Vrubel Mikhail Alexandrovich
Coming from a family of military lawyer. He studied at the Academy of Arts (1880-84) under P. P. Chistyakov; watercolor lessons took from I. E. Repin. Of the foreign contemporaries, M. Fortuny had the greatest influence on him; much in common in his art also with the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. But even more important for Vrubel were the impressions of the painting of the Italian Renaissance, as well as the images of literature (V. Shakespeare, I.V. Goethe, M. Yu. Lermontov).
The mature manner of the master – with his “crystalline” pattern, crushing the world into ornamental planes and at the same time emphasizing his cosmic unity, with the sparkling splendor of color in the range between purple and gold (“the struggle of gold and blue”, according to A. A. Block), – was formed mainly in the Kiev period (1884-89). The post-romantic tradition (not without reason I.K. Aivazovsky was one of his favorite masters), as well as premonitions of Russian symbolism and modernism by V.M. Vasnetsov and N.N. Ge, continue in the style of Vrubel – extremely emotional and at the same time constructive time. Invited by A.V. Prakhov to restore the 12th-century Cyril Church, he performed a number of compositions (including the icon of the Virgin and Child, 1884-85), where he combined the medieval canon with the acute psychology of modern times. The culmination of the Kiev period – sketches of murals of the Vladimir Cathedral (1887, watercolor and pencil, mainly the Kiev Museum of Russian Art); Since the time of ancient icon painting, Russian painting did not know the color schemes of such a force of generalization and influence. Not only faith and insight, but also painful doubts appeared here with confessional sincerity – it is not surprising that the sketches confused the official church and remained unrealized on a large scale, on the wall.
An important role in Vrubel’s creative search was played by an art club in Abramtsevo. Here the master writes his best paintings, engages in majolica (sculptures “Egyptian”, “Kupava”, “Mizgir”, “Volkhova”, 1899-1900, Tretyakov Gallery and Museum in Abramtsevo) and decorative design (ceramic furnaces, vases, benches – museum in Abramtsevo). Vrubel’s subtle decorative flair was also manifested in his scenographic works for S. I. Mamontov’s private opera (participation in the design of A. N. Serov’s Rogneda (1896), as well as Sadko (1897) and Tales of Tsar Saltan ( 1900) N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, a composer, especially close to him in spirit). The artist’s craving for monumental art that goes beyond the framework of easel paintings has intensified over the years; a powerful splash of this craving were the giant panels “Mikula Selyaninovich” and “Princess Greza” (1896), commissioned by Mamontov for the special pavilion of the Nizhny Novgorod Fair (the second panel is now stored in the Tretyakov Gallery). However, it was easel painting, albeit taking on the character of a panel, that remained the mainstream of his searches. The coloristic luxury of such paintings as “A Girl Against the Persian Carpet” (1886, Kiev Museum of Russian Art), “Venice” (1893, Russian Museum), “Spain” (circa 1894, the Tretyakov Gallery) does not overshadow the alarm lurking behind the external splendor . Sometimes the gaping of dark chaos is tempered by folklore: in the paintings Pan (1899), Tsarevna-Swan, Toward Night (both 1900; all three are the Tretyakov Gallery) mythological themes are inseparable from poetry of their native nature. The lyrical revelation of the landscape, as if enveloping the viewer with its colorful haze, is especially impressive in Lilac (1900, ibid.). The Vrubel portraits are more analytical and nervous-stressed (K. D. and M. I. Artsybushevs, as well as S. I. Mamontov; all three – 1897, ibid.).
Powerful color contrasts and the plastic tension of the forms culminate in the Demon theme. Embodying, according to the artist, the torment of the “restless human spirit”, this cycle is connected with the legacy of M. Yu. Lermontov. In virtuoso illustrations to the poem of the same name (watercolor, whitewash, 1890-91, Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum), the graphic style of the master, treating the world as a “magic crystal”, has largely developed. In the artistic “chapters” of the cycle, the rhythm of the tragedy of a lonely ambitious titan is consistently increasing. In “Demon” (1890), the artfully beautiful hero is depicted in a melancholy stupor among semi-precious shimmering rocks, and in “Demon Downed” (1902; both in the Tretyakov Gallery), his broken figure, torn from sky-high heights, is already visibly agonizing, infecting the whole the world around it with the phosphorescent beauty of the last sunset.
Since 1902, Vrubel suffers from a serious mental and physical illness, but also during the period of depression and weakness he creates works belonging to his best creations. These are simple motifs, but marked by a special structural rhythmic sophistication of the dash of the sketch, as well as portraits (N. I. Zabely-Vrubel, the artist’s wives, 1904, Russian Museum; V. Ya. Bryusova, 1906, Tretyakov Gallery; both are mixed ), where tremulous color accents or a sharp play of lines subtly convey the model’s unique spiritual aura.