Vladimir Vasilevich Stasov
Stasov, Vladimir Vasil’evich
Born Jan. 2 (14), 1824, in St. Petersburg; died there Oct. 10 (23), 1906. Russian art and music critic, art historian, and archaeologist. One of the foremost figures in 19th-century Russian democratic culture. Honorary member of the Academy of Sciences (1900). Son of architect V. P. Stasov.
Stasov came from a gifted family that produced a number of outstanding cultural and sociopolitical figures. After graduating from the School of Jurisprudence in 1843, he practiced law for a time but soon devoted himself entirely to art. In 1872 he became head of the art division of the Public Library (now the M. E. Sal-tykov-Shchedrin State Public Library).
Stasov considered art and music criticism to be his life’s work. Beginning in 1847 he regularly published articles on literature, art, and music. The range of his interests was encyclopedic: he wrote articles on Russian and foreign music, painting, sculpture, and architecture, and he compiled collections based on his research in archaeology, history, philology, and folklore. Maintaining progressive democratic views, Stasov relied in his critical works on the aesthetic principles of the Russian revolutionary democrats—V. G. Belinskii, A. I. Herzen, and N. G. Cherny-shevskii. He considered realism and narodnost’ (the popular nature of art) to be the bases of progressive contemporary art. Stasov was opposed to academic art, which was far removed from life and had its official center in Russia at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. He advocated realistic art and the democratization of artistic life.
A man of great erudition, Stasov was a friend of many progressive artists, musicians, and writers. He advised a number of them and defended them against the attacks of reactionary official criticism. He was actively associated with the Artists’ Artel, the Society of Wandering Art Exhibitions (peredvizhniki), and the New School of Russian Music, whose members he called the Mighty Bunch (the Russian Five). Stasov was the first to appreciate and support the work of M. M. Antokol’skii, V. M. Vasnetsov, V. V. Vereshchagin, I. N. Kramskoi, V. G. Perov, and I. E. Repin. He regularly published articles analyzing and supporting their new works.
In analyzing the artistic imagery of a work, Stasov denounced vestiges of the feudal serf-owning and bourgeois-autocratic orders in Russia. He affirmed the democratic ideals of freedom and people’s rights and instilled in both artists and their audiences a spirit of patriotism. Stasov consistently defended independent national paths of development for the Russian school of composers and was influential in the formation of the aesthetic and creative principles of the Russian Five. His 30-odd works on the music of M. I. Glinka, including a detailed monograph (1857), greatly helped to popularize that composer. Stasov also wrote influential monographs on the composers M. P. Mussorgsky and A. P. Borodin and the artists K. P. Briullov, A. A. Ivanov, Vereshchagin, Perov, Repin, Kramskoi, N. N. Ge, and Antokol’skii. He also wrote profiles of a number of performing artists, including O. A. Petrov and A. Rubinstein. He praised the work of A. K. Glazunov, A. K. Liadov, A. N. Skriabin, and F. Chaliapin.
Stasov was one of the first to systematically collect and publish the letters of Russian artists and composers; he published the letters of Kramskoi, Antokol’skii, A. A. Ivanov, Glinka, A. S. Dar-gomyzhskii, A. N. Serov, and Mussorgsky. As an art historian, he affirmed the importance of the realistic traditions of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Hals, and Goya. He was also instrumental in making popular in Russia the music of Beethoven, Liszt, Berlioz, Chopin, and Grieg.
Stasov’s articles were publicistic and polemical. In the heat of argument he sometimes fell victim to a certain one-sidedness and was excessively critical of some outstanding artistic developments. Nonetheless, he made a major contribution to the solution of extremely important problems of Russian realistic aesthetics. Concern over Russian art permeated Stasov’s extensive correspondence with artists, writers, and musicians. His works belong to the classical heritage of Russian artistic thought.
WORKSSobr. soch., vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1894–1906.
Izbr. soch., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1952.
Pis’ma k rodnym, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1953–62.
REFERENCESV. V. Stasov: Sb. statei i vospominanii. Compiled by E. D. Stasova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
“K izucheniiu naslediia V. V. Stasova.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1974, no. 7.
Lebedev, A. K., and A. V. Solodovnikov. V. V. Stasov: Zhizn’ i tvorchestva. Moscow, 1976.
IU. V. KELDYSH and A. K. LEBEDEV