“Seasons of Russian Painting”: A Tribute to the Past of Russian Art and History from the Present

Anna Dyakonitsyna

Magazine issue: 
#2 2009 (23)

Vladimir DUBOSSARSKY & Alexander VINOGRADOV. Seasons of Russian Painting. 2007. Tretyakov Gallery

Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubossarsky created their “Seasons of Russian Painting” series especially for one of the rooms of the permanent exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery’s Krymsky Val museum. They are among the few modern artists who combine innovative approaches to expression with the tradition of largesized themed pictures with a carefully arranged composition.

The entire series is a fascinating collage based on bold quoting, a game of “playing the classics” spiced up with irony but also suffused with an earnest enthusiasm. The immensity of the topic allows the artists to boldly integrate things antithetic in the attempt to visualize the continuity of historical periods and generations, the dialogue of epochs and individualities, the peaceful coexistence, rather than confrontation, of the Realist tradition and avant-garde art. Religion-themed paintings were the only exception that Dubossarsky and Vinogradov deliberately left out of the project. For this reason the “Seasons of Russian Painting” does not directly quote Alexander Ivanov’s art.

Winter. 2007. Acrylic paints, printed on canvas. 195 × 725 cm

In line with their creative credo, the famed duo of modern Russian artists visualized in this composition the quintessence of the Russian school of painting, tackling the most illustrious, “iconic” pieces from the Tretyakov Gallery’s collection, with an addition of a couple of works from the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Embracing the conflicts and dramas of art history, struggles between proponents of different artistic trends, and clashes of individuals, the tetraptych reconciles everything and everyone by paradoxical combinations of images known by heart from textbooks.

In keeping with the classic tradition, the series consists of four equal pictures, each of which corresponds with one of the four seasons. Each composition represents an authorial collage designed on a computer, and then printed on a canvas and overpainted with acrylics.

Spring. 2007. Acrylic paints, printed on canvas. 195 × 725 cm

The grouping of the characters is carefully thought out. Each of the four pieces elaborates its particular theme. “Spring” is the realm of the girls’ and women’s images created by Arkady Plastov, Alexander Deineka, Boris Kustodiev, Karl Briullov, and Tatyana Yablonskaya. “Winter” is pivoted around the themes of valour and epic heroes: Alexander Nevsky stands over Maxim Gorky’s shoulder (both evoking images from Pavel Korin’s painting); the knights from Viktor Vasnetsov’s picture and the Swan Princess by Mikhail Vrubel are featured in different sections of the painting; a Bolshevik walks downstage (a visual quotation from Kustodiev’s piece); Voroshilov and Stalin bring up the rear in the picture’s right section (a mirror image of the fragment of Alexander Gerasimov’s painting), and the central part features Viktor Popkov’s selfportrait.

“Summer” is pictured as a time of outdoor relaxation and promenades on foot or on horseback, but also as a season linked to the agricultural calendar. The warm months are the traditional period of weddings and feasts. But the seemingly simplest stories look like phantasmagoria when treated by Dubossarsky and Vinogradov. Thus Briullov’s “The Rider” seems to move next to Petrov-Vodkin’s “The Red Horse” and Nesterov’s philosophers (a mirror composition from the artist’s painting)...Plastov’s “Haymaking” is combined in the foreground with Malevich’s “Peasant Woman”. The following “Autumn” features a table set for a feast, from Niko Pirosmanashvili’s painting; seated around it are Pushkin, Peter the First, Marshal Zhukov, the Girl with Peaches, Dostoevsky, and the “all-Union Elder” Mikhail Kalinin; in the foreground, Lenin, his head bent low over the table, works on his notes (with visual quotes from the works of Orest Kiprensky, Nicholai Ghe, Pavel Korin, Valentin Serov, Vasily Perov, Vasily Yefanov, and Isaac Brodsky). The well-known images presented outside their familiar context become embedded into new associative and compositional linkages.

Left: Summer. 2007. Acrylic paints, printed on canvas. 195 × 725 cm
Right: Autumn. 2007. Acrylic paints, printed on canvas. 195 × 725 cm

Interestingly, the initial idea for the project arose not only from Dubossarsky and Vinogradov, but from the Tretyakov Gallery’s team as well. Working on the project, the artists were afforded a unique opportunity to have a close look at the paintings in possession of one of Russia’s major museums, both those on permanent display and works from the reserve collections. Every stage of the process of creation was shot on video, and now is being demonstrated alongside the tetraptych.

Their work on the “Seasons of Russian Painting” opened up new horizons for the artists themselves. Not accidentally, the latest project by Dubossarsky and Vinogradov, presented at the Venice Biennale, tackled the same idea. The Gallery, too, gained a new experience of dealing with contemporary art. The Tretyakov Gallery is grateful to Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov for their support of the creative initiative, and for donating to the Gallery all four compositions of the “Seasons of Russian Painting” series.

The cooperation of the Tretyakov Gallery and contemporary artists will be continued in the framework of special projects to be shown in Hall 38 at Krymsky Val with new one-man exhibition projects of such varied artists as Francisco Infante, Gor Chahal, Maxim Kantor and other renowned masters.





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