Strange name, “a luxury”, fashion birch – what you need to know before going to Kuindzhi

In the Engineering case of the Tretyakov gallery in Lavrushinsky lane opened retrospective exhibition of Arkhip Kuindzhi. An itinerant, impressionist, symbolist, experimenter or hoaxer? Who Kuindzhi and why he still remains one of the most enigmatic figures of Russian art? We found seven reasons not to delay a visit to the exhibition, or at least look through the album with reproductions of his paintings in order to answer these questions.

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  • The Artist Mikhail Nesterov. Longing for the bright silence
  • The artist Polenov: to display the life of the Savior
  • Vasily Surikov – painter, who lived in two times

“Night on the Dnieper” Tretyakov did not buy

The last large exhibition Kuindzhi in Moscow was 26 years ago. Then the hot summer of 1992, the Tretyakov gallery showed mostly well-known paintings from his collection. The hype around the show was so great, and the queue to the building on Krymsky Val is so vast that the Museum was forced to extend the exhibition for a month.

At the time Pavel Tretyakov acquired for the gallery’s eight works of Kuindzhi. He gathered the most significant artworks created in the period from 1873 to 1882. Given that Kuindzhi did not favor the spectators with exhibitions, and if exposed, then not more than one or two films a year, we will not be far from the truth, saying, Tretyakov bought almost all the best that was created during this period of Arkhip Kuindzhi. “The steppe in bloom”, “chumatski tract in Mariupol”, “birch grove”, “After the rain”, “North”.

After a rain – Arkhip Kuindzhi. 1879. Oil on canvas. 102х159

And here is the famous “Night on the Dnieper” Tretyakov did not buy. He tried to buy only exclusives and reps didn’t like. This painting appeared in the gallery’s collection only in 1930. Then the Museum bought it from a gatherer Elena Lyapunova.

The current exhibition has works from the collection of the Tretyakov gallery and the Russian Museum, the drawings and sketches, from large to miniatures from 24 regional meetings and even private collections. Including works written during the period of seclusion. Most of the work, the viewer will see for the first time and hopefully the curators will energize Kuindzhi, which he generously splashed on their canvases.

Aivazovsky did not appreciate the talent Kuindzhi

Goldsmith – so literally translates from the Turkish name Kuyumdzhiev. Incorrectly transcribed on Russian it turned into Kuindzhi – the name of the famous Russian landscape painter.

Kuindzhi. 1870s

The origin of the artist was a Greek migrant. His ancestors had taken root in Mariupol back in the XVIII century. My grandfather was a jeweler, his father a shoemaker. Himself Antropov was orphaned quite early. Moonlighting. Then pass the geese, took a brick, then traded grain, while fifteen years is not felt artistic gift. The gift of this notice and the surrounding, because of Arkhip Kuinji painted on anything that came to hand on the walls and even fences.


Karasevka suburb in which he lived was on a high shore of the Azov sea. From childhood in the consciousness Kuindzhi went in and a feeling of spaciousness, freedom, flight, and want to capture them.

On foot he came from Mariupol to Theodosius to ask for an apprentice to Ivan Aivazovsky, whose fame at that time was booming. Say, the master of young talent is not appreciated, however, allowed the boy to disturb the paint.

But the study came from a senior disciple of the great marine painter Adolf Faessler, who at that time was considered the best copyist Aivazovsky.

Whatever it was, but the love of landscape Kuindzhi obliged Aivazovsky.

Under the influence of his art was created many works. By the way, the exhibition in the Tretyakov gallery exhibited some of the early works of Mariupol, where he tried himself in the role of a seascape sketch “Wave” brought from Taganrog, “clear water. Cloudy day. Crimea” from the Russian Museum.

Clear water. Crimea

A self-declared artist of the future

Actively experiment with light and its effects Kuindzhi began in the late sixties. But success and recognition achieved in 1876, thanks to the painting “Ukrainian night”. On the dark sky, he tried to depict the flowing moonlight. With moonlight we Kuindzhi, there are more early work, but “Ukrainian night” contemporaries called “unaffordable luxury”.

She impressed everyone with exotic manners and the wild brightness of colour hitherto unseen. In his memoirs about how he was met by the work on the 5-th exhibition of the Association of traveling exhibitions, the painter Mikhail Nesterov wrote that “Ukrainian night” was “a real triumph Kuindzhi”. It was a picture, “which was all the time the crowd absolutely amazed and admiring spectators.”

Ukrainian night. 1876

Colleagues did not hesitate to acknowledge the superiority and innovation Kuindzhi. Kramskoy wrote that as Kuindzhi, among the landscape painters of the few people able to discern, and most importantly, “to understand what colors complement and reinforce each other”. Looking at this painting, Kramskoy confessed that “Kuindzhi – the artist of the future.”

Exotic light and color combinations, thanks to which Kuindzhi sought the depths of space, became his calling card. There were, however, critics of this work who accused the artist of nepropitannoy foreground. Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov refused to buy the picture, also considering it unfinished. I’ve bought his brother Sergei Tretyakov.

On the morning of the Dnieper – Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi. 1881. Oil on canvas. 105 x 167 cm

For “Ukrainian night”, which two years later occurred at the exhibition in Paris, and the painting “On the Valaam island” (1973) and “chumatski tract, in Mariupol” Mariupol was awarded the title of class artist of 1 degree, which promised great prospects, despite the fact that the master of academic education did not and in fact he was self-taught.

He compelled all to love birch

“Kuindzhi introduced the fashion of a birch tree,” thought the artist Igor Grabar. Absolutely innovative solution of the painting “birch grove”, close to cinema and photography, so shocked contemporaries that many artists really began to write of groves.

The effect of sunlight was a picture of Kuindzhi so skillfully and accurately, down to the illusion, when you want to squint, which one critic called the painting “an amazing, intoxicating thing.

“It’s not paint, not a picture, wrote a critic, is the very nature, full of air and sunlight… here you can’t make out colors, there is no them – there is sunlight… Kuindzhi took possession, apparently, of sunlight…”.

By the way, had the artist not only light. He was the owner of a unique retina. This was proved in their experiments, physicist Feodor Petrushevsky. On a heavy duty instrument in his laboratory he studied the light sensitivity of the eyes of the artists. In his office there were many Repin, Yaroshevsky. But it Kuindzhi broke all records.

The birch grove. 1879. TG.

Kuindzhi was often accused of using green glass for artistic experimentation, so unusual was its green color that artists love to use. Turns out he’s just another sees the world. Besides, not having an academic education, being self-taught, Kuindzhi was out of tradition and “ached as I could” (so said about him Repin). Kuindzhi did not care about pleasing other people’s taste, he was just very brave.

“Birch grove” existed in three versions, but the exhibition of paintings of two bought by Tretyakov and courtesy of the National Museum of Belarus. The third picture was lost.

Hoaxer or a chemist-experimenter

“Night on the Dnieper” – painting-splash. It was exhibited in the hall of the Society for the encouragement of artists in splendid isolation in the 1880s. Then Bolshaya Morskaya street in St. Petersburg have lined up a huge queue. The hall was opened for a few hours, people who run small batches. The exhibition was visited by nearly 13 thousand people.

It was the first in Russia exhibition of one painting. For her Kuindzhi rented room, draped his dark fabrics and put a picture with it to light electric lamps Yablochkov.

Moonlit night on the Dnieper. 1880

The picture is painted impasto. The artist generously put paint on canvas and scratched lines on it with a dry brush, which formed the ridges. Artificial light began to take the laws of optics, which Kuindzhi knew.

Dark and deep parts of the canvas is absorbed, convex becoming brighter. The painting literally came to life.

The audience admitted: “the moon really shines and the water flows”, however, – they believed, – to achieve this, one is in cahoots with the evil spirit. If one were sure that Kuindzhi hoaxer, while others suspected him of using special magic paint.

Not casually friendly Kuindzhi by Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev and physicist Theodore Petrusevski!

Anyway, the picture for the fabulous price of five thousand rubles were acquired by the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. The exhibition presents both the original and repetition, and several sketches for the painting.

Millionaire ascetic

By the way, not only the Tretyakov gallery, he Kuindzhi made a thirty-year break in the demonstration of his art. From 1880 he exhibited, in the literal sense of the words lost in the “paddle brush”. Someone said that the reason was criticism of the artist for his innovation, someone blames collapsed after a “Night on the Dnieper” glory “mashed up” artist, and someone claims that Kuindzhi was incredibly demanding of himself, important to him was his own inner self and creativity. He really closed the doors and wouldn’t let anyone in, but continued to work daily.

Speak, its retreat Kuindzhi was explained by the fact that “…the artist must participate in exhibitions as long as he, like singer, voice is. And as soon as the voice goes down – have to go, don’t seem to not get mocked”. However, critics believe that these words attributed to the artist talkative journalist. After all, the artist himself was an ignorant man and no notes left behind not.

The exhibition presents a large block of “shutter” works. They Kuindzhi is not just striving for stylization and decorativeness, and frankly approaching the non-figurative art in painting.

Ivan Kramskoy. Portrait Of A. I. Kuindzhi. The late 1870s

In 1897, Arkhip Kuinji was literally driven out by scandal from the Academy of fine arts. Professor and head of landscape workshop unexpectedly for the leadership Academy and supported the student riots. It was an unheard of audacity.

I must say that in General Kuindzhi frequently and actively supported those who needed help. In St. Petersburg he owned several apartment houses, and in the Crimea, a huge plot of land (where he wanted to build a home for artists). All this has brought the artist millions in income and contemporaries suggests that he had exchanged brushes and paint on the specie.

But Kuindzhi lived extremely austere and even kept servants. But have donated generously to the poor young painter. He had opened the office for adoption petitions.

By the way, Academy of arts of the Kuindzhi huge sum – 100 thousand rubles for the issuance of twenty-four annual awards. He financed the Society for the encouragement of arts and established in his lifetime, the Kuindzhi Society of artists.

Selected saw the Savior

“Christ in Gethsemane” one of the least known and the most enigmatic picture of the creative heritage of Kuindzhi. In Moscow it was brought from the Foundation of the memorial Museum Vorontsov Alupka. The artist left her no memories. And experts really don’t know when and why it was written the work, the center of which was one of the dramatic gospel scenes.

The audience saw the picture on 4 November 1901. After twenty years of seclusion artist for a short time opened the door of his Studio. However, decided to show her not all, but only to selected audience. Among them was a friend Kuindzhi Dmitry Mendeleev and writer Jerome Jasinski. The latter wrote an article about this event – “a Magical session with Kuindzhi”. The writer called Golden-silver moonlight, the radiance of which walks the Savior, dazzling and incomprehensible vision.

Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. 1901

Nothing like that in the Gospel story, the audience at the time not seen. Many artists wrote of Christ. Some of It came out a suffering person, while others, like Vasnetsov, wrote the icon. Kuindzhi managed to get not only the limits of the plot, not just to create on canvas the illusion of the illumination of the figure of the Savior, he managed to convey the idea of the Light which has come into the world. His Christ is the God-man. “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” ((Jn: 3:19).

When the painting was brought to Moscow and placed on the wall of the exhibition hall of the Tretyakov gallery, giving her the spotlight, something happened. That Vorontsov Museum used to see a lot of dark trunks of the garden of Gethsemane, suddenly turned into figures of the apostles, illuminated by the metaphysical light of the Savior. And how here not to remember other words of the Savior: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John: 14:4)

The exhibition will continue till 17 Feb 2019

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