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Ivan
Nikolayevich Kramskoy
Russia 
1837−1887
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Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (May 27 (June 8), 1837, Ostrogozhsk, Voronezh Province — March 24 (April 5), 1887, St. Petersburg) — Russian artist (master of portrait and genre painting) and art activist: Kramskoy was the leader of Riot 14, founder Artel artists, he is one of the organizers and ideologist of the Association of Traveling Exhibitions.

Features of the artist Ivan Kramskoy:simple and clear composition of paintings; deep psychologism and impeccable similarity of portraits, the ability to find the "meaning of the face" of the person portrayed, as Kramskaya himself said; strict and restrained emotions of the characters — even in dramatic genre works.

Famous paintings of Ivan Kramskoy: "Unknown", "Christ in the wilderness", "Portrait of Mina Moiseev","Inconsistent grief","Moonlight night","Mermaids", portraits Shishkin, Tolstoy, Nekrasovother.

Kramsky’s life seems to be an attempt to squeeze it into an ideological framework in which it did not fit. He managed to point the way to many others, but did he find his own? I would like to respond positively, but it seems that Ivan Kramskoy did not leave us such an opportunity.

"Yes, but"

Practically for every "yes" in the life of Kramskoy, there is a "but" that refutes the meaning of the previous statement. He was a fighter against academicism, a subverter of frozen rules, an ideologue, inspirer and organizer of the famous "Riot of Fourteen", then the Artel of Artists, and later the Society of Traveling Exhibitions. It seems that the "ideological content" of this figure is quite unambiguous. But a closer look finds many contradictions. He left the Academy, but he was awarded the title of academician, and a professorship was offered — he refused. He built his life "according to Chernyshevsky’s precepts", but wrote several excellent portraits of members of the royal family (1, 2). The meaning of art, he saw in the search for the goal of human existence, in solving social and social problems, but the most famous of his paintings, ironically, was the "Unknown."

It is believed (and not without reason) that Kramskoy maximally showed his talent in the masterly writing of portraits. And here is not without "but." He was very much in the need to paint portraits, considered them a burden, bondage, the task of which was to allow to provide for his family, and he dreamed of giving his strength to serious, "real" art.

On the approaches to painting

He began working with portraits of Kramskoy even earlier than having a thing to do with painting itself. At that time, photography was only gaining popularity, and it was not without retouching, and Ivan took the first steps in that direction. From the small town of Ostrogozhsk, an incident in the person of a visiting Kharkov photographer helped him to escape. The young man was with him as a retoucher and watercolorist. Before that, he managed to graduate with honors from the Ostrogozhskoe School and learned a little to draw from a local icon painter.

Twenty years turned Kramskoy, when he was in St. Petersburg, and stayed there. Without any hesitations, he leaned straight into the Imperial Academy of Arts. And from the first time I passed the exams and was enrolled. Maybe things were not so bad at the Academy, since a penniless raznochinets could come from the street and enter? However, it was even necessary to think about Kramsky’s food, and here, by the way, came the skills of photo processing. He was taken to one of the first Russian photo studio by a former graduate of the Academy of Arts. Andrey Denier. The photographs that were in the hands of Kramsky seemed to glow. Very soon, he had the reputation of "God of retouching." Yes, the portraits of Kramskoy were not released even then. "To write only portraits, today, tomorrow, etc., year after year, and not see a way out — this can act dispiritingly on talent. I am tired of this situation … "— later recognized by the artist. Researchers estimate that he wrote about 3 thousand "heads."

Riot of 14, Artel of Artists and the Association of Traveling Exhibitions

Kramskoy taught in the Society for the Promotion of Arts, and as a teacher left behind a good memory and grateful students. Ilya Repinuntil the end of his days he spoke of him with great respect and love and listened to his remarks. Organizing abilities Ivan Kramskoy had great. It was he who sounded to the Council of the Academy the refusal of 14 talented graduates to take part in the competition for the Grand Gold Medal. The medal meant for the winner a six-year residence in Italy at the full pension institution. The rest of the participants were guaranteed a place of profit. Young ambitious artists did not want to describe the mythological plot on a given theme "Feast in Valhalla" (according to Scandinavian mythology). Insulted by ignoring their demands and inspired by new democratic trends, the rebels, led by Ivan Kramskoy, left the Academy and organized an independent Artel of Artists. It existed for eight years, although Kramskoy himself believed that the heyday was reached in the fifth year, and then it was inevitably close to decline.

The artel was created according to the commune principle (the influence of Chernyshevsky’s novel What to Do? Is clearly read). However, in fact, had to deal with a variety of domestic unrest. Successful painters did not want to give part of their income to the general cash register, cohabitation also resulted in many household clashes, the artists' wives quarreled first. And the fact that many continued to somehow cooperate with the Academy, Kramskoy at that time seemed a betrayal. He did not yet know that in the future, his comrades would blame him for betrayal. The artel was less and less like the ideal community that Kramskoy dreamed of. In 1870, he left her, and soon Artel artists disintegrated. Addicted to ideas MyasoedovaKramskoy became one of the organizers of the Society of traveling exhibitions, which had a great influence on the development of the picturesque movement in Russia.

The embodied dream of Vera Pavlovna

Sophia Prokhorova cohabited with a certain painter Popov, quite happily married not at all to her. Kramsky was 22 years old when they met. In this story, too, the echoes of Chernyshevsky’s influence and the image of Vera Pavlovna are easily guessed. Soon, Popov with his lawful wife went abroad, and Kramskoy offered the woman a hand — and a helping hand, and marriage. So Sofia Prokhorova became Sophia Kramskoy. In the Artel of Artists she was in charge of domestic issues. She was always with her husband, bore him six children, four of whom died. Was Kramskoy happy? Of course, yes, although he admitted that "Personal happiness does not fill life".

Sudden "Unknown" and portrait curse

Adhering to the democratic ideology, proclaiming the ideological nature of art, Kramskoy did not particularly reflect this in her paintings. At the same time, there is no doubt about his sincerity (again, "yes, but"). At the 11th exhibition, the Wanderers Repin showed his "Procession"Encyclopedia of Russian reality. Makovskydepicted the urban poor in "Date"and "Shame", Surikov wrote disgraced Menshikov in reference. And what about Kramskoy? Yes, as all this wormed this luxurious lady?

If Kramskoy had not stood at the origins of the Artel of Artists and the Mobile Exhibition Association, if his democratic views were not known, if not for his scandalous marriage to a "fallen woman," would this picture have a chance to be in a mobile exhibition? However, despite the "trustworthiness" of Kramsky, the picture caused a storm of indignation among his comrades. "Kokotka in the carriage"— said the critic Vladimir Stasov, as he snapped. Kramsky’s biggest mystery, which cannot be fully revealed, is what the name says. But looking at her — and you don’t want to take your eyes off Neizvestnaya — no, no, and you’ll think: what would Kramskoy have written if it were not for the need to earn his daily bread and ideology, within whose framework he sought to cram his life?

The more popular Kramskoy became, the louder the hula was heard by comrades. And when he was ordered portraits of members of the royal family … Kramskoy was called an apostate, sold to the Academy (he offered to consider options for cooperation between "academics" and the Wanderers), a renegade, a traitor to ideals, steeped in luxury. Even his favorite red stockings were reproached! Performing portraits of royal persons really allowed his family to reach a higher standard of living. But did the artist allow himself to relax even for a moment? By no means. He seemed to be in a squirrel wheel, and all he can do is run even faster. Money goes, the needs of the family grow, the possibility of leaving the necessary and doing the desired Kramskoy does not see. In desperation, he writes Pavel Tretyakov: "My case has come to pain, and I am ready to shout" help ". Give me a year of living on trial. I want a year of artistic life, so as not to be forced to run for bread. Think it suffers, although I was already exhausted. ". But no one gave him the desired "year of life".

He did not live two months to 50 years, but at the end of his life he looked like a weak old man, bitterly admitted that everyone turned away from him, and he did not succeed in doing what he was born for. He suffered from heart disease, in old age (this is under 50 years old, "old age"!) He took morphine in large quantities, continued portrait sessions, working for 5−6 hours without a break. Grigory Myasoedov ruthlessly describes what is happening in this way: the family got used to luxury, the money went without an account, the children needed more and more, and as a result, Kramskoy "We need money and money, we need to work, we need to spray morphine, we need to die …". He died without finishing the last portrait in his life. Ironically, the famous doctor Karl Rauffus posed for him. At the fifth hour of work Kramskoy staggered. Soon everything was over, and even the proximity of the doctor could not help.

Author: Alain Esaulova
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Artworks by the artist
185 artworks total
1883, 75.5×99 cm
1872, 180×210 cm
1884, 228×141 cm
View 185 artworks by the artist