7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

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Today it is difficult to believe that these classical works of Russian art could sometimes cause a storm of controversy among contemporaries. But now they are one of the most famous and favorite works of Russian art.

Initially, the paintings were acquired by the founder of the famous gallery, Paul Tretyakov, who possessed an incredible artistic intuition and was guided exclusively by his own taste. Although his gallery was public, Tretyakov had to read the strict rules of censorship - some paintings were not only taken but completely forbidden to show. However, thanks to the efforts of Tretyakov, they succeeded, and today it is impossible to represent the leading storehouse of Russian art.


7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

1. Vasily Petrov, Rural Crusade on Easter (1861).

Vasily Perov was one of the founders of the Union of Artists and Migrants. He avoided secular themes and instead depicted the everyday life of ordinary people. His famous picture, "Troika" is depicted a poor child pulling a barrel with water. Perov was a well-known artist, but his rural crucifixion at Easter caused a storm of disapproval. Most of all, the audience was amazed that the artist depicted the celebration of Easter in the form of a drunken party - a peasant with half-closed drunken eyes, a priest who drank, giving himself under the feet of a feast of Easter eggs. In St. Petersburg, the picture was taken from exhibitions and accused the artist of immorality. However, Pavel Tretyakov, ignoring the attempts to persuade him, still got the picture.

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

2. Vasily Vereshchagin. Apotheosis of War (1871).

Vereshchagin traveled extensively throughout Central Asia and wrote many canvases. This picture, however, became it's most famous. Initially, he was called "Triumph Tamerlane" and referred to the legend of the warriors of the famous Mongolian military leader, who built the pyramids from the roofs of decapitated enemies. A kind of skull, as well as a burnt desert lying on the back of the city in ruins, shocked the noble public of St. Petersburg. Vereshchagin dedicated his picture to "all the great conquerors - the past, the present, and the future."

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

3. Ivan Kramskoi. Christ in the desert (1872).

The life of Christ was a popular theme among artists of the nineteenth century, but Jesus was usually portrayed as fearless and inspiring, and not exhausted and lonely in the middle of nowhere. The devotion of Christ to the devil during his 40th day of fasting after his baptism is depicted on Kram's canvas. His image is extraordinarily human, and attention is drawn not only to the strained expression of the face but also to the intertwined fingers of the clinging hands. Eyewitnesses recalled that public opinion was divided at the exhibition. Some were deeply affected by the image and suffering, while others expressed their outrage at what they considered "divinity" and the revelation of something sacred. Sam Kramskoy himself remembered that he had been approached and asked why he so depicted Christ. In desperation, the artist demonstratively remarked that he had not seen it either. As for Pavla Tretyakov, he immediately bought an ambiguous painting and considered it one of the strongest works of art in his collection.

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

4. Ilya Repin. Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan November 16, 1581 (1883-1885).

This picture evokes huge emotions. In 2018, he vandalized, those who did not like his "false" content, and seriously damaged the picture. Historians often refute the myth that Ivan the Terrible killed his son, but it is the scene of Repina - one of the first similar bloody paintings based on pseudo-historical history - that left an indelible mark on the popular imagination. Repin drew a canvas with a fresh memory of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II. At first, he showed it to his colleagues, who were stunned - all recognized his incredible talent. However, Emperor Alexander III did not like the picture, and the state ideologue Konstantin Pobedonostsev called it repulsive. The painting was bought by Tretyakov, but tsarist censors forbade his show. Then the ban was lifted, of course.

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

5. Vasily Surikov. Boyarina Morozova (1887).

The monumental canvas Surikova is dedicated to the opening of the Russian Orthodox Church in the XVII century and depicts the scene of the arrest of the old man Boyarini Morozova, who refused to be crucified with three fingers, as it requires. The picture made a strong impression on the public as a successful experiment on the plot, drawn from the history of Russia. Many praised the artificial rebirth of Ancient Russia, as well as the image of the Russian (and hidden women!) With a strong spirit and unbroken suffering. But the pictures also had a lot of critics who complained about the wrong composition, the wrong proportions, mistakes in gestures, displacement of the hand, and other details. Some even said that the picture looked more like a tasteless variegated carpet than a picture.

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

6. Archip Quinji. Birch grove (1879).

What can be controversial in the picture with the image of a birch grove? In fact, the picture was surrounded by controversy: Quinji was late with the completion of his work at an exhibition of a group of artists in St. Petersburg, due to which the discovery was postponed, much to the chagrin of other artists. As a result, the picture appeared on the walls for two days after the inauguration. Viewers admired his amazing game of light and shadows, even suspecting Quinji in some cunning optical trick and believing that the picture was specially illuminated by a light szadi. One critic, however, harshly criticized the picture, writing that the flowers were unnatural, and the trees stood around, as the stage props, were placed unnaturally and that they, it seemed, were "painted". The critic was one of the mobsters hiding under a pseudonym. Quinji was so offended that he left the band - and thus, "Birch Grove" was the last work, which he exhibited at his exhibitions. Naturally, in the end, he bought Tretyakov.

7 of the most scandalous paintings of the Tretyakov Gallery

7. Mikhail Vrubel. Princess Greza (1896).

The story of this picture is read like an adventure novel. The panel was commissioned by collector and philanthropist Savoy Mamontov for the art pavilion of the All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod. Vrubel at this time was still unknown. While reviewing the work of the jury of the Academy, he ordered to remove it and expressed a real noise, the news about which even the emperor Nicholas II reached. The latter stated that the wishes of the Academy should be respected. In the end, a compromise was reached, and the work was completed by the famous artist Vasily Polenov on the orders of Vrubel. Although the panel itself was not displayed in the pavilion, the Mammoths brought a large number of other paintings of Vrubel to the exhibition, and also organized a stage production, the set designer of which was Vrubel. Those who had the opportunity to watch them work were divided. One admired the innovation, others criticized the ugliness of the "decadent panel". Writer Maxim Gorky widely stated that this "monster" means "the poverty of the soul and the poverty of imagination." In the end, Mamontov had to make a majestic copy of the panel in his factory. Now it decorates the facade of the hotel "Metropol" in the very center of Moscow. The panel was shown in Mamontov's private opera and was then transferred to the Bolshoi Theater, in the reserves of which it was discovered in the middle of the twentieth century, and then moved to the Tretyakov Gallery, where it was exhibited only in 2007. There was an open hall dedicated to Vrubel, and the building had to be specially equipped to accommodate a huge masterpiece.

Keywords: Scandalous paintings | Art | Artists | Artworks | Classical works | Classics | Russian art | Contemporaries

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