. We meed them at the airport and put them up in cottages near the gallery. Many of the Russian collectors who collect our paintings in previous years end up collecting a number of canvases.”

It’s possible that soon the Wurdemans’ gallery will collect a new piece by Ilya Yatsenko. A massive canvas depicting two mysterious travelers, made a powerful impression on the collector. […]

We present the work of the best Russian artists of the twenty first century, and we are very discriminating in collecting their work. Nikita Fedosov, Zabelin, Surikov, Levitan – were true professionals. Ilya is an outstanding artist; he has a feeling for form, harmony, and space, explains John Wurdeman. He makes beautiful use of the skill gained from his academic education, and we are happy to present his work.

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Exhibition to Honor Yuri Kugach

Viewers admiring the work of Ivan Mikhailovich Kugach, Yuri Kugach's grandson. *
Viewers admiring the work of Ivan Kugach, Yuri Kugach’s grandson.

A new exhibition of the work of Yuri Petrovich Kugach, his descendents and students is on display at the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow. Kugach, who passed away in April of last year, was an influential teacher and leader among Russia’s Realist painters. He influenced many artists within his own family including nephew Nikita Fedosov, son Mikhail Kugach, grandson Ivan and granddaughter Ekaterina. He also organized and led the Moscow River artists group, which has become an important pillar of community for artists in the years since the disintegration of the USSR.

The exhibition features work by Olga Svetlichnaya, Ilya Yatsenko, Boris Petrenko, Jonathan Wurdeman, Ksenia Lebedevoi, Olga Demidenko, Viktoria Samonosova, Vladimir Filipov, and Dmitri Kholkin. It will run through March 23.

You can watch a short newscast on the exhibition here.

* Image courtesy of Natalya Braterskaya

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.

Visiting Russia – Ilya Yatsenko

Since June 16th Collecting Russian Art has been in Russia – visiting museums and brushing up on Russian. In Moscow, we met up with one of Lazare Gallery’s most talented young artists, Ilya Yatsenko. (Below, you can see Ilya in front of his church in Moscow.)

Ilya Yatsenko

In 1990, Ilya started attending at the Surikov institute in Moscow. There, he studied under Nikolai Kozlov, Alexanderliech Fomkin, Alexander Danilichev, and Vyacheslav Zabelin. He graduated in 1999 with rarely given perfect grades.

Ilya is a profoundly gifted painter. His ability to create solid, deep, harmonious space in his landscapes is incredible. At his home in Moscow, I was able to see some of his most recent landscapes from this summer. He has been making frequent trips to his dacha in the country and has finished several beautiful paintings of the lilacs that are so prevalent across Russia.

Later, I was lucky enough to spend a day touring the Tretyakov Gallery with him; he is able to bring paintings to life with his observations. Talking over the importance of harmony in painting, Ilya made a point that struck me – that harmony in painting is simply the result of a strong connection to nature. If a painter is willing to look humbly and carefully into nature harmony will come naturally. Painting that is dissonant, on the other hand, stems from a broken and fragmented relationship with nature. Much of the art in our world today indulges in this broken connection to nature, using it to comment on the unhealthy structure and pace of the modern world. In painters like Ilya, however, I take heart that it is still possible, with care, to maintain this relationship with nature. His work attests to this.

You can see some of his most recent works here, and a more complete gallery of his work here.