Peasants In Art During The Late 19th Century
The nineteenth centurywas characterized by intense changes and developments in Russian art scenes especially among peasant artistes who comprised a majority of the entire Russian population. The century was also the time when the real RussianSchool of Art was established. This was further boosted by the domination of the art scene by European art and style in the eighteenth century. Emergence of the Russian art gave way to new interpretive approaches different from the western standards which people were used to in the earlier days. The development of Russian art was based on three artistic trends namely; romanticism, ideological realism and Slavic revival. During Napoleon’s time, France underwent drastic changes in terms of their artistic work which led to the emergence of romanticism which replaced classicism.
Peasant artists in Russia
Early in the nineteenth century, the Russians who were engaged in artistic work shared so much with their counterparts in the other European countries. This is attributed to that fact that most Russian artists were conversant with techniques and skills which were common among the European artistes. However, after the emergence of romanticism more emphasis was credited to self-portraits of individuals as well as those of important historical activities. A renewed interest was also developed in the immediate environment such that more artistic work was based on Russian physical features rather than those of European countries.
This move was aimed at increasing the amount of naturalistic work in addition to idealism while at the same time reducing art which was based on classicism. It was only in the mid-nineteenth century when the aspect of reality began to have effects on the entire art scene (Prokhorov, 1995).As time went by an ideal cohesive Russian styles was developed by a versatile painter referred to as Karl Briullov who carried out his artistic work on canvas. This was the turning point for Russian wanderers who embraced the new style which allowed a more naturalistic and nationalistic approach to art. Subsequent generations were able to grasp the technicalities of the Russian style more easily such that the western approach was gradually erased from the scene.
Ideally this increased the national spirit which had been initially neglected by being referred to as an inferior branch of art. One of the pioneer artistes who were involved in peasant artistic work was Aleksei Venetsianov whose work comprised more of the Russian heritage than any other artiste. Consequently, most of the artistic work of this period was generally composed of the naturalistic or idealistic aspects of the Russian peasants (Ross, 2009).One of the major paintings of the nineteenth century was Kramskoi’s religious painting of Christ in the wilderness which was a combination of a photographic impression culminated by an uncertain mystery. The impression that was portrayed by the painting was more of a myth than a true artiste’s impression of the ideology.
This portrait was a contradiction of popular Russian traditional beliefs. This was a form of ideological realism whereby people were being encouraged to adopt new ways of thinking by relating the past and the present. As time went by, the social criticism that had been initiated by the ideology diminished and more artistes developed a renewed interest on the historical aspects of the Russians. Some artistes went ahead and developed a new model of realism by incorporating the negative comments of Russians with the realistic ideologies. Social realism is a style used in realistic art to depict the goals of a society or community similarly, it glorifies the roles of the poor hence it was popular among the peasants.
It was developed under the socialism and is a teleological-oriented style which should never be confused with social realism which depicts issues of social concern (Boguslawski, 2005). Ideally an artiste would create a portrait of a clergy preaching to the faithful to surrender their worldly possessions to those who lacked various items. However, the peasant artists portrayed the clergy in normal human activities such as playing cards in the company of young girls. This is against the traditional beliefs of the Russians but it created a lot of popularity for the artists rather than if they had painted the clergy conducting a normal sermon. The controversy created by the art was thus responsible for increased popularity because the Russians were being exposed to things which they were previously not used to seeing.
This aspect of bringing out the natural features of individuals by exposing social ills was fundamental in shaping art during the nineteenth century. It was also a way of making real the dreams and fantasies which were harbored by the peasants concerning various arenas of life (Ross, 2009).Artistic work which presented the normal daily activities of human beings such as scenes showing men, women their children and animals in the farm would attract less attention. Things which are normal would not appeal the Russians but introduction of fictious portraits depicting peasants in palaces were more appealing to the art lovers hence increased popularity. Contradicting events which included the participation of nature and its components were seen as more popular because of their uniqueness thus raising more criticism.
This is exhibited in the way in which an artiste could not ideally portray life in the same eyes he saw it especially as the socialist idealism dictated that anything that portrayed the community negatively be omitted in any work of art. Consequently, people the characters who were incorporated in any artistic work had to undergo some intense examination such that individuals of questionable a character could not be used as part of the cast (Boguslawski, 2005).The socialist ideology stated that painters must depict peasants who worked in factories and farms as happy and muscular. Though the working conditions in those areas were oppressing or horrible, it was equally compulsory that the artist ignored the negative part and laid more emphasis on the positive part.
The sole purpose of the art was to elevate the peasant worker by presenting his/her life, work and recreation as being admirable this way an entirely new type of human beings who are content with life was created (Prokhorov, 1995).Uplifting stories were the order of each artistic work while landscapes showed the success of the government and not its failure. All artistes who were currently in the field in the nineteenth century had an obligation of adhering to doctrines that had been set up by society which was meant to produce unfettered art. These guidelines were meant to maintain creativity as well as censor artistic expressions. However, this led to lowering of the quality of socialist realism work as the creativity of most artists was hampered by the strict rules (Ross, 2009).
Boguslawski, Alexander, Russian Paintings. 2005. Retrieved from: ww.englishrussia.com/?p=274 -
Prokhorov, Gleb. Art under Socialist Realism: Soviet Painting, 1930-1950. East Roseville, NSW, Australia: Craftsman House; G + B Arts International, 1995
Ross, Fred, 19th century art chronicled real life. (2009) Epoch.