Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov (Russian painter) 1844 - 1927Мечты (На горе) (Dreams (On the Hill)), 1894from the series The Life of Christoil on canvas180 x 165 cm.
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Painter, master of landscape, historical and genre paintings. Born to a landowner family. In 1863, on graduating from the gymnasium, he entered the faculty for physics and mathematics at St.Petersburg University (graduated in 1871), at the same time he attended classes (in 1863-1871) as an unaccredited student at the Academy of Arts. He was taught painting by P.P.Chistyakov and I.N.Kramskoy.
In 1869 he was awarded the small gold medal for his painting entitled "Job and His Friends". In 1871 he was awarded the large gold medal for a plan for a painting entitled "The Resurrection of Jair’s Daughter". He graduated from the Academy of Arts with a first class art degree.
In 1872, as a pensioner (scholarship) from the Academy of Arts, he lived and worked in Italy, France and Germany. He returned to Russia in 1876. In the same year he joined the Academy. In 1892 he was promoted to professor at the Academy of Arts. From 1893 he was a full member of the Academy of Arts. In 1905 he withdrew his membership to the Academy in protest at the shooting during a peaceful rally on 9 January 1905.
He took part in wars between Serbia and Montenegria against Turkey (1876) and between Russia and Turkey (1877-1878). From 1878 he was a member of the STAE. In the same year he left to travel across the Middle East, Egypt and Greece. From 1882-1895 he taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Polenov created an art museum at his Borok estate (Polenovo today).
V.D.Polenov’s early work displayed an interest in the ideas of the popular liberation movement. In protest against despotism and tyranny he painted works entitled ("The Right of the Master"; 1874), which bore the imprint of the academic historical painting. However, historic themes were not further developed in the artist’s creative work. He was fascinated by the world of the landscape where he followed in the traditions of A.K.Savrasov and F.A.Vasiliev. Polenov’s landscapes seem to be inspired by a spontaneous admiration for the nature motif. His countryside and urban landscape are free from epic narration, they are condensed and full of a poetic awareness of everyday life. This moving poetic perception of the world aligns his works with the novels of I.S.Turgenev. His nostalgic gloom for the fading culture of the old nobility’s estates and the escaping beauty of the romantic world also echoes literature. "…The Moscow Yard, The Grandmother’s Garden […] and a number of Turgenev’s intimate plots came to me unexpectedly, new and fresh, full of truth, with subtle musical lyricism and exquisite technique", I.S. Ostroukhov wrote about the appearance of Polenov’s work at the Peredvizhniks exhibitions.
Polenov was especially interested in the subject from the New Testament. "I have an inexpressible love for Evangelic narration, I love this naive, truthful story, I love its purity and high ethics, its incredible humanity which permeates the teachings of Christ", wrote Polenov. His cycle of paintings entitled "The Life of Christ" (68 paintings) seem to recreate the image of the "patriarchal golden age" of Galilee.
The spiritual explorations of the artist, his striving for the perfect painted form, and an ability to see the everyday beauty of nature and poetry from ancient times, make his creative work unforgettable.
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