Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mikhail Nesterov and the birth of Russian Symbolism

The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew 1890

This beautiful painting by Mikhail Nesterov, The Visitation, also called The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew (1890), is said to mark the birth of the Russian Symbolist movement. The fantastic detail and charming enigmatic quality of the work is really extraordinary.

Nesterov intended to revive russian religious art. The influence of the French Symbolists on his work was a dramatic departure from both traditional russian icon painting and the naturalistic realism that had dominated russian secular art for decades.

Hermit 1889

Nesterov traveled to remote monastaries and hermitages in order to depict the aesthetic life of religious hermits, a traditional religious life unchanged since the middle ages.

Visiting a Sorcerer: Love Drink Is Needed 1888

He also painted scenes from russian folk tales and russian history. These paintings all have the same mystical enigmatic quality as his religious subjects.

Death of Prince Alexander Nevsky 1900

After the death of his wife, the subject of Nesterov's work changed from depictions of religious and historical scenes to portraits depicting an emotional state. Nesterov himself said the after the loss of his wife he "became a great painter". This beautiful portrait of his daughter Olga is a good example of the emotional quality of his later work.

Portrait of Olga Nesterova 1915

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