Vladimir school of painting

The Vladimir School of Painting is a direction in Russian domestic art of the 20th century, which was based on the traditions of realistic painting of the 19th century with the priority of conveying impressions, personal perceptions of reality. This makes her related to the works of French impressionists and representatives of the Union of Russian Artists. 

Masters of different circles of the Vladimir School of Painting received their knowledge, skills and abilities from different teachers and as a result unequally developed them in their work. The main line-up of artists strove to write large easel paintings and progressively moved towards this goal. The works of the following circles of painters are characterized by greater etude or lack of integrity of the artistic heritage.

The sources of creativity of the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting Vladimir Yakovlevich Yukin and Kim Nikolaevich Britov.

Since ancient times the territory of the Vladimir region has been included in an active creative life. Hereditary icon painters worked in Mster (in the 19th century, many of them became restorers), who re-qualified as miniaturists in the Soviet era. Vladimir attracted the attention of artists by preserved ancient Russian architectural and picturesque monuments. That is why K.N.Britov wrote that “as a relay race, this love for the native land is passed from generation to generation, the best traditions of art are passed from grandfathers and fathers to sons and grandchildren. And if we trace the emergence and development of the now world-famous Mster lacquer miniature, we will see that its origins are the best traditions of the Vladimir and Suzdal icon painters. And exactly from Mstera talents of many modern Vladimir painters came out and tempered, whose work gave rise to such a concept in fine art as “Vladimir landscape”. Indeed, many of its representatives received their skills at the Mster Industrial School.

In addition, in 1905, a graduate of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, student of I.E. Repin, Ivan Semenovich Kulikov (1875-1941) came to Murom, thanks to which the traditions of studio work and annual exhibitions were born on the territory of the future Vladimir Region. 

V. Yukin was brought up on the example of his relatives. His uncle Pavel Yukin was a pupil of the icon painters from Mster, one of the leading restorers of the Tretyakov Gallery. He participated in the restoration of Novgorod churches, contributed to the disclosure of ancient Russian icons from the late records, worked in the early XX century hand in hand with Igor Grabar. Therefore, many artists came to Mstera, for example, Fedor Alexandrovich Modorov (1890-1967), the famous Soviet realist artist, whom Yukin posed for and “proudly carried his sketchbook.” In the vicinity of his beloved city, F.A. Modorov organized the House of Creativity, where Moscow artists came to the open air. Yukin spent a lot of time with them in childhood. Very likely that leading realist artists of the first half and middle of the 20th century came here, having an initial impact on the future artist. Despite this, Yukin’s parents did not approve of his passion for art, but Uncle Pavel Ivanovich supported the young man, sending him to study at the Mster School.

Britov, who returned from the war, was impressed by the exhibitions held on Vladimir land. He recalled the exposition, where his attention was attracted by the works of Nikolai Petrovich Sychev, Konstantin Ivanovich Mazin, Vyacheslav Alekseevich Filbert. Two of them will subsequently become his teachers and mentors, and the third — a colleague. The young artist’s respect for these artists shows that sketches by K.I. Mazin and V.A. Filbert are still kept in his workshop. Britov’s first teacher in Kovrov was Sergei Mikhailovich Chesnokov (1890-1965), a student of Nikolai Ivanovich Feshin (1881-1955) and Pavel Petrovich Benkov (1879-1949), who were students of Ilya Efimovich Repin (1844-1930). Chesnokov conducted an active plein air with his friend Vasily Leonidovich Zevakin, by their own example they inspired their students to work creatively. Unfortunately, very few works performed by them have been preserved, but it can be confidently stated that they were both realist artists.

Yukin and Britov had a common teacher at the Mster Art School — Konstantin Ivanovich Mazin (1874-1947), who studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in the landscape workshop of Professor Alexander Alexandrovich Kiselev (1838-1911).

Moreover, Yukin was taught at the Ivanovo School by Mikhail Semenovich Pyrin (1874-1943), a student of the Wanderers painters Sergey Alekseevich Korovin (1858-1908), Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky (1846-1920), Illarion Mikhailovich Pryanishnikov (1840-1894). But the main teacher of M.S. Pyrin was Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov (1865-1911).

The above list of teachers reveals the realistic origins of the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting.

The activities of Professor Nikolai Petrovich Sychev, who taught at the artists’ continuing education studio and at the Tractor Plant’s Folk House, played a large role in the development of Yukin and Britov’s skills. He studied at the University of St. Petersburg, gained skills by visiting various workshops, including I.E. Repin, about which his memories have been preserved. For some time Sychev was the director of the Russian Museum, but throughout his life he remained an artist who has repeatedly exhibited, for example, in the art association “16 Artists” in Leningrad. He put a lot of work into creating and forming the exposition of the Russian Museum, contributed to the unveiling of the frescoes of Novgorod cathedrals, and participated in the restoration of Armenian churches. His horizons were very wide due to the opportunity to work abroad and compare examples of ancient Russian and Byzantine art, to see works of the Middle Ages as an integral phenomenon, without separating the culture of the West and Russia. He always combined his scientific work with visual activity. On the sheets of his travel notes there were always sketches, as well as in his letters. Studying foreign frescoes, he made copies of them, thereby more deeply perceiving the principles of their writing. The value of this person for his time was great, however, repressed, he was forced to interrupt his activities. By the works of his associates, among whom was the artist and restorer I.E. Grabar, Sychev was transferred to Vladimir. Here he regularly writes small sketches or paintings, takes an active part in the creative life of the city and its region.

As we see, the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting received a similar art education and had common teachers — masters who preserved the traditions of Russian realistic painting of the second half of the 19th century. They did not receive a rigorous academic education, did not work on the easel story picture in the learning process, but received rich experience of full-scale work under the guidance of N.P. Sychev, K.I. Mazin, S.M. Chesnokov, students of painters from the turn of the XIX – XX centuries . Thanks to them, the traditions of the Union of Russian Artists, which consisted in turning more to plein air, to transmitting vibrant color relationships and national themes, affected the works of Yukin and Britov.

The creativity of the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting went through three stages of development, which led to the appearance of bright, major works of art. Throughout their whole lives, they did not stop in development, but specified their skills, abilities, and knowledge. Their paintings have expressiveness, liveliness, luminosity. Artists not only adopted the traditions of the previous generation, but also continued to improve them throughout their lives through the prism of their experience.

Quotes from artists also tell us about this.

«I came from the front with some other person,» recalls Yukin. – It took me a while to be alone with nature, to merge with the land where I was born. And little by little, the miracle that surrounds us began to return to my soul» Britov said this a little differently: «Why am I writing this way and not otherwise? Why brightness, why decorativeness? Not because I took it, and invented it all to stand out. It was all given to me by fate. He returned from the front, a difficult life, and the soul asks for a holiday, she exults, because they won, they survived! This is the main thing – reverence, enthusiasm for the world, for the existing»

To fully convey the impression of the world around us, the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting are based on full-scale work. In the book “Kim Britov” by O. Yermolaev-Vdovenko there are the words of the master: “Without nature, I do not do a single smear”. This phrase was quoted in the context of the fact that in the studio the artist did not correct his studies from memory. Gathering a large amount of preparatory material, he began to paint a picture, and compared “one spring day of working in the open air with a month of work in the studio.” In this process, nature is a mentor for artists. Their works are reflected in contemporary trends. So, in the early 1960s there were experiments in the field of technology, which made their painting more pasty. Yukin and Britov, despite studying the works of Van Gogh, Matisse, Modigliani and other foreign artists, did not seek to adopt their artistic decisions, but learned from them the courage to convey their own views on reality.

Yukin and Britov can rightly be ranked to the founders of the art school, called Vladimir, thanks to their active, fruitful work and the individual characteristics of their work in the system of realistic artistic method.

The term “Vladimir School of Painting”

The term “Vladimir School of Painting”, denoting a vivid phenomenon of domestic art, can be used in relation to specific artists who worked in the second half of the 20th century. They preserved in their work the traditions of ancient Russian icon painting of the 12th-15th centuries, impressionistic and post-impressionistic tendencies, and features of folk art. But, most importantly, the Vladimir School of Painting had a realistic foundation, conveyed by the masters of the second half of the 19th century. Its main representatives not only absorbed the heritage of past eras, but also deepened their understanding of “color painting”. They demonstrated that it can be combined with the writing of easel thematic paintings, showing the prospect of developing not only Russian, but also foreign art. Their achievements more clearly lead to the identification of the difference between the existing methods of writing works: naturalistic, tonal and color.

In the first case, artists focus on photographic detail in order to create the effect of illusion. Beautiful examples of such works have been preserved in history: still lifes of Fyodor Petrovich Tolstoy or Johannes Lemans (1633-1688), which even got the name — “trick”. Their goal was to accurately reproduce the subject in order to surprise the viewer. Similar trends existed in ancient times, as evidenced by a legend that tells of a dispute between two prominent artists Zeusxis and Parrasius. One of them reproduced a bunch of grapes so that the birds flocked to peck it. Parrasiy tricked his competitor by drawing a cover so that he asked to pull it off. This legend reveals the principle of naturalistic painting as a trick. With the development of technological advances, it began to be called photographic.

Other goals and objectives are pursued by artists who develop the principles of tone painting. The main thing in their work is the transfer of their ideas, feelings, thoughts. Vivid examples are paintings by Wanderers or masters of the Barbizon School. In their easel paintings, first of all, artistic tasks were set for the transfer of space, air and black-and-white interpretation of form. The aim was to subordinate them to the idea of ​​the work so that there was nothing superfluous in the picture. That is why, in such works, it seems that the high level of detail inherent in naturalistic works seems to be lost, but the liveliness and naturalness of the image appears.

The masters of the Vladimir School of Painting embodied in their paintings the color method of reproducing reality, based on an emotional attitude to the world. It is based on the transfer of impressions of what he saw. It was used in the XIX century by group of French artists called impressionists. In the history of the 20th century, the names and works of the Russian galaxy of landscape painters who improve the expressiveness and richness of the coloristic component of the picture are preserved: P.I. Petrovichev, S.A. Vinogradov, L.V. Turzhansky, I.E. Grabar, V.F. Stozharov, V.K.Belyanitsky-Birulya, brothers A.P. and SP Tkachev and others. This suggests that the representatives of the Vladimir School of Painting did not go alone to their goal. Continuing to develop the direction of impressionism, Russian artists based on their cultural component came to the creation of truly national works.

The Vladimir School of Painting existed as long as it developed these principles. Its founders Vladimir Yakovlevich Yukin and Kim Nikolaevich Britov received skills from a generation of artists who preserved in their work the principles and methods of realistic painting of the second half of the 19th century, as well as impressionist trends, in the interpretation of the Union of Russian Artists. Among them, N.P. Sychev, S.M. Chesnokov, K.I. Mazin, and others.

Yukin and Britov throughout their whole lives worked on creating easel paintings on a national theme, focusing on open-air work. That is why in their work a great place took writing sketches from nature. They rely on the transfer of personal impressions of the surrounding reality. However, they wrote their large format works on the basis of sketches, and therefore features of generalization and a small number of details appear in them.

The study of quotes and works of artists testify to the willpower, a certain civic and artistic position, and therefore they did not cater and did not succumb to fashionable influences. Thanks to this, the evolution of their works went through three stages, which led to the heyday of artistic skills, translated into expressive samples of art.

Their painting is characterized by colorfulness, lightness, luminosity, and therefore optimism. The paintings of the founders of the Vladimir school look filled with life, energy, human emotions. Without denying the task of transmitting depth, space and black and white interpretation of form, they came to write truly national works of art.

A study of the work of artists who rallied around Britov and Yukin leads to the conclusion that there are several circles of artists which stand more or less away from the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting. Realistic tendencies, and the desire to use the color method of working on paintings, reflected in their work with less force, despite the fact that they wrote together in the open air or in the same workshops, and then discussed the results achieved. Their life and career are less studied, and therefore more specific is required in determining the composition of the various circles of this phenomenon in Russian art.

The work of the authors, presumably of the first circle, is interesting: Nikolai Alekseevich Mokrov, Valery Grigoryevich Kokurin, Nikolai Nikolaevich Modorov, Valery Sergeevich Egorov and Mikhail Konstantinovich Lyovin and others. Their art education differed from the nature of the knowledge, skills and abilities of the founders of the Vladimir School of Painting, which became for them, mentors or teachers, and therefore the understanding of the color method of their management was not so deep, which led in the late period of the creative path to application conditional color. It can be called in this case a gamut, as a term denoting the analytical selection of a harmonious combination of colors.

As a result, at the end of life, the masters of the first circle of the Vladimir school came to similar features of the artistic language, while its founders found their own individual. Kokurin’s creativity leaves this general logic of evolution, in connection with which, he is often ranked among the founders. He retained in his work the brightness, optimism and national character of the canvases, despite the conditional color combinations.

One more circle of artists could be distinguished, the one which gives conditionality to the use of the very term “Vladimir School of Painting”. The creative path of these masters is significantly different from the evolution of the works of the founders of this artistic phenomenon. Of these, the legacy of Vladislav Akimovich Potekhin, Adolf Nikolaevich Garanin, Yuri Ivanovich Zharov, Lev Yakovlevich Eliseev, Alfred Mikhailovich Smirnov, Viktor Ivanovich Smirnov, Victor Nikolaevich Titov, Alexander Ivanovich Lukin, Yuri Fedorovich Harvich Lobimov, was partially investigated.

It is known that they more or less communicated with the core artists of the Vladimir School of Painting. In the works of many of them, by the 1970s, there was a color convention, a rejection of rich, expressive coloristic relationships and work based on impression. Various influences were reflected in their paintings, including underground painting.

Until the last breath, Yukin and Britov maintained and developed the traditions received from teachers, while the first circle of artists — until the 1980s and 90s, and the second — until the 1970s and 80s. It becomes evident that the phenomenon of the “school” is gradually disappearing, as an informal association of craftsmen, passing on from generation to generation certain methods, skills, principles and traditions. The founders of the Vladimir School of Painting, not actively engaged in pedagogical activities, continued to influence the artistic life of the region with their authority. Many of the artists who walked with them at the beginning of the journey deviated.

In this case, of course, there is no need to talk about the existence of the next generations or circles of masters of the Vladimir school of painting, the term is applicable only to its development in the second half of the 20th century.

Further study of this artistic phenomenon has a great importance for the development of Russian art and requires the publication of serious art criticism, as it shows that realistic art does not stop its development. In different eras, it is transformed, changing its characteristic features. The Vladimir School of Painting has preserved the principles of color painting, based on the transfer of his impressions of reality, writing large easel paintings on the basis of this. The creative achievements of its representatives show in which direction artists can move in the future, improving the heritage of previous generations.
The history of the Vladimir School of Painting reflects ideological errors and advantages in the direction taken by the Soviet government in the field of fine art, and prompts the study of various methods of creating a picture and their perception by society.

Moreover, the appearance of the Vladimir School of Painting in Russian art expands the idea of ​​national identity and “creative communities” in Russian art, and, along with the legacy of other realist artists developing impressionistic tendencies, in the 20th century prompts to rethink “the role of Russian art in the global process of artistic development”.