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The Crimea Palette

The Crimea Palette

Modern realistic painting from the collection of N-Prospect art gallery

The "Palette of the Crimea" exhibition which will open in summer of 2010 in the Saint Petersburg "N-Prospect" gallery and will last for four months promises to be a remarkable event in the art life of Russia. In fact it is the first time when almost all famous Crimean artists gather Together and give us the possibility to see the school of painting in its entirety. The exhibited 230 works of 50 authors, among which there are classics as well as young painters, can be found in the pages of this album which demonstrates development and formation of the Crimean painting from the 40-ies of the XX century up to the present time.

As is known the Soviet painting was never a pure phenomenon and was divided into many schools and directions. The Crimean school of painting stands apart: it is bright, unique and recognizable. Certainly, it did not appear from nothing as the Crimea has been always famous for its painting traditions. Biographies of Ivan Avvazovsky, Arkhip Kuinjy, Konstantin Bogaevsky, Maksimilan Voloshin, Fyodor Vasiliev, Issak Levitan, Konstantin Korovin are closely connected to it. Such masters of Soviet painting as Aleksandr Deyneka, Aleksandr Kuprin, Nikolay But, etc, worked here. The image of the Crimea in art in general and in literature in particular has been always mystified turning into Crimea-Cimmeria, Crimea-Greenlandia, and the Island of Crimea. Film-makers used the Crimean landscapes to show Italy, Spain, France, or Greece. These landscapes washed with the warm sun have always inspired artists, musicians and poets. Since the time of Voloshin the Crimea has become a favorite resort of the aristocracy of talent: poems and music as well as vigorous debates on art could always have been heard at the coast. Surely, a painter with a sketch-book has always made an integral part of the Crimean landscape.

You should not be surprised that the Samokish Art School of the Crimea established (more exactly reorganized from the former Samokish studio) in 1937 rapidly became a certain "art outlaws". The dynamic brushwork typical of the school and a cheerful range of colors obviously were an impressionist trend. While metropolitan journals debated on formalism and naturalism chewing over each detail of the Laktionov's "Letters from the Front Line", while journalists criticized not only paintings but even textile patterns (remember the famous Ryklin's feuilleton "Tractor in Front, Combine Behind"), the Crimeans painted their seascapes, houses covered with wisteria, and still lifes against the background of mountains. Their works with deep colors penetrated with joie de vivre always attracted much public interest during exhibitions. Art experts were never bewildered by colorful shadows and wooly painting saying it was plein air, or sketches, and much was not expected from them. In fact certain "incompleteness", a sense of a sketch, is a characteristic feature of the Crimean painting in general, which obviously does not depreciate its artistic significance. Big compositions and "serious topics" were a rare subject of Crimean artists' painting, and if they were the landscape took the leading part. It is interesting to know that no matter how big the Ayvazovsky's significance for the world art was, he did not become the father of traditions of the Crimean painting. It has two primary directions: epic and impressionist.

The epic landscape in the Crimean painting was the continuation of the Bogaevsky's tradition. As Mak-similian Voloshin, who used to call this genre "the historic landscape", wrote: "... the historic landscape is seeking to be the historic portrait of the earth. The face of the earth is formed geologically as a man's face anatomically, and similarly is defined with wrinkles, scars and wounds inflicted by elements and people: signs of moments. This is the sense of the Historic Landscape". The second phenomenon typical of the Crimean school may be called "the Crimean impressionism". The impressionists have influenced deeply the Russian as well as the Soviet painting in whole. Thanks to the rich collection of the Puskin State Museum of Fine Arts the Soviet artists who did not have the possibility to go abroad could admire the original impressionist works while they had to get to know the most styles and directions by copies of rather low quality. It is worth noting that together with the recognized masters there were (and still are) a great number of amateur painters in the Crimea. This phenomenon deserves a separate study beyond this article, however it should be noted that Crimean professionals and amateurs are in rather close contact and often conduct joint exhibition activity.

So what can we say about the Crimean school in whole?

First of all of its masters do not like working with the line preferring the color spot; they pay most attention to painting, not to the drawing; they create special vibrating color typical of impressionists in their canvas and they like the "pseudorandom" composition introduced by impressionists. Rather than appearance of an object or a landscape they communicate the feeling of them. They find beauty in ordinary things avoiding pomposity and false symbolism; they are not afraid of being similar to their predecessors fairly supposing that an artist has always something to say if he is sincere; they do not resolve literature and moral but purely artistic and plastic problems; they do not seek to preach and analyze but to decorate and be a pleasure.

Valentin Danilovich Bernadsky, a People's Artist of Ukraine, can serve as a perfect example of an outstanding master whose works represent peculiarities of the Crimean school well. Bernadsky's pure delicate colors impress anyone who sees his paintings; he is the master of landscape and psychological portrait; he created a lot of portraits of his contemporaries, including his fellow artists. Many Valentin Bernadsky's works are at the level of the masterpieces of painting of the late XIX and early XX cent. Bernadsky's impressionist painting contributed to education of several generations of artists: he gave many years of his life to teaching at the Samokish school. Valentin Danilovich being 92 years old still works much and efficiently; Bernadsky's portraits and landscapes are sold at the best international auctions, they are exhibited in Hollywood, London, the Hague.

The People's Artist of Ukraine Pvotr Stolvarenko proceeds with the impressionist line. His works are so full of emotion that sometimes it seems that they magically transmit scents of the sea and lilacs and warmth of the sunshine. He selects colors typical of the Crimea with its marvelous play of lights and colors which you can see everywhere: on the whitewashed walls of houses, on the garden paths, on the tops of mountains. Stolyarenko likes composing his paintings of two or three principal colors (the "Summer Night" painting is composed of an elegant combination of dark purple and green, the "Boating Station in Gurzuf' shows combination of silvery grey and brown). The People's Artist of Ukraine Fyodor Zakharov apprehended the Moscow school more than other artists (he studied at the Surikov Institute). His works have a restrained color range and are thoroughly composed. The "Vineyards of Shchebetovka" and the "Still Life with Lilacs" are a perfect example of blending of the Crimean and Moscow schools.

There have always been many women artists in the Crimea; their painting is notable for temperament and inner strength. Among them there is the People's Artist of Ukraine Valentina Tsvetkova with her preferred pink and sky blue color range. You can see the combination of a still life with a landscape typical of the Crimean school in the "Branch of Blossoming Peach" still life. Works of Anna Oleynik is rather spirited as well, they are easily recognized due to special strokes full of energy (the "Still Life").

One of the most interesting modern Crimean artists is Aleksandr Shabadey. He possesses good drawing skills and is a great painter with a rare gift of "seeing the unseen" turning ordinary objects into something absolutely new ("At the Window", "In the Studio"). Aleksandr is rather young and if he proceeds as fruitfully as now, soon we will see an outstanding master who will be the claim to fame not only to the Crimea but to entire Ukraine. The Crimean painting does not exist without elegant bunches of flowers of Aleksandr Morgun, without gentle painting of Aleksandr Shurin and landscapes of Pavel Shumov. It is worth mentioning Aleksey Potapenko with his wonderful sense of color and composition (the "Still Life with a Japanese Quince", "Roses", "Blossoming"). Andrey Inozemtsev's works full of inner liberty are interesting as well.

The Crimean art is characterized with dynasties: many artist families number several generations and young people work together with the older generation. Sometimes it is even hard to determine who made a major contribution to art, if it was the grandfather or his grandson, the son or his wife. Basing on the example of the Crimean dynasties we can face a rare phenomenon - transmission of the school of painting almost unchanged. For instance Daniil Volkov's paintings show the same images, motifs and plastic peculiarities as his father's, the outstanding painter Viktor Volkov's, do.

Certainly, each painter introduces something new to the tradition subject to his life experience, personality and temperament. Thus, as opposed to his father Daniil Volkov works mostly with a warm range of colors but their blood relationship as well as artistic one is evident when their paintings are placed side by side. In a similar way the young generations of Chebotaru, Dudchenko. Rostovskiy, Syarov, Marmanov deepen and develop what their fathers began. It is clear that none school can exist separately in the art world. Artists go to study to Kiev, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities. Representatives of other schools in their turn go to the Crimea to plein air regularly, thus, exchange of experience takes place constantly. However the Crimean school remains an integral phenomenon: the artists adhere to the principles which they had once adopted beginning their creative development.

In the soviet (and later in former soviet) states the Crimea played an important role similar to that of Andalusia in Spain, or Provence in France. The exhibition in the N-Prospect gallery is a great luck for the young artists and a rare possibility for them to compare their works with those of recognized masters, to meet the artistic challenge and learn a lot. Time proved that the Crimean school is not a local artistic phenomenon; it exists in a large cultural context and continues to develop efficiently.

Anna Baskakova,
expert art critic of the Department of Culture of the Moscow Government,
member of the Association of Art Experts.

Kartsev V.G.,
Chairman,
Cultural Heritage Foundation;
Full Member of RANS,
Full Member of Peter's Academy of Sciences and Arts.

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