Russian Art

Russian Monuments in Saint- Petersburg

Saint-Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities not only in Russia, but world-wide, is filled up with monuments witnessing its rich and interesting history. One of the main sights there is the Winter Palace. It was a former residence of the Russian tsars (1754-1762). Catherine the Great, was the first one to collect unique pieces of art in it so the palace became a part of the State Hermitage Museum where more than 3 000 000 exhibits are stored. The treasures of the museum attract millions of people every year.

The Savior On The Blood Cathedral is the next thing that definitely deserves to be seen. It was erected on the place where the Russian Tsar Alexander 2 was killed in 1881.

The other cathedrals that reflect the magnificent architecture of the city are The Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, built to commemorate Russian victory over Napoleon, and Smolny Cathedral .

The city has a number of beautiful embankments made of marble. The most famous being the Neva embankment.

Petrodvorts is a unique place famous as the capital of fountains. Former Peter residence, 40 kilometers away from Saint-Petersburg,it is considered a not-to-miss sight for tourists.

The suburb of Pavlovsk, 27 km away from the city, was built at the end of the 18th century and contains a number of sculptures, bridges and pavilions. It is also an outstanding example of garden-making art.

The small city of Kronstadt, 30 km away from Saint Petersburg, holds the Grandiose Marine Cathedral built in 1913 as a symbol of Russia’s marine pride.



Russian Art 1850-1900

Before the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian art had consisted mostly of depictions of religious and historic events, as well as traditional portraits. The predominant trend of Russian art during this time period was to take a more drastic turn to realism depicting the actual lives of regular Russians.

The group of artists who are given most of the credit for the change to a more progressive, or social, depiction in Russian art were known as "The Wanders" (Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions). Some of the well-known members of this group include painters such as Ivan Shishkin, Vasily Surikov, Isaac Levitan, Vasily Polenov, and Ivan Kramskoi. These artists used their works not merely just to present a beautiful portrait, but additionally as medium to express outrage at social injustices. Much of the art of this period realistically depicted the rough lives of both farming peasants and the poor that lived in more urban areas.

A site providing information on a recently published book. The site provides a general overview of the period as well as some art work of the period.

A site providing a very general overview of late nineteenth century art, and pictures of Russian art with short descriptions of the artist and the piece’s purpose.

A site dedicated entirely to Russian art. This link provides a page with more links to that have information on the same period, as well as extensive information and works of many artists pf the time period.

A Russian site dedicated to the famous marine painter Ajvazovsky Ivan Konstantinovich.

Site in Russian that shows one of Perov’s paintings and gives a full description of its effects.

Russian Art 1900-1925

Russian art at the beginning of the 20th century was marked by a great deal of avant-garde, creative activity. The main "camps" of art included Constructivism, Cubism, Cubo-Futurism, Neo-Primitivism, Rayonism, and Suprematism.

Constructivism, introduced by Tatlin in 1915, was an abstract form that used "real materials" in "real space" to satisfy utilitarian needs and achieve "pure" art. Cubism, started in France by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, was a style that spread to Russian that used geometry and alternate angles to achieve creations opposed to recreation. Cubo-futurism, inspired by the French school of Cubism and the Italian school of Futurism, used new possibilities of colors and lines to achieve it's aesthetic goals. Neoprimitivism was meant to be "unschooled" and primitive with bold colors and original designs. Rayonism, invented by Mikhael Larionov, focused on "crossing reflected rays from varying subjects." Finally, suprematism was the first systematic school of abstraction. It was simplistic in form and became the most popular for artists of the teens.


Marc Chagall (1887 — 1985) was born in Vitebsk. He studied at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts and with Leon Bakst before moving to Paris and learned about Fauvism (school of art using un-naturalistic colours, one of the avant garde movements) and Cubism (school of painting and sculpture in which the subject matter is portrayed by geometric forms without realistic detail [Webmuseum, Paris]) and joined in the Salon Des Independents, the Salon d’Automme, and had his first solo show in 1914. During this period, he painted his most famous paintings and developed his trademark style. His painting is heavily influenced by contemporary French painting.

Returning to Russia in 1914, Chagall became Commissar for Art and founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School which he directed until he resigned in 1920. In 1923 he had his first retrospective. In the 30’s he traveled widely. During WWII he fled to the States.

Chagall settled permanently in France in 1946 and was exhibited widely in Europe. He produced his first sculptures in 1950’s. In the 1960’s he traveled widely again and received many commissions.

Chagall’s child-like style centered on images from his childhood. He was also heavily influenced by his identity as a Jew, as well as the Jewish plight in the war and in history. Guggenheim Hermitage Museum

Basic information about Chagall’s life, including links to artists who influenced him, and bibliography of good books on him. Russian site on Chagall, with detailed information about his life and works. Lots of enthusiastic glorification of Chagall.


Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was born into a bourgeois family in Moscow in 1866. He began his studies as a student of law and economics at the Moscow University, but later discovered his passion for art and traveled to Munich, where became one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century.

In Munich he became the leader of a very influential group of expressionist artists known as "Der Blaue Reiter" (the Blue Rider). He painted artworks which are considered to be the first totally abstract works of modern art and even published a book on the theory of abstraction. His style of painting was based on non representational properties of colour and form. Kandinsky wanted to create a "pure" painting that would trigger the same emotional effect as a musical composition.

In his later years he taught at the German Bauhaus, until the Nazis came to power, closed the Bauhaus and confiscated his art, because it was deemed "degenerate". He fled to Paris where he died in 1944.


Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev was born in 1878 in provincial district to merchant parents. He displayed an interest in art from an early age, attended the Academy in St. Petersburg between 1896 and 1903 under the direction of the influential Ilya Repin, and then traveled to France and Span in 1904. Kustodiev is known for his portraits, and for his illustrations of classic Russian literature. He supported the Revolution in 1905, and despite severe tuberculosis throughout the second half of his life, Kustodiev continued to work into the Soviet era until his death in 1927. His art is known as optimistic (in spite of his serious illness) and concerned especially with Russian life.

This site contains an article about Kustodiev's place in Soviet art.

In English. This site gives a good and relatively in depth biography of Kustodiev.

In English. This is another gallery of Kustodiev's work with another brief biography.

In Russian. This site is a small biography.

In Russian. This site provides another biography.


Ilya Repin was born in the Ukraine on August 5, 1844, to a family a former military family then peasants.  He began studying art at the age of 12 and had innate talent.  His first artistic vocation was as a military topographer.  He was also asked to paint icons in local churches, which he did when he was only 14.  In order to pay for travel and tuition to the esteemed St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, he sold drawings of his.  He finally studied there from 1864 to 1871.  There, he met I.N. Kramskoi, who mentored Repin as well as many other young artists in St. Petersburg.  After graduation, he won the Academy’s Gold Medal and a six year scholarship for his "The Resurrection of Jairus’ Daughter."  He spent much of his life outside of Russia.  He studied in Italy and France, where he learned about symbolism and impressionism, though he never became and impressionist painter.  Repin is known for his portrayals of social struggles of the peasants and working class people of Russia.  For inspiration, he also visited many prisons and insane asylums (where he painted, among others, Mussorgsky).  He was a leader in the Wanderers (Society of Traveling Exhibitions) – traveling group of artists whose work spread social and political consciousness.  Repin is also known for his portraits.  He painted many of his wife, and also nearly every prominent figure in Russia, including Tchaikovsky and Alexander III.  He also loved painting landscapes.  In 1900, Repin moved to Penaty, Finland, just one hour from St. Petersburg, with his new love.  He spread the love of art there and also brought many elite Russian artists of St. Petersburg to visit.  After the Russian Revolution, the government enticed him to return, offering him money; but he refused.  He later became paralyzed in his right hand.  He taught himself to paint with his left hand, but his work was never of the same caliber.  He died September 29, 1930, in Penaty.  The common Russian people could always identify and understand his work; often it represented their struggles; he is considered Russia’s greatest national artist, and also the most prominent 19th century Russian artist in realism.  He is most famous for: "The Volga Boatmen" (aka "The Haulers") (1872), "They Did Not Expect Him" (depicting an exiled man’s surprise return home, and the various opinions Russians held of this) (1884), and "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan: November 16, 1581" (the scene of Ivan I just after he murdered his son) (1885). — This site provides a helpful summary of the mediums and styles Repin employed in his work. — This site summarizes his inspiration for different genres he painted. — This site just has a brief, general biography. — Along with a traditional biography, this site has commentary on some of his works, showing the picture and explaining its meaning.'s%20art%20page.html — This site has great information about his personal interests and inspiration for his work.


Andrei Rublev is a famous Russian painter of icons. He is known for his support of the Eastern Orthodox Church through his paintings during the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Little is know about the man himself, he is suspected to have lived from 1370 to 1430, but through his works we can understand his beliefs and ideals. Rublev was a monk at the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery, where he studied under St. Sergius and was doubtlessly influenced by his ideals. Rublev's work helps us to understand more about the period in which he lived. One of his most famous works is The Old Testament Trinity. He uses an original style of the time, simplification, to paint the scene and leave only the most important elements in the painting, reducing clutter and increasing the message of the biblical passage. Many of Rublev's works are now on display at the Kremlin in Moscow.


Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum of St. Petersburg was opened in March 19th (7th by the Russian Calendar) of 1898. In addition to being the first "state museum of fine art" within the country, it is currently the largest collection of Russian art in the world. Tsar Nicholas II is responsible for the museum’s creation, an amalgamation of diverse visual arts. Between 1898 and 1908, the number of works of art within the museum doubled, and the museum came to be seen as a visual representation of Russian history, as well as of its culture. Three palaces and 1 castle contain all the artworks, and each in its own way contributed to Russian architecture: the Mikhailovsky Palace remains a prominent example of architecture throughout St. Petersburg; the Stroganov Palace was designed by foreigners and clearly draws on European Baroque style; and the Marble Palace is a lasting example of Classical design; and the St. Michael’s Castle, although built toward the end of the 18th century, took the form of a Middle Ages’ castle. In some of the artwork that I was able to see, it was interesting to note the Orthodox themes. Also, most of the examples were realistic, whether they were portraits or works of nature. After reading all this about the Russian Museum’s magnificence, I learned that the Hermitage is actually much bigger and much more fascinating, much "like comparing Beethoven to Barry Manilow."

This is the official site in Russian for the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, offering useful information on the museum’s conception and what kind of art resides inside it.

I found this site interesting because although it deals with many museums throughout Russia and gave me no information on my topic, the creators cannot afford to update the whole web page into English!! They even ask for donors who they promise to advertise as thanks. Maybe I’ll go back in a year and attempt to read the Russian… Filled with works from the Russian Museum, very interesting to browse though there are only about 20 paintings. The music seemed a little unnecessary and made the paintings in all their copied glory harder to enjoy. This site explores the Art Library of the State Museum of Russia. Interestingly enough, the library was founded before the museum but currently houses works devoted to art and the humanities.

provides a less optimistic look at the Russian Museum, asserting its secondary nature in comparison to the more recent Hermitage, which is also located in St. Petersburg. It offers interesting info on many pieces of art within the Russian Museum, however.


Vladimir, part of the Golden Ring of cities, was founded in 990. It expanded because of the support of Andrey Bogolyubsky, whose father founded Moscow. In 1238, the Mongols ruined Vladimir. However, by 1364, it was once again a beautiful city, and soon after, Russian princes chose to have themselves crowned there. Currently Vladimir's population is 357,400, and it's largest markets are glass manufacturing and poultry. Many of the glass making companies are found in the Vladimir Oblast. THe tourist industry in Vladimir is also important to its economy. It's famous landmarks are the Uspensky Cathedral, the Dmitrievsky Cathedral, and the Golden Gate.