Nikolaevich Ge

Russia • 1831−1894
Nikolay Nikolayevich Ge (February 15 (27), 1831, Voronezh - June 1 (13), 1894, Ivanovo Farm, Chernigov Province) - Russian painter and draftsman, who worked in the genre of portrait, historical and religious painting. One of the founders of the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions.

Features of the artist Nicholas Ge. Despite Ge’s proximity to the Wanderers, his own creative pursuits go far beyond realistic painting. Attempts to classify the work of Nikolai Ge and fit it in a certain direction are doomed to failure: according to researchers, he is always either late or ahead of the mass taste, remaining a lonely figure not only in Russian, but also in European art. Quite often, the individual expressive manner of Ge (especially in the development of evangelical themes) seemed to his contemporaries inept or careless, however, from a retrospective point of view, Nikolay Ge is perceived as a brilliant innovator. Late Ge's color drama anticipates works Mikhail Vrubel(the artists were related).

Famous paintings of Nicholas Ge: "The Last Supper", “Peter I interrogates Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich in Peterhof”, "A.S.Pushkin in the village of Mikhailovsky",“What is truth? Christ and Pilate ”

If ever there was a competition for the title of an incorrigible idealist among Russian painters of the second half of the 19th century, Nikolay Ge would have every chance of victory. And not because there were no competitors - not at all. This time itself in Russia was the epoch of those who believed that art was capable of transforming reality, and their personal efforts - to change the life of their neighbor and all of Russia for the better. But even against this background, Ge stands out for some special inner honesty, kindness without moralism, splendid spirit without bigotry, love of neighbor without any preconditions. “I made a stove for a poor family in my farm, and this time was for me the most joyful in life- admitted Ge. - And who imagined it, that men and women, generally simple people, are rude and ignorant? This is not only a lie, but, I suspect, a malicious lie. I have never seen such delicacy and subtlety anywhere ... ”.

The roots of the artist Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge

The artist was obliged by his exotic name to his great-grandfather - the French nobleman Matieu de Gay, who fled to Russia for fear of the French Revolution. The owner of completely liberal convictions, Nikolai Ge will joke later: after all, they say, stupidity, to flee from such a good cause.

Father Ge already wore quite Russian name and patronymic Nikolai Osipovich and even fought against Napoleon’s army in 1812, and Ge did not know his mother — she died of cholera when Nikolay was three months old. His father then married a second time, he was not up to his sons - he was a busy man, strong-willed, successful and rather tough, and his grandmother and “nanny Natasha” were engaged in bringing up Nicholas and his two older brothers. Biographers believe that the compassionate and responsive nature of Ge formed the female education. And also - a keen sense of the injustice of what is happening around.

In Nikolai Ge's memoirs there are piercing stories about how his beloved nanny hid from him, who had just just begun to think something, scary traces of beatings: the gentleman punished. Or how they, together with the nanny, look out the window at the bravo of soldiers marching on the parade-ground, and past the building they bring another soldier, locked up to death.

Then Gay was given to study at the Kiev gymnasium. But even there, the cruelty and humiliation to which the warden subjected children was most vividly remembered. "He beat a square ruler, - remembers Ge, - and once broke it on someone's head. He tore his ears, - the ear curl was separated by a crack, which was covered with a constant scab ... "

Practical father insisted that Nicholas enrolled in the mathematical department of the university in Kiev. After studying here for a year, Ge transferred to the same specialty in St. Petersburg. He was so happy to move that he painted all the walls in the Kiev apartment. But not ambition drove him to the capital of the empire. Motives to prefer St. Petersburg Ge will explain later: "I sought out from the provinces here to see this amazing man - Bryullova".

Study at the Academy. “In the footsteps of Bryullov”

It was purely youthful idealism: a mathematic student from poor Ukrainian landowners appoints himself the artist's idol, Briullov, and for the sake of this he decides to change his fate. "I came, I saw "Pompey"I can not see enough! ” - Ge conveyed his first metropolitan impressions of the picture. A year later, Nicholas left mathematics and entered the Academy of Arts. "The Art is Overwhelmed"He explained.

But he did not have to learn from the "magnificent Karl": the latter died in 1852, while Gay was walking for the 21st year. And Bryullov’s favorite models — Taras from the Yaroslavl Province and Vasily from the Vologda Region — continued to pose for Academy students and entertain them with tales from Karl Pavlovich’s life.

The system of education in the Academy in the days of Ge is hardly perfect. The first of the professors for months asked the same story - the Flood. The second, Professor Markov, argued in his blue eye that the main advantage of historical painting is that it is boring. The third, Professor Utkin, deliberately ruled student drawings in French pencil, which could not be erased, and this finally ruined not only the drawing (successful as a whole, although inaccurate in trifles), but any creative enthusiasm.

But Ge had a happy and rare ability to see a good side in everything. Even the walls of the Academy at first caused him a surge of delight: “Dear building! How much joy, truth, simplicity, mind, genius lived here! ” What can we say about the paintings Bryullov, whom N. N. Ge idolized: “Months, almost a year, I could not see anything: everything was shielded by Pompey!”

The whole early Ge of the times of the Academy is lovingly sung by Bryullov (1, 2, 3, 4).

Life, poverty and love

Idealist Ge lives in poverty. He cannot write to order - I am sure that it harms art. And to spend on themselves the crumbs sent by the father is immoral, because there are so many needy around.

The critic Stasov asserts: there was a time when Ge was so wrapped around that of decent clothes in his wardrobe remained “Only a dress pair and top dress”and in this clothes he went not only to study, but also to the shop and to the bath. Nikolay Nikolayevich Ge shared an apartment with a sculptor friend Parmen Zabelloand two more art students. All four could not boast of financial well-being. It turned out that the owner of a tailcoat was only Gay, and without a tailcoat at that time they were not allowed into the Hermitage - the place where the Academy student received the most important lessons and skills. Of all the guests of the apartment, only one got to the museum - the one who was the first to wear a tail coat. And since he was the only decent clothes of Ge, this, according to Stasov, "Put Nikolai Nikolayevich in the position of the arrested".

Did it oppress gay? Oh no! After all, taking care of personal comfort is petty egoism, and Ge is avidly reading the beloved Herzen and Belinsky and dreams of a more just social order.

At about the same time, Nikolay Ge fell in love, and he fell in love in absentia. His friend Parmen regularly received letters from his sister Anna, and Gay was addicted to reading them - there were no secrets between friends. An unknown girl shook Ge's imagination with a lofty body of thought and prudence. Soon, Gaye himself entered into a correspondence with her and after a few months decided that he would not marry anyone but her. She will turn 24, and Ge will be 25 years old when they will be married in the Chernigov village of Monastyryshche to live together all their lives. At the wedding, Gay will give the bride an article entitled “About a drama” by Alexander Herzen, their beloved writer and Anna.

Italy, the creative crisis and religious upheaval

Not having had time to get used to the status of the newlyweds, Ge's couple quickly fell to Rome - Nikolay Nikolayevich recently won the Academy's gold medal and won the right to retirement in Italy. What did Ghe expect from “abroad”? It turns out - freedom: “If I had been asked: why are you going? I would perhaps answer: to engage in art; but it would be an external answer, not one. I would answer myself: I cannot stay here. Where there is wider, where is freedom, I want to go there. Six years of gymnasium, two years of college, seven years of the Academy - enough, you can no longer endure ".

In Italy, two sons of Ge will be born: Nikolai in 1857 in Rome, and Peter in 1859 in Frascatti. Then Ge will replace Rome with cheaper Florence, will travel a lot, look for yourself in the genre of landscapewrite marbles of carraraand sunsets of livornobut for a long time he could not grope on his own path in art and began to understand that at the Academy "Taught trivia and nonsense". The moment came when Ge felt that he had nothing to say in the painting. Every day the determination to go to Russia grew stronger in order to declare to the heads of the Academy: he did not bring anything, did not write anything, because he was convinced that he had no talent. If his disappointment of the idealist then prevailed, we could hardly have talked about the outstanding artist Nikolai Nikolayevich Ge.

What happened afterwards can, without hesitation, be called a revelation. Not particularly religious, but very well-read Ge took to re-read the Gospel - and suddenly he saw everything that is being said, with an extraordinary reality. Saw like a picture. "And suddenly I saw the sorrow of the Savior there, losing forever the human disciple. Near him lay John: he understood everything, but did not believe the possibility of such a break; I saw Peter jump in, because he, too, understood everything and became indignant — he is a hot man; I saw, at last, and Judas: he will surely leave. Here, I understood, that to me is dearer than my life, here is the One, in whose word I am not, but all nations will drown. What! Here it is a picture! ”

A week later the picture"The Last Supper", written by Nikolai Nikolayevich Ge in one breath, was ready.

Petersburg, recognition, the Itinerants, and again the crisis

In Russia, the artist's picture was a resounding success. She was passionately extolled and equally zealously scolded (at least for the fact that Christ made the artist look like Herzen forbidden in Russia). Nikolai Ge was immediately given the title of professor of the Academy (and bypassing the intermediate title of academician - a rare case), and the Emperor Alexander II expressed a desire to buy the painting “The Last Supper”.

But the artist was in no hurry to return to St. Petersburg for good. 13 years in total, his family spent in Italy, until Ge matured up to this step. His return coincided with an event that he could not fail to see approvingly - the “revolt of 14”, the protest of 14 young artists against the rules of the Academy, which will result in the movement of the Wanderers. The convergence of Ge with the Wanderers occurred rapidly. He, a former mathematician, was appointed treasurer of traveling art exhibitions. On the first of them a picture of Nikolai Ge with the title"Peter I interrogates Tsarevich Alexei"makes a decisive furor.

But the following works of the master on a historical theme, including a masterpiece with the title"Pushkin in Mikhailovsky", the public did not accept. Nikolay Nikolayevich Ge himself understood that such a painting did not quite correspond to his vocation. But what is the answer? The master insists on some kind of high ideal, but does not find understanding. Unexpectedly for many, he leaves everything in the capital, sells property and buys an abandoned Ivanovo farm in Chernigov province, from which to the nearest train station is not less than 10 miles. There, the artist with his family will live for nearly 18 years - until his death.

Khutor Ivanovskoye, Leo Tolstoy and "Christian expressionism" Ge

Ivanovskoye would be about the same for Ge, than Yasnaya Polyana was for Tolstoy - a “testing ground” for a new, more moral life. Tolstoy was a special person in the biography of the artist. They were bound by tender friendship. Following Tolstoy, Ge abandoned wage labor, quit smoking, and became a vegetarian. If earlier the artist was famous for his excellent appetite and passion for roast beef, now he deliberately tried to eat what he did not like - millet porridge, for example. Tolstoy did not like oil painting - and for a while, Ge began to write in pencil (for example, illustrations to Tolstoy's “Than People Are Alive”). Nikolai Nikolayevich was fascinated by agriculture, and with children's joy he showed his guests new threshers, an apiary, and crops of oats. He learned the furnace business, laid out the furnaces to the peasants and persuaded a familiar artist at least once in his life — for his sake — to clean the floor of the poor.

And the painting? In time, Nikolay Nikolayevich Ge returned to her. The main theme of his late work will be the last days of Christ’s life, and the goal will be to awaken the indifference of his contemporaries: "I will shake all their brains with the suffering of Christ". But his new style shocked the public. And if then there was an article "for insulting the feelings of believers," Ge could be condemned. Why not just write about him: that the master"I lost my talent and works with its remnants."What pictures of Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge - "A lie without justification" and a caricature that Christ he presented "Almost a fierce conspirator and an inexorable savage" and - the crown! - that these works (1, 2, 3, 4)"Written not for the Russian people". Cloths of the master were removed from exhibitions, forbidden to make reproductions from them, they refused to buy outraged to the depths Pavel Tretyakov. “I am tired of protecting your paintings, Nikolai Nikolayevich”- says Ge Kramskoy.

The 63-year-old artist died suddenly: he returned from the town to the farm, suddenly felt ill and did not die that evening. Only the twentieth century will be able to realize that the natural expressionist was hiding in the realist and the ascetic, and his later work is not a failure, but a breakthrough. The great breakthrough of the 19th century artist to the painful aesthetics of the next century.

Author: Anna Yesterday

See also: 

Strokes to the portrait. “Totally blissful did!”: 7 stories about Nikolai Ge

Says and shows: Nikolay Ge is about form, content, advertising and why a horse can be beautiful, but a person is not

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