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15 artworks, 8 artists
The ideas of the interpenetration of the Universal microcosm and the microcosm of man laid the foundation for the artistic trend of cosmism, which arose at the early 20th century. Scientific research in the fields of physics, astronomy along with a number of philosophical works have become the basis for the artists who sought to embody the Man and the Universe, the unknown secrets of the Spirit, the unity of the beauty of the human soul and the immeasurable space in their paintings. As the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev wrote, “Man is related and similar to the Cosmos, but not because he is a part of the Cosmos, but because he himself is the whole Cosmos and consists of the same matter as the Cosmos.”

The transcendence of cosmism was based on the research of such prominent scientists as the founder of cosmonautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the author of the biosphere doctrine, academician Vladimir Vernadsky, biophysicist Alexander Chizhevsky, who studied the cyclical effects of the sun, French priest and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, one of the creators of the noosphere theory. Being widely discussed and debated, their ideas and theories were very progressive for their time. They were among the first to have raised the question of the unity of Man and the Universe, their relationship. These broad views and judgments could not but attract a number of artists who not only imbued them, but also brought the ideas of cosmism into their art. Subtle manifestations of the spiritual worlds were captured in paintings by Mikalojus Čiurlionis, Nicholas Roerich. A peculiar Suprematist cosmism was present in the works of Kazimir Malevich.

One of the most striking creative associations of cosmist artists was the Amaravella group, led by Pyotr Fateev. During its heyday, it united such artists as Boris Smirnov-Rusetsky, Vera Pshesetskaya, Alexander Sardan, Sergey Shigolev, Viktor Chernovolenko. The harmonious name of the group, coined by Sardan, possibly has Sanskrit roots meaning something like “creative energy”, “sprouts of immortality”. United by the ideas of cosmism, this art association was formed in 1923. The works by Camille Flammarion, Nicholas Roerich, Helena Blavatsky had a great influence on the group. Later, in their Manifesto, members of the group stated: “A work of art should speak for itself to a person who is able to hear its speech. This cannot be taught... Our creativity, which is primarily intuitive, is aimed at revealing various aspects of the Cosmos — in human faces, in the landscape and in the display of abstract images of the inner world... the perception of our paintings should not be through a rational and formal analysis, but through empathy, the inner empathy, then their goal will be achieved.”

The cosmic painting reflected the ideas of the distant future of mankind, the questions of life and death, the role of the mind activity in the conquest of space. Cosmism in the paintings of the Amaravella group was expressed in the artists’ attempts to present the new planets and the appearance of their inhabitants, living conditions and other beauty canons that could be unusual for the earthlings. Like many other innovative trends in art, cosmism was disfavoured by the Soviet government. However, the ideas about space flights fit into the general state concept. Innovative fantastic pictures of space exploration were very useful when creating the first Soviet film Space Flight released in 1935. It production designer was Yuri Shvets, who was fortunate enough to work with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky himself.

After the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the theme of space sounded in the heroism of socialist realism with a new force. But the attempts to reflect the inner world of the astronaut, his view of the connection between Man and the Universe, could only be done by the astronaut. Alexei Leonov not only captured the Earth from space, but also created a number of paintings with images of new fantastic worlds and spaces, some of them were painted in collaboration with the artist Andrey Sokolov.

Famous cosmist paintings:
“Above the Stars”, Pyotr Fateev, 1915
“Radio locaton”, Alexander Sardan, 1928
“Space Geometry”, Boris Smirnov-Rusetsky, 1965
“On Mars. The meeting of two worlds”, Yuri Shvets, 1961
“Moon. Ocean storms. Gagarin Prospect”, Yuri Shvets, 1996.

Cosmist artists:
Mikalojus Čiurlionis, Nikolas Roerich, Kazimir Malevich, Pyotr Fateev, Boris Smirnov-Rusetsky, Vera Pshesetskaya, Alexander Sardan, Sergey Shigolev, Viktor Chernovolenko, Yuri Shvets, Alexei Leonov, Andrey Sokolov, Freydoon Rassouli.