Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov

Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov
For all who knew Vasili Dmitrievich Polenov (1844-1927), the artist’s personality was attractive. One of his younger contemporaries wrote: “All his manners are associated with his works, and, looking at Polenov, I was transferred to his paintings from the earliest period of his work.”

Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov

Grandmother’s garden. 1878

The general character of the development of advanced Russian art, the profound drama of content inherent in his major works, could not but affect Polenov’s creative path, the appreciation of his creativity. However, the essence of his painting was always unchanged.
In 1878, the “Moscow Courtyard” became a kind of forerunner of a new understanding of the role of art in society, and in 1887 this understanding was already clearly expressed as the next generation as a vital creative need. It is no accident that Polenov will closely connect his life with the new generation of Moscow painters of the second half of the 1880s – 1890s. In their reviews, memories of the artist, we find a lot of enthusiastic words, expressing his love and appreciation. And this is not only thanks to II Levitan, KA Korovin, IS Ostroukhov, A. Ya. Golovin and many others to his teacher. Young artists were bribed not only by the recognition of M.V. Nesterov, the “magic charm of colors” 6 Polenov, although, as Golovin said, Polonov’s “palette sparkled, and that was enough to light the artistic youth.” The main thing was that the young artists saw in Polenov like-minded people, in his art they found a response to their artistic pursuits.
How did Polenov deserve such a warm confession? And is not this recognition the key to understanding the master’s work?
For life his memory crashed: “Arsenal with knights on foot and on horses in full arms and a Chinese gong with a dying and rising sound. Gothic tower with legends about Emperor Alexander and “farmazona”, which the nurse told. Lake with swans and the Greek bridge, Doric gate with the inscription, finally, a small fortress, which we then defended, then stormed. ” Rare settlements of those places kept features of ancient residential wooden architecture.
Rome, where Polenov settles for work, disappoints him. Polinov is assisted in this variety by Repin, in whose workshop he settled for a while, and AP Bogolyubov, who, on behalf of the Academy of Arts, took care of young artists abroad. Viardot agreed to give the musically gifted artist several lessons, which later served as the basis for his compositional studies.
The horse and the wagon, the peasant and the girl sitting in it, the awkward figure of another girl trying to forge, and the blue-green haze enveloping the river and the forest, which are quiet from the rain, spread out on its opposite shore. It’s unfortunate in such a downpour to be on the road, but the painful impression of the landscape does not produce. Gradually you notice that the travelers get into the warm olive circle of light, formed by the rays of the sun making their way through the clouds. These rays gild a wet shore, water. There is a feeling of home warmth, which the travelers seek, imagine how nature will shine with new fresh colors after the rain.
Repin expressed himself very originally about Fortune: “After him, nature seems conditional, artificial.”
His daughter recalled that Polenov “wrote immediately without underpainting, took color and light relations with spots, at first the brightest, then the dark place and so conducted the sketch – all the time in a relationship. Before taking the tone, “she continues,” he sought him on the canvas, “this can be seen in his unfinished painting” The Prodigal Son “, where below the mass of smears of the tone of the sky, he searched it right there on the canvas.”
Repin recalled about this time: “He began many architectural paintings, mostly Renaissance and Gothic. There were dramas in the palaces and castles; beautiful rooms, marvelously lit, magnificent thrones, columns – pictures grandiose and completely ready, only people remained … And here the artist cooled and threw all the charms of the Middle Ages. ”
In his painting Christ with disciples, the artist accurately depicts chiaroscuro. The light makes one or another colorful tone sound stronger in color spots that easily map out different shapes. In general, the sketch gives the resolution of fine and strong colors. It is easy to imagine the author’s decorative abilities. But they do not get it during this period of their development. Obviously, Polenova was worried about completely different problems that seized the minds of the Russian intelligentsia in the 6o-70s of the XIX century.
In the pensioner period, Polenov’s specific preferences are actually being determined. On the one hand, he writes historical paintings, on the other – landscapes, which creates, so to speak, “for yourself.”
In Abramtsevo, Polenov made friends with MV Prakhov. He helped preserve the romantic orientation of the artist, strengthened his idea of ​​the independent value of beauty and art. The need to move to Moscow, through communication with the Mamontovs and Prakhovs, was realized by Polenov especially acute already in 1873.
In the “Moscow Courtyard” Polenov returned to the ideal life, which found its vivid expression in the art of the 20-40s of the XIX century in the works of A. Venetsianov and the artists of the Venetian school – A. V.Tyranova, G. V. Soroki. In the following, this theme gradually fades into the background, but does not cease to interest artists. The line of idyllic art can be traced in the works of St. Petersburg artists A.Popov (“Morning in the Village”, 1861), genre-painters NA Popov (“The People’s Stage at the Fair in Staraya Ladoga”, 1853), AI Morozov (“Rest on haymaking “, circa i860,” Leaving the church in Pskov “, 1864). They are pointed out by Polenov as his predecessors in one of Repin’s letters (1896): “According to
my artistic sympathies, I belong to the St. Petersburg school in a broad sense. I was fascinated by the great masters of the Academy, most of all I loved, and I still love Ivanova, Bryullov was fascinated by the ease of drawing and the talent of the concept; of modern artists I was impressed by Ge and Flavitsky, from genre painters I was also fascinated by Petersburg artists Popov and Morozov, and tendentious artists of the Moscow school are always pretty far away. Quite the opposite were my sympathies for the cities where these two schools developed. Petersburg with its administrative-uniform spirit was always antipathetic to me, and Moscow, which I found it in the late seventies, terribly captivated me. ” We will often turn to this very interesting memory for a variety of reasons. Now the names of Popov and Morozov are important to us. Polenova brings to life with these artists a joyful life-feeling, which is reflected in the “Moscow Yard”, a light color palette, although, of course, Polenov’s painting represents a different, higher stage of technical execution.

Savrasov’s painting depicting the typical for the middle Russia in the early spring period creates an emotionally saturated image of the awakening nature. Savrasov’s landscape is a product of an epic plan, expressing the artist’s national worldview, in which any particular motif acquires a lyrical generalising significance. In Polenov’s painting, on the other hand, the story arises spontaneously. which are consonant with their mood and emphasize, accentuate them. In Savrasov, the chilliness of early March, in which the breath of spring is just beginning to be felt, is emphasized by a cold range of silvery-gray and white tones, nude trees with a graphically thinly delimited twist of branches against the gray-blue sky barely touched by warm pale reflections. The openness of the Savrasovsky landscape, given in the background with alternating stripes of reddish thawed patches and snowy islands, low horizon, covered with dense clouds, strengthens the feeling of instability of the first conquests of spring. If we take into account the possibilities of chiaroscuro painting, which the artist operates, transmits the stability of the sensation of joy. Joyous mood as if “permeates” the picture.
In the landscape of Polenov much more strongly than Popov and Morozov, and more specifically than Savrasov, expressed individually artistic principle. Poetically, the subjective attitude of Polenov to the depicted finds expression in a whole series of pictorial techniques. For example, depicting the architecture of the distant plan, he lovingly writes out the details typical for the Moscow architecture of the 17th century, shells in the zakomaras, the curbs in the drums under the onion cupolas of the church or sandrica above the belfry apertures, but does not focus on the faces of the children playing with the kitten and the woman carrying bucket, although their poses, conveying the nature of the occupation, are captured very accurately. The line of the girl’s tilted head with a straw-colored hat, depicted in the foreground, seems to echo the outline of the golden cupola of the church. This rhythm corresponds to the silhouette of the white head of a boy playing at a distance. Thus, serenely playing children and the proudly rising masses of white stone architecture constitute a single harmonious whole.
“Moscow courtyard” is a very holistic work thanks to the isolation, a kind of “interior” composition. But in this seeming single space it is possible to identify several zones corresponding to different semantic accents. The foreground of the picture is stretched, and the viewer easily “enters” into it, and then the view moves according to clearly marked milestones – along the track lines, stops on a woman with a bucket, a flock of chickens, a well with a red roof and turns to the horse, just about ready to step forward, to the edge of the picture and close the circle of the first zone, where the main “events” of domestic life take place, carefully imprinted by the artist. Just like in the landscape of Polenov “Imochentsy from the side of vegetable gardens”, in the “backyard events” there are beds with vegetables of incredible size, so here the “miraculous” is embodied in the shaded garden of the neighboring manor with the overgrown trees. To see this “wonderful” in the everyday Moscow landscape can only be childish eyes.
The first performances of Polenov at the exhibitions of the Association of the Wanderers brought him wide fame. The warm attitude of the Wanderers and, first of all, their leader Kramskoy to the work of Polenov can be easily understood if we recall that in 1870 Kramskii himself painted the paintings “The Hunter on Thrust” (1871), “The Pasechnik” (1872), ” The inspection of the old house (1874), The Contemplator (1876), transmitting various mental states of man, VG Perovym – “The birds” (1870), “Hunters at halt” (1871), “Pigeon”, “Botanist” (both 1874), recreating the world of romantic people, finding joy in communicating with nature. In those years, Savrasov created pictures Proslek (1873), Rainbow (1875), House in the Province (1878), glorifying the poetry of everyday life, V. V. Maksimov, “The Advent of the Sorcerer on a Peasant Wedding” (1875). ) – a work that resurrects one of the ritual moments of the national wedding ritual, and others. At the first exhibition of the Association, the “nail” was the “Mermaids” of Kramskoy and “The Rooks Arrived” Savrasov, an exhibition in which the landscape works prevailed numerically, the aspiration of artists to expand the thematic range of painting, to deepen its poetic content.
On the initiative of M.Prahov, in 1877 Mamontov’s house witnessed “dramatic evenings” – readings by the participants of the circle according to the previously distributed roles of works by Russian and West European classics. In Abramtsevo, Polenov also has a new landscape theme. Along with the subtle intimate scenery of mood, he writes etudes, in which he gives a wide panoramic image of nature – The Vorya River (1881), a motif that was later developed in the lyrical landscapes of Polenov in the 1890s.
Features of artistic worldview and creative aspirations of Polenov ideally coincided with the spiritual aspirations of the founder of Mamontov’s circle. Both of them had a desire to master different kinds of art or, at least, to “try” them: Mamontov’s – impulsive, even aggressive, in Polenov – more calm. Both shared a love of music and theater, both were interested in applied arts, trying to revive them, were fond of architecture – in fact, all the beginnings of Mamontov and his circle evoked Polenov’s enthusiasm.
The most significant was Polenov’s contribution to the home theater and the construction of the Abramtsevo church.
Remained the memory of one of the participants of domestic plays that originally the design of the Two Worlds was ordered to a professional decorator. When, on the eve of the performance, a crafted gilded Roman atrium was brought in, Polenov despaired and in one night copied the hopeless, in his opinion, canvas.
The first performances of the theater “Rusalka” in 1885 by A. N. Dargomyzhsky, the decorations to which were performed by V. Vasnetsov, produced a sensation. Polenov introduces Mamontov and introduces his pupils, graduates of the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture – II Levitan, AS Yanov, NP Chekhov, VA Simov and KA Korovin to the theater. Especially closely linked his work with the Mamontov Theater Korovin. He was the performer of the majority of scenery according to the sketches of Vasnetsov and Polenov. Recycling them, developing the decorative principles of their teachers, Korovin simultaneously created his own concept of decoration. In the first independent theatrical work of Korovin – the scenery for the opera “Aida” by Verdi, in which the artist used oriental etudes of Polenov, the influence of certain techniques of decorating the teacher was felt. But Korovin expressed his interest in solving purely pictorial problems much more clearly. Korovin’s scenery for “Aida” (sketches to them were not preserved) made a strong impression on the audience primarily by internal expression. Korovin studies with Polenov, but studies “selectively”, absorbing something new that begins to emerge in Polenov’s work and that will form the basis of the stylistics of painting of the late XIX – early XX century.
Numerous sketches of Polenov, seemingly not claiming more than documentary-exact reproduction of architectural volumes and details, due to easy transformation, sharpening of some forms and smoothing out others, acquired a special emotional expressiveness. This kind of surreptication of architectural forms is for the most part characteristic of the theatrical and decorative works of Polenov, where the architectural imagination of the artist was most freely revealed. The realization of this goal was due to the creation of a single artistic style capable of ensuring the correspondence of art that emerged from the world of museums and private collections to the requirements of life. Polenov was one of the first artists who felt the need to transform the art in the new art areas of easel creativity. In younger masters, this process will be more organic than Polenov, but he was one of those artists who stood at the source of the formation of a new style, which received the name of modern in Russia.
The task set by the members of the Abramtsevo circle required them to have a different nature of artistic activity. Their idea of ​​the highest artistic achievement, the highest task of the artist, integrating his work, giving meaning to his individual creative experiments, is changing. In 1887, AV Prakhov, persuading VD Polenov to take part in the work on the design of the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, wrote: “In my deep conviction, and not because I pursue any selfish goals, I call you on this work, as I am deeply convinced that you will fully express your imagination. Your talent is called upon to create not a part but a poetic whole, not a separate, artificially torn out picture or scene, but a series of pictures and scenes connected by aesthetic atmosphere, elegant and meaningful, ideologically inspired ornaments. Of course, Vladimir Cathedral is a modest enterprise, but do not neglect it. Who knows what may be in store for us in the future! We will unite on this modest task, we will test and refine our forces and we will search for an arena of more vast and grandiose. ” This letter gives an idea of ​​the very deep aesthetic shifts occurring in the circle. Here, as if seeing the transition from one aesthetic ideal to another, there are simultaneously two “coordinate systems”. The supreme ideal of one is a big picture, that’s why Prahov talks about “a number of pictures or scenes”, in the other – aesthetic transformation of the environment. This fundamentally new aesthetic ideal is formed in a circle, as a reflection of the processes occurring in it, over its artistic practice. It is not without reason that Prahov speaks of “a common passion for all creativity”.
Christ taught the people a moral lesson. This idea was invariably carried out by Polenov in historical canvases. Was the artist able to express it in the picture itself?
Dramatic events develop against the backdrop of a luxurious eastern temple. To the left of Christ is a group of his disciples, with whom he conducted a conversation before he was distracted by the noise of the crowd. The crowd takes the right side of the canvas, balancing the entourage of Christ. It is placed against the backdrop of cypresses and the distances that open behind them.
If you compare the picture of Polenov with the canvas of the Wanderers of the World War II Surikov “Boyarynya Morozova” (1877) and the painting “Christ and the Sinner” (1873), shown at the exhibition of the Academy of Arts, then it will become obvious , that in the style of the artistic language Polenov was closer to the academic art, the connection with which he, in fact, never lost. But from the work of Semiradsky Polenov’s canvas is favorably distinguished by the greater depth and novelty of the interpretation of the evangelical plot. In general, the picture of Polenov, noble and refined in painting and thought out by composition, has become one of the attempts to renew academic art. She particularly clearly marked the intermediate place that Polenov occupied as an artist of a historical genre, an artist based on his work and principles of academic painting, and on the traditions of peredvizhnichestva. Was this situation exceptional? Was the artist himself experiencing any psychological difficulties from this duality? Not at all. Polenovsky cloth as in a mirror reflected the situation that had developed by that time in Russian art. During the second half of the XIX century, the gap between academic and realistic art, which existed before, gradually begins to disappear. Within the walls of the Academy itself appears a number of artists who have come into contact with the Wanderers in their creative pursuits. It is enough to name P.P. Chistyakov or the already mentioned AI Morozov, VI Jacobi, FS Zhuravlev, AI Korzukhin and others. These masters in the early 1870s organized a Society of Exhibitions of Artistic Works, similar to the Association, where they invited Repin and Polenov. Many artists of a realistic orientation simultaneously participated in the exhibitions of the Association and the Academy of Arts. The most typical among them were AP Bogolyubov, N. K. Bodarevsky. In the future, the number of such artists will grow. The process of rapprochement between the two directions will end in the early 1890s with the reform of the Academy of Arts, when professors will be occupied by the great artists of the Peredvizhniki.
Polenov’s work had a wide resonance. She received negative feedback from the radical intelligentsia, whose sympathies were on the side of the passionately struggling, unbending heroine of Surikov, and not the passively contemplative Christ of Polenov. The artist also got away from the supporters of canonical art. But many representatives of the Russian public met the picture sympathetically. With detailed articles about it, writers V.М. Garshin and VG Korolenko, who saw in their work the aspiration of the artist, through an appeal to the Christian subject, to show an ideal example of human relationships, which was especially important at a tough time after the events of March 1, 1881.
Polenov’s art influenced his contemporaries, which were noted by Nesterov, Korovin, Ostroukhov, Levitan and other painters. In the fall of 1882 in the Moscow School of Painting, he leads the class until 1895. But these fourteen years, Polenov’s interest in the issues of art education and pedagogy proper is not limited. Already in his university thesis, the problems of educating artists were set quite widely. After analyzing the system of art and industrial education in the West and reflecting on the various principles of training, Polenov comes to the conclusion that the artist’s education in the studio is advantageous, and that the pupil himself must elect the teacher. He had the opportunity to establish himself in his opinion during the pensioner’s trip, “watching over the old and real art”. In the autumn of 1882, he leads the class until 1895. But these fourteen years of Polenov’s interest in the issues of art education and actually pedagogy is not limited. Already in his university thesis, the problems of educating artists were set quite widely. After analyzing the system of art and industrial education in the West and reflecting on the various principles of training, Polenov comes to the conclusion that the artist’s education in the studio is advantageous, and that the pupil himself must elect the teacher. The workshop is irreplaceable for art, it must retain the school and the academy. ” In conclusion of his reflections, he wrote with regret: “In Russia, the workshop in the form in which it exists in Western Europe, unfortunately, has not yet appeared. Polenov consistently pursued his idea of ​​the priority of training the artist in the workshop and during the preparation of the reform of the Academy of Arts in the early 1890s, in which he took an active part. Subsequently, he regretfully stated in a letter to Repin: “Looking at the present Academy, I come to the idea that a class or a workshop with an authoritative artist at the head is hardly a good invention, it is something between the former academic class and a real western workshop” .
Polenov’s ideas were embodied in practice in his pedagogical work. In his class was created a sincere trusting atmosphere of fellowship and a very serious in-depth study of drawing and painting techniques.
Polenov detailed his pupils with the peculiarities of colors, their composition, taught them to be cautious in handling them, while his most frequently repeated advice was: “Take more colorful, brighter,” demanding the purity of the palette. In the “Guide to the Study of the Linear Perspective,” he writes: “The ability to transfer a linear perspective is acquired by theoretical study, while the ability to transmit an air perspective is acquired by skill, observation, and even more depends on the personal ability to see and feel color and tone; therefore, the linear perspective is a general science, and the air perspective is a personal science (which is more an art than a science). ” If Polenov develops theoretical rules to comprehend the laws of linear perspective, then training in the technique of light-and-light perspective was a painstaking work of the teacher in training in his pupils feelings of color and accuracy of the eye.
Thanks to the close association with the youth, which sharply denied the “ideological” nature of art and proclaimed its self-sufficient value, it became especially palpable to show the main discrepancy between Polenov and the Wanderers. He not only never supported the struggle against the slogan “Art for Art”, which was led by the older generation of the Wanderers, but in this most important theoretical issue stood in the ranks of the opposite camp. “We are closely connected with the similarity of our aesthetic understanding, the common passion for all creativity to us and to all of us inherent strong inclination to seek beauty,” Polenov wrote to A.P. It is Polenov who becomes the main support and protector of young artists in their struggle against venerable Wanderers.
Thanks to the close association with the youth, which sharply denied the “ideological” nature of art and proclaimed its self-sufficient value, it became especially palpable to show the main discrepancy between Polenov and the Wanderers. He not only never supported the struggle against the slogan “Art for Art”, which was led by the older generation of the Wanderers, but in this most important theoretical issue stood in the ranks of the opposite camp. “We are closely connected with the similarity of our aesthetic understanding, the common passion for all creativity to us and to all of us inherent strong inclination to seek beauty,” Polenov wrote to A.P. It is Polenov who becomes the main support and protector of young artists in their struggle against venerable Wanderers.
By the end of the 1880s, the struggle of young artists with the Wanderers of the older generation, which tried to prevent the influx of fresh forces into the Association, intensified. In 1891, the exhibitors submitted a petition to the Partnership asking them to participate in the selection of paintings submitted for the exhibition. The petition, which Polenov wrote, provoked heated debates and outrage, was rejected. The Academy of Arts, which was actively approaching the Wanderers at that time, was also hostile to Moscow youth. The fact that it was Polenov who agreed in 1896 together with Korovin to finish the panel of Vrubel “The Princess of Dream” and “Mikula Selyaninovich”, for the exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod and rejected by the academic jury, is very revealing. Polenov wrote to his wife that Vrubel’s works “are so talented and interesting” that he “could not resist”.
Gradually, Polenov becomes a kind of leader of the Moscow artistic youth and warmly gives this cause. On his initiative in 1889, in the premises of the Society of Art Lovers, whose long-term board member he was, the first etude exhibition was being arranged. It featured the work of Polenov and his students – Levitan, Korovin, Arkhipov and others. For several years, the exhibitions of the society, in which young artists took part, were the most advanced in Moscow. “Now artistic in Moscow,” recalled one of Polenov’s pupils, the painter Pasternak, “before my eyes, developed into a first-class art center, it is probably difficult to imagine how an oasis in the art desert was a house in Krivokolenny Lane and how it streamed and spilled across Moscow and further the influence of Polenov’s artistic personality. His influence and active participation are due to the memorable Moscow periodical exhibitions in its heyday, reaching a fairly high level. ”
In 1893, the Moscow Association of Artists was formed, in which Polenov himself and many of his students took part. The main peculiarity of this association, according to G. Yu. Sternin, was that “interest in Impressionism was combined in it with the search for (…) a” decorative element “.
The central figure of the exhibitions of the Moscow Association, especially in the first decade of his activity, was K. A. Korovin.
Just like his teacher, Korovin combined in his work an open-air management with a talent of a decorative artist. Muscovites characteristic of the decorative works, based on interest in national traditions, date back to the activities of the Abramtsevo circle, to the first works in this direction of Vasnetsov and Polenov. It was here that, according to B. V. Asafiev, “a new artistic susceptibility” was born. In this connection, the composer and the scientist poses the question: “Was it not in Moscow that the Russian artistic revival came, reflected in the capital of the North in the movement of the World of Art?” 85. Approximately the same, but from a slightly different angle, assesses the cultural situation in Moscow, the artist Pasternak: “Moscow youth, feeling the impossibility of symbiosis with the Wanderers in their aspirations, was looking for an outlet in the creation of a new artistic society (…) But in those days when the Wanderers were in the zenith of power and influence on Russian society, a young circle of artists, “instigators of something new,” it was necessary to give a loud name to a well-deserved authority that would become the head of the venture. And, of course, our common desire was to have VD Polenov in this role. But Polenov, by his exceptional modesty, by his sense of nobility and collegial ethics, certainly could not and did not wish to go against his fellow Peredvizhniki. This idea – the creation of a new, young, progressive artistic society, – ripening and rushing in the air, picked up and embodied the then sensitive and gifted Diaghilev, creating the society “World of Art”.
The question of the priority of the Moscow or St. Petersburg schools in the artistic discoveries of the late XIX – early XX century is not our task. Hardly the formulation of such a question is generally necessary. Most likely, both in one and the other art center were parallel processes, differing only in their nature, and not essence. In the Russian art culture came a new concept – the “young Moscow school”, and this was a considerable merit of Polenov.
The work of Polenov himself over the years was filled with diverse searches, still connected with the two lines of his artistic path – the open and decorative. Painting Winter is two calmly talking women. A red headscarf of one of the chatters is the only bright spot that stands out from the general color range enveloped in the evening light of the outgoing winter day landscape.
“I love music passionately,” Polenov wrote, “perhaps more than painting. Next to the great moments of happiness that she gave me, I was, I will say frankly, whole years of hard disappointment, straight grief. And music gave me only joy and comfort. ”
“Autumn in Abramtsevo” is filled with the same sense of drama and at the same time a feeling of reconciliation with sorrows and grief, “removing” the suffering by the beauty and harmony of the world, which are read in “The Sick.” When Polenov died a son, he, according to memories, living in Abramtsevo, often came to the corner of the park he loved, on the bank of the river Vori, which he had previously captured in the sketch “The Vorya River” (1880). Judging by the sketch, the sad mood of the autumn nature corresponded to his then experiences, the grave state of the soul.
The central part of “Autumn in Abramtsevo” (the memory of his son was called “Fedyushkin Corner”) was written on sketch and preserves the dramatic nature of his mood. But the mood of the landscape as a whole is quite different. The sad-sounding center of the painting is balanced by the golden-orange major color of the birches and bright green trees standing at the edges of the trees. Like in the “Sick”, the tragic is included in a broader plan, where it does not disappear, but it is “removed”, becomes an element of a more complex and deep feeling, in which the assertion of the infinite beauty and harmony of the world prevails and sadly admiring this beauty and harmony .
For the landscapes of the 1890s, attention is naturally to the nature. Simultaneously, the artist sharply outlines the boundaries of the snow-covered steppe, near a small grove stretching diagonally along the river bank. Snowy expanse as if coming to a small island of heat – a small grove that preserves the sonority of its olive-yellow dress. Sharp confrontation of large planes of warm and cold tones is mitigated by the delicate yellowness of the fuzzy branches of the foreground bushes, frozen against the background of the dazzling whiteness of the snow that just fell out. The landscape is painted with a broad brush, but details are carefully worked out. Throughout the 1890s, the artist will repeat and vary this motif that he loved a lot, and some of his repetitions will prove to be sometimes more interesting than the main work.
So, Polenov set out to create a “real” image of Christ. This beauty in the amazing consistency of the colors of the pre-evening illumination enveloping the silvery-pink haze of the softly outlined greenish-brown mountains, the greenish-blue with gentle smoky-pink overflows the smooth surface of the lake and contrasting with it grayish-brown with green impregnations the spongy stones, in harmony of the color correlation of distant and near plans, and, finally, how naturally and simply enters the landscape the figure of Christ, who has become, as it were, a particle of this beautiful world.
As you know, working on the cycle “From the Life of Christ”, Polenov studied the nature of the places where evangelical events took place, the clothes of ancient Palestinians and so on, but he studied the Gospel equally carefully and scrupulously. The materials of his archive contain numerous manuscripts with analysis, interpretation and ethical-philosophical commentaries of evangelical texts, a detailed description of actors, events related to the plots of paintings. A serious attitude of the artist to this part of the work is evidenced by the “Art Testament” written by him in 1906.
While working on the cycle “From the Life of Christ,” Polenov turned to another area of ​​art – music, which helped him in the transfer of his mood.
Among the materials commenting on the evangelical plots, the manuscript of Polenov – the painting “Among the Teachers” – was preserved. On this work, he worked in Rome in 1894-1895. The plot was based on one “of the strongest and most exciting moments of Christ’s life (…) the moment when everything that was only vaguely dreamed of him, here under the impression of everything heard can for the first time be consciously formed”. 99 Did the expression of this “strongest and exciting moment” succeed in the film itself? It depicts a twelve-year-old Jesus sitting in the porch of the Jerusalem temple among a group of scholars – interpreters of religious law. In the temple there is an atmosphere of deep concentration. It is in the dimness of the majestic temple, in the beauty of its architectural forms, in the locality of the conversations, reflecting and listening to people, in the image of the child Jesus, captured by “reasoning about the ideal principles of life.” The lyrical motif in the painting, embodied in the image of Mary, is joyfully clasped hands to the chest at the sight of the son speaking with the elders. It stands at the portico column, and behind – the sun-drenched landscape with the Mount of Olives, covered with oil-grove groves. This landscape “enters” the space of the temple with streams of sunlight, destroying the semi-darkness of the interior, enriching it with color reflexes. But the scene, solved too “believable”, with a lot of documentary details and excessive elaboration of each of the characters, does not produce a whole impression. Just as in “Christ and the Sinner”, Polenov does not find here the measure of convention that was necessary for the expression of his ideas, which worried him, and the picture was reduced essentially to the depiction of the scene of historical life.
The artist achieves the greatest wholeness in solving the task at hand, when the accents in his paintings move from the image of people to the landscape. The canvas “On the Lake of Genisareth” testifies to this. In the following works of the cycle, after the painting “Among the Teachers”, the landscapes in the picturesque reading of Polenov’s Gospel texts will have an equally important role.
After the exhibition in 1909, Polenov does a great job as a member of the commission for the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. Deciding to give young artists the opportunity to try their hand at a new field of art, he suggested covering his walls with frescoes and panels of Serov, Golovin, Korovin and other artists most capable, in his opinion, in the monumental painting. According to Polenov, the synthesis of the arts – architecture, sculpture and painting – could have been realized in the new museum. He bustled about the organizers of the museum to release funds for the trip of artists to Greece and Italy.
However, to realize this idea Polenov failed. He himself in connection with the alleged work in the museum at his own expense travels in Western Europe, travels to Greece, where he brings a lot of etudes. Many of them still retain the freshness of the Pauline vision and the letters, but in general sketches, written widely on a coarse-grained canvas, become more multicolored, their drawing somewhat sloppy compared to early works.
The main field of activity for Polenov in the period from 1910 to 1918 is the theater. Since 191 about the year he has gone headlong into the development of the people’s theaters, believing that it is in this field that he can most effectively “help the people.”
The painting “Aphrodite” is simple and strict in composition – against the backdrop of the morning landscape, filled with fresh sea air enveloping the mountain in the background, a group of cypresses with a statue of Aphrodite and a portico of a white-stone church on the right rise to the left. Their forms are simplified and laconic. The artist widely uses stylization techniques. Compared with this stable part of the composition, the portico of the temple, presented in a complex foreshortening, creates a sense of expressive movement, supported by exaggeration of architectural volumes, with a dynamic pattern.
A certain measure of convention allows Polenov to create the ideal image of Greece, cleared of all prosaic and everyday. This image becomes a kind of symbol of beauty and harmony. Artist Pasternak, who observed the work of Polenov over the canvas, wrote: “It was necessary to see with what skill, with what artistic ease and virtuosity, almost playing, whistling something, with a broad brush, walked Polenov gaily on a huge canvas! Once and again – and the dark blue-violet Mediterranean Sea, having played, rolled its waves to the foot of the statue of Venus de Milo; once and again – the pink mountains gave out in the background, and the blue sky of Hellas, saturated with heat and light, rose above them. It was fun to look at this respectable master! In a day or two everything was ready … And with what knowledge of the matter, with what taste, with what majestic simplicity! ”
It is characteristic that in the same year, when Polenov had to make a cover for the album dedicated to the fifteenth anniversary of the Abramtsevo circle, expressing in his work the main idea of ​​the commonwealth – the worship of his members Beauty, he used the image of the statue of Aphrodite, which he placed in a conditional interior resembling an office SI Mamontov, where the home performances of the circle took place.
In the sketch, the artist is largely narrative, in detail the flowers on the stele occupying the first plan of the painting, gravestones and crosses, a group of cypresses against the background of the leaden sky, grass and the path of the cemetery. The sketch is permeated with a mood of melancholy sadness.
In the sketch of the scenery, the rhythm of the columns and stelae, supported by a clear system of planarly solved cypresses, a sharp outline of silhouettes and the generalization of forms, pink-violet flashes of color spots create an integral, expressive, symbolic image of the cemetery, which evokes not a contemplative elegiac mood but an ominously disturbing a sense of fate.
Polenov was a very special type of Russian intellectual artist. In letters, memories of him, you can often find a definition – an aristocrat. “It was the only, in full and best, not odious sense of the word, a gentleman-European and an aristocrat,” Pasternak wrote. For Minchenkov “in the painting Polenov felt his culturality, a kind of aristocracy, intelligent beauty” 123. The special nobleness of Polenov, his soulful subtlety and thoughtfulness, is also conveyed by the portrait of the artist, written by his friend Repin in 1877, shortly after their return from the pensioner’s trip. Thanks to this aristocracy, felt by all, Polenov received a comic nickname Don Basilio from his friends during the years of pensionership.
Polenov was a true “worker”, and it was obvious to everyone. But the close connection with the noble culture of the first half of the nineteenth century not only distinguished him from the artistic environment of his time, but in many ways determined the originality of his work, in which romantic tendencies played a big role. The fascination with romanticism, explained by a special world outlook of the artist, manifests itself in various forms in his work throughout his life.
Polenov’s “rootedness” in the past paradoxically made him more open to the new, than many peers of the artist, wholly owned by his time. She also turns out to be creatively necessary and artistic youth of the 80-90s of the XIX century, who found in their teacher and substantiation and support in the struggle against the “utilitarian” aesthetics of the previous two decades. From the great artistic experience of Polenov, young people, according to Nesterov, “took what was lacking”. Attractive for them in Polenov were many aspects of his work – a constant desire for a perfect pictorial form, the achievement of which becomes for youth the main concern and the main value, the search for synthesis of art, the clearly tangible lyrical beginning of the master’s works.
Thanks to his active citizenship and broad public activities, Polenov was always at the center of the artistic life of his time. On the worldview and creative search, he appears to be a figure that is addressed both to the past and to the future. That is why his artistic activity became one of the important links connecting the art of the first half and the end of the XIX century.

Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov Famous painter-painter-landscape painter