More Than Romanticism
THE EXHIBITION "MORE THAN ROMANTICISM" WAS HELD FROM NOVEMBER 2013 TO JANUARY 2014 IN THE ENGINEERING WING OF THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY AS PART OF THE "EXCHANGE" YEAR OF CULTURAL COOPERATION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND HOLLAND. FOR THE FIRST TIME THE MOSCOW PUBLIC COULD SEE WORKS FROM THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY ALONGSIDE PAINTINGS FROM THE TEYLERS MUSEUM IN HAARLEM AND THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF JEF RADEMAKERS FROM BRASSCHAAT, A PROVINCE OF ANTWERP. BEARING IN MIND THE UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE TWO COLLECTIONS, THE CURATORS TRIED TO HIGHLIGHT BOTH THEIR SHARED FEATURES AND THEIR DIFFERENCES, AS WELL AS THE EUROPEAN AND THE NATIONAL ELEMENTS OF RUSSIAN AND DUTCH FINE ART. THE NAMES OF GREAT PAINTERS SUCH AS REMBRANDT VAN RIJN AND FRANS HALS, WHOSE MASTERPIECES ARE IN THE HERMITAGE'S COLLECTION OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF DUTCH ART, ARE WELL KNOWN TO THE RUSSIAN PUBLIC. THANKS TO THE FAMOUS FILM, THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS FAMILIAR WITH JOHANNES VERMEER'S PAINTING "GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING" (1665). THE ART OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS OF THE 1800-1850S, HOWEVER, IS ONLY KNOWN TO A SMALL CIRCLE OF ART EXPERTS. MEANWHILE, THE PAINTING TRADITIONS OF THE GREAT AND "LESSER" DUTCH MASTERS WERE CARRIED ON INTO A NEW HISTORICAL ERA, THAT OF ROMANTICISM.1
"The style of wise antiquity"
Haarlem is a major Dutch city located in the western part of the Netherlands, a quarter of an hour's drive from Amsterdam. Picturesque old small houses with stepped gable facades line the embankment, while drawbridges arch over the River Spaarne. Even today some of Haarlem's streets retain their 17th-century outlines. From the earliest times the textile industry was of major importance to the city, and the local merchant Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) made his fortune trading linen and silk, later becoming a wealthy financier. His house had an enormous library, and a collection of paintings and sculptures; he also had a cabinet of curiosities in the style of the Renaissance2. Rare coins, physical instruments and old etchings were part of his collection.
Tako Hajo Jelgersma's baroque formal portrait of Pieter Tey-ler (pastel, c. 1770, Teylers Museum) gives an idea of what Teyler looked like. The artist captured his handsome face with its regular features, high forehead, intelligent grey eyes, and strong chin. Teyler is shown as a collector, with his hand resting on a magnificent volume, with a storage cabinet for medals and coins to his left (one drawer is open, revealing its contents), and a cabinet behind him with valuable books and albums for etchings and drawings.
According to Teyler's will, a foundation named after him was established with the primary aim of supporting the Mennon-ite religious community3. As a faithful parishioner, the merchant was actively involved in charity work, helping the poor and organizing a shelter, while some of his resources were dedicated to developing science and the arts. After Teyler's death the decision was made to build an extension behind his house, the Oval Room, which was designed by the Amsterdam architect Lender Viervant. The new space housed the collection of scientific instruments, fossils and drawings by artists of Western Europe. Wybrand Hen-driks's painting "The Oval Room at the Teylers Museum" (c. 1810, Teylers Museum) gives a glimpse of its display. Born in Amsterdam, Hendriks made Haarlem his home in the 1770s. For 34 years (1785-1819) he remained the custodian of the museum's art collection, and also worked actively as a restorer.
In 1784 the country's first4 public museum of science and natural history was opened in Haarlem, named after its founder. Martinus van Marum (1750-1837), a distinguished scientist and inventor, was named scientific director of the Teylers Museum. Grateful for his substantial contribution to the evolution and expansion of the museum, the Teylers Foundation commissioned van Marum's portrait from a local artist. The willful van Marum did not like the picture, however, and approached Charles Hodges, an Englishman by birth and a portraitist with a solid reputation among the Dutch elite. Hodges' "Portrait of M. van Marum" (c. 1826, Teylers Museum) achieved a remarkable likeness while subtly idealizing the model.
In November 1813 the Russian army liberated the Netherlands from French occupation. The country regained its independence, and upon his return William of Orange was proclaimed the Sovereign Prince of the united Netherlands. The Dutch were grateful to the Russians: for a century after the liberation of utrecht, the city would celebrate the Cossacks' Day on November 28. In the summer of 1814 the Russian Emperor Alexander I and the Prince of Orange triumphantly toured the country together. In Amsterdam, Alexander I examined various art collections and purchased some works for the Hermitage from private owners. During his stay Alexander also visited Peter the Great's house in Saenredam (now Zaandam) and on July 2, the Teylers Museum in Haarlem.
In 1824 the Teylers Museum established its painting gallery. The first acquisitions for this new part of the museum were romantic landscapes by Gerrit Jan Mich^lis, who was at the time serving as the museum's curator, responsible for its art collection. From its inception, the painting gallery focused on contemporary Dutch art and expanded its collection by purchasing paintings directly both from artists and at exhibitions. As the collection grew, the need for new spaces became apparent, and in the second half of the 19th century the Haarlem architect A. van der Steur designed the required project. The resulting space is depicted in Johan Conrad Greive's drawing "Teylers Painting Gallery I" (1862, Teylers Museum). In 1878 the Viennese architect Christian ulrich designed the museum's new neo-classical facade. Currently the Teylers Museum has 12 halls and a special addition for temporary exhibitions.
"A peril to the soul, and trouble to the mind"
The Moscow exhibition gave visitors the opportunity to see Orest Kiprensky's masterpiece "Portrait of V.A. Zhukovsky" (1816, Tretyakov Gallery). A leader of the literary "Arzamas Society", Zhukovsky is depicted with a strong emphasis on his dignified recognition of his self-worth. In the words of Vissarion Belinsky, the portrait expresses the essence of Russian Romanticism, "the inner world of a person's soul, the hidden life of his heart". Deeply pensive, with the sad eyes of a day-dreamer, his hair flowing in the breeze, Zhukovsky is the ultimate image of a Romantic poet. The Russian translator of Heinrich Heine's ballads is portrayed against the background of a stormy sky and medieval ruins.
In 1826 Zhukovsky (1783-1852) was appointed tutor to the heir to the Russian throne, Alexander Nikolaevich, and in spring 1839 was a member of the Grand Duke's entourage during his visit to the Netherlands. While visiting Peter the Great's house in Sae-nredam, Zhukovsky improvised a few poetic lines ending with, "Behold the cradle of your Empire, behold where Great Russia was born!"
The era of Romanticism made the genre of the self-portrait, with its vivid depiction of an artist's ever-changing nature, widely popular. Russian painters saw the form as a way to fight for their right for respect, both for themselves and their art. The Tretyakov Gallery has in its possession a wonderful collection of such images by Kiprensky, Aleksander Ortowski, Alexander Var-nek and Sylvester Shchedrin. This was mainly the result of Pavel Tretyakov's idea to create a "Russian pantheon", a portrait gallery of his distinguished compatriots. Historically, the curators of the Teylers Museum were not drawn to the portrait genre, so they did not acquire self-portraits by Dutch artist of the period of Romanticism, and those ended up in other collections, such as the local Hals Museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Nevertheless, visitors to the Moscow exhibition had the chance to see several portraits by Haarlem artists, such as"Sleep-ing Boy" (c. 1826, Teylers Museum) by Woutherus Mol. The plasticity of the child's body betrays the influence of Jacques-Louis David, whose workshop Mol attended as an art student in Paris. The work of Jan Kruseman, who was William Il's favourite artist, shows a different approach to painting a child's portrait. When he was commissioned by the Amsterdam merchant "the honourable Mr. Rente Linsen" to paint the portrait of his daughter Ca-tharina, in his "Portrait of C.E. Rente Linsen in Childhood" (1831, Teylers Museum) Kruseman emphasized his model's wealth. The little girl, not even a year old at the time, is dressed luxuriously: she wears a light ball gown, open at the neck and shoulders, a bonnet of expensive Brussels lace, a fashionable cashmere shawl, and a coral necklace and bracelets that complement each other. A golden rattle, a porcelain doll, and a dainty toy sheep made of real llama wool do not just represent the child's world, but also speak of wealth. Compared to this Dutch girl, the little Katya of the Tolstoy family surprises the viewer with her grown-up gaze and sophisticated inner life in "Portrait of Ye.F. Tolstoy" (1845, Tretyakov Gallery), in which Pyotr Shamshin depicted the two-year-old daughter of the vice-president of the Academy of Fine Arts, Fyodor Tolstoy. The child is holding a modest chaplet of cornflowers, accentuating the deep blue of the little girl's heavenly eyes.
"The stormy depths of the sea"
The proximity of the North Sea (about 20 kilometers away) did not only determine Haarlem's microclimate, but also had a significant influence on the subjects local artists chose for their paintings. Sandy dunes and the bay became the favourite motifs of their marine landscapes. Along with peaceful scenes of people walking by the sea or fishing, the end of the 17th century also saw depictions of tragic events. One example is Ludolf Backhuysen's painting "Warships in a Heavy Storm" (c. 1695, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The artists of Romanticism were particularly attracted to the indomitable powers of nature, quite beyond the control of human beings. Storms, shipwrecks, and tragic loss of life were dominant themes in marine art at that time.
"Shipwreck off the English Shore" (c. 1837, Teylers Museum) by Christiaan Dreibholtz depicts the dramatic scene of a disaster at sea. Two frigates are being wrecked, with a violent storm pushing them towards a cliff, as a group of people by a lighthouse watch helplessly as the drama unfolds. Lines of verse by S.J. Van der Bergh may serve as an illustration to what is happening:
"The ship will not defeat the waves
All those ashore are gripped with fear.
It seems there is no escape,
And the heart trembles with fear,
But the lips whisper, Oh God! How great you are!'"
unlike the tragic culmination of this drama portrayed by the Dutch seascape artist, Ivan Aivazovsky, the Russian painter famous for "singing praise to the sea", was represented by his "End of a Storm at Sea" (1839, Tretyakov Gallery). The thunderstorm is fading on the horizon, and the sky is clearing: soon the waves will subside, and in the background the sea looks calmer. Nevertheless, the foaming waves, filled with sand and dirt, beat strongly on the shore. A fisherman's boat and its crew, having fought them off, will soon reach the safety of land. This scene was painted in Crimea, in the surroundings of the artist's native Feodosia.
"Cargo Ships by the Shore" (1892, collection of Jef Rademak-ers) is a remarkable painting by the most famous Dutch marine artist, Johan Meijer. The artist shows an amazing ability to paint the transparency of water and the illusion of glowing waves. It is noteworthy that various different kinds of ships are depicted in the painting, from a fisherman's boat to a merchant frigate and a steamboat (then a novelty).
"Sweet is the storm's howl"
The landscape paintings that formed the bulk of the exhibition are filled with "the air of Romanticism". Alongside views of Italy, urban and rural landscapes were also well represented. The works by Russian artists reflect the wide and sweeping expanse of the country's geography: the Volga and the Dnieper, the mountains of the Caucasus, the ancient capital of Moscow, views of Tver province, the sacred springs near the town of Mogilev, and the dam at the Fal mansion, close to Reval (now Tallinn). The works of the Dutch masters present their own "microcosm" - Haarlem and its environs, the sea shore, and the River Lek. At some point, the Dutch reclaimed their land from the sea, and then liberated it from foreign invaders in the early 19th century, and these works charm the viewer with the beauty of their northern landscapes.
As the Romantics turned their attention to living nature, the goals of landscape painting began to change. Not only was the locality made specific, but so was the time of day. New motifs emerged, such as "morning", "evening", and "night", as well as moonlit and stormy landscapes; a good example is "Landscape in Poor Weather" (1794, Teylers Museum) by Hermanus van Brussel, which depicts an approaching thunderstorm. The dark, stormy sky stands in contrast to the bright rays of the sun, while ancient oaks are bent by gusts of wind. A peasant woman hurries to bring her cattle home, away from the sudden, crashing storm; her tiny figure seems insignificant set against the giant trees - how feeble are human beings in the face of the terrifying powers of nature...
Landscape artists of the Romantic era often used dramatic combinations of various light sources, such as cold moonlight and the hot glow of an open fire. We see such contrasts in "Moonlit Night in Naples" (1828, Tretyakov Gallery) by Sylvester Shchedrin, and in the "Anglers in a Rowing Boat at Twilight" by Remigius van Haanen (after 1860, collection of Jef Rademakers.)
The Russian national school of landscape painting took shape during the time of Romanticism. Maxim Vorobyev, the principal instructor of the landscape department at the Academy of Fine Arts, expanded the accepted standards of teaching the genre, which included the Academy's traditional focus on "views in perspective" and conventionally decorative compositions. His "Oak Shattered by Lightning (Thunderstorm)" (1842, Tretyakov Gallery), which became the "emblem" of the exhibition, is an allegory of the painter's personal heartbreak on the death of his beloved young wife. Shaken by his loss, Vorobyev turned to this tragic theme - a flash of lightning illuminates a man in a fierce battle with the raging forces of nature, an image that brings to mind the words of the poet Vladimir Rayevsky:
"A pale light flickers in the darkness, Perun flies out of black clouds,
And a split oak is ablaze!"
"Quiet scenes of enchanting pastoral simplicity"
Winter landscapes are frequently found in Dutch art, but are almost entirely absent from Russian art of the first half of the 19th century. The only exception is "Winter Landscape (Russian Winter)" (1827, Russian Museum) by Nikifor Krylov, a student of Alexei Venetsianov. The artist had to have a special wooden hut built to work in while accomplishing this painting during freezing weather: Russia's severe climate, with its bitterly cold nights and chilly days, does not provide for comfortable conditions, whether for the labours of the peasant, or for the work of an artist. In contrast, the short, soft Dutch winter brings joy to the people - we see some wonderful examples of winter pursuits in Johan Meijer's and Johannes Hoppenbrouwers' "Winter Day on the Dutch Coast" (1849, collection of Jef Rademakers) and "Skating Near a Dutch City" (1857, collection of Jef Rademakers) by Andreas Schelfhout. We see a variety of people on the frozen canal: wealthy townsfolk, who enjoy the easy skating, poor fishermen drilling holes for ice fishing, children and women, and domestic animals. Due to its reserved palette, the dim sunlight and precise perspective, different kinds of landscapes and the diverse, happy crowd all come together in relative harmony.
"Winter Landscape" (1837, Teylers Museum) by Barend Koek-koek is a true masterpiece of Dutch painting. This composition consists of two parts, a road covered with snow on the left, and a frozen river on the right, with a massive oak in the middle bringing the two images together. Koekkoek's use of dark tones to paint the smooth surface of the frozen river is brilliant: he applies thin strokes of white to paint the snow on the dark surface. The artist uses thin brushes to paint cracks in the ice, and literally scrapes the skate marks on the painting with the sharp tip of the brush handle.
Sometimes the Romantic artists contrast mundane, everyday life with the realm of day dreams, and were prepared to let their limitless imaginations carry them to any moment in time and any corner of the world. Thus, Anton Ivanov never traveled to Malorossiya (now ukraine), and Bartholomeus van Hove never left the Netherlands, but both of them succeeded in putting their dreams and desires on canvas. In his painting "Nikolai Gogol Crosses the Dnieper" (1845, Tretyakov Gallery), the Russian artist, who had read Gogol's works but at the time was living in Rome, depicted the "wondrous Dnieper on a calm day". In his turn, the Dutch master painted his "View of a Town by the Rhine at Sunset" (1836, Teylers Museum) as a panorama of a medieval German town, with a magnificent cathedral, its architecture a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance features, as the centre of the composition. As true romantics, both artists chose sunset and the approach of dusk for their landscapes - this mysterious time of the day when reality turns into a romantic dream.
"The joy of worldly pleasures"
One other circumstance determined the flavour of the local Haarlem school of painting: alongside the city's textile industry, Haarlem was famous for its sizable flower business. In 1848-1852 King William II ordered that the local lake, the Haarlemmermeer, be drained, and in 1859 the Old Canal was also filled in. The newly available land had a positive effect in the city's development, as vast fields of tulips were planted there. The era of Romanticism could not match the "tulip-mania" of the Dutch Golden Age, but the interest in flowers remained, both in life and art. Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaievich wrote in a letter of April 15 1839: "We stopped in Haarlem to see the famous local flowers - each kind is named after a famous person - but they were only beginning to blossom, so it was not possible to judge their real beauty."5
Georgius van Os, a master of still-life painting, happily spent his summers in the orchards and parks of Haarlem, which offered an abundance of "models" for his work. His exquisite "Still-life with Flowers and a Bird's Nest" (c. 1830, Teylers Museum) reveals the artist's passion for the nature of his country, as well as his virtuoso brush that brings out the various textures. The "floral" "Still-life" (1840, Tretyakov Gallery) by the Russian master Foma Toropov is akin to the Dutch artist's painting in its mood and interpretation. As the art historian Dmitry Sarabyanov rightly observed, such works of art are united by their "peculiar classi-cistic naturalism"6.
"Between truth and fallacy"
Genre painting was also of interest to the Romantic artists. Contemporary Russian life did not offer a wide choice of subjects, so many Russian artists, on travel grants from the Academy of Fine Arts, turned to painting scenes from the life of the ordinary folk of Italy. Karl Bryullov was the founder of the so-called "Italian genre": he was still a young student at the Academy of Fine Arts when his demanding teachers started to single him out for his talent. In 1822 the Imperial Society for the Advancement of the Arts awarded Bryullov a grant to study in Italy for three years. During his first couple of years in "the country of exalted inspiration" the artist painted traditional mythological motifs from ancient history, but he soon developed a desire to better understand Italian nature and its people. His genre paintings, such as "By the Oak of the Virgin" (1835, Tretyakov Gallery), captured the customs and ways, and "the humble dignity of the ordinary people", so dear to the heart of the writer Nikolai Gogol.
Along with Romanticism, in the 1830-1840s Russian art saw some tendencies associated with the "Biedermeier" style. For a long time its very existence in Russia was contentious, and the term itself passionately debated. All the signs of this artistic movement were absorbed by the notions of "realism without shores." At the end of the 20th century interest in this phenomenon enjoyed a revival.
The works of Pavel Fedotov display clear attributes of late Romanticism and of the Biedermeier style. He did not choose famous men of antiquity or characters from the Bible as subjects for his early works, but rather ordinary people, the artist's contemporaries, depicting their everyday existence and feelings, and their not-so-heroic life stories. Fedotov's painting "Newly Decorated. A Civil Servant the Morning After Receiving His First Order" (1846, Tretyakov Gallery) and "Poverty and Wealth (Domestic Life of the H. Berniks Family)" (1848, Teylers Museum) by David Bles share similar plots. Both the Dutch and the Russian artists are great story-tellers. They fill the space of the painting with a multitude of colourful details, and it is illuminating that the interiors of both paintings are in a state of startling chaos: things are scattered about, broken, and turned upside down. The "characters" in these paintings are grotesque: both Fedotov and Bles show considerable skill at using vivid gestures and facial expressions to reveal the character of their subjects.
Both artists understood the problems of their time. In Russia, the critic Vladimir Stasov summed up what was taking place as "a thoroughly vulgar life", while in Holland a Rotterdam newspaper wrote: "In our land, however hard it may be for us to admit it, high demands are at war with a serious lack of resources."7
This dialogue between Russian and Dutch art of the first half of the 19th century showcases the unique characteristics of each people, their national traditions and distinct cultures, as well as the outstanding personalities of their artists. The masterful landscapes by Alexander Ivanov and Barend Cornelis Koek-koek, Orest Kiprensky's and Jan Kruseman's brilliant portraits, and the masterpieces of marine painting by Ivan Aivazovsky and Louis Johan Meijer: all provided visitors to the exhibition with an experience of true delight.
- Secondary titles in this article are quotations from the works of the Romantic poets Alexander Pushkin and Vasily Zhukovsky.
- During his stay in Holland Peter I took great interest in such collections. upon his return to Russia, the Tsar decided to establish his own "Sovereign's Cabinet", and spared no expense in purchasing entire collections and separate objects. Thus, an extravagant sum of money was paid for the collection of the Dutchman Albertus Seba, which became the basis for the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg.
- The Mennonites are followers of a Protestant movement founded in the Netherlands in the 1530s by Menno Simons (1496-1561). They preached spiritual cultivation and refused to bear arms. However, during the struggle for Dutch independence the Mennonites joined the armies of William of Orange and made generous donations for military purposes.
- The famous Rijksmuseum was opened in Amsterdam in 1808.
- "Correspondence of Crown Prince of Russia Alexander Nikolaievich and Emperor Nicholas I. 1838-1839". Moscow, 2008. P. 382-383.
- Sarabyanov, D.V.'The Artists of the Venetsianov circle and German Biedermeier' // "Russian Art of the 19th Century among European Schools of Painting: A Comparative Analysis". Moscow, 1980. P. 78.
- Quoted from:'De Tentoonstelling van Schilder en Kunstwerken van levende Meesters' // "Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant". 1851, 12 June. P. 1.