Grabar, Igor

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Grabar’, Igor’ Emmanuilovich


Born Mar. 25. 1871, in Budapest; died May 16, 1960, in Moscow. Soviet painter and art historian; People’s Artist of the USSR (1956). Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1943) and the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1947).

Grabar’ studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1894 to 1896 with V. E. Savinskii, N. A. Bruni, and I.E. Repin, and in Munich at the A. Azhbe School (1896–98; after it was reorganized into the school of A. Azhbe and Grabar’ in 1898, he taught there). He made many journeys to the countries of Western Europe and visited the USA, Egypt, and Turkey. He worked in St. Petersburg beginning in 1889 and in Moscow beginning in 1903. He was a member of the World of Art group and the Union of Russian Artists. His early works showed the influence of art nouveau (for example, Lady With the Dog, 1899, in the Tret’iakov Gallery). From 1901 to 1908, I. Grabar’ painted cheerful, sundrenched landscapes, distinguished by their unusually emotional response to Russian nature, and his painting style gradually developed out of a creative assimilation of the principles of impressionism (September Snow, 1903; White Winter: Rooks’ Nests, 1904; Blue Skies in February, 1904; and March Snow, 1904, all in the Tret’iakov Gallery). During the same period. Grabar’ painted a number of still lifes. Seeking to convey in them the infinite diversity and changeable play of the light along with the beauty and poetry of man’s material environment, Grabar’ painted with thick, impasto brush strokes, using a method similar to that of neo-impressionism (The Chrysanthemums, 1905. and The Uncleared Table, 1907. both in the Tret’iakov Gallery). Beginning in 1906, the decorative principle was intensified in his landscapes (a series of studies entitled Frosty Days, 1906, in the Yaroslavl-Rostov Historical-Architectural Repository and Museum of Art). In 1905 and 1906 he participated in the publication of the revolutionary satirical magazines Zhupel (Bugbear) and Adskaia pochta (The Devil’s Post). Between 1909 and 1914 a hospital (the present-day Zakhar’ino Sanatorium) designed by Grabar’ was constructed outside of Moscow. In 1890, Grabar’ began writing articles on art criticism (from 1899, in the magazine Mir iskusstva).

On the initiative and under the guidance of Grabar’, the first scholarly History of Russian Art was published (vols. 1–6. 1909–16). Grabar’ was the editor and the author of the most important articles. He played an important role in disseminating scholarly principles of art criticism in Russia (which attained their apogee during the Soviet period) and organizing a complex method for studying the history of art in the context of the total development of national culture and social thought. In the prerevolutionary period Grabar’ did research on the works of Russian artists that culminated in a number of monographs. From 1913 to 1925 he was in charge of the Tret’iakov Gallery, which he reorganized on scientific principles in 1914–15, publishing a catalog in 1917. After the Great October Socialist Revolution, Grabar’ became one of the organizers and curators of monuments of art and antiquity, a founder of Soviet museum science and restoration, and the initiator of Central Restoration Studios (director 1918–30, and scientific instructor from 1944). His activities as a restorer and scholar led to the discovery and study of many works of ancient Russian art from the 11th to 14th centuries (mainly icons and large-scale wall paintings on monuments) and laid the basis of his scientific historical works. In his landscape painting of the Soviet period, the spontaneity ana emotionality of impressionism was supplanted by the desire to create a generalized and finished image of the nature of his homeland (A Clear Autumn Evening, 1923, and A Sunny Winter Day, 1941, both in the Tret’iakov Gallery). After the 1920’s, Grabar’ painted portraits of Soviet cultural figures (portraits of N. D. Zelinskii, 1932. and of S. S. Prokofiev at work on the opera War and Peace, 1941, both in the Tret’iakov Gallery; of M. V. Morozov, Γ934, in the Kursk Picture Gallery; and of S. A. Chaplygin, 1935, in the Abramtsevo Estate Museum). He also painted pictures on historical and revolutionary subjects: V. I. Lenin by the Direct Line (1933) and Peasant Petitioners Received by V. I. Lenin (1938; both in the V. 1. Lenin Central Museum. Moscow). During the Soviet period. Grabar’ published a number of monographs and articles on Russian art. He was the editor and one of the authors of a History of Russian Art (vols. 1–13, 1953–69). He was director of the Art History Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (from 1944). He taught at Moscow University (a professor from 1921), the Moscow Art Institute (director from 1937 to 1943), and the Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture of the All-Russian Academy of Arts (director from 1943 to 1946). He was a recipient of the State Prize of the USSR in 1941, and was also awarded two Orders of Lenin, two other orders, and medals.


I.I. Levitan: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1913. (In cooperation with S. Glagol’.)
Repin, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Moia zhizn’: Avtomonografiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
V. A. Serov. Moscow, 1965.
O drevnerusskom iskusstve. Moscow, 1966.
O russkoi arkhitekture. Moscow. 1969.


Podobedova, O. I. I. E. Grabar’. Moscow [1964]. (Contains a complete list of I. E. Grabar’s works.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.