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 Historical overview of modern painting of the Slavic countries
(From the end of the XIX century till 60-s of the XX century)



Historical overview of modern painting of Russia and the USSR

The end of the 19th century was the beginning of the era of modernism, characterized by the desire to innovate. Previous traditions in art were denied and new forms of creative expression of artists were developing. The "Golden Age" of the first half of the 19th century was replaced with the "Silver Age of Russian Art" of the end of 19th century - early 20th century. 20th century became the richest in the ambiguous and contradictory artistic phenomes – a lot of new trends and tendencies in painting began to showcase. This was the time of rapid technological advances, socio-economic and political upheavals, revolutions and change of political system. All this reflected in all aspects of art, and painting in particular, which determined its path of development.


In the mid 19th century, the dominant trend was critical realism with social orientation and psychologism, which are determined by the representatives of the leading artistic association "The Wanderers". However, by the end of the 19th century the ideas of "Wanderers" were becoming obsolete. It was necessary to find new ideas and images that reflect the present and many different new art associations were appearing. The reaction of the leading artists for the tense of the social climate has resulted in the approval of the esthetical side of art, where the main aim was to search for beauty and harmony, an expression of feelings. V. Serov "Abduction of Europe"

Artists sought to "art for art's sake", contrasting their creativity instability of reality. In this century, was one of the most significant artistic unions of the time "World of Art", making creative indiviuduality a priority of the artist with absence of social and ideological orientation.

Members of the "World of Art" were the most outstanding artists of the time – V. Serov, M. Vrubel, A. Vasnetsov, A. Benoit, L. Bakst, K. Somov, E. Lancer, K. Korovin, M. Nesterov, I. Bilibin. The union, "World of Art", presented new stages in the development of painting - Symbolism and Modern (also known as Art Nouveau)L. Bakst "Dinner" which were characterized by scenes filled with symbols and decorative elements. Artists at this time often combined work on paintings, drawings, sculptures, design of ballet and opera. Artists of apolitical "World of Art" were indifferent to social upheaval, they worked at idealistic landscapes, historical paintings and portraits.

"World of Art" was organized by Alexander Benois - painter, illustrator, graphic artist, theatre director, an art critic, who joined the most extraordinary and different artists.

M. Vrubel "Demon sitting"V. Serov was distinguished by simplicity, vitality and bright colour works. He was a multilateral painter, he passed his creative way from the neo-realist and impressionist deep psychological portraits, and poetic landscapes to Art Nouveau historical and mythological paintings.


M. Vrubel had an extraordinary expressive "demonic" manner. He created numerous paintings on the theme of Russian epics and tales.


L.Bakst was the famous theatre artist who created decorations for the most brilliant productions of the time.

I. Bilibin was an outstanding book designer who made the famous illustrations for Russian folk tales.


M. Nesterov "The vision of Bartholomew"

M. Nesterov was a mystical wizard of religious symbolism, exquisite lyrical I. Bilibin. Illustration for the Russian fairy talelandscapes and images of Russian saints.


In the early 20th century other notable artists joined to the "World of Art" such as K. Somov, K. Bogaevsky, B. Kustodiev, N. Roerich, G. Lukomsky, D. Mitrokhin, G. Narbut, K. Petrov-Vodkin, Z. Serebryakova, D. Stelletsky, I. Fomin, A. Shchusev, A. Yakovlev, M. Larionov, N. Goncharova.


Although this second wave had lost the main features of the first wave, all of these artists were significant figures in the Russian painting.

K. Somov was a landscape painter, portraitist and a master of scene poetic paintings. He became one of the leading artists of the second K. Somov "Sleeping young woman"generation of "World of Art".

B. Kustodiev "Russian Venus"

B. Kustodiev was a famous Russian artist who made stylization of Russian fairs and feasts. He glorified the Russian healthy beauty and curvy women (thanks to the women in his paintings, it was appeared the epithet "kustodiev woman", meaning corpulence, strong rustic beauty).


One of the most prominent representatives of Symbolism and Art Nouveau was N. Roerich - a connoisseur of ancient Slavic and Eastern philosophy, a scientist, an archaeologist, a master of Philosophy symbolism and the creator of the epic canvases.


Z. Serebryakova was one of the first recognized women artists and her work is deeply poetic. The N. Roerich "Idols"figures in the paintings are sculptural.

M.Larionov and Goncharova were interested in the extreme simplification of forms.


Because of the exhibitions of "World of Art", which took place in Paris, Berlin and Venice, it was widely recognized in the world about Russian painting. At the beginning of the XX century, philanthropist and impresario, Diaghilev S., who had a great influence on the development of the "World of Art", arranged his famous "Russian Seasons" (tours of Russian ballet and opera abroad), and Russian art generally became known throughout the world. A significant role of the "World of Art" also was to promote K.Korovin "Gurzuf"Western European art in Russia.


In 1903, part of participants of the Union "World of Art", wanted to go ahead in their creativity together. Also mainly Moscow painters who continued the tradition of national landscape painting, portraiture, still life and peasant genre of «The Wonderers», united to influential exhibition association "The Union of Russian Artists", which dominated striving was realism. "The Union" joined K. Yuon, K.Korovin, I. Grabar, A. Arkhipov, S. Vinogradov, S. Zhukovsky, F. Malyavin and others.


In this time it was the best of Russian impressionism, prominent members of which were K.Korovin, I. Grabar, V. Serov.

I. Grabar was a versatile person - a painter, a restorer, a master of impressionist still life and landscapes.

F. Malyavin "Whirlwind"K. Korovin was a stunning colourist, author of artistic landscapes and portraits.

 F. Malyavin was a creator of unique and colourful expressive and realistic decorative paintings with images of Russian women.

At the beginning of the XX century still life genre which was previouslyA. Yakovlev "Violinist" considered studying art, became a full-fledged genre among the landscape, portrait and scene. Outstanding masters of still life of that time were I.Khrutsky, I. Grabar.

In 1910s the neoclassicism occupied one of leading positions, where the most noticeable were Z. Serebryakova, A. Yakovlev, K. Petrov-Vodkin, V. Serov, P. Filonov, A. Benoit, V. Shukhaiev.

K.Petrov-Vodkin continued the traditions of the K. Petrov-Vodkin "Sleep"ancient Russian painting, and became famous as a Soviet artist.

A. Yakovlev was a famous portrait artist, who painted in the style of the old masters of the Renaissance.

A special place in the 1910s occupied the artists who sought to create a completely new and radical painting. It was the beginning of the Russian avant-garde which rejected all previous art traditions, and it was characterized by innovation, using new techniques, absence of continuity of artistic heritage.

The goal of avant-garde was to make an aesthetic revolution.

Avant-garde did not count on a passive spectator; this movement meant active work of imagination, creation the associations by V. Kandinsky "Yellow, red, blue"forms and colours.

Avant-garde combined multiple movements - abstract art, cubism,M. Larionov "Venera and Mikhail" primitivism, suprematism, futurism, rayonism.

Russian avant-garde had an enormous influence on the development of European and American art of the XX century, mixing a truly Russian and Western European traditions.

The founder of abstract art was Wassily Kandinsky considered as the main thing in the art "expression of only necessity inners without externally random."

K.Malevich, who started from Impressionist paintings, became the founder of Suprematism - painting of simple geometric shapes, justifying it by the fact that "art should get rid of any content, expressed in terms of the subject, and to operate the pure form, as it is self-sufficient and valuable in itself." He was one of the few Russian artists who worked in the style of Cubism and Futurism. It is notable that Russian Futurism is different from the worlds by incredible affinity with Cubism.

Along with Malevich one of the greatest Russian painters of innovative art was V.Tatlin - the founder of artistic constructivism V. Tatlin "A model"glorifying simplicity and corporeality. He considered the purpose of art was in the service for production. Another famous founder of constructivism was A. Rodchenko.

Autobiographical works of M. Chagall had a great influence on the international avant-garde. He was a creator of phantasmagoric colorful works.

Other important avant-garde artists were M. Larionov, N. Goncharova, having risen from primitivism, they created Rayonism, affirming that everything consisted of rays and places of their intersection.

P. Filonov "A man and a woman"Outstanding representative of Russian avant-garde was P. Filonov - founder of absolutely unique genre of analytical art (creation paintings "from the particular to the general"), he connected primitivism, realism and abstraction, where every detail was important and meaningful.


Russian artists had very different attitude to Revolution of 1917.

Many artists accepted Revolution with enthusiasm and began to create paintings on the revolutionary themes, such as I. Vladimirov, V. Kuznetsov, G. Gorelov, B. Grekov, A. Moravov, including leading artists who personified the school ofB. Kustodiev "Bolshevik" painting of the XIX century, such as B. Kustodiev, A. Rilov and S. Malutin (the first who decorated Russian nesting doll).

Part of the artists refused to accept the new government, so they were forced to emigrate, such as Z. Serebryakova, I. Bilibin. Part of artists just did not accept a point of view at the art of the Soviet regime, so they also emigrated, for example F. Malyavin, W. Kandinsky, N. Gabo, A. Benois, N.Milioti, K.Somov, A. Yakovlev, V. Shukhaiev and M.Chagall.

After a wave of emigration of the Russian artists, it started the time of two K. Yuon "New planet"branches of Russian art - art of emigrated artists who participated in the world's artistic life and art of Soviet artists, who created a separate Soviet art, the development of which was determined by the censorship.

For several years after the revolution futurism had a leading influence in painting.

In 1922, an Association of Artists of the Revolution, who considered the role of the artist like "artistic and documentary fixation of the greatest historical moments with its revolutionary fervor," proclaiming the so-called "heroic realism". The association joined leading artists, including former "Wanderers", and young artists such as A. Deineka, Y. Pimenov, A. Goncharov and N. Denisovskaya.

In the 20s, the main subject of pictures was Civil War (N. Samokish, M. Avilov, P. Shukhmin, K. Savitsky, F. Bogorodsky, M. Grekov).

N. Samokish "Attack"In portrait genre it was very popular to create portraits of people who were constructing communistic country for examples works of S. Malyutin and G. Ryazhskiy (artist of portrait -type).

Landscape painting was determined by the subject of rebuilding the country after the war works of B. Yakovlev), but lyrical landscape continued to exist (works of K. Juon, B. Baksheeva).

In the revolutionary and post-revolutionary years, graphics became popular because of great expansion of propaganda posters and a reaction to political and social problems. The founders of the Soviet political posters were Moore and Denis. Monumental art also served as propaganda. Leading artists were K. Petrov-Vodkin, K. Yuon, B. Kustodiev and I. Brodsky. They made painting of agitation steamers, agitation trains, squares, preparation for street holidays and they also created monumental mural.

One of the leading artists that had great influence on the development of Soviet art was I. Brodsky. He became the most famousI. Brodsky "Lenin in Smolny" due to many portraits of Lenin and Stalin - the so-called "cult" works.
Painting again since the "The Wanderers" had become social.
After the revolution of religious paintings, iconograpgy ceased to exist. Atheism had led to the destruction of many priceless icons and shrines. Most part of temples was closed or exploded. It started at the time of persecution of the clergy, icon-painters and religious people. However, few of the painters, in spite of the danger, continued to work in order to maintain the tradition of the ancient Russian icon painting, and teach the next generation. An example of the teacher is nun Iuliania (M.Sokolova).

By the mid-20s avant-garde had became more widespread, it promoted the triumph of proletarian culture ("communist collective creativity") over the bourgeois one.

By the end of the 20s and early 30s, the only official art movement became realism.

However, it was a new realism, based on the tradition of critical realism of the XIX century with the socialist vision.

In 1932, it appeared as a new concept, socialist realism in art, based on nationality, ideology, concreteness, that meant creation V.Govorkov "Thank you to Stalin for our happy childhood"of images of too varnished reality ("painting with historical optimism").

All art associations were closed and in 1932 and it was re-opened under the name "Union of Artists", aimed at creating only ideological works. Formation of the totalitarian regime limited painting functions with propaganda and praising the regime. All works were checked by censorship, which excluded any dissent and freedom. Paintings of Soviet Russia became isolated from the world's paintings.

A. Dejneka "Pioneer"Artists had been illustrating happy working days of ordinary citizens and creating numerous portraits of the leaders.

Among the artists of this time it can be notable A.Deineka - a painter, whose works brilliantly captured the spirit of the time, N. Krymov and A. Kuprin –creators of patriotic and at the same time romantic landscapes, P.Kochalovsky - the author of many portraits of famous people during that period of time.


In the 40's, the Second World War was the inspiration of all patriotic painting, - the artist have been creating lot of agitation posters and caricatures, genre paintings, drawings describing the war, portraits of war participants. Portraits are characterized P. Krivonogov "The Brest fortress"by underlining the courage, nobility, such as the work of P. Corin and P.Kotov.

The leading painters were P. Krivonogov, B. Nemensky, S. Gerasismov and Kukryniksy.

A. Plastov "Fascist has flown"At this time, even the landscape genre bombarded with the theme of war -, example of which were the works A. Plastov.

Historical genre was represented with subjects of past military victories of Russia (works of P.Korin, E.Lansere, M. Avilov and A Bubnov).

Laconism and directness were the distinctive features of wartime painting. In wartime a lot of works were created by famous masters like K.Petrov-Vodkin, Baksheev, I.Grabar.

Post-war, it was a time of flowering  of Genre art , artists created paintings with subject of peaceful labour and peaceful life, for example the works of T. Yablonskaya, A. Mylnikov and A. Laktionov.

Due to the intensive restoration of the city many artists, including famous such as A. Dejneka and P. Korin, decorated public buildings with Yu.Pimenov "District of tomorrow"ideological works. Landscape of the post-war period was lyrical and peaceful (N. Romadin, G. Nyssa).

Death of I. Stalin, caused the time of thaw because -Cult of personality of Stalin had a huge influence on art but when Stalin T. Yablonskaya "Morning"dead it started to be a time of thaw- , to the middle of XX century had brought to a "thaw".

During the "thaw" (1953-1957) artists felt hope for freedom in creativity, it resulted in the dominance of the lyrical mood of the paintings on the theme of everyday life (T. Yablonskaya, Gavrilov, Levitin, Zagonek and Bogaevskaya).

However, expecting a significant weakening of censorship did not happen and all the official Soviet art was also a means of propaganda of the communist regime. The result of frustrated hopes in the 1950s was also the second wave of Russian avant-garde (also called underground, nonkonformism, or alternative art).

V.Popkov "Builders of Bratsk"In the late 50's - early 60s it appeared simple laconic paintings with subject or theme of enthusiasm of workers. Also the strength of workers, their working life, had formed a "severe style", which arose in opposition to the lyrical painting of thaw and devoid of ostentatious festivity.

This style was also reflected in the historical genre. Prominent members of the "severe style" became V. Popkov, N. Andronov and Korzhev. Interest of artists of "severe style" to the character of a person caused the heyday of the genre of portrait. In the landscape genre artists admired the beauty of landscapes of the North- (Nikonov, I. Andronov and V. Popkov).



Historical overview of modern painting of western and southern Slavs

N. Pavlovich "A field of wild peonies"In the Serbian painting turn of the century the most important artist was N. Petrovic, who started from critical realism and reached his flower in impressionism and fauvism. She considered one of the founders of Serbian modernism.

In 1910-20-s the main trends were Cubism, Constructivism, impressionism, fauvism and expressionism. Outstanding representatives of that time were P.Dobrovich, M. Konevich, I. Bielich and R. Iokopich. However, realism continued to occupy a significant place (works of U.Predich and P. Jovanovic).

In the 30s it started to appear surrealistic paintings (M.Pavlovich- Barilli). Realism remained a common movement, but it was already a realism with the trends of post-impressionism, which the dominant theme was socialist construction (leading artists were I.Tabakovich, M. Chelebonovich and N. Gvozavodenovich).
During World War II, the main theme was the People's Liberation Movement (works of A. Karamatievich and A. Coon). In the 50's abstractionism became more and more popular (S. Celic, L. Sokich and M. Protic) surrealism was also popular. (L. Sheika and V. Velickovic).


In Bulgaria, during the XIX - XX centuries, the leading trend was democratic realism, where dominating themes were peasant lives and battle scenes.

It was a very popular portrait genre. Outstanding artists during that century were A. Mitov, I. Angelov, I. Myrkvichki and J. A.Mitov "Vegetable market in Sofia"Veshin.

In 20-30 years of the XX century Bulgarian painters had been following the Western European trends – they created impressionistic paintings, works in the Art Nouveau style, Symbolism, but with bright national colours (H. Stanchev and V. Dimitrov-Maystor).

I. Milev "Akhinora"Some of the most prominent representatives of the Bulgarian Art Nouveau were I. Milev. P. Georgiev, C. Lavrenov and Z. Boyadjiev. They became famous in the landscape genre.

In parallel with the new trends realism remained popular and presented portrait and landscape genres (Petrov, D. Uzunov and P. Mladenov). In the 30s graphics spread - antimonarchist and anti-fascist posters of A.Zhendov, I. Beshkov and B. Angelushev.

During the war and in the first several postwar years patriotic themes occupied dominant positions - outstanding painters of this time were and Petrov Venev. Socialist Realism became the predominant direction, it was characterized by interest to everyday life. In the postwar period due to active renovation of cities, monumental painting became the most popular movement. After 50s Bulgarian artists had increasingly turned to the ancient national traditions, as can be seen in the works of Kirkov, D. Kirov, Rusev S., L. Diman and K. Isinov.


At the end of XIX century, Polish painting was remarked by the predominance of realism and romantism. In the historical genre of famous battle, the paintings of the 'Polish history' in the XVII century, was painted by J. Brandt –which had a huge impact on the Polish art.

Democratic realist's brothers Gerymskie and Yu Helmonsky condemned social inequality of people.

J.Malczewski "Melancholy"During that century, their impressionism became popular (Yu Pankevich, O. Boznanskaya, Y. Stanislavsky and L. Vychulkovsky).

At the beginning of the XX century, Polish artists, as well as European and Russian artists had been working in new movements – Art Nuveau, such as S. Wyspiański, combined S.Vispjanjsky "Motherhood"the art nuveau with folk motifs and Symbolism, where the most famous artist was J. Malczewski.

When Poland Gained independence in 1918, this triggered experimentations and diversity in art, the search for new artistic forms that can be seen in the avant-garde works of M. Pike, B. Strzheminsky, K. Kobro, in predominantly cubic and expressionistic works of Z. Pronashko, T. Chizhevsky, works in the style of primitivism Y. Makovsky.

Poster graphics became common (works of V. Yastshembovsky, T. Gronovsky, E. Bartlomeychik). Neoclassical paintings were represented by works of F. Kowarski. Tsibisa and X. Rudzka-Tsibisova was very important artist for post-impressionism. In the 30s, popular expressive canvases of painters M. Jarema, I. Stern and T. Kantor. Satirical painting was representative by works of B. Linke.

Rebuilding war-torn cities had caused the flowering of monumental painting, where outstanding masters became Dunikowski, Kovarsky.

In the late 1940s, the main movement in painting was socialist realism, however, it was not accepted by leading cultural figures unconditionally. For example Polish writer A. Slonimsky considered that "the method of socialist realism was a tool of elimination of art".

In the early 50's popular theme was building socialism and revolutionary struggle. It started a period of Polish "thaw" and Poland followed more and more to the tendencies of Western European painting - abstract art, surrealism. At this time, the most remarkable Polish artist became T. Kantor.


Slovak painting had a great influence of the Modern Western European art because of political influence of Western countries.

M.Galanda "The crandle"At the end of the 19th century famous V. Klimkovich, L.Medanska, Skutecki and I. Ganula who worked mainly in the domestic, portrait genres. One of the founders of modern art in Slovakia became Mikulas Galanda, painter, illustrator, created his own style based on the melancholy of cubism and expressionism.

The most famous avant-garde artist Esther Slovak Simerova-Martinchikova, worked in the style of Cubism.E. Simerova-Martinchikova  "Composition"

Surrealism of Slovakia is known by paintings of I. Weiner-Kral.

Other prominent Slovak artists of the 20th century were Ludovit Fulla, featuring decorative color paintings, Martin Benka - founder ornamentalskogo style and Slovakian book illustration, M. Bazovsky was a prominent representative of symbolism, the famous scenes of peasant life.

Landscape painting was represented by romantic realism of L. Chordak and K. Legotsky.


At the end of the XIX century in Czech painting realism was the dominated movement. In the landscape genre, famous artist, Yu.Marzhak, who became a teacher for many artists. He was well-known in the early A. Mucha. The picture of the Slav Epic cycleXX century landscape painters such as realists A. Slavíchek, A. Hudechek, F. Kavan.

One of the most outstanding representatives of Art Nouveau was Alphonse Mucha. He was best known for his theatrical and advertising posters and depicting women surrounded by flowers, but also he created 20 paintings with the Slavic theme - "Slav Epic" - to emphasize the common history of the Slavic peoples. Art Nouveau and Symbolism also represented by works of A. Kalvoda.

In the middle of the XX century in Czechoslovakia, and Sh.Bednar "Embarkment under the castle"other socialistic countries, were the main aim of art and was promoting the current regime by methods of the social realism.

The most famous representatives of were Stefan Bednar, L. Chemitsky, A.Kovascik and M. Medvetsky. However, not all Slovak artists accepted socialist realism, such as M. Bazovsky and T. Strauss - they were the first supporters of this trend, but quickly disliked in it.


In Macedonia, at the end of XIX - early XX centuries the most popular genres were landscape, portrait, history painting and scenes. Painting of this time was characterized by national features. The most famous painters were G.Zografski and D. Andonov.

In the 20-30s famous expressionists was L. Lichenoski, who created the national landscapes, still lives and portraits.

In 30-60s leading painter was an expressionist, cubist, impressionist and later realist and socialist realists N. Martinoski. Predominant movement was realism, where remarkable artists were D.Protudzher, P. Mazev and R. Anastasov.

I. Grohar "A teacher"In Slovenia, at the beginning of the XX century it was time of flourishing of Impressionism presented by I. Grohar, M. Stern, M. Yama and R. Yakopich. Popular themes were the national landscape, peasant scenes with clair national identity.

Representatives of expressionism were brothers F. and T. Kralj, V. Pilon, F. Tratnik. In the 20-30s in parallel to expressionism and surrealism, which was representative by S. Cregar, it was flourishing of lyrical realism with the trends of post-impressionism (lyrical genre scenes, portraits, poetic landscapes of B. Yakatsa, G. Kos and F. Mihelich). G. Kos was also a famous artist of the national historic subject.

The war years were marked by the spread of patriotic paintings, anti-fascist posters (Yakats, Mihelich and V. Globocnik).
In the postwar years, it was a time of an active urban renewal, the time of monumental painting and mosaic (M. Pregel).

In the 50s it was popular painting and drawings of J. Bernik and also national realistic paintings of Yakatsa, Kos and Mihelich was popular. Patriotic paintings about the liberation struggle and the history of the Slovenian Communist Party (G. Kos, S. Pengov) was also popular. G. Stupica was a famous in the portrait genre. There were also very interesting works with folk themes by Mihelich.