Aleksei Gavrilovich Venetsianov

Venetsianov, Aleksei Gavrilovich

 

Born Feb. 7 (18), 1780, in Moscow; died Dec. 4 (16) 1847, in the village of Poddub’e Tver’ Province. Russian artist, one of the founders of Russian genre painting, and a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Art (1811). He studied with V. L. Borovikovskii and was employed as a government official in St. Petersburg from 1807.

In his early period Venetsianov painted intimate lyrical portraits, some close to romanticism in their emotional quality (portraits of A. I. Bibikov, 1805-08, Russian Museum, Leningrad, and M. A. Fonvisin, pastel, 1812, the Hermitage, Leningrad). In late 1807 he prepared four etchings (The Nobleman and others) for a publication entitled Magazine of Personal Caricatures for 1808, which he had started. It was the first illustrated satirical leaflet in Russia. It was banned by the censors for satirizing the bureaucracy and the corruption of ranking officialdom. During the Patriotic War of 1812 he made caricatures of Frenchmen and the Francophile gentry. At the same time, he created a number of genre drawings depicting city street life and the everyday life of the nobility.

In 1819, retiring from service, he settled in the village of Safonkovo, in Tver’ Province, where he began to paint scenes of country life and portraits of peasants— Peeling Beets (pastel, before 1822), Threshing Floor (c. 1821–23), Morning of the Lady of the Manor (1823), and SleepingShepherd Boy (1823-24), all in the Russian Museum, and At the Field: Spring (1820’s), Harvest: Summer (1820’s), Head of an Old Peasant (1825), Zakharka (1825), and Peasant Woman With Cornflowers (1820’s), all in the Tret’iakov Gallery. The subjects and characters of these works and the method of their creation—by means of careful work from a model—contradicted the rules of the Academy of Arts and played a decisive role in establishing a new artistic school that sought to give a truthful reflection of life. Such a tendency on Venetsianov’s part was connected with the democratic views of the vanguard of Russian society during 1810-30. Seeking to find in real life not only the characteristic but also the beautiful, Venetsianov created in his pictures an idealized and poetic image of peasant life and sang the beauty of labor and nature. The peasants in Venetsianov’s treatment have human dignity, nobility, and openhearted-ness; at times their external features show the ideal beauty expressed in classicism. The lyrical landscape, which plays an important role in his painting, renders subtly the peculiar charm of nature in central Russia. Depicting man in his actual environment, Venetsianov attributed great importance to painting outdoors. This made it possible for him to lighten his palette and make it capable of rendering nuances of color in diffused daylight. From 1830, owing to the exacerbated social contradictions of Russian life, the work of Venetsianov gradually lost its advanced character. Venetsianov’s educational activities were of great importance.

REFERENCES

Savinov, A. N. A. G. Venetsianov: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1955.
Alekseeva, T. V. “Venetsianov i razvitie bytovogo zhanra.” In Istoriia russkogo isskustva, vol. 8, book 1. Moscow, 1963. Pages 546-98.

M. M. RAKOVA