Alexey Kondratievich Savrasov (1830-1897) Automatic translate
On May 12, 1830, the son of Alexei, who was destined to become one of the main founders of the Russian landscape school, was born into the family of a successful haberdashery goods merchant and second-guild merchant Kondraty Artemievich Sovrasov. The boy was baptized in the church of the great martyr Nikita on the Yauza River. Then the Sovrasovs lived most of the time in Zamoskvorechye - either on Yakimanka, then in the Goncharnaya settlement, then at the Kaluga outpost, or even on Pyatnitskaya street. The family often moved, depending on how things were going with Kondraty Artemyevich. From early childhood, Alexei had to help his father in everything. But trading matters did not drown out the natural passion, namely the craving for drawing.
Open gallery: Pictures of Alexey Savrasov
Without learning anywhere, by the age of twelve the boy had learned to draw quite well on his own, he painted unpretentious romantic scenes, fashionable at that time, with watercolors and gouache. Something like various options for the "eruption of Vesuvius" or "sea storms", which were then bought up for nothing by street looters, who later resold them. Sovrasov’s father was sure that his son’s interest in painting was worthless fun that would not bring him anything good. He, like any head of the family who started his business, dreamed that his son would continue his work. While the poor boy dreamed of only one thing - to draw.
Meanwhile, a significant event took place in Moscow - in 1843, the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture officially opened its doors. The new educational institution was led by General M.F. Orlov, who was once friendly with many Decembrists. Fortunately, in contrast to the pompous Petersburg Academy of Arts, where the Emperor himself oversaw the entrance tests of the contestants, and even the educational process of students, a board of trustees was formed in the Moscow school, formed from people of different classes. Thanks to this approach, both the offspring of aristocrats and the children of serfs could study at the Moscow School of Music.
Just a year later, Alexei Sovrasov, against his father’s will, entered a new school. Teachers immediately drew attention to a talented teenager, but he soon had to quit school, since his mother Praskovya Nikiforovna was seriously ill with consumption. Now, only the young man who spread his wings was forced to spend all his time in his father’s shop. However, Alexey did not give up painting, he stubbornly continued to paint at night, for which he was expelled by a stern father with all his household goods from the warm part of the house to the attic blown by all the winds. But there, in this cold room, his friends could come, thanks to which the work of a young talent came to Karl Rabus, a teacher at the Moscow School of Music.
Rabus, who was engaged in "portraying" - the so-called landscape painting then - gravitated to romanticism, but was also unusually interested in the realistic direction in art. And the work of young Alexei just combined romantic views and a very realistic style of writing. In order for a capable young man, who left school four years ago at the request of his father, to continue to attend the Moscow School of Fine Arts, Rabus invited Major General Luzhin, the former chief police officer of Moscow, to the house of the merchant Sovrasov, a smart man, who understands and loves art. Under the influence of an important Moscow official, Kondraty Artemyevich finally allowed his son to attend school. As a result, in 1848, Alexey Sovrasov again ended up in the landscape class of the Moscow School of Artists.
From the very beginning, Sovrasov was unusually lucky with the teacher. Not only that, thanks to Rabus, he returned to painting, so a highly educated teacher was able to give the young artist a lot of invaluable knowledge that was not provided for by the school program.
Carl Rabus taught his students the technique of drawing and painting, and also introduced them to the basics of aesthetics and color theory, drawing on the treatises of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Leonardo da Vinci himself. His pupils not only studied and copied the best examples of classical European fine art, but also devoted a lot of time to working with nature. Rabus constantly repeated to his students that the most important thing for a good landscape painter is to be able to “see” (feel) nature. Possessing an extraordinary gift of persuasion, the teacher tried to familiarize aspiring artists with an understanding of the high tasks of art in general, and painting in particular.
In less than a year, Alexei Sovrasov was already recognized by the Moscow Art Society as one of the best students of the Moscow School of Art. The young artist’s sketches with views of the Sparrow Hills were struck by the board of trustees of the school, and his copies of Aivazovsky’s paintings were so liked by philanthropist I.V. Likhachev that he paid Alexei for a creative trip to Ukraine.
Returning to Moscow, Sovrasov demonstrated his landscapes to his teachers, after which they started talking about him as the hope of Russian art. A distinctive feature of the style of Sovrasov, who perfectly mastered the realistic technique of writing, was a harmonious plastic beginning in the reconstruction of the poetic images of nature on canvas. All the “southern” works of the talented painter were distinguished by novelty, boldness of creative thought, professionalism and an unusual construction of the composition. The painting "Ukrainian Landscape" (1849, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) is a bit like the "Italian views" that became very popular during this period, but already in it one can feel the attention and love of Sovrasov to his native nature.
The artist not only captured a beautiful romantic sunset over peasant houses and hills covered with greenery, but also conveyed, although slightly idealized, the tangible warmth and tranquility of the Ukrainian evening with its pinkish-golden flashes of light.
The paintings “Stone in the Forest near the Spill” (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) and “View of the Kremlin in inclement weather” (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), painted one after the other in 1850 and 1851, respectively, so impressed the professors of the school that they decided to give Sovrasov, a student at the Moscow School of Music less than two years old, the title of “non-class artist”. A modest and shy young man managed to convince academics of fine art of the maturity of his own skill and the possibility of completing his studies at the age of only twenty years.
The canvas "A stone in the forest near the Spill" is a somewhat unusual landscape, giving the impression of an illustration for some Russian folk tale. The work is divided into two parts. The lower part shows us an ominous fracture of soil protruding forward. In it we see interwoven rhizomes of trees and a massive cracked stone sagging deep into the earth. In the upper part of the canvas, against the background of the bright blue sky and the trees bending their branches, the figures of two teenagers are seen on a huge boulder, peering down with fear and delight. The work conveys a genuine youthful interest in the secrets of nature and a thirst for knowledge of the world.
The second work, “View of the Kremlin in inclement weather,” is filled with a completely different atmosphere. The sky, torn by torn clouds, a dark cloud approaching to the right and a tree bending under the gusts of strong wind, standing in the center of the canvas - all together not only anticipates the thunderstorm, but also expresses almost mystical, enthusiastic feelings that a person experiences when he looks at the raging elements.
The effects of contrast lighting, specially created by the author in the landscape, only emphasize the firmness of the firmament of the Moscow Kremlin, which, despite the drama of what is happening around, confidently and serene whitens in the distance.
These two works were not in vain that made such a strong impression on the Moscow public. They fully manifested the amazing ability inherent in the painter to understand the poetic and romantic images of nature, seen simply and unsophisticated, but conveyed realistically, truthfully and very emotionally. Trying to master the technique of landscape as best as possible, which at that time remained “on the sidelines” of great art, Alexei Sovrasov was very fond of sketching the most diverse hidden corners and surroundings of his native city.
After graduating from the Moscow school, Sovrasov, at the invitation of the philanthropist I.D. Luzhin, who became his patron, poisoned for the summer at his estate, located in Kuzminki, near Moscow, near the Vlahernskaya station. There, the artist creates several sketches that are distinguished by the beauty and accuracy of the transmission of nature lighting in the evening.
A year later, the artist again went to Ukraine, where, impressed by the splendor of the southern steppes, he creates several landscapes.
An example of the results of this trip is the work “View of Kiev from the Dnieper to the Pechersk Lavra” (1852, private collection, St. Petersburg). Despite the still preserved influence of “Italian motifs” and the apparent similarity of the composition with the painting “View of the Kremlin in inclement weather”, the work is distinguished by a surprisingly peaceful state. Sovrasov masterfully conveyed the atmosphere of a relaxed pre-sunset vacation, emphasizing it with a bluish veil of light fog descending on the Ukrainian steppe, cooling off from the summer heat, and the city in the distance. The canvas, like all the artist’s works of this period, is distinguished by a smooth pattern, tenderness of the color system and transparent chiaroscuro. Critics enthusiastically noted the freshness of the master’s pictorial techniques, in which, in addition to romanticism, there was an objective look not only at nature, but also at the life of peasants, whose figures began, at first, occasionally to appear in his paintings.
Another unexpected turn in the fate of a talented landscape painter occurred in 1854, when the best of his works were exhibited at the exhibition of graduates and senior students of the Moscow School of Artists. Among the honored guests invited to the grand opening was the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, who at that time held the post of president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. She carefully watched all the phenomena in Russian art. Maria Nikolaevna was very interested in the cycle of works of the young painter, in which he depicted the Ukrainian landscape in different lighting.
The painting included the painting “Steppe in the afternoon” (1852, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg), in which Sovrasov perfectly conveyed the sensation of steppe heat. The grass scorched by the sun and starting to dry out a stream, as if enrich the viewer with heat. A lone bird hovers in a cloudless sky, and below, on the earth, two partridges are trying to find rest from the midday heat in the decayed steppe grass.
The unusual sound gives the work an amazing glow that comes from this plain, seemingly dull landscape. It is thanks to him that a picture filled with love of expanse and a sense of poetic delight is not similar to the Italian views that are already bored with the public, nor to other works of Russian artists overflowing with romanticism.
The second work of the series, especially noted by the Grand Duchess, was the painting “The Steppe with Chumaks in the Evening” (1854, State Museum Association “The Artistic Culture of the Russian North”, Arkhangelsk). The piercing, yellow-red haze of sunset conquered the heart of the princess, and Maria Nikolaevna immediately bought a job.
Such attention was a surprise, both for teachers and students of the Moscow School of Music. At that time, members of the imperial family acquired the work of only exceptionally talented graduates and prominent masters from the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Therefore, a similar success of the well-known Sovrasov, who has a diploma of a drawing teacher at the Moscow School of Art, greatly surprised Moscow society.
But that was not all. The princess wished to personally meet the painter and even invited him to her own metropolitan residence Sergeevka, located between Peterhof and Oranienbaum. The official reason for the visit was the opportunity for the young artist to calmly write "views from nature." This was a real victory for Sovrasov, but she has a bull of her own price - he very quickly lost many friends who envied his success. But it was a small fee for the opportunity to loudly declare oneself in the Russian art environment, and at the same time, capture the cold north-western nature.
Academy of Arts
The young artist began his acquaintance with the capital with a tour of all the major museums, as well as private collections of paintings. Sovrasov visited the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, attended lectures by the best professors and met many masters.
After that, the artist set to work and cycles of pencil drawings from nature began to come out from under his hand, by which one can judge his highest professional skill in arranging the composition and amazing plasticity in the transfer of forms. The painting “View in the vicinity of Oranienbaum” (1854, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), written by the artist at the dacha of Princess Maria Nikolaevna, demonstrates the author’s ability to very accurately share plans. In the central part of the canvas, we see a glade filled with bright sun, which is surrounded on one side by autumn trees and boulders covered with moss, and on the other hand we have a view of the sea. A lone oak tree stands against a clear sky, spreading its branches, the foliage of which is pierced by the sun. Cold daylight falls on the mossy boulders near the mirror surface of the puddle and brown grass. In the depths of the meadow, the light figure of a seated woman is barely noticeable. Sovrasov very picturesque conveys the vastness of space and the charm of being in its harsh manifestations. Collector and philanthropist Pavel Tretyakov acquired this painting in 1858 for his collection, which he then gifted to his homeland.
During this period, Sovrasov worked very hard. All works created near St. Petersburg, he submitted to the Academy of Arts in October 1854 for the title of academician. The talent and skill of the artist immediately attracted the attention of the art community of the capital. The painter began to receive expensive orders for copies of paintings by Aivazovsky, as well as Western masters of the romantic era, which he performed in a solemn and magnificent, beloved local aristocracy emphasized decorative manner. Perhaps Sovrasov could become a court artist, but for some reason, having received the title of academician, he hastened to return to Moscow.
Long awaited recognition
Returning to his hometown, the artist begins to participate in many exhibitions, his paintings are warmly received by spectators and critics. Although the large customers of the artist did not appear here.
The painting “Summer Landscape with Oaks” (1855, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) is an example of a painter’s successful combination of previously found motifs surrounded by trees and a clear “scalloped” scorched steppe. The canvas is written in a romantic spirit and expresses sincere admiration for nature.
When creating the work, Savrasov used full-scale sketches, which contributed to the masterful transfer of the impression of the opening space, a cold cloudy sky, tending to the horizon and reflected on the surface of the puddle in the foreground.
One of the reasons for the artist’s return to Moscow, perhaps, was the desire to create a family. Shortly after his arrival, the artist made an offer of marriage to the older sister of his former fellow student and good friend Konstantin Hertz.
Sofya Hertz, the chosen one of the twenty-eight-year-old academician of painting Adelaide, was the daughter of the Russified Swede Karl Karlovich Hertz, one of the most educated people in the city, the founder of the Department of Art History at Moscow University, a professor and archaeologist.
Being four years older than her fiancé, this imperious and intelligent woman from her youth aspired to independence and by that time she was actively earning her living in frequent lessons. She accepted the offer of the artist.
After the death of Karl Rabus, who taught Sovrasov the basics of painting, the Board of Trustees of the Moscow Art School invited the newly married painter to the post of head of the landscape class at the school, which he graduated only seven years ago.
The young family immediately got an apartment at the school, and the new teacher enthusiastically set about fulfilling his duties. The first thing that Sovrasov did at the new workplace was that he demanded his own workshop for the landscape class, in which his students could paint paintings based on sketches they had previously made from life. Working on his own works in the presence of students, he enabled them to better grasp the essence of his method. Somewhere around this time, the painter changes his name a little. He begins to sign his Savrasov works, replacing the first vowel “o” with the more familiar Moscow rumor “a”.
Age of Change
The "era of reforms" that began in the country immediately after the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War and the death of Emperor Nicholas I, opened a new stage in the artist’s work. In painting, as in literature, a desire appeared to honestly reflect Russian reality and the difficult fate of the impoverished peasantry.Many educated and intelligent people have experienced the need for social "repentance" for the unfair exploitation of man by man. The everyday realistic genre has become especially relevant in the visual arts. He was called upon to criticize the modern foundations of Russia, and first of all - total ignorance and serfdom shameful for a civilized person.
Critical realism received an unusually sharp development and completeness of utterance in the work of Vasily Perov, who had brilliantly completed his studies at the Moscow School of Music, by that time, who wrote complex multi-figure compositions. The attitude towards the image and the perception of nature, which is becoming more everyday, have changed. Initially, the characteristically changed landscape served solely as a backdrop for paintings on rural subjects. Only after almost ten years, nature got its own meaning and sound, in its inextricable connection with the fate of the Russian people.
These processes could not affect the creativity and social activities of Savrasov. The painter still continued to paint sublimely - poetic paintings, depicting nature in a romantic spirit, but now on his canvases rural views were increasingly found. For example, the work “Summer Landscape with Mills” (1859, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), done in soft colors, very realistically conveys the warmth of a summer evening at the edge of the forest, in front of which a number of mills are lined up. Bronze hues, in which the golden-pink sunset painted the grass and trees, give the landscape a peaceful sound.
And in order to slightly muffle the height of the picture, the artist depicted over a lazily flowing river, covered with reeds and water lilies, a dilapidated wooden bridge. A lone female figure in peasant clothing heads from the riverbank to the Mills. And before it lies an endless steppe against a sunset. In this southern rural landscape there is still a strong sound of idyllic notes with which it was so difficult to part with a romantic artist.
The era of change continued, and already in the early 1860s, the recreated Moscow Society of Art Lovers (MOLH) began to play a very prominent role in the cultural life of Moscow. The honorary post of secretary of the society was taken by the most famous art critic Karl Herz, who, disregarding the desire of his daughter and her husband to live completely independently, not accepting help from his parents, nevertheless attracted his son-in-law to the activities of the organization headed by him.
At that time, Savrasov, already being a renowned painter and academician of arts, had never had the opportunity to go abroad. And so, in 1862, the Moscow Society of Art Lovers sent the painter to the opening of the World Exhibition of Achievements in London.
Having visited England, France, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, Aleksey Savrasov became well acquainted with contemporary Western European art. Returning to his homeland, the master drew up a detailed report for the MOLC, which described in detail the current state of the landscape genre in European countries, complaining about the scarcity of Russian painting presented abroad. He also brought from a business trip several of his own works with views of European landscapes, which made an indelible impression on him.
The series “View in the Swiss Alps (Maly Ruchen Mountain)” (1862, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) was included in the cycle of these works. In this work, Savrasov was able to convincingly show the space and depth of the gorge, the enormous height of the snowy peak and even the clear mountain air.
The second remarkable work was the painting “Swiss Villas” (1862, private collection, Moscow), painted in bluish tones, with tall fir trees and snow-capped mountain peaks. And, perhaps, the most remarkable work in the cycle is “Lake in the Torahs of Switzerland” (1866, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). Here, the artist was unusually plausible to convey the cold and humid atmosphere of an alpine lake.
All European landscapes indicate a detailed study by the artist of similar subjects in Western painting. At the same time, Savrasov managed to avoid the stereotyped pathos in the transfer of majestic mountain landscapes, demonstrating a calm and reliable style of writing. The painter remains true to once found techniques. Huge stones and boulders, puddles and streams located in the foreground of the painting still serve as the “entrance” to his canvases.
Search for new ways
After returning from abroad, Alexei Savrasov begins to write his own pedagogical work. In it, he tried to convey the importance of a subtle sense of native nature, a poetic attitude to the land, inextricably linked with the fate of the Russian people. The artist created the textbook for students of the MUZHVIZ together with his colleague, Vasily Pukirev. In it, they laid out in detail the technique of depicting peasant villages and huts, necessary for painters who want to create paintings of primordially Russian nature.
In 1869, the textbook was published, just when the need for "nationality" in Russian painting was especially acute. Nevertheless, Savrasov himself for quite some time was looking for his own method of expressing folk sentiments through natural motives. Only by the end of the 1860s did his works clearly stand out against the background of earlier work. For example, in the painting “Rural View” (1867, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), native nature with flowering garden trees and spring foliage of birches is depicted filled with lyricism and hidden sadness.
In the foreground of the canvas are numerous beehives near a flowering orchard and a hut fenced with a picket fence. A significant part of the work is occupied by a long-range plan with wide meadows, a river running away into the distance, and many peasant houses covered with straw. Among this bright idyll, the sad, hunched figure of the beekeeper stands out sharply - an old man sitting by a smoking fire.
But this period of light and transparent shades in Savrasov’s painting quickly ended, due to the fact that Russian reality did not imply cheerful happiness in the dull and miserable life of ordinary people, filled with exhausting work. The painting “Elk Island in Sokolniki” (1869, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) already gives us a gloomy and cold mood. A cloudy sky and deep muddy puddles on a field where a herd of cows grazes cannot even refresh the pine forest in the background. This extremely realistic work with a detailed study of every branch of shrubs, a blade of grass and even bumps in the foreground marked the birth of a landscape painter in Russian painting, able to reliably and skillfully, through the image of the true beauty of nature in central Russia,show all the bitterness and hopelessness of life for most of the population of our country.
The artist’s paintings were filled with disturbing bloody sunsets over the roofs of village huts, such as in the work “Evening” (late 1860s - early 1870s, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), and prevailing cold shades that convey hopelessness and a dull sense of loneliness as, for example, the work "Autumn landscape with a swampy river under the moon" (1871, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). And despite the fact that the time for the artist was the most successful.
The splendor of the Volga landscapes
In the late 60s, Savrasov, who maintained numerous friendly ties with St. Petersburg artists, founded the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions (TPHV). The founders of which were: N. Ge - professor of the Imperial Academy of Arts, academician I. Kramsky, professor K. Makovsky, class artist G. Myasoedov, and a number of other painters. The purpose of the organization was the desire to maximize bring the art of painting to the common people. Very soon, V. Perov took the honorary place of a member of the board of the company, next to Savrasov.
In the summer of 1870, during the holidays in his native school, the artist went with his family to the Volga. The views of the great Russian river amazed him so much that, returning to Moscow in the fall, Savrasov immediately took a vacation until next spring and left for Yaroslavl, where he rented a large apartment, possibly due to a large order from Pavel Tretyakov. There, the artist begins to work actively, feeling a huge upsurge in himself. But then personal misfortune overtakes him.
And so, extremely rare in his family life, calm and harmony were again destroyed by the death of the third child and the serious illness of his wife, Sofia Karlovna. Because of these events, the painter for a long time could not deliver to Tretyakov the work he had ordered, being tied to his wife’s bed. A distressed artist found an outlet only in the gradually awakening spring nature of the beautiful Volga region.
Crowded with personal experiences and inspiration, Savrasov writes a series of amazingly beautiful sketches, which later became the basis for his most significant painting. The work “Rooks Have Arrived” (1871, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) depicts a modest landscape, familiar to the smallest detail to any resident of central Russia, and at the same time, filled with high poetry and lyricism.
The soul and pain of a Russian person is clearly felt under the cloudy and dank sky of the very outskirts of a remote provincial town. In the foreground a group of twisted birches is depicted, in the branches of which rooks have arrived to equip their massive nests. Behind them, among the gray log huts, stands the tent-shaped bell tower of a rural church. The background of the picture are vast fields covered with thawed snow. Soft oblique rays of the still cold spring sun show through transparent and humid air. Light shadows of birches lie on a slightly darkened, but still pure white snow. Only by the barely noticeable pinkish-golden reflection of the sun on a hill at the fence, we can guess that the landscape is captured during sunset.
The soft, subtly designed laconic color of the canvas, in which cold and warm tones alternate almost imperceptibly within the same color, unusually reliably conveys the state of nature, which has just begun to wake up from a long winter sleep, thanks to the light blowing of the warm wind. The work not only demonstrates the high skill of the artist in the poetic expression of the ordinary landscape, but also expresses an amazing state of unity of the Russian people and the nature of the country.
The master did not immediately present his work to the public. He still worked on it for some time after arriving in Moscow, and only at the end of 1871 he exhibited at the first exhibition TPHV. At first, the work aroused some bewilderment of the audience, but the artist’s colleagues immediately saw in him something peculiar and new, which became a revelation for them. It is not surprising that Pavel Tretyakov, who was perfectly versed in art, immediately bought a job, ahead of the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, who was very upset when she learned that she already got a copy of the canvas.
Since that time, Savrasov constantly combined teaching in Moscow with regular trips to the Volga. This continued until 1875. On the banks of the great Russian river, he created sketches and sketches of his future creations, which were completed in his landscape workshop in MUZHVIZ. After the success of Rooks, the artist had a hard time, fortunately, at the end of 1871, a talented painter, a brilliant teacher and the only loyal friend of Savrasov, V. Perov, were invited to direct the full-time class at the school. It was he who supported the master, when he was seriously worried about the belief that was widespread in art circles that he had not created anything worthwhile other than his famous painting.
It was insulting and unfair, because a number of excellent works came out from under the brush of the great landscape painter. In them, he not only concluded a romantic perception of the nature of his native land, but also reliably conveyed a deep understanding of real life.
An example is the cold and beautiful “Winter Landscape” (1871, Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum), combining the incredible - fabulousness and comfort, with a bitter truth and a sense of responsibility for what is happening. Another picture of this period - “Pechersky Monastery near Nizhny Novgorod” (1871, Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum) perfectly conveys the prospect of a provincial town located at the foot of a hill, from where a magnificent view opens. This work anticipated all the famous Volga landscapes of I. Levitan, who soon began his studies with Alexei Savrasov in 1873.
The work “Fishermen on the Volga” (1872, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) stands out in the artist’s work. In a rare multi-figure composition for the master with unusually realistic characters, the influence of V. Perov is traced. Here, the landscape painter Savrasov was very successful in the portrait characterization of his characters - an old man, wise by experience and whitened with gray hair, and his young partner, whom he is teaching.
It was Savrasov - the teacher who owes the merit of training and inspiration to his students, among whom were, in addition to Levitan, the brothers Korovin, M. Nesterov, S. Svetoslavsky and others. The artist not only managed to instill in students inner freedom and love for the image of their native expanses, but also inspired them in moments of disappointment. He taught the younger generation to fill their works with a sense of unity with nature. The painter attached the greatest importance not to the manner of writing, which can and should be studied, but to the ability to see true beauty in everyday life. It was this talent, given to man from God, that, according to Savrasov, determined the talent of the artist.
So, for example, in the painting “Sukharev Tower” (1872, the State Historical Museum, Moscow), the leading role was given not to the currently destroyed monument of metropolitan history and architecture, but to the lyrical cold state of urban nature with its frosty trees and snow-covered wooden houses. And in this frosty atmosphere, the author managed to convey the proud uplift so characteristic of Moscow - it is symbolized by a towering spire of a red-white tower, which stands out against the pink-purple evening sky.
Despite the large number of amazing winter landscapes, more than anything, the artist loved spring, with its soft sun, melted snow and tender, just swollen buds on shrubs and trees.
The painting “Spring Day” (1873, the State Vladimir-Suzdal Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve) shows us a dirty road, washed out by meltwater and a rickety fence, on which curious hens are sitting. Roofs of peasant houses and tree branches have already been exposed from under the snow. The touching attention to the life of nature, coupled with the amazing ability to convey the ingenuous-naive everyday life of the people, complemented by the slightest shades of spring mood, perfectly characterize the painter himself as a person of fine spiritual organization, completely immersed exclusively in his work and vision of the world.
Perhaps it was this focus on creative life that influenced the artist’s problems in his personal life. According to the testimony of Vera’s daughter, the Savrasov family always lived in poverty, despite the situation of Alexei Kondratievich, who was not only a famous painter, but also an academician. The artist never asked for anything from either the academic or school management or from the philanthropists, and he never restrained himself on the profitable part-time work of a painting tutor in noble houses, because of his direct nature. Domineering Sofya Karlovna tried to influence her spouse so that he would choose only those plots that the audience would definitely like and attract everyone’s attention.
Under the influence of his wife in 1873, Savrasov wrote a series of elevated and light paintings, such as “View of the Moscow Kremlin. Spring ”(State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) or“ Towards the end of summer on the Volga ”(State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). The works were designed to convey a sense of joy from work.
Nevertheless, the painting “The Countryside” (1873, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), which reflected the painter’s difficult state of mind, turned out to be more indicative. Along the rain-filled impassable dirt path there are green trees, the branches of which are puffing upwards, reminiscent of the roots in a strange way, making the trees themselves seem upside down. The gloomy summer landscape clearly conveyed the feelings of loneliness and painful longing that captured Savrasov. Perhaps, during this period, the artist suffered a psychological breakdown in his soul, which later destroyed his life.
Road to nowhere
According to surviving records of Levitan, a former favorite of the landscape painter, in his own family Savrasov felt like a stranger. Relatives constantly accused the artist of not wanting to seek profitable orders and privileges. He spoke with few people, was constantly depressed, and began to drink a lot. Even despite the fact that the painter worked tirelessly, creating a huge number of magnificent landscapes and sketches, his works were criticized even by those critics and art historians who sensitively followed all trends in Russian art, continuing the habit of welcoming only “nationality” in the plots.
A talented painter suffered from misunderstanding, he tried very hard to make his work understandable to the public. Masterfully painted paintings "On the Volga" (1875, State Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan), "A house in the province. Spring ”(1878, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) and“ Rainbow ”(1875, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) seem to glow with genuine joy and comfort of a simple rural life, filling the soul with an exalted sense of unity of the Russian peasant with his native land. But even in the rare moments of recognition and relative prosperity, Alexei Savrasov was well aware of the fragility of his position. Being an excellent teacher, he flatly refused to educate his eldest daughter Vera, who inherited his extraordinary ability to painting. Alexey Kondratievich was surethat any artist is doomed to a hungry and miserable existence, even with talent. These thoughts led to a serious abuse of alcohol, and since 1876, the painter began to catastrophically lose his sight.
Sofya Karlovna, tired of her half-starving existence, depressions and drunkenness of her husband, took the children and went to Petersburg to visit her sister. From that moment, the artist’s life rolled downhill.
He headed the MUZHVIZ Perov, sincerely worried about Savrasov, as much as he could cover his absence from service. He even perfectly reflected the inner tragedy of the landscape painter’s life in “Portrait of the Artist A.K. Savrasov” (1878, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). The canvas is painted in warm black and brown with deep shades. Savrasov is shown sitting half-turned, half of his face is in shadow, which is why his face looks especially stern. The work perfectly conveys both physical strength and heavy mental schism, vulnerability and insecurity of the artist.
Despite the dramatic nature of his existence, the brilliant landscape painter continued to work. In the 1870s, he creates a surprisingly beautiful, like a magical “Winter landscape. Hoarfrost ”(Voronezh Regional Art Museum named after I.N. Kramskoy). Barely visible blue shadows stretched across the blindingly white snow. The shimmering blue-blue range of ice sparkling under the sun’s rays and a shining frosty forest conveys a magical charm in which reality is combined with a fairy tale. Before Savrasov, no one so simply and at the same time romantically wrote Russian nature in winter.
Loneliness and poverty
Many artists of those years were additionally involved in the creation of scenery for theaters; Savrasov was also among them. This was one of his hobbies, he was pleased to create realistic and imaginative backdrops. For example, it is known that the artist worked on the design of the production of M. Glinka’s opera Life for the Tsar.
The sketches of the painter for the scenery for the scene at the Ipatiev Monastery have been preserved. The work “Ipatiev Monastery on a Winter Night” (1876, the State Central Theater Museum named after L. A. Bakhrushin, Moscow) perfectly conveys the prevailing atmosphere of disaster approaching the homeland with the help of expertly written snow swirls of a blown snowstorm. The monastery, bristling with spiers, is a force and power opposed to approaching enemies. There is also the painting "Cathedral Square in the Moscow Kremlin at night" (1878, private collection, Moscow), which was also created based on the scenery of the same opera. Unfortunately, evidence of whether this performance took place with Savrasov’s decorations on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater has not been preserved.
Soon, a misfortune fell upon an already unhappy artist - the last thread that connected him with his wife and daughters was torn - in 1879 his wife’s brother, painter Konstantin Karlovich Herz, died. This event caused an even greater increase in Alexei Savrasov’s binges. His students were left without a beloved teacher for weeks, and his loyal friend Perov could no longer cover up the master, as he himself became seriously ill.
Misfortunes fell on the artist, as if from a cornucopia. The ninth exhibition of the Wanderers, the movement of which at one time was organized by Savrasov himself, brought new disappointments. All the works of the master were sharply criticized, inflicting a deep wound on the soul of the painter. Since that time, the artist decided to no longer participate in the activities of the Partnership. But this "black line" in the life of the artist did not end; in 1882, a friend of the painter Vasily Perov died of consumption. There was no one else to cover the binges and absenteeism of the head of the landscape workshop in front of the board of trustees of the school.
Savrasov was fired from the MUZHVIZ. He was even deprived of the state-owned apartment provided to him as a teacher of an educational institution. The artist had no other housing, and at fifty-two, the talented and illustrious academician of painting was literally thrown out into the street. Untidy and sick Savrasov periodically moved from the shelters to furnished rooms and vice versa. He interrupted the sale of paintings painted almost blindly with a trembling hand. Now he received even less for them than by selling his "erupting volcanoes" to hawkers in childhood.
True, sometimes, the patron Pavel Tretyakov, who helped him financially, or former college colleagues, recalled the artist. On such days, Savrasov wrote, despite blindness, continuing to amaze with the highest level of skill and the limitlessness of his talent.
An example of his later paintings is the painting "Spring" (1883, Saratov State Art Museum named after A. N. Radishchev). Under the golden-pink sunset, the still not melting sparkling ice of the pond and snowdrifts that have settled on an endless field are depicted, which clearly convey the poetic impression of the cold beauty of early spring.
Many artists who met Savrasov at the end of his life in the area of the beggarly “bottom” of Moscow - Khitrov Market, or in cheap taverns, saw only his degradation and decay of his personality. Only Levitan, who remained faithful to his beloved teacher to the end, still maintained relations with him, showed works and received good advice from the master. But even then, exhausted from struggling with fate, the sick and deserted artist valued only one thing in his life - painting. He wandered through the dark corners of Moscow in tattered and dirty clothes, but a bright red bow hung on his neck. The artist always carried his brushes and paints with him, despite the fact that all the property of the distinguished academician had long passed into the shops of old-timers and hucksters. Sometimes the master had to sleep right on the street,but if all of a sudden he had a roof over his head and a piece of canvas in his hands for at least a short time, he immediately took up his brush and began to create.
An unexpected meeting took place in the last years of the painter. Evdokia Mikhailovna Morgunova sheltered the master, bore him two children and weaned a little from alcohol. Savrasov continued to work and reached unprecedented heights in the schedule. In 1894, he even published an album of his own drawings, for which the Academy of Arts allocated assistance to the master in the amount of one hundred rubles.
In the same period, the work “Spring. On the big river ”(1880s - 1890s, private collection, Moscow). Gloomy cold atmosphere does not even give a hint of the first greens. Everything around is covered with snow and last year’s weedy grass, a huge block of ice lies on the banks of the river. There is only a desperate hope for the future spring warmth, which should transform this dull region with its flooded impoverished huts. Only a symbol of the artist’s faith - a dome with a cross, visible in the background of the picture, gives timid hope for a good end.
The canvas "Rasputitsa" (1894, the Volgograd Museum of Fine Arts) also perfectly characterizes the state of mind of the painter in recent years. Beautiful at first glance, the winter landscape leaves an impression of loneliness and emptiness, and the black toboggan track on the tract conveys the hopeless motive of the inevitable end.
Alexei Kondratievich Savrasov, who stood at the very beginnings of the national landscape, died on September 26, 1897 in the department for the poor of Moscow City Hospital No. 2. A week later, Levitan published an article in the newspaper "Russian Vedomosti" dedicated to the memory of the master. In it, he called his beloved teacher the first "lyricist" of Russian painting. It was Savrasov who managed to capture on canvas the poetry and beauty of Russian nature, permeated by an unearthly light, conveying through it the image of his people and his beloved Motherland.