ART 4 2-DAY 18 October v.9.91
BIRTH: 1697 CANALETTO
Died on 18 October (17 April?) 1679: Jan
van Kessel II, Antwerp, Flanders, still-life and flower
painter, draftsman, and designer, specialized in Still
Life, baptized as an infant on 05 April 1626, sometimes designated as
Jan van Kessel I, because he was the first painter of that name. But the
real Jan van Kessel I was his grandfather, a draper. The father of Jan van
Kessel II was the painter Hieronymus (= Jeroom) van Kessel [bap. 06
Oct 1578 – 1636+]. David
Teniers the Younger [15 Dec 1610 – 25 Apr 1690] was the uncle-in-law
of Jan van Kessel II, having married in 1637 his mother's sister Anna Brueghel.
The Dutch landscape artist Jan van Kessel [bap. 22 Sep 1641 – 24 Dec
1680 bur.] was apparently unrelated.
— Jan van Kessel II of Antwerp was the son of the painter Hieronymus van Kessel and the grandson of Jan Brueghel. Van Kessel specialized in small oil paintings on copper and wood. Jan van Kessel painted many animals (especially insects) and flowers, as well as some mythological and biblical scenes. His choice of subject leaned towards those which included animals and plants; for example, he painted Noah's Ark.
— Jan van Kessel II began his training as a painter in 1635 under Simon de Vos [28 Oct 1603 – 15 Oct 1676] and was also taught by his uncle Jan Breughel II [13 Sep 1601 – 01 Sep 1678] and by Jacob van Ruisdael. He became the most versatile artist of the van Kessel family. In 1645 he was registered in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke as a flower painter, but he also depicted, in both oil and watercolor, animals, birds, fish and insects, as well as a variety of still-life subjects. He continued the traditions of his maternal grandfather, Jan I “Velvet” Brueghel [1568 – 13 Jan 1625], and was also influenced by Daniel Seghers [05 Dec 1590 – 02 Nov 1661]. Van Kessel painted garlands and bouquets of flowers, but is best known for small, jewel-like pictures, often on copper, of insects or shells against a light background, executed with strong color and great exactitude.
At his marriage to Maria van Apshoven [–1678] in 1647, one of the witnesses was his uncle David Teniers II, who had married Breughel’s daughter Anna ten years previously. In 1655 Jan van Kessel II bought a house opposite the cemetery of the Saint Joriskerk in Antwerp, but by the end of his life all his possessions were heavily mortgaged in order to pay off his debts.
Jan II taught two of his seven sons to paint, Ferdinand van Kessel [07 Apr 1648 – 1696], who painted in the style of his father, and Jan van Kessel III [1654-1708] (aka, erroneously, Jan van Kessel II)., who followed in the portrait tradition of his grandfather.
Insects and Fruit (11x16cm) _ In this painting on copper, a caterpillar is crawling over a small branch, surrounded by butterflies and other insects. Although this painting appears to be a realistic still life, it is actually more like a sampler. The small animals are accurately depicted, only the relation between them and the space around them is not entirely precise. This kind of painting was probably specially intended for people who had a scientific interest in plants and animals. These detailed studies were often produced as prints.
The Animals (1660, 175x123cm; 836x700pix) _ This triptychon contains 40 sections (17x23cm each). The animals are placed in a setting (Netherlandish, mountainous, exotic) corresponding to the species. (8 rows of 5 separate pictures each, tiny in the reproduction)
The Mockery of the Owl (170x234cm) _ The fully-fledged animal painting emerged in the late 16th century with the rise of biological research and collections of rare creatures. Jan van Kessel in The Mockery of the Owl demonstrates a thorough knowledge of exotic animals. The artist uses a narrative subject as a vehicle for painting his animals.
Still-Life (42x77cm) _ This Antwerp artist's teacher and uncle was Jan Brueghel the Younger, and therefore he was a direct descendant on his mother's side from Pieter the Elder [1525-1569] and Jan the Elder (“Velvet”). He painted chiefly still-lifes, frequently representing food laid out sumptuously on light-colored tables and depicted with the delicacy of a miniaturist, using lively colors of a predominately red tint laid on with the tip of the brush. The documentary, informative, educational, and communicative function of these richly laid tables, in which the individual objects are simply added on and depicted from a slightly raised viewpoint, is combined with the evident intention of demonstrating the affluence of the wealthy patrons of these works. It is also possible to discern allegorical intentions alluding to the five senses or the four elements, but while such an interpretation is quite plausible, the principal aim is a purely aesthetic one, offering this profusion of beautiful objects, rendered with exquisite skill, as a simple feast for the eyes. There is a companion piece to this painting, a variation on the same theme.
— Still Life with Fruit and Shellfish (1653)
— Africa (central panel, detail) (1666)
— Europe (central panel, detail) (1666)
Born on 18 October 1697: Giovanni
Antonio Canal Canaletto, Italian painter
who died on 20 April 1768.
1720, the artist’s name is first recorded in the register of the Venetian
painters’ guild. Venice had a tradition of public exhibitions, at which
painters, especially beginners, could promote their work. Canaletto is recorded
as having hung a view of the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (probably
Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco) at the annual display
of paintings organized outside the Scuola di San Rocco. His work was said
to have ‘made everyone marvel’, and it was purchased by the Imperial Ambassador
to Venice. The exhibition itself was later depicted by the artist in the
background of his portrayal of the Doge procession The
Doge Visiting the Church and Scuola di San Rocco.
After his success at the public exhibition, Canaletto was commissioned to paint four works for the merchant Stefano Conti (1725). Patrons such as Conti were important to Canaletto at the outset of his career, but it was English collectors who came to dominate the market for his view paintings. According to the fashion of the time it was considered that an essential part of good education and cultivation for the young English gentleman was to travel to Italy and visit the famous places of Rome, Florence and Venice. Of course, such travel also involved bringing home some refined souvenirs, and Canaletto tried to meet this demand.
Canaletto’s earliest work for the ‘English market’ came to him as a result of his contact with an Irishman called Owen McSwiney (c.1684-1754). Their acquaintance took place in 1720s, at least the first documentary mention of paintings, commissioned by Owen McSwiney, referred to 1826. McSwiney not only introduced Canaletto to English customers, but seems also to have encouraged the painter to create works which might particularly appeal to them.
The most important person in Canaletto’s career and his patron was Joseph Smith (c.1674-1770), an Englishman, who lived in Venice, and worked as an agent on behalf of British collectors of manuscripts, books and works of art; he also served as British Consul to the Venice Republic (1744-1760; 1766). He had a notable collection of his own. This collection in 1762-3 was sold to King George III, by that time it included the largest single group of works by Canaletto ever assembled.
In the 1730s, the demand for Canaletto’s work was so large that Canaletto employed studio assistants. Canaletto’s father probably helped him, and certainly Canaletto’s nephew Bernardo Bellotto (1720-80), who at the time was trained in his studio. In 1735, a set of engravings was published by Antonio Visentini after Canaletto’s paintings in Smith’s collection, called the Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum, which also included the portrait of the artist, now considered the only reliable one. Canaletto's nephew, Bernardo Bellotto, expertly mimicked his style and even adopted the nickname "Canaletto" for himself. This has made it difficult to attribute individual paintings to one artist or the other.
In 1741, the War of the Austrian Succession broke out, which consequently undermined the tourist business; this meant that the artist’s was loosing his principal source of patronage. In addition, perhaps for the first time, Canaletto experienced some serious competition. Canaletto tried to expand the variety of his subjects. In 1740-41, he traveled along the Brenta Canal towards Padua, and made a number of drawings, which were to form the basis of etching and paintings. In 1742 Canalletto painted for Smith a series of five large paintings of ancient Roman ruins: Rome: the Arch of Constantine Rome: Ruins of the Forum, looking towards the Capitol Rome: The Arch of Septimius Severus Rome: The Arch of Titus.
In 1746 Canaletto arrived in London; he worked in England intermittently until 1755. His first works in England were the views of the Thames and the recently completed Westminster Bridge: London: Westminster Bridge from the North on Lord Mayor's Day London: Seen through an Arch of Westminster Bridge. Canaletto’s loyal agents Smith and McSwiney provided the artist with introduction to important patrons in London. Thus, through Smith’s assistance Canaletto was introduced to the Duke of Richmond, and some of the works Canaletto later painted for this patron: London: Whitehall and the Privy Garden from Richmond House London: the Thames and the City of London from Richmond House are widely considered his greatest achievements while in England. Later Canaletto painted subjects outside London – for example, the country homes of the Duke of Beaufort, the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Northumberland: Warwick Castle: the East Front. London: Northumberland House.
Canaletto returned briefly to Venice in 1751 (and may also have traveled home again in 1753), but then remained in England up until 1755. Among the important works from this period are a series of capricci for the Lovelace family: Capriccio: River Landscape with a Column, a Ruined Roman Arch, and Reminiscences of England and a group of 6 pictures, which were painted for Thomas Hollis.
In 1755 the artist returned to Venice permanently. His last years in Venice from 1756 onwards were not as artistically noteworthy. Many of his later pictures were based on compositional and technical formulae worked out some years before. However, there are a few exceptions deserving attention: The Grand Canal Looking Down to the Rialto Bridge, The Campo di Rialto, The Vigilia di S. Pietro and The Vigilia di S. Marta, all four works were painted for the German patron Sigmund Streit; and the pair of views of the Piazza San Marco in the National Gallery, London: Piazza San Marco: Looking East from the North-West Corner; Piazza San Marco: Looking East from the South-West Corner.
In 1763 Canaletto was finally elected to the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts. His admission had been rejected previously, probably because view painting was not highly regarded by academicians. The artist’s reception piece Capriccio: Capriccio of Colonade and the Courtyard of a Palace was completed almost two years later. The very last of Canaletto’s dated works is the drawing San Marco: the Crossing and North Transept, with Musicians Singing. Canaletto died of a fever.
From his name you can correctly guess one of his favorite subjects (and I spare you some):
Grand Canal from Palazzo Flangini to Palazzo Bembo (1740, 61x92cm; 796x1200 pix, 582kb — ZOOM to 1327x2000pix, 1756kb) _ Painted from a vantage point near the present-day railroad station, this placid scene shows where the Grand Canal in Venice begins to curve toward the east. Many of the palaces and monuments pictured here still stand, including the Palazzo Flangini (the first building in the left foreground) and the adjacent Scuola dei Morti. Behind them the cupola of the church of San Geremia can be found. The Palazzo Correr Contarini stands midway down the left bank, which is visible as far as the Palazzo Gritti (now a hotel) and concludes with the church of San Marcuola.
— Grand Canal: Looking East, from the Campo San Vio (1725)
Grand Canal: Looking North-East from the Palazzo Corner-Spinelli to the Rialto Bridge. (1725)
Entrance to the Grand Canal (1725).
Entrance to the Grand Canal from the Piazzetta (1727)
Grand Canal: the Rialto Bridge from the South (1727)
Grand Canal: The Stonemason's Yard; Santa Maria della Carità from the Campo San Vidal (1728)
The Grand Canal from Campo S. Vio towards the Bacino (1730)
Santa Maria della Salute Seen from the Grand Canal (1730)
A Regatta on the Grand Canal (1732, 77x126cm; 750x1258pix, 179kb) _ The picture showing traditional Venetian ceremony is from a series of 14 views of the Grand Canal painted by Canaletto and engraved by Antonio Visentini (published in 1735).
Grand Canal: from Santa Maria della Carità to the Bacino di San Marco
Entrance of the Grand Canal: from the West End of the Molo (1738)
Grand Canal: Looking South-West from the Chiesa degli Scalzi to the Fondamenta della Croce, with San Simeone Piccolo (1738)
Entrance to the Grand Canal: Looking East (1744)
Grand Canal: Looking South-East from the Campo Santo Sophia to the Rialto Bridge (1756)
The Grand Canal Looking Down to the Rialto Bridge (1761)
Veduta del Canal Grande da palazzo Balbi verso Rialto (1722, 144x207cm) _ Quando, all’inizio del terzo decennio, Canaletto dipinge le prime vedute veneziane è ancora fortemente influenzato dalla lezione di Marco Ricci. Nella veduta del Canal Grande affiorano i toni brunacei della tradizione riccesca; le figurette sono piccole, piuttosto generiche, ma colte in posizioni estremamente vivaci. Memore della sua precedente attività di scenografo, Canaletto si serve di due diverse fonti di luce sul primo piano, al punto che sulle acque del Canal Grande si proiettano contemporaneamente sia le ombre di palazzo Balbi, a sinistra, che quelle delle case dei Mocenigo a destra.
Ingresso del Canal grande (1730, 50x73cm) _ Già alla fine degli anni Venti, Canaletto è ormai il più abile e più pagato pittore di vedute di Venezia, e grazie alla mediazione di Joseph Smith si è conquistato anche la ricca clientela di oltremanica disposta a pagare per un suo quadro qualsiasi cifra di denaro. Egli ha infatti compreso che alle vedute inquiete del primo periodo, il pubblico preferisce vedute di una Venezia luminosa, animata, descritta con lenticolare e minuziosa cura. In questa veduta del Canal Grande Canaletto delinea ogni particolare architettonico, ogni dettaglio delle imbarcazione, animate da figurette intente alla più diverse attività. Per descrivere le prospettive con rigorosa precisione l’artista si serve di uno strumento ottico, la camera oscura, che permette di studiare una veduta inquadrandola con un gioco di lenti. Questa viene utilizzata da Canaletto per eseguire schizzi e disegni che poi il pittore riassembla e rielabora in studio.
Canal grande verso nord con le Fabbriche di Rialto (1727, 45x61cm) _ Il successo arriva improvviso e nel giro di pochi anni il Canaletto diventa il vedutista più ricercato di Venezia, ma la sua definitiva consacrazione avviene quando il pittore entra in contatto con Owen McSwiney, un irlandese riparato nella città lagunare dopo le sue fallimentari attività di impresario teatrale a Londra. Su consiglio di McSwiney collabora con altri pittori a un ciclo di dipinti raffiguranti monumenti funebri immaginari, dedicati a insigni personaggi della storia inglese, per il duca di Richmond. Per lo stesso committente esegue inoltre due piccole vedute su rame, nelle quali il Canaletto abbandona i modi drammatici, fortemente chiaroscurati della fase giovanile, preferendo toni più luminosi che esaltano la resa dei particolari della veduta e delle architetture che la compongono.
The Grand Canal: Looking North-East toward the Rialto Bridge (1725, 146x234cm; 730x1186pix, 140kb) _ detail (698x1149pix, 191kb) Various features of this picture are arranged like the lighting and props in an operatic production, in order to create a compelling rather than simply descriptive image. These features perhaps refer to Canaletto's early experience in the theatre. The ominous sky provides an element of menace and restlessness rare in his work, and the unlikely grouping of boats in the right foreground seem to have been placed for picturesque, rather than a realistic, effect. The view of the buildings is, however, based upon a recognizable one. The landing stage at the right is that of the San Angelo traghetto (ferry), and beyond it can be seen part of the Palazzo Corner-Spinelli. At the left, with a sailing barge moored before it, is the Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza.
The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute (1730) _ ~>detail
Capriccio: the Grand Canal, with an Imaginary Rialto Bridge and Other Buildings (1745)
Venice: the Grand Canal from the Palazzo Foscari to the Carita
The Stonemason's Yard (1728, 124x163cm) _ Giovanni Antonio Canal's popularity with English Grand Tourists - mainly young noblemen completing their education with an extended trip to the Continent - has meant that many more of his pictures can be found in Britain than in his native Venice or even throughout Italy. Trained as a scene painter, by 1725 he was specialising in vedute - more or less topographically exact records of the city, its canals and churches, festivals and ceremonies. He visited England several times, but his English paintings did not please, and he returned home for good in about 1756.
Although we associate Canaletto for the most part with mass-produced, crystal-clear scenes of celebrated sights, The Stonemason's Yard, his masterpiece, is not of this kind. A comparatively early picture, and almost certainly made to order for a Venetian client, it presents an intimate view of the city, as if from a rear window. The site is not in fact a mason's yard, but the Campo San Vidal during re-building operations on the adjoining church of San Vidal or Vitale. Santa Maria della Carità, now the Accademia di Belle Arti, the main art gallery in Venice, is the church seen across the Grand Canal.The Church of Santa Maria della Carità is still flanked by the slender campanile that collapsed in 1741.
Canaletto's later works are painted rather tightly on a reflective white ground, but this picture was freely brushed over reddish brown, the technical reason for the warm tonality of the whole. Thundery clouds are gradually clearing, and the sun casts powerful shadows, whose steep diagonals help define the space and articulate the architecture. Not doges and dignitaries but the working people and children of Venice animate the scene and set the scale. In the left foreground a mother has propped up her broom to rush to the aid of her fallen and incontinent toddler, watched by a woman airing the bedding out of the window above and a serious little girl. Stonemasons kneel to their work. A woman sits spinning at her window. The city, weatherbeaten, dilapidated, lives on, and below the high bell-tower of Santa Maria della Carità it is the little shabby house, with a brave red cloth hanging from the window, which catches the brightest of the sunlight.
— 36 ZOOMable images at Wikimedia
Died on 18 October 1669: Abraham
Willaerts, Dutch painter born in 1603, son of Adam Willaerts
[1577 – 04 Apr 1664], and brother of Isaac Willaerts [1620 –
24 Jun 1693] and Cornelis Willaerts [1600–1666].
After being trained by his father, Abraham Willaerts studied under Jan van Bijlert in Utrecht and Simon Vouet [08 Jan 1590 – 01 July 1649 bur.] in Paris. In 1624 he became a master of the Utrecht Guild of St Luke; from 1637 to 1644 he was in Brazil in the entourage of Count John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen, and in 1659 he visited Naples and Rome. His marine paintings closely follow those of his father, for example Coast Scene (1647), but often have an atmospheric softness, as in Beach Scene with Ruin (1662). Abraham’s foreign travels had little effect on his style but resulted in Mediterranean harbor views (real and imaginary), such as Harbor of Naples. He painted a series of portraits, both single figures (several were admirals) and family groups. He also contributed portraits in the foreground of some of his father’s harbor scenes.
— Abraham Willaert appartient à une famille de peintres protestants qui émigrèrent des Flandres vers les Provinces-Unies à la fin du xvie siècle. Il se forma chez Jan van Bijlert à Utrecht puis chez Simon Vouet à Paris. En 1624, il est reçu maître de la guilde d'Utrecht. De 1637 à 1644, il participe à l'expédition de Jean Maurice de Nassau au Brésil, et en 1659 on le trouve à Naples et à Rome. Mais ces voyages sont sans effet sur son style.
Cornelis Tromp in Roman Costume (1673, 40x33cm) _ A Dutch maritime hero dressed in Roman costume is how Cornelius Tromp has been portrayed here. He stands as if about to draw his saber. In the background ships are engaged in battle. Cornelis Maartenszoon Tromp [09 Sep 1629 – 29 May 1691] went to sea as a boy with his father, the celebrated Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp [23 Apr 1598 – 10 Aug 1653]. Cornelis rose swiftly through the ranks. He distinguished himself in particular during the Battle of Livorno. Differences of opinion and his impetuous behavior led to a rift between Cornelis and Admiral Michiel de Ruyter [24 Mar 1607 – 29 Apr 1676] and to his departure from the fleet. After a reconciliation with De Ruyter, in 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, he reentered the navy. Tromp re-established his reputation at the Battle of Schoneveld and the Battle of the Texel, both in 1673. In 1677-1678 he fought in the Baltic against Sweden. In 1678 he succeeded De Ruyter as commander-in-chief. Abraham Willaerts made this portrait after a work by the Hague painter Jan Mijtens [1614-1670] who had also portrayed Tromp dressed as a Roman in 1668. Willaerts's portrait was one of the last in a series of paintings of maritime heroes, to which a portrait of Baron Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam [1616-1665] also belonged. Popular in the seventeenth century, images of Dutch maritime heroes were later to return to fashion as wall decorations.
— Cornelis Tromp (600x486pix) in contemporary costume.
— Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (600x496pix) _ Maarten Tromp was the highest ranking sea commander (from 1636) under the stadholder during the Dutch wars with Spain and England during the first half of the 17th century. His victory over the Spanish in the Battle of the Downs (21 Oct 1639) marked the passing of Spain's power at sea.
— The Stormy Sea (1626, 84x114cm; 575x774pix)
— Sea Battle Between Dutch and Spanish Fleets (1641, 163x243cm)
— A Shipbuilder and his family (1650, 86x130cm) _ Le charme de ce tableau, qui représente la promenade d'une famille devant un paysage panoramique, réside dans la recherche de pittoresque et de détails anecdotiques. Ainsi chaque personnage tient à la main un accessoire en accord avec son âge ou son rang social : une paire de gants et un éventail pour les parents, un hochet et une crosse pour les jeunes enfants. L'étendue d'eau est animée de nombreuses embarcations : voiliers, barques de pêche, bac transportant des animaux... Une brise provoque une succession de vaguelettes à la surface de l'eau selon un procédé cher à l'artiste. A la fois portrait collectif et paysage, cette peinture illustre parfaitement les deux domaines dans lesquels Abraham Willaerts s'est illustré. La restauration de l'oeuvre, en 1994, a fait apparaître une signature et la date 1650.
Died on 18 October 1942: Mikhail
Vasilyevich Nesterov, Russian painter born on 31 (19 Julian)
May 1862 in Moscow.
— From 1877 to 1881 and again from 1884 to 1886 he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the Realist painters Vasily Perov and Illarion Pryanishnikov. Between 1881 and 1884 he worked under Pavel Chistyakov (1832–1919) at the Academy of Arts, Saint-Petersburg. At the estate of Savva Mamontov at Abramtsevo he met the most influential painters of the period, then at the epicentre of the development of Russian Art Nouveau. Nesterov sought to combine this style with a deep Orthodox belief; however, in his desire to revive religious art he was influenced more by French Symbolism, particularly by Bastien-Lepage, than by old Russian icon painting. All of Nesterov’s canvases are marked by a lyrical synthesis between the figures and their landscape surroundings, as in Hermit (1889), which shows the stooped figure of an old man against a northern landscape of stunted trees and still water. The large oil painting Vision of Young Bartholomew (1890) depicts the legend of the childhood of the Russian saint Sergey of Radonezh. A monk appears to the young Bartholomew (the future Saint Sergius) and prophesies a glorious future for him. The simplified outlines and muted colors of the Abramtsevo landscape recall the works of the French artist Puvis de Chavannes, which Nesterov saw on a trip to Paris in 1889.
Nesterov was born into the family of a merchant in the city of Ufa in the Urals. In 1874, his parents brought him to Moscow to study in a technical college, where he caught the attention of K. Trutovsky, an artist and inspector of the Moscow School of Art. This was an important meeting, the turning point in his life. In 1876 on the recommendation of K. Trutovsky he entered the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture; he studied in the classes of Perov, Savrasov [1830-1897] and Pryanishnikov. In 1881, he entered St. Petersburg Academy of Art, studio of professor Pavel Tchistyakov (1881-1884), actively participated in the Itinerants’ Society of Traveling Exhibitions (the society organized the traveling exhibitions through all Russia).
First he tried himself in the genres of historic and everyday scenes, but later, in the 1890s, he became interested in religious themes. In technique his religious pictures are much influenced by style modern. In the 1890s-1900s, he fulfilled paintings in the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, mosaics in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg (1894-1896), paintings in the Church of Alexander Nevsky in Abastuman, Georgia (1899-1904), frescoes in Marfo-Mariinsky Cloister in Moscow (1907-1911). His other works of the period are also connected with religion: Hermit (1889), Vision to Youth Bartholomew (1890), Youth of Saint Sergey Radonezhsky (1897), Tzarevich Dmitry (1899), Philosophers (Portrait of Pavel Florenskiy and Sergey Bulgakov) (1917), Archbishop (Portrait of Antoniy Volynskiy) (1917) and many others.
In 1885, he married Maria Ivanovna Martynovskaya. Unfortunately, she died next year after giving birth to their daughter, Olga. “The death of Masha made me an artist”, Nesterov wrote later. His paintings, which according to his own judgment had lacked feelings, now obtained them. From now on he depicted moods, not events. One of his most lyrical works is Portrait of Olga Nesterova, known as Woman in a Riding Habit (1906), which personifies a typical Russian girl from an upper-middle class family.
In the Soviet period of his creative work Nesterov paints portraits, mostly of his colleagues, Portrait of Ivan Shadr (1934), Portrait of Vera Mukhina (1940) etc. There are several interesting portraits of outstanding people of his time: Portrait of Sergey Yudin (1935), Portrait of Ivan Pavlov (1935), etc.
— The Soul of the Russian People (1916; 1562x3747pix, 966kb)
— Holy Rus (1905; 1625x2600pix, 611kb)
— The Thinker: Ivan Ilyin (1922; 1500x1500pix, 392kb)
— Elderly Man (1600x1516pix, 772kb)
— Philosophers (1500x1496pix, 403kb) Pavel Alexandrovich Florensky [21 Jan 1882 – Dec 1937] and Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov [28 Jun 1871 – 12 Jul 1944].
— A Girl (1889; 1040x757pix, 113kb)
— A Girl (1891; 1040x561pix, 69kb)
Vision to Youth Bartholomew (1890, 160x211cm; 1300x1688pix, 676kb) _ detail
–- Vision to Youth Bartholomew (1917, 94x110cm; 1346x1575pix, 227kb) _ Nesterov was born into a mecantile family in the old Russian provincial town of Ufa in the Urals. A rather lonely and misdirected child, he shone at religious studies and drawing, otherwise being unremarkable and inattentive at school. Promising to study more diligently and under the encouragement of his schoolmaster, the fourteen year old entered the Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1876. There he was initially taught by the ageing but celebrated Vasili Perov. In the 1880s after a bout of ill health, he studied for a short time at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg, returning to Moscow in 1883 to resume his studies. An early work, The Hermit (1888), propelled his career onto a new level. It was bought by the famous patron of contemporary Russian artists, Pavel Tretyakov, and it thus gave the young Nesterov a strong seal of approval. The funds he received for this painting enabled him to travel abroad; firstly to Germany, then Italy and later France. At this time Paris was the center of late 19th century international art world. However, like many Russian painters of this period, Nesterov was less interested in progressive, 'modern' artists such as the Impressionists. He was more personally attuned to the work of the symbolists and some of the more academic art displayed on the walls of the Paris Salons, especially the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage [1848-1884] and Puvis de Chavannes [1824-1898]. These two artists both painted religious subjects and brought to life characters from French history and mythology. Bastien-Lepage's famous painting Joan of Arc, depicts the saint as a young girl in her garden at home at the moment when she experiences divine revelation about her future calling. This work was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1880 and would have been known to Nesterov. Such paintings undoubtedly fired Nesterov's search for similar, mediaeval heroes from Russian history and legend. In the late 1880s he started work on a series of compositions illustrating events from the life of Saint Sergei of Radonezh. Saint Sergei is one of Russia's most venerated saints and the founder of the St. Trinity-Sergei Monastery near Moscow. He was also a gifted politician who assisted Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoi in his struggle against the yoke of the Mongol-Tartar khans in 14th century Rus. The most famous work from Nesterov's Saint Sergei series is The Vision of the Boy Bartholomew (1890, 160x211cm). The present version depicts the same episode in the life of the Saint as the 1890 version, the main differences being in the positioning of the figures and some of the background details. The Saint is shown as a young boy (his name was Bartholomew until he became a monk and changed his name to Sergei) standing with his hands crossed in prayer before an old holy man whose face is mysteriously obscured by a large hood. According to legend, Bartholomew went out into the fields to search for some lost cattle, when an old man appeared before him. Bartholomew, who could not read and write well, asked the old man to help him with this and his wish is granted. The painting is built up from a series of studies done from life and en plein air. The landscape is that of Abramtsevo, the country estate of Savva Mamontov where many contemporary artists came to paint during the Summer. At Abramtsevo they also formed an Arts and Crafts workshop and designed and built a church. The figure of the boy Bartholomew was modelled on the artist's own son, Alexei Nesterov . The role of the landscape in the composition is integral to the meaning behind the painting. In this Nesterov can be compared to Scandinavian symbolist artists such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Harald Sohlberg who use landscape to express a spiritual realm. Like the Scandinavians who painted their own dramatic Northern landscapes, often with eerie light effects, Nesterov looks for the spiritual dimension in his own culture and surroundings. He writes in his memoirs of the force of the Russian landscape on his senses and as inspiration for his paintings:
One day on the terrace of the house at Abramtsevo my eyes were suddenly aware of a vision of beauty that was Russian, purely Russian: on the left the wooded hills ... a pink glow off in the distance, ... the cabbage patches, bright emerald green; on the right the golden foliage of the grove..
In The Vision, the two figures occupy a small part of the whole work, and are placed not in the middle, but the left hand side, leaving the viewer's eyes to roam freely amongst the trees and grassland. It is Autumn, the flaming colors of the trees, their golden hues, yellow, orange, pink and red, give an intensity to the painting. Spring and Autumn were Nesterov's preferred seasons, being the most transient yet promising life in its greatest abundance or re-generation. It is likely that the offered lot was commissioned directly from the artist by Chaliapin who must have admired the original work in Pavel Tretyakov's famous collection. The singer's fondness for the painting is clear as a black and white photograph taken by a family member of Chaliapin's studio in Paris shows it hanging prominently on the wall next to the great portrait of the singer by Boris Kustodiev.
–- By the Lake (1918, 81x68cm; 1575x1327pix, 218kb) _ The image of a young woman looking out into a distant landscape is one of the most enduring subjects in Mikhail Nesterov’s oeuvre, perhaps most famously illustrated in On the Hills. Nesterov’s world is one of ‘poeticized realism’: the vastness of the landscape hinted at in the composition points to man’s search for the meaning of his existence through God. Indeed, we feel that as if we have intruded on a moment of private contemplation. Through the presence of these mystical figures Nesterov presents a vision of the world freed from the banality of adult perception. By clothing his subjects in traditional costume, Nesterov harks back to a bygone age, when Russians were believed to have a greater communion with their native land. This nostalgia for an irrevocable past reflects the prevailing preoccupation with Nationalism among Russian intellectuals of the nineteenth century. As with On the Hills, the imagery in this painting resonates with another important Slavophile concept: woman as a metaphorical image for Russia and the representation of the Russian landscape as unmistakably feminine within literature. Barely perceptible both tonally and spatially in the composition, the female figure seems to coalesce completely with her environment, it is her very essence. The notion of ‘unattainable beloved’ as symbolizing the authentic Rus’ from which the artist feels isolated is one of the strongest threads running through the poetry of the Silver Age:
Russia, my poor Russia,
To me […]
Your windy songs,
Are like the first tears of love!
// […] What can I do? One care more,
One tear more to make the river roar,
But you will be the same – forests, and a field,
And a patterned scarf up to your brows…
// And the impossible is possible,
The long road is light,
When in the distance of the journey
A momentary glance sparkles from under your scarf’
// A. Blok, Russia (1908)
–- Na Zemlye Pokoi (1912, 102x66cm; 2457x1575pix, 325kb) _ Vasily Nesterov was a painter of the Russian soul. Na zemlye pokoi (‘Peace on Earth’), recently rediscovered from a private collection in the Czech Republic, can be considered an important work in his pre-revolutionary oeuvre. It appears to relate most closely to a work of 1914 affectionately called Lisichka with three old Startsy or holy men sitting on a river bank watching a fox emerge from the undergrowth. This latter work is traditionally thought to be part of a triptych based on the gospel text, ‘…peace on earth, good will towards men’ (St. Luke 2:11,14). This painting being the same height as Lisichka might have been conceived as its partner panel. The Orthodox religion was the great guiding force and wellspring of Nesterov’s creative search. Studying under Vasili Perov at the Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, he learnt from this master how paintings could convey both a social message and also offer an emotional resonance. Nesterov took this further to develop a genre of spiritual painting which combined elements of landscape, genre and history painting. It was at the end of the 1880s that he first found his own voice as an artist and quickly produced some of his greatest works. This period was marked by personal tragedy with the sudden death of his wife in 1886 and led to a composition, The Bride of Christ which the artist claimed was a way of working out his grief, but also later said marked the beginning of his own personal artistic journey. The following year he painted The Hermit, which bears much in common with Na zemlye pokoi , both compositions uniting nature and man, one flowing directly from and into the other. Nesterov’s landscapes are those of the Russian north, imbibed with its special light and the fertile land around his hometown of Ufa, close to the Ural mountains in Western Russia. The people inhabiting his pictures have all grown up out of the land and its local traditions and legends. He chooses innocent yet meditative heroes and heroines, of slight build and pale of face: women, hermits, philosophers, Russian saints in their youth. In Na Zemlye Pokoi the protagonist appears to be a young monk piping or perhaps he is the fictitious Lel, the shepherd boy from Alexander Ostrovsky’s libretto for the Opera Snegurochka, set to music by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1881. Nesterov painted this subject on a number of occasions, for example Lel (Spring) of 1933. Other similar compositions can be found with figures in a landscape making music, either piping or, as in Elegy (1928), a lone, blind monk playing the violin. Stylistically, Na Zemlye Pokoi conforms to the artist’s painterly scheme developed in the late 80s and little changed throughout his career. It is can be seen as a mix of Impressionism and Art Nouveau. He worked up his larger compositions from small landscape studies executed ‘en plein air’. He visited and painted in the North of Russia, the environs of Abramtsevo with its famous artist colony, or most often in his home region of Ufa. Na Zemlye Pokoi depicts the River Belaya close to Ufa. Nesterov was well known by the turn of the century as a monumental mural painter, having undertaken many significant church and cathedral commissions following a creative partnership with Victor Vasnetsov. Although Art Nouveau was an important movement in Russian architecture and decorative artist, it is in the paintings of Nesterov in particular that it found expression in Russian Fine Art. In Na Zemlye Pokoi the decorative scheme that underpins the composition takes its key from Art Nouveau, with the elongated grasses and brightly colored flowers, the serpentine river, the elegant curves of the Lel’s hands and the vibrating strokes of the riverside, where land meets water. Despite their proximity to Impressionist plein air practice, Nesterov’s works are not close to those of his Moscow contemporary, Russian impressionist, Konstantin Korovin. The landscapes in which his characters find themselves echo those of the great 19th century Russian landscape painter Isaac Levitan [1860-1900] for their lyrical, poetical and epic qualities. Tonally they are similar, especially the skies, with their smooth palette of pale creams, lilacs and blues with bold accents of salmon pink making the canvas glow. In Na Zemlye Pokoi, to a greater extent than perhaps in other works by the artist, the landscape offers an answer to the yearning of the human soul, and provides us on earth a kind of sanctuary.
–- Haystacks by the River (24x34cm, 613x847pix, 59kb)