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Sergey Vinogradov. Spring day. 1912

The term “Russian Impressionism”, which is used quite often today (even the museum was opened not so long ago), actually causes some caution among art critics. Professionals generally prefer to use it with great reservations. The fact is that in fact what happened in Russian art (mostly in the Russian landscape) at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries is very indirectly connected with pure impressionism in its canonical French version.

The Impressionists believed that the main task of the artist is to stop and capture the moment, the moment of life, just as photographers do. They began to work actively in the open air, to paint not in the studio, but directly in nature, on the city streets, capturing not the reconstruction of events, but real life. That is, the main thing in their art was the art itself, the beauty transferred from the real world to the canvas. But for Russian artists, purely artistic tasks, as always, were not enough.

Russian culture has always been literary-centric, and this also applies to visual arts. Despite all the declarations, even fragrant people in their works could not avoid the dominance of the content. The Russian Impressionists, for the most part belonging to the Union of Russian Artists, had an organic connection with nomadism, many of whom were members of both organizations.

Compared to French, Russian Impressionism is characterized by less dynamics in reflecting the course of life, etude and, as a consequence, deliberate incompleteness of works, much greater importance of content in the work and reflection of the inner state of the artist.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Self-portrait.  1922

Sergey Vinogradov. Self-portrait. 1922

Sergei Vinogradov was one of those artists who are unequivocally called “Russian Impressionists”. It cannot be said that his name is firmly forgotten in our time, but still he is not as well known now as, say, Konstantin Korovin or Igor Grabar.

Sergei Vinogradov was born in 1869 in the family of a poor parish priest in the village of Bolshie Soli, Kostroma Province. His path to art was, on the one hand, quite traditional: early interest in painting (drawing lessons in high school and observing the work of provincial icon painters), the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, then the Academy in St. Petersburg.

Sergey Vinogradov.  At the inn.  1887

Sergey Vinogradov. At the inn. 1887

Sergey Vinogradov.  Peasant.  Etude.  1890

Sergey Vinogradov. Peasant. Etude. 1890

But then began some deviations from the rigidly established scheme. First, Sergei fell ill with typhus, and he was forced to leave the Academy (academic leave was not provided at the time), then he reached the age of conscription, and he had a real prospect of going to military service. To avoid this, he went to Kharkov to teach at a vocational school (teachers received a deferment of conscription). He hated Kharkiv with fierce hatred, called it a disgusting provincial hole, and considered the eight years he spent there hopelessly lost, especially since his work at the time refused to be taken to exhibitions of nomads. He had fun reading Russian classics (or rather, modern literature – Turgenev and Tolstoy), studying French, as well as visiting the local theater.

Sergey Vinogradov.  On the river.  1899

Sergey Vinogradov. On the river. 1899

In 1898, Vinogradov finally returned to Moscow, where he was invited to teach in the full-time class of the Stroganov School. From that moment on, his creative life began to grow. In the summer of the same year, Sergei and his friend Perepletchik went to Ples, opened shortly before by Levitan, a year later he was admitted to the Society of Wanderers, and a couple of years later he went to France to join modern art and worship the classics.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Alupka.  1917

Sergey Vinogradov. Alupka. 1917

Around the same time, he became friends with Konstantin Korovin and became a frequent visitor to his Okhotino estate and house in Gurzuf. This was followed by participation in the organization of the Union of Russian Artists, new trips abroad and work.

Sergei Vinogradov’s paintings are becoming a prominent phenomenon in exhibitions, even with the fact that his contemporaries were many great landscape painters of the era, starting with the same Korovin.

Sergey Vinogradov.  The manor.  1910s

Sergey Vinogradov. The manor. 1910s

Sergey Vinogradov.  Under the summer sun

Sergey Vinogradov. Under the summer sun

Vinogradov once studied with Vasily Polenov, and the main thing that he admired in the works of the teacher was the sunlight (by the way, Polenov also admired Korovin). In general, most landscape painters have a rather narrow seasonal specialization: some like to write in winter, others prefer autumn or early spring, but those who love, and most importantly, can transmit sunlight on their canvases, not so much. Vinogradov knew this brilliantly, and was an artist of the summer.

Sergey Vinogradov.  In KA Korovin.  1907

Sergey Vinogradov. In KA Korovin. 1907

Sergei Vinogradov flourished in the 1910s. At this time he works with extraordinary intensity, many of his works are admired and admired by both the public and critics. And most of all to admire his ability to convey the feeling of sunlight and warmth. And I would add that his paintings are simply permeated with a sense of peace and quiet cloudless happiness, the happiness of simple human life. Looking at them, one can almost immerse oneself in the happy and carefree atmosphere of Russian pre-revolutionary life. And if anyone did not seek to convey in their paintings a sense of anxiety from the impending revolutionary storm, it was Sergei Vinogradov.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Garden.  1910

Sergey Vinogradov. Garden. 1910

In 1910 Vinogradov exhibited the painting “Garden”. Now this rather small canvas (size 96×96 cm) is stored in the Irkutsk Art Museum named after VP Sukachev. At one time, contemporaries were simply amazed by the artist’s skill, with which he painted a corner of the manor garden with a large heart-shaped flower bed with bushes of white peonies. Igor Grabar wrote about this canvas in the magazine “Libra”:

… I like Vinogradov’s “Garden” with masterfully painted flowering trees and a well-found and simply resolved play of the sun on the grass and path. This artist, apparently tired of his own skills, can sincerely wish that he finds himself in the power of some great artistic idea that can completely capture, captivate and even temporarily crush… ”

From this passage we can understand that even Grabar, who also belongs to the representatives of Russian Impressionism, did not accept the fact that the idea that fascinates the artist may be just a desire to capture a happy moment, the fleeting beauty of a summer day, and nothing more.

Sergey Vinogradov.  The manor.  1918

Sergey Vinogradov. The manor. 1918

Living in an era of impending great change, Vinogradov tried his best to meet the socio-political demands of today. During the First World War he made propaganda posters (I could not find any of them as an example, but it is clear that the landscape painter and lyricist had to break himself, his individuality to produce such things), after the revolution even joined some design commissions established by the new government. But all this was not for him. It is difficult to say how his fate would have turned out in Soviet Russia, although nothing good could be expected from people of such a purely creative stock here.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Morning (IK Wojciechowska).  1925

Sergey Vinogradov. Morning (IK Wojciechowska). 1925

However, something pleasant happened in his post-revolutionary life. In 1918, when he was under fifty, Vinogradov married the artist Irina Voykhovskaya. The wife was Polish and 16 years younger than her husband.

In 1923, Vinogradov, as chairman of the exhibition committee, was able to organize the 17th, last in history, exhibition of nomads. Then it was decided to show the exhibition in the United States, mainly for sale, and Sergei Arsenyevich, as project manager, accompanied her to the States. The paintings could not be sold, they caused delight in the emigrant community, but did not cause a special desire to buy them from those who had money. Although Vinogradov still sold a number of his own works. But for the artist, it seems that the opportunity to escape abroad turned out to be good.

Back, he did not return to Russia, but left for Riga at the invitation of his friend Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky. Fortunately, after a while his wife was able to join him.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Apple light.  1927

Sergey Vinogradov. Apple light. 1927

Sergei Vinogradov lived in Latvia for the remaining fifteen years of his life. In fact, he lived not so badly: he wrote about the farms and surroundings of Riga, taught at the Riga studio school for teenagers, visited his many friends, even went to Paris to visit Konstantin Korovin. But all this was not the case. Sergei Arsenyevich longed for his homeland. Of course, not about Soviet Russia, which he did not accept, but, in fact, never learned. He longed for the old, pre-revolutionary country, where there were old mansions lit by the sun, where one could meditate, dream and read good books, sitting in his garden at a tea table, where there was a quiet, peaceful and beautiful life.

Sergey Vinogradov.  Pskov-Pechersk Monastery

Sergey Vinogradov. Pskov-Pechersk Monastery

Sergey Vinogradov.  Pskov-Pechersk Monastery

Sergey Vinogradov. Pskov-Pechersk Monastery

It is probable that in order to return to the past, Vinogradov occasionally traveled to Pechora, as this city was part of Estonia at the time. He enthusiastically wrote about the Pskov-Pechora Monastery, admiring its architecture. But these were already pale echoes of his previous works, written in a much more restrained manner using a darker and even gloomier color.

Sergei Vinogradov died almost ridiculously, but his death seems to be a logical end to his entire life. In January 1938, one of his friends, the artist Konstantin Vysotsky, died. Vinogradov was at his funeral and walked all the way to the cemetery with his head uncovered. The severe cold turned into pneumonia, and his lungs were hereditarily weak (his mother and sisters died of tuberculosis), so the disease was fatal. Vinogradov died on February 5, 1938. Perhaps he himself did not want to fight for his life without seeing much meaning in it. After all, the highest rise of his art remained there, in the 1910s, along with a quiet, sunny and happy world.

Sergey Vinogradov.  In the chapel

Sergey Vinogradov. In the chapel

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