Nikolai Ge

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Ge, Nikolai Nikolaevich

 

Born Feb. 15 (27), 1831, in Voronezh; died June 1 (13), 1894, on the Ivanovskii farmstead, now named after T. G. Shevchenko, in Chernigov Oblast. Russian painter.

Ge studied in the St. Petersburg Academy of Art from 1850 to 1857 with P. V. Basin and lived in Italy from 1857 to 1863 on a grant from the academy. He worked in Rome (1857-59) and Florence (1860-69) and later lived in St. Petersburg (from 1870) and on a farmstead in Chernigov Province (from 1876). Early in his career he came under the influence of K. P. Briullov and A. A. Ivanov. As early as the 1860’s, Ge’s work was distinguished by a fresh approach to the treatment of the evangelical subjects traditional in academic art, revealing a dramatic excitement and a bold manner of posing moral problems (The Last Supper, 1863, in the Russian Museum in Leningrad; The Heralds of Resurrection, 1867, in the Tret’iakov Gallery). Upon his return from Italy, Ge was close to the progressive artists: he was a founding member of the Society of Traveling Art Exhibitions. Seeking a subject of great civil significance, Ge turned to historical painting. In his painting Peter I Interrogates Tsarevich Aleksei Petrovich in Petergof (187l, Tret’iakov Gallery) Ge reveals the clash of two antagonistic historical forces and truthfully renders the play of emotions and the inner life of the protagonists. In the early 1880’s, Ge returned to gospel subjects, investing a series of paintings on the sufferings of Christ with religious and ethical ideas. In many ways close to the views of L. N. Tolstoy, Ge addressed himself to his contemporaries with a Utopian sermon of spiritual protest against evil, proclaiming the majesty of sacrifice in the name of an idea (What Is Truth?, 1890, and Calvary, 1893, both in the Tret’iakov Gallery). In these paintings, remarkable for their profoundly dramatic qualities and executed in a broad and expressive manner, with sharp contrasts of light and shade, the representation of the spiritual and physical sufferings of man (The Crucifixion, 1892, 1894) plays an important role. Portraits painted by Ge are characterized by great simplicity and severity of color and design and the desire to render the wealth and complexity of man’s spiritual life (portraits of A. I. Herzen, 1867, and L. N. Tolstoy, 1884, both in the Tret’iakov Gallery).

WORKS

“Zhizn’ khudozhnika 60-kh godov.” Severnyi vestnik, 1893, book 3.
L. N. Tolstoi i N. N. Ge: Perepiska. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930.

REFERENCES

Al’bom khudozhestvennykh proizvedenii N. N. Ge. Moscow-St. Petersburg, 1903.
Stasov, V. V. N. N. Ge .… Moscow, 1904.
Istoria Russkogo iskusstva, vol. 9, book 1. Moscow, 1965. Pages 217-59.
Zograf, N. N. N. Ge. [Leningrad, 1968.]
N. N. Ge, 1831-1894: Vystavka proizvedenii: Katalog. [Moscow, 1969.]