Friday, November 28, 2014

Pavel Chistyakov

Patriarch Hermogenes refuses to sign a letter to the Poles
oil on canvas
size unknown
Museum of Fine Arts Academy, St. Petersburg, Russia

Hermogenes was installed as Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus by the assembly of the holy hierarchs at Moscow's Dormition cathedral. When the tsar, Vasily IV was dethroned and the Poles took hold of the Moscow Kremlin, Patriarch Hermogenes staunchly opposed their plans to put Wladyslaw IV on the Russian throne, unless he converts to Orthodoxy. Despite knife threats from some of the boyars, he refused to sign any petitions to the Polish king, thus preventing Wladyslaw from coronation.

“The founder of Russian painting”, “universal teacher of Russian artists”, “our common and only teacher” - so said about him by his contemporaries. Today, unfortunately, the name of Pavel Chistyakov was known only to specialists.

Pavel Petrovich Chistyakov (1832-1919), an outstanding Russian artist and educator, was the founder of the artistic school of Russian realism. The most famous of Russia’s artists of the 19th century were all taught by Chistyakov. His system of teaching art developed in constant struggle with the stagnant system of academism and played an enormous role in the development of realism in Russian art of the second half of the 19th century. His goal was the preparation of a citizen-artist of high professional skill. His teaching method presupposed the blending of the artist’s direct perception of the subject with a scientific study of it. In his own work he strove for drama in his historical compositions and psychological depth in his historical and genre portraits.

He was born in the Tver province (north of Moscow) in a family of peasant serfs, but was granted freedom from the moment of his birth. At 17 years old, he enrolled in the Imperial Academy of the Arts in St Petersburg. As a bursary grantee of the Academy from 1862 to 1870, he travelled abroad and worked in Rome and Paris. In Rome, he took an interest in theoretical aspects of art. In studying the works of the great Renaissance masters, he also studied the subjects and methods they used to teach their students. In his notes on the theory of teaching art, he repeatedly cites Leonardo Da Vinci.

Returning to his lecturer’s duties at the Academy in St Petersburg in 1870, he began to successfully apply his newly developed teaching system. The primary objective is to give students a foundation in the realistic school of art, which is based on the laws of perspective, pictorial harmony and the development of students’ feel for colour. Great attention was paid to the study of nature and its colour palette, and also to the anatomical structure of humans and animals. To the end of his days, he was the most loved and respected teacher of the Academy.