Towards the end of the 19th century the "World of Art" movement, a group of artists and writers including Alexander Benois, Konstantin Somov, Leon Bakst, Yevgeny Lanceray and Sergei Diaghilev. The movement sought to combine 19th-century aestheticism with a return to Russian folk traditions, produced richly coloured, highly detailed works which had a profound effect on book illustration and stage design.
Russian Realist Art was represented by semi-impressionist portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911)- see his "Girl with Peaches" (1887, Tretyakov), "In Summer" (1895, Russian Museum, St Petersburg) and other paintings. Other Impressionist-style portrait artists included the great Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) and Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939)
Still life, a genre which fitted well with the decorative and aesthetic philosophy of the World of Art movement, was also popular. Under the influence of post-Impressionists, works became more colourful. Russian still life painters included: Igor Grabar (1871-1960) and Boris Kustodiev (1878-1927), Alexander Kuprin (1880-1960), Ilya Mashkov (1881-1944), Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939) and the Armenian Martiros Saryan (1880-1972).
Russian landscape art bore the influence of French Impressionism and boasted the names of Vasily Baksheyev (1862-1958), Konstantin Yuon (1875-1958) and Nikolai Krymov (1884-1958).
Expressionism was mainly practised abroad. Leading expressionist painters from Russia included: Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).
After the revolution in 1917 Communist Party decreed a return to social realism in art. The artistic expression was a political matter, controlled by the Bolshevik Institute of Artistic Culture INKHUK (Institut Khudozhestvennoi Kulturi), that obliged painters and sculptors to switch to industrial designwork. Some artists rejected painting entirely, others industrial design and architecture or produced graphics and posters. These emigrants included the expressionists Alexei von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine (1893-1953), the sculptors Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967), the brothers Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962) and Naum Gabo (1890-1977), the Cubist Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973), and many others.
After a decade of political argument (1922-32), during which time many artists gave up painting and sculpture in favour of applied art and design work, Stalin closed down all surviving art groups and decreed the compulsory application of Socialist Realism - a naturalistic style designed to exalt the Soviet worker and his over-fulfillment of the government's 5-Year Plans.
The best known artists of the Soviet epoch were Isaak Brodsky, Alexander Samokhvalov, Boris Ioganson, Alexander Deyneka, Alexander Laktionov, Yuri Neprintsev and other painters from Moscow and Leningrad School.
Moscow artist Aleksandr Gerasimov during his career produced a large number of heroic paintings of Stalin and other members of the Politburo showing shows a mastery of classical representational techniques.
However not the whole artistic life of the period was suppressed by the ideology - great number of landscapes, portraits, genre paintings and othe rthenmatic paintings that pursued purely technical purposes were exhibited at the time. Painters of Leningrad school such as portraitists Lev Russov, Victor Oreshnikov, Boris Korneev, Semion Rotnitsky, Vladimir Gorb, Engels Kozlov, landscape painters Nikolai Timkov, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Sergei Osipov, Alexander Semionov, Arseny Semionov, Nikolai Galakhov, genre painters Nikolai Pozdneev, Yuri Neprintsev, Yevsey Moiseenko, Andrey Milnikov were at their prime during after-war period and showed extraordinary taste for life and creative work.
Establishing all-Russian Union of Artists in 1960 influenced the art life in Moscow, Leningrad and province. Great achievements of Soviet science and technology boosted the renewal of the very conception of realism this style dominates in the Russian art throughout its history. Images of youths and students, rapidly changing villages and cities, virgin lands brought under cultivation, grandiose construction plans being realized in Siberia and the Volga region became the chief topics of the new painting.
The death of Stalin and Khrushchev's Thaw let the arttists experiment in their work and caused the appearance of Nonconformist Art as the opposition to Official Art. Most notable figures of Nonconformist Art were Vasili Serov, an official Soviet icon and Anatoly Zverev, an underground Russian avant-garde expressionist. Tolerance of Nonconformist Art by the authorities underwent an ebb and flow until the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Unfortunately, the history of late Soviet art has been dominated by politics and simplistic formulae. Both within the artworld and the general public, very little consideration has been given to the aesthetic character of the work produced in the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, the official and unofficial art of the period usually stood in for either "bad" or "good" political developments. A more nuanced picture would emphasize that there were numerous competing groups making art in Moscow and Leningrad throughout this period. The most important figures for the international art scene have been the Moscow artists Ilya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Andrei Monastyrsky, Vitaly Komar and Aleksandr Melamid.
By the 1980s, Gorbachev's policies of Perestroika and Glasnost made it virtually impossible for the authorities to place restrictions on artists or their freedom of expression. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new market economy enabled the development of a gallery system, which meant that artists no longer had to be employed by the state, and could create work according to their own tastes, as well as the tastes of their private patrons. Consequently, after around 1986 the phenomenon of Nonconformist Art in the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Russia has greatly contributed into the world "female art". Names of Russia artists, sculptors, designers, illustrators are world famous. They are Russian Avant-Garde artists Aleksandra Ekster and Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Lyubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova; a famous Russian painter Zinaida Serebriakova, a prominent Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina, Russian postcards illustrator Elisaveta Bem and others.
Most remarkable Russian goldsmiths' and silversmiths' was presented Peter Carl Faberge who produced the Imperial Easter Eggs and other pieces for the Russian court in the 19th century. Faberge eggs were made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with combinations of enamel and gem stones and are still considered as masterpieces of the jeweller's art and the target for collectors.
Of all the decorative arts of Russia, that of enamelling is perhaps the most characteristic, as well as one of the most ancient. The long Mongol domination of Russia had a strong influence on the art of enamelling, as it had on all other arts, though at this time Western influences were also making themselves felt, and the finest of Russian enamels belong to this period
Russian folk traditions are represented in toys, domestic and farm utensils, and door and window-frame decorations and carvings. Russian lacquer boxes are one of the most collectible types of Russian folk art. Made with paper mache and hand-painted, Russian lacquer boxes depict scenes from Russian fairy tales, religious scenes, landscapes, stories from Russian literature, architectural structures like palaces and monasteries, or scenes from Russian traditional life.
Most popularly associated with Russia are Russian Nesting Dolls (matryoshka dolls). Russian nesting dolls are typically painted to look like women in traditional Russian clothing. However, Russian nesting dolls can also depict Russian fairy tales, world leaders, cartoon characters, pop culture icons, sports heroes, or animals. Russian nesting dolls can be painted with particular themes like holidays or religion.
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