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The date Tamara and the Demon. Illustration to the poem by Mikhail Lermontov "Demon"

Mikhail Vrubel • Drawings and illustrations, 1890-th , 66×50 cm
Digital copy: 2.0 MB
1874 × 2500 px • JPEG
50 × 66 cm • 95 dpi
31.7 × 42.3 cm • 150 dpi
15.9 × 21.2 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Subject and objects: Mythological scene, Literary scene
Style of art: Symbolism
Technique: Watercolor, White
Materials: Paper on cardboard
Date of creation: 1890-th
Size: 66×50 cm
Artwork in collection: Mikhail Vrubel Olga Potekhina
Artwork in selections: 38 selections
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Description of the artwork «The date Tamara and the Demon. Illustration to the poem by Mikhail Lermontov "Demon"»

Work "The Demon and Tamara."also known as "Love Me!" - is one of 11 illustrations for Lermontov's poem "Demon" that were published by I. N. Kushnarev's printing house. It was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet and, according to publishers, was conceived as a complete independent work of art. "We sought in the drawings not template illustrations to order, for the most part dry, monotonous and boring," it says in the preface to the first volume. - We were looking for character, life, in a word, any kind of artistic work.

In the footsteps of the Demon
The arduous task of selecting suitable authors was entrusted to Peter Konchalovsky. He attracted a total of 17 artists, including the then well known Aivazovsky, Vasnetsov, Makovsky, Polenov, Repin and Shishkin. And four were just beginning to gain recognition, including Korovin, Pasternak, and Serov. It was the latter who recommended that Konchalovsky turn his attention to Vrubel, because he knew that at the time he was literally obsessed with working on the image of the dark spirit in the painting "The Demon Sitting".

Vrubel's first illustration of the poem was a picture of the Demon against a background of mountains. When Konchalovsky saw it, he decided to rent the young artist a room in the house where he lived himself, so he could fully immerse himself in drawing. During the year Vrubel created 36 images for the anniversary edition, of which 20 went to print, including 11 illustrations of "Demon".

Work on them was not easy: it seemed that the artist took too close to his heart the task of embodiment of the otherworldly Lermontov hero, who seduced and killed the Georgian Princess Tamara. In the plot the Demon, exhausted by thousands of years of loneliness and boundless power, notices the beauty during the traditional tambourine dance she performs on the roof on the eve of her wedding. Determined to win the girl's favour, he stages the death of Tamara's fiancé and appears in her dreams every night, promising comfort and love.

Sensing that these nightmares are of the evil one, the Princess persuades her father to let her go to a monastery in order to hide from the machinations of evil forces. Realising that a night spent with him would be fatal for her, the enamoured Demon begins to doubt his intentions and tries to divert her from her cell. But he is let down by a wing that refuses to move, and he is no longer able to resist temptation. The title of the illustration includes the words from the lines describing Tamar's first and last encounter with her tempter:
I will sink to the bottom of the sea,
I'll fly beyond the clouds,
I'll give you everything, everything earthly--
Love me!

There's only a moment
The depiction of the passionate scene was not given to Vrubel: he reworked its composition twice. in the first version he placed Tamara to the left of the Demon, by the wall next to the chonguri - a Georgian musical instrument. But the artist was so dissatisfied with the result that he tore it in half, leaving only the part with the princess. The second version with the starry sky in the background and the Demon leaning over the girl suffered the same fate - it was torn to shreds by Vrubel.

The third time he finally succeeded in fully realizing his idea. The picture really got unusually sensual. With just black watercolor, confident, as if chopped brush strokes Vrubel carved like a stone fragile figure of Tamara in the arms of a dark angel.

Her pose reflects her inner struggle: her body seems to distance herself from the Demon, while her face and gaze are directed towards him. The details of the cell's décor completely disappear into the background, shifting all attention to the tension between the pair of lovers. And the shining stars outside the window remind of eternity, in the face of which the fleeting moment of deadly passion unfolds.

Konstantin Korovin, with whom Vrubel was on friendly terms, recalled how he worked on the illustrations for "Demon": "Sharp strokes, which were aimed like shots, divided the sheet plane by straight, jerky strokes. And then he joined them together - nervously, tensely, hard as steel fingers".

It's a big deal
The illustrations were too avant-garde for most of the public, and Konchalovsky even had to convince publishers of their artistic value. The art historian Stasov called them awful, and Repin Vrubel seemed "unpleasant in these illustrations". Other critics scolded the works for "rudeness, ugliness, caricature and absurdity.

Only a few of his more progressive colleagues appreciated the drawings. Among them were Surikov and Korovin, and Serov even confessed to the latter: "After I saw Vrubel's canvases, this deliberate clarity of form, my works seemed to me somehow pale, smooth, like soap." Only a couple of decades later, art historians will admit that it was Vrubel was able to accurately, like no one else, to convey the poetic image of Lermontov's Demon.

Author: Natalia Azarenko