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Mikhail Vrubel • Painting, 1900, 160×170 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1900
Size: 160×170 cm
Artwork in selections: 145 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Lilac»

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Vrubel worked on a cycle of paintings called the “Fairytale”. It includes the paintings “Pan”, “The Swan Princess”, “Towards Night”, “Pearl Shell” and “Lilac”. In addition to the presence of fabulous creatures on them, all these works are united by the time of action - night, which is why they are also called nocturnes. Twilight gives the paintings a special mysterious and fairytale flavor. In addition, night scenes allow the artist to squeeze all the possibilities out of his favorite palette: any shades of blue and purple.

Inspiration descended on Vrubel during his stay with Nikolai Ge in the Chernigov province. There he saw a lush fragrant bush of lilacs and immediately set to work. It is difficult to say for sure who the main character in Vrubel’s painting “Lilac” is. On the one hand, a luxurious flowering plant occupies almost the entire space of the canvas, leaving only a small corner for the night sky. The heavy branches, strewn with purple color, seem alive: if you look at the picture for a long time, you almost begin to hear the sweet smell of lilacs.

But the unsteady, like a morning dream, the figure of the girl also attracts the eye. Her plain outfit and pale skin contrast with the excess luxury of lilac flowers. She holds indecisive and dreamy, as if looking at her lover. Opinions of researchers of Vrubel's creativity regarding the personality of the heroine differ. Some consider her the soul of a lilac, her reflection in human form, which manifested itself in the flickering of moonlight. Others see in this picture a continuation of the story of Pan - pictureswritten by the artist a year earlier.

According to Greek mythology, Pan was the god of forests and pastures, the patron saint of shepherds. He was ugly: covered with wool, with goat horns and hooves, and his constant companions were funny nymphs. But one of them dared to reject his love, because she had taken a vow of chastity. When Pan chased after her - and her name was Siringa - the nymph asked for protection from the god of the river, blocking her path.

God turned her into a reed, and Pan made a flute from it, which he called a syringa in memory of a beautiful nymph. In Latin, the lilac is called Syrínga - the plant also received a name in her honor. Who knows, maybe in the picture of Vrubel the moment of Syringa's transformation into a flowering bush is captured, and that is why her figure is so unsteady and ephemeral.

Vrubel has two paintings called "Lilac". But the second one, written a year later, was never finished. Although in relation to her, the artist had great ambitions. He wrote: “Last year, my“ Lilac ”refers to the real thing as a sketch for a picture. There I only managed to catch something, and I really wanted to capture the thing more fully; this is the reason that I persist in this plot. ”

Heroinesecond version it was supposed to be no longer a mythological nymph, but another character, this time a literary one. Vrubel wanted to depict in the new picture the image of Tatyana Larina from Pushkin's poem "Eugene Onegin." What kind of artist was she, it’s hard to understand, but in a fuzzy outline of the silhouette of a girl sitting under a lilac on a bench, some viewers guess the features of Vrubel’s wife - opera singer Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel.

The first, finished "Lilac" of Vrubel became the reason for the anecdote, which Konstantin Korovin quotes in his memoirs:
“When Vrubel was sick and was in the hospital, an exhibition of Diaghilev was opened at the Academy of Arts. The sovereign attended the opening. Seeing Vrubel’s painting “Lilac”, the emperor said:
- How beautiful it is. I like.
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, standing nearby, ardently protesting, objected:
- What it is? This is decadence ...
“No, I like it,” said the emperor. - Who is the author of this picture? Vrubel, answered the emperor.
... Turning to the retinue and seeing Count Tolstoy, vice president of the Academy of Arts, the emperor said:
“Count Ivan Ivanovich, is this the one who was executed in Nizhny?” (This refers to the All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod where in 1896 two panels of Vrubel were not allowed to participate, considering them “monstrous” and not suitable for exhibiting) .

The author: Natalia Azarenko