The most famous Russian artist of the medieval period is Andrei Rublev. He specialized as a painter of Orthodox icons and frescos. In the nineteenth century, the artistic movement known as Realism dominated the Russian art world. The realists captured Russian identity in landscapes as well as in vigorous genre scenes and robust portraits of their contemporaries. They also focused on Social Realism capturing the everyday conditions of the working class and the poor. The leading Russian landscape painters were Isaac Levitan and Ivan Shishkin; the leading portraitist was Valentin Serov; while the leading Social Realist was Ilya Repin. The Russian avant-garde is a term used to define the large wave of modernist art that flourished in Russia from approximately 1890 to 1930. The leading artists of this era were Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky and Marc Chagall. Know more about Russian art through the 10 most famous Russian artists and their masterpieces.

 

Valentin Serov
Valentin Serov

#10 Valentin Serov

Lifespan: January 19, 1865 – December 5, 1911

Son of a Russian composer and music critic, Valentin Alexandrovich Serov was encouraged to pursue his artistic talents from a young age. Realism was an influential art movement whose artists decided to portray, with uncompromising truth and accuracy, the people and situations of the present. The art of Serov was inspired by the Realist movement. His most famous artworks are portraits which concentrate on the spontaneity of perception of his models and capture their psychological characteristics. These include the Girl with Peaches, perhaps his greatest and most renowned work. In his later years, Serov worked on themes from classical mythology giving them his personal interpretation. Valentin Serov was one of the leading portrait artists of his time and he produced some of the greatest works of Russian realist art.

Masterpiece: Girl with Peaches (1887)

Girl with Peaches (1887)
Girl with Peaches (1887) – Valentin Serov

Other Famous Works:-

Portrait of Ida Rubenstein (1910)

Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova (1911)

 

Natalia Goncharova
Natalia Goncharova

#9 Natalia Goncharova

Lifespan: July 3, 1881 – October 17, 1962

Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova was born in a wealthy and artistic family. She was a descendant of Aleksandr Pushkin, the legendary Russian novelist. She was in fact named Natalia after Pushkin’s wife. In 1910, Natalia exhibited in Moscow becoming one of the founding members of the Jack of Diamonds, Moscow’s first radical independent exhibiting group. The same year, she also held her first solo exhibition, which was denounced by the press for its “disgusting depravation.” Natalia was even put on trial for pornography, but was acquitted. She then became a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), one of two groups fundamental to the influential art movement Expressionism. She eventually pioneered Rayonism, a style of abstract art in which natural appearances are depicted as semi-abstractions of radiating rays of light. Natalia Goncharova played an important role in the development of modern art and she is perhaps Russia’s most famous female artist.

Masterpiece: Self-portrait with yellow lilies (1907)

Self-portrait with yellow lilies (1907)
Self-portrait with yellow lilies (1907) – Natalia Goncharova

Other Famous Works:-

The little station (1911)

Round dance (1910)

 

Ivan Shishkin
Ivan Shishkin

#8 Ivan Shishkin

Lifespan: January 25, 1832 – March 20, 1898

Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin was a member of Peredvizhniki, also known as The Wanderers and the Itinerants’ Society. They were a group of Russian realist artists who protested against academic restrictions and were critical of the social environment in Tsarist Russia. Among other things, the Peredvizhniki painted landscapes to explore the beauty of their own country and encourage ordinary people to love and preserve it. Ivan Shishkin used painting as a way to study nature. Throughout his long, successful and prodigious career, he focused on the Russian landscape especially its native forests. It is said that there was no one at that time who depicted trees more realistically, honestly and with greater love. His artwork Morning in a Pine Forest is one of the most famous Russian paintings of all time. Along with Isaac Levitan, Ivan Shishkin is one of the most successful landscape artists of Russia.

Masterpiece: Morning in a Pine Forest (1889)

Morning in a Pine Forest (1889)
Morning in a Pine Forest (1889) – Ivan Shishkin

Other Famous Works:-

In the Wild North (1891)

The Field of Wheat (1878)

 

Andrei Rublev
Andrei Rublev

#7 Andrei Rublev

Lifespan: c. 1360–70 – c. 1430

Little is known with certainty about Andrei Rublev. Even his birthplace and date of birth is unknown. Also as Russian painters did not sign their works until the 17th century, paintings can be assigned to him only on the basis of written evidence or of style. Despite all this, Andrei Rublev is considered one of the greatest medieval Russian artists. He specialized as a painter of Orthodox icons and frescos. His icon The Trinity, which depicts the three angels who visited Abraham, is regarded as one of the highest achievements of Russian art. Andrei Rublev combined the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism in his artworks. The characters of his paintings are always peaceful and calm. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized Rublev as a saint in 1988.

Masterpiece: Trinity (1425)

Trinity (1425)
Trinity (1425) – Andrei Rublev

Other Famous Works:-

Christ the Redeemer (1410)

St. Marc the Evangelist (1400)

 

Isaac Levitan
Isaac Levitan

#6 Isaac Levitan

Lifespan: August 30, 1860 – August 4, 1900

Isaac Ilyich Levitan was born into a poor but educated family. His family encouraged his artistic talents and he was enrolled in the Moscow School of Painting. His mother died when he was fifteen and two years later his father also died leaving him homeless. It was one of his teachers who took him on as an apprentice to provide some monetary aid. At the age of 17, Isaac had experienced the sorrows of abject poverty and this reflected in his paintings. Isaac Levitan is now regarded as one of Russia’s most influential landscape artists. His choice of subject was dictated by mood, a central category in his personal aesthetics. He is thus credited for being the founder of what has been called the “mood landscape”. Levitan created landscapes which reflect the smallness of mankind next to the vastness of heaven. All of his work is marked with the theme of eternity, even in its smallest, most modest manifestation.

Masterpiece: Golden Autumn (1895)

Golden Autumn (1895)
Golden Autumn (1895) – Isaac Levitan

Other Famous Works:-

Autumn day. Sokolniki (1879)

Above the Eternal Peace (1894)

 

Ivan Aivazovsky
Ivan Aivazovsky

#5 Ivan Aivazovsky

Lifespan: July 29, 1817 – May 2, 1900

Ivan Aivazovsky was one of the leading Russian artists of his time who also served as the main painter of the Russian Navy. He was a prolific artist whose career spanned for almost 60 years during which he created around 6,000 paintings. Aivazovsky was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir in 1865 and the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky in 1897 by the Russian Empire. He was also one of the few Russian artists to achieve worldwide recognition during his lifetime. In 1857, he became the first non-French artist to receive the Legion of Honour. The following year, he was awarded the Order of the Medjidie by the Ottoman Empire. Ivan Aivazovsky is the most famous Russian Romantic painter. He is also regarded as one of the greatest marine artists of all time. Well known Russian writer Anton Chekhov coined the phrase “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”. It became the standard way of describing something overwhelmingly lovely in 19th century Russia.

Masterpiece: The Ninth Wave (1850)

The Ninth Wave (1850)
The Ninth Wave (1850) – Ivan Aivazovsky

Other Famous Works:-

Ship in the Stormy Sea (1887)

The Black Sea at Night (1879)

 

Ilya Repin
Ilya Repin

#4 Ilya Repin

Lifespan: August 5, 1844 – September 29, 1930

Ilya Repin was also a member of Peredvizhniki. His works are categorized under Social Realism, a genre which draws attention to the everyday conditions of the working class and the poor; and is critical of social structures that lead to these conditions. Repin was constantly in search for new techniques and content to give more depth to his works. He had the artistic gift to sense the spirit of the age and he used his work to depict its impact on individuals. Repin is most famous for capturing the peasant life in his works, perhaps better than any other artist in history. Ilya Repin was the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, with his position in the art world being comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature. Among other things, he played a major role in bringing Russian art into the mainstream of European culture.

Masterpiece: Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873)

Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873)
Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873) – Ilya Repin

Other Famous Works:-

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (1891)

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan (1885)

 

Kazimir Malevich
Kazimir Malevich

#3 Kazimir Malevich

Lifespan: February 23, 1878 – May 15, 1935

Geometric abstraction is a form of abstract art based on the use of geometric forms. Kazimir Malevich was the founder of the art movement known as Suprematism, which focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, and the use of limited range of colors. He is thus a pioneer of geometric abstract art. His 1915 Suprematist painting Black Square is one of the most famous and influential works in the history of abstract art. Malevich was also an art theoretician and wrote the book The World as Non-Objectivity, which outlined his suprematist theories. He was a key figure in the development of total abstraction and reducing a painting to its geometric essence. Kazimir Malevich is the most famous Russian abstract artist after Wassily Kandinsky.

Masterpiece: Black Square (1915)

The Black Square (1915)
The Black Square (1915) – Kazimir Malevich

Other Famous Works:-

White on White (1918)

Suprematist Composition (1916)

 

Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall

#2 Marc Chagall

Lifespan: July 6, 1887 – March 28, 1985

Marc Zakharovich Chagall was one of the most influential modern artists. He was associated with a number of modern art movements including Cubism, Symbolism, Fauvism and Surrealism. However, throughout these phases he remained above all “a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk”. During his time, he was the foremost Jewish artist in the world and has since been referred to as “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century”. Marc Chagall worked in a variety of media but is most renowned for his paintings. His artworks are usually lively and imaginative. They often combine the various art styles he knew with his folkish style. Marc Chagall has been described as a “pioneer of modern art and one of its greatest figurative painters who invented a visual language that recorded the thrill and terror of the twentieth century.”

Masterpiece: La Mariée (1950)

La Mariee (1950) - Marc Chagall
La Mariee (1950) – Marc Chagall

Other Famous Works:-

I and the Village (1911)

White Crucifixion (1938)

 

Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky

#1 Wassily Kandinsky

Lifespan: December 16,1866 – December 13, 1944

Initially a teacher of law and economics, Wassily Kandinsky gave up his promising career to pursue his interests in art. He rose to prominence in the 1910s to become one of the leading figures in modern art. Kandinsky was a pioneer of abstract art and he painted some of the earliest works in the genre including what is known as the First Abstract Watercolor. Music, being abstract in nature, was an inherent part of his art and he named some of his spontaneous works as “improvisations” and elaborate ones as “compositions”. Apart from being a painter, Kandinsky was also a prominent art theorist whose books had an enormous and profound influence on future artists. For his tremendous contribution in moving the art world away from representational traditions and towards abstraction, Wassily Kandinsky is considered by many as the “Father of Abstract Art”. He is the most famous Russian artist.

Masterpiece: Composition VII (1913)

Composition VII (1913) - Kandinsky Wassily
Composition VII (1913) – Kandinsky Wassily

Other Famous Works:-

Farbstudie Quadrate (1913)

On White II (1923)

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