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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(the “wanderers”), members of a progressive and democratic Russian art movement—the Society of Wandering Art Exhibitions. The society was organized in 1870 in St. Petersburg by I. N. Kramskoi, G. G. Miasoedov, N. N. Ge, and V. G. Perov. Its founding represented the struggle of the country’s progressive art forces for democratic ideals and against the official art center—the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. The society developed the best traditions of the Artists’ Artel, with the artel’s director, Kramskoi, becoming the ideological leader of the new group.

The peredvizhniki were influenced by the social and aesthetic views of V. G. Belinskii and N. G. Chernyshevskii. Having freed themselves from the regimentation and tutelage of the Academy of Arts in the formulation and display of their works, the artists organized their society on cooperative principles and developed an educational program. In 1871 the peredvizhniki organized 48 traveling exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow, which they later presented in Kiev, Kharkov, Kazan, Orel, Riga, Odessa, and other cities. Having broken with the canons and idealistic aesthetics of academicism, the artists adopted the style of critical realism. They strove to depict their homeland and the life and history of their people from a truthful and democratic standpoint. The artists sought to serve the workers, glorifying their majesty, strength, wisdom, and beauty. They often mercilessly attacked the oppressors and enemies of the workers and depicted the unbearable living conditions of the working people. The peredvizhniki’s humanistic art represented a resolute condemnation of the autocratic Russian social order. On the other hand, the artists depicted the liberation movement of the Russian people with wholehearted sympathy.

The works of the peredvizhniki were distinguished by great psychological insight and social generalization, masterful typifi-cation, and the ability to represent entire classes and social strata using individual images and subjects. Genre pictures and portraiture were the leading art forms: the life of the people was represented exhaustively, numerous portraits of progressive people were produced, and democratic ideals were clearly expressed. The historical genre and the landscape were also extensively developed. Pictures about Gospel subjects dealt with urgent moral and philosophical problems.

The peredvizhniki movement flourished between 1870 and 1890, developing in the direction of increasing naturalness and freedom of representation. The dry manner of painting and dark palette were replaced by broad brushwork, which rendered the ambience of air and light with the aid of a light palette, reflexes, and colored shadows. The composition became more varied and free, reflecting the artists’ search for increasingly natural effects and the re-creation of man’s living bonds with his environment. In Russian art critical realism attained its apogee in the work of the peredvizhniki. Their innovative and truly national art was an effective tool in the democratic, social, moral, and aesthetic upbringing of many generations. It became an important factor in the development of the Russian liberation movement and the growth of revolutionary social consciousness. V. I. Lenin and other leading figures of the Russian revolutionary movement and the Russian cultural world rated highly the work of the peredvizhniki

The Society of Wandering Art Exhibitions united almost all the leading artists of the country. Besides its founders, its membership, at different times, included I. E. Repin, V. I. Surikov, V. E. Makovskii, I. M. Prianishnikov, A. K. Savrasov, I. I. Shishkin, V. M. Maksimov, K. A. Savitskii, A. M. Vasnetsov, V. M. Vasnetsov, A. I. Kuindzhi, V. D. Polenov, N. A. Iaro-shenko, I. I. Levitan, and V. A. Serov. Participants in the society’s exhibitions included M. M. Antokol’skii, V. V. Vereshcha-gin, and A. P. Riabushkin.

Critic and democrat V. V. Stasov played an important role in the development of the peredvizhniki movement. By exhibiting works by the peredvizhniki in his gallery, P. M. Tret’iakov provided the artists with great financial and moral support. The prestige and social influence of the Society of Wandering Art Exhibitions continued to increase. The monarchy, forced to discontinue its efforts to suppress and persecute the peredvizhniki, sought to bring the society’s activities under its control. It hoped to enhance the importance of the Academy of Arts, which was experiencing a severe crisis. During the 1890’s prominent peredvizhniki, including Repin, Makovskii, and Shishkin, became members of the academy.

The peredvizhniki embraced artists of various nationalities, including Ukrainians, Latvians, and Armenians, who had a great impact on the development of their national schools of art in the direction of realism and populist and democratic ideals. The teaching activities of the artists (Perov, Repin, Makovskii, Kramskoi, Savrasov, Kuindzhi, Savitskii, Polenov) greatly influenced the development of Russian realist art.

At the turn of the 20th century, the work of a number of the peredvizhniki lost its realistic approach and its accusatory fervor. The society’s social influence declined, but the nucleus of its membership remained true to the principles of realism and to democratic ideals. From 1890 through the first decade of the 20th century, the society’s vanguard continued to reflect socialist ideas, keeping in step with the development of the labor movement. Elements of socialist art appeared (N. A. Kasatkin, L. V. Popov, S. V. Ivanov). Many peredvizhniki became part of the Soviet artistic culture, serving as the bearers of the great realistic traditions of the 19th century and helping the development of socialist realism in art. The society itself dissolved in 1923. Most of its members joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia and continued to place their art at the service of the people under the new historical conditions.


Burova, G., O. Gaponova, and V. Rumiantseva. Tovarishchestvo peredvizhnykh khudozhestvennykh vystavok, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1952–59.
Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia, E. P. Peredvizhniki, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1970.
Peredvizhniki. [Album. Author of text and compiler A. V. Paramonov. Moscow, 1971.] A. K. Lebedev
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.