Nikolai Ge

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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).


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


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.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Here we have a portrait completed in 1884 by Nikolai Ge, who became one of Tolstoy's earliest acolytes after he gave up being a professional writer.
Trascurridas esas tres primeras decadas, los pintores siguen a Cristo a todas partes pues solo falta poco para que todo quede consumado; asi que se ponen a marchar a su lado dejando consigna de los milagros realizados (Giotto di Bondone), del momento dramatico del anuncio de la traicion (Leonardo da Vinci), del encuentro a solas con Poncio Pilato (Nikolai Ge), de la flagelacion (Piero della Francesca), de la crucifixion (Diego Velazquez, Miguel Angel), del descenso de la cruz (Sandro Botticelli, Rogier van der Weyden), en definitiva, del sacrificio y del dolor que es voluntariamente aceptado por este heroe solitario.
Even more revealing, Platt explains how Nikolai Ge's 1871 painting of Peter I interrogating Aleksei stylistically inspired Repin's masterpiece and how both paintings informed all subsequent depictions of the two rulers in print and the arts, especially when both men and the concept of state progress through coercion were rehabilitated during the Stalin era (119-121).