Task 10. Learn this description by heart.

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Task 10. Learn this description by heart.

“They Did Not Expect Him(1884-1888), one of Repin's best known works, is considered by critics "the finest artistic achievement of the social point of view of the Peredvizhniki. The painting shows a family surprised by an unexpected return of a political exile home. In the first version of the painting, the exile was a female; in the final version it is a male, a son, a husband, and a father at the same time. To create his composition, Repin used his home and the members of his family as models. Each person in the painting has a different facial expression, captured very dramatically by the artist. The exiled man, clutching his hat, hesitates in the middle of the room, but instantly recognizes his mother. The old woman rises from her armchair, and her figure projects a surprise and weakness at the same time. In the back, at the piano, is the man's wife. Perhaps she is not certain who has just entered the room; she smiles, but does not try to run to embrace her husband. The little girl at the table looks at the figure suspiciously - she does not know who it is because she is too young to remember her father. But the boy sitting next to her recognizes him instantly and his face is beaming. Two other figures, the maid at the door and the cook behind her, also express their feelings. The cook is simply curious - she wants to discover who the man is and what is going to happen next. The maid is still holding the door knob and her face is simultaneously polite (she is performing her duties) and astonished.

The composition can be divided into several planes: the farthest is the kitchen window, followed by the figures of the cook and the maid. The third plane includes the wall of the living room and the woman at the piano. The fourth, most important plane encompasses the figure of the man and the table with his children. The foreground is occupied by the figure of the mother and her armchair. Notice, however, how cleverly Repin places these two elements off center, allowing the viewer's eyes to follow the direction of the floorboards and see the exiled man immediately. Commenting on the composition, Hamilton suggests that the "right-to-left direction in space, opposed by the sharpened perspective drawing of the floorboards, is so suggestive of Degas that we can believe that the lessons learned in Paris ten years before had at last come to fruition" . The picture is full of light, which, despite the seriousness of the topic and the work's obvious political overtones, makes this scene joyous (the viewer can easily imagine that in a moment the room will be filled with cries of joy, laughter, tears of happiness, and celebrations of the return).

Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (1848 – 1916)

Part 1

Vasily Ivanovich Surikov was born in Krasnoyarsk into a family of Siberian Cossacks, whose ancestors came to conquer Siberia with Yermak in the 16th century (“The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak”). The future artist grew up among brave and solid people, in severe natural conditions. Surikov said later that Siberia gave him the ideals of historical characters, spirit, strength and health. After finishing school in 1868, the young man left for St. Petersburg on horse-back to join the Academy. He spent a year on his journey, because on his way he made frequent stops in the ancient towns through which he passed. In 1869, he entered the Academy of Art, where he studied excellently.

In 1875 Surikov moved to Moscow, where he settled permanently. Moscow with its old architecture impressed the artist deeply. The views of the Red Square, monasteries and cathedrals, Kitay-Gorod called to mind dramatic historical events. When he moved to Moscow, this center of the nation, he immediately found his way in art.' On impulse, he started the big historical canvas “Morning of Strelets' Execution”(finished in 1881). This painting defined the main direction of his work - depiction of Russians in turning points of their history.

The next big painting, “Menshikov in Berezovo”, dealt with the personal drama of an outstanding politician. Once a mighty courtier, the right hand of Peter the Great, now an exile, Surikov's Menshikov impresses the viewers with his strong personality.

Menshikov, Peter's favorite, captained Russian forces in the field against the Turks and Swedes, executed the Streltsy, built the new capital of St. Petersburg on marshland, built ships, trained troops, organized commercial and industrial companies, engaged in diplomatic negotiations. Menshikov was a low-born Russian, whose talent and energy took him to the top during Peter's rule. Menshikov, with support of the guards, after Peter's death proclaimed the widowed Empress Catherine sovereign and ruled Russia in her name.



V.Surikov. The Morning of the Execution of the Streltsy. 1881. Oil on canvas.

218 x 379 cm. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


After her death Peter II rebelled against Menshikov's authority. In 1727 Menshikov was placed under house arrest and dispatched to Beriozov, Siberia. Everything was confiscated. On his way there his wife died. Menshikov passed away in 1729 and his beautiful daughter Maria (previously engaged to Peter II) followed him one month later.


V. Surikov. Menshikov at Beriozov. 1883. Oil on canvas.

169 x 204 cm. The Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow


Surikov used gloomy colors to show Menshikov's thoughts and misfortunes that he brought down on his children. A diamond ring symbolized his previous brilliant career. The artist used his wife as a model depicting Menshikov's daughter Maria. Surikov painted glazings over impasto painting producing rich vibrant colors. Tretyakov paid 5000 rubles to acquire Menshikov for his gallery collection enabling the artist to travel abroad to Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Paris, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, and Vienna with his family.

The interesting fact is that while getting foreign impressions, the artist thought out his next work from Russian history “Boyarynya Morozova”. On his return Surikov started the work on the canvas.

The strife between tradition and reform developed itself in the XVIIth century. It was the collision between the Russian Orthodox Church and the reforms, which made the Church submitted to the tsar. In 1672 Morozova and her sister, Princess Urusova, were arrested and quietly kept in a pit in Borovsk, where Morozova died in 1675.
Morozova who represented Old Russian traditions was shown in the sledge by Surikov. The trong was divided into two groups. The right-hand group was her sympathizers, and in the left-hand group were Morozova's mocking enemies and indifferent people. Surikov spent over four years sketching to produce a realistic historical painting. Each figure, costume and face has its own meaning and expression. Surikov employed chiaroscuro, showing gorgeous color and three dimensional forms.
In 1887, Surikov's wife died. Her death caused a deep depression: he gave up painting, turned to religion, and left with his children for Siberia. The atmosphere, familiar from childhood, and the caring attitude of his friends restored him to life. In 1891, in Siberia, Surikov painted his most joyous picture “Taking of a Snow Fortress”, which shows a Siberian game in which a horseman must jump over a snow wall, defended by young people with twigs and whips. This cheerful painting is an exception in his art; all other paintings by Surikov are very serious.

After the “Taking of Snow Fortress” Surikov started painting “The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak” (1895). The battle of the 16th century between the Cossacks under their ataman (commander) Yermak Timofeevich and the troops of Kuchum-Khan, the ruler of Siberia, he showed with reliability of a witness. Another big canvas, devoted to Cossacks is “Stepan Rasin”, which depicts the moment of the Cossacks return from a successful campaign against Persia.

Surikov executed only nine historical canvases out of hundreds of portraits, studies, and sketches, but he is still considered Russia's greatest historical painter.


1. to think out – задумывать

2. to ‘execute – выполнить, осуществить; казнить

3. joyous - радостный

4. a mighty courtier - могущественный придворный

5. an exile - ссыльный, изгнанник

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