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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stanislav Zhukovsky

Abandoned Terrace, 1911, Stanislav Zhukovsky
Sometimes I feel a little guilty when I write quite often about certain types of art, or artists of various national origins. Recently that's been the feeling with regard to Russian artists from all eras, but especially the 19th and 20th-centuries. I run into the same feelings of overexposure when dealing with Dutch "Golden Age" painters and Impressionism of all national flavors. By the same token, it seems like I've been writing excessively about Polish painters. Strangely, I don't seem to encounter these feeling of guilt in writing about French, Italian, English, or American artists. I wonder why that is? Conversely, although I respect it and recognize its importance in art history, I have gotten "burned out" on Abstract Expressionism. Be that as it may, I hope I shall be excused for doting on yet another Russian painter (and an impressionist as well) working mostly in the first half of the 20th-century--Stanislav Zhukovsky.

Forest Road, 1900, Stanislav Zhukovsky
Quite often, in delving into an artist's work I find a far greater number that I don't much care for, or which don't excite me, than I do those which I deem outstanding in some way. Not so with Zhukovsky. I absolutely love virtually everything he did. Usually I look at artists whose work appeals to me and choose what I consider their best, or their most unusual pieces to display and write about. Insofar as Zhukovsky is concerned that's been extremely difficult, leading me to err on the side of overkill. That means you're going to see a lot of Zhukovsky here today. What you'll see here is the work of a man dedicated to the beauty of the Russian landscape, but also just as appreciative of the warm, Victorian interiors which kept the Russian upper classes (who purchased his work) warm and cozy while Zhukovsky was outside painting in the snow, as seen in his Forest Road (above) from 1900.
Zhukovsky painted no portraits of himself or anyone else.
In fact, there are barely any photos of him.
Stanislav Yulianovich Zhukovsky was of Polish-Russian descent, born in 1875. He lived during his childhood in the far western Grodno Province of what is now Belarus, though part of Poland at the time of his birth. The Zhukovsky family had been wealthy aristocrats, but came to be nearly ruined after the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1863. The artist's father and two of his uncles were deprived of all property and class rights and exiled to Siberia. The family lived a very patriarchal and closed existence. Stanislav's mother taught children music and foreign languages. She welcomed and encouraged their lessons in drawing. Stanislav's successes especially pleased her. His father was always gloomy and severe, discouraging Stanislav's drawing in favor of a commitment to science, causing him great irritation, and anger. The boy's penchant for landscapes manifested itself very clearly at a young age. Zhukovsky decided, together with his art teacher, that he was going to study painting.
Zhukovsky's landscapes centered around three of the four seasons.
I could find few works bearing a summer title.
Zhukovsky chose the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, which preserved and developed the best traditions of the Russian landscape school. However, Stanislav's dream of becoming a professional painter he kept to himself. His overbearing father would not allow even the thought that his son might become an artist. Knowing that his father would in no case give his consent for him to study painting, Stanislav was forced to prepare secretly for entrance to the Moscow School. According to the school's charter, they could accept twelve-years-olds, but younger children were supposed to apply through their parents, promising to assume the student's financial support. Zhukovsky had no hope that his father would even consent to his art studies, much less sign a written petition for its admission. Therefore he decided to hide his age, adding two years. He hoped that such a "white lie" would allow him to enroll in College as a student on public tuition. Zhukovsky, without permission from his father, left for Moscow. His father took it as an escape from home, disowned his son, and refused to meet with him again until many years later, when Stanislav had become a well known painter. Until the end of his life Zhukovsky's father mocked him with a derogatory grimace calling him "painter."
Zhukovsky's first major success, March Evening
(sometimes titled Spring Evening) is just above the old church.
Even in his student years Zhukovsky knew few failures or disappointments. Exhibitions he entered were opened one after another. Shortly after a successful debut at an exhibition at the school in 1896, Zhukovsky's Manor was accepted into the Twenty-fourth Mobile Exhibition, where it was immediately noted in the press. And just one year later, the Twenty-fifth Mobile, Pavel Tretyakov acquired the landscape March Evening (above), painted in 1896. In 1901 Zhukovsky finished his studies at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, receiving his first silver medal and the title of the class artist. Zhukovsky begin to be invite to exhibitions all over Russia. Feeling himself an independent, mature artist, Zhukovsky chose a circle of like-minded friends who came to form the Union of Russian artists in 1904. In his first speech at their first exhibition, Zhukovsky demonstrated a subtle shift in the nature of State influence--a willingness to accept the most emotionally expressive "pieces," as well as a wide range of moods.
Autumn Evening, 1905, Stanislav Zhukovsky
One of Zhukovsky's best paintings, Autumn Evening (above) from 1905, depicts a corner of the Sigovo Manor House on the shores of Lake Kolokol′cevyh Udomlya. Landscape became increasingly attracted to Zhukovsky. However, interest in the subject was evident not only from him, but from an overall retrospective of early 20th-century art. Many artists, from Borisov-Musatov to representatives of the mainstream world of art, find positive ideals outside the tragic pictures of Russian reality--the first Russian revolution of 1905-1907. From about 1910, Zhukovsky's art developed under the influence of Impressionism. Impressionistic techniques are subject to plein air painting, which organizes and unifies Zhukovsky's works. Zhukovsky's favorite works developed thematic cycles: "pure" landscape, architectural, or more precisely, the manor landscape, and interiors. Sometimes in a single painting the artist intertwines elements of all of these genres including landscape, architecture, while open windows and doors connect interiors with the landscape surrounding the house as seen in Inside Sunny (bottom) from 1925.
Zhukovsky is nearly as well known for his antique Russian interiors as for his landscapes.
As a painter, Zhukovsky was dedicated to landscapes involving wealthy estates. His fondness for lavish things left him suspect in the Bolshevik era. In 1923 he moved from the Soviet Union to his ancestral homeland of Poland. Zhukovsky's refuge in Poland lasted less than two decades. During the German occupation of Poland in World War II, he was arrested by the Nazis and held at the prisoner transit camp where he died in 1944.
Inside Sunny, 1923, Stanislav Zhukovsky

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