Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Abram Efimovich Arkhipov

Away Matches,  1915, Abram Arkhipov. Red was his favorite color.
I'm always amazed at the number of outstanding Russian artists I come upon which I've never heard of before. There are several reasons for this but one of the major ones is the language barrier. Several years ago I took part in a workshop aimed at teaching teachers to teach reading. As one of the early exercises, we were presented with a paragraph from a children's book printed in Russian. Not surprisingly, none of us could read a word of it. We didn't even know the alphabet (Cyrillic) the precursor to reading any language. The point was to give us a feel for the frustration a non-reader (not necessarily small children) feels when faced with learning to read English. I know exactly two words in Russian, "het" (nyet meaning "no") and "борщ" (borscht, a tart beet soup). I guess I'd do okay in a Russian restaurant--"no borscht." Today I ran smack up against this barrier as I began researching the work of the Russian Realist painter, Abram Arkhipov. Virtually all the sites were Russian; and both Bing and Google seemed to struggle with translations as if they didn't even know the alphabet. Thus, it's not so surprising that I'd never heard of Abram Arkhipov.
North village, 1900-10,  Abram Efimovich Arkhipov
In looking over a breakdown as to my readers, I'm also constantly gratified and amazed at the number of followers living in Russia and other Eastern European countries. In those countries, Google places a little dropdown window near the bottom allowing my words to be translated into virtually any language on earth. Perhaps this interest is due in large part to the large number of native artists from those countries which I've written about. Or, perhaps it's simply curiosity as to my American point of view regarding their homeland art and artists. I only hope that the translation of what I have to say is better than that I have to deal with daily in perusing websites written totally in Russian.
The artist as seen by self and others.
Now, back to Abram Arkhipov. He made his name in the history of Russian art as a sensitive, poetic artist who devoted himself to themes from peasant life. He was born Abram Pyrikov in the village of Yegorovo in the Ryazan Oblast (southeast of Moscow). His family was of poor, peasant stock. The year was 1862. He first showed an interest in drawing while still in elementary school. Abram's parents were encouraging. Sacrificing to gather the means, at the age of sixteen, that they could sent him to study at the School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow. The heart of the school were instructors such as Vasily Perov, Konstantin Makovsky, Vasily Polenov, and Aleksey Savrasov.

Along the River Oka, 1890, Abram Arkhipov
In spite of seven years of academic excellence and awards, in 1883, Arkhipov decided to discontinue his education at the Academy of Arts. The academic system of teaching disappointed him. Despite the fact that many of his paintings and drawings were hailed as masterpieces and donated to the Academy's permanent collection, Arkhipov left the Academy after Perov's death and began studying under Polenov, whose art was permeated with light and a joyful feeling for life, all of which greatly influenced Arkhipov's work. In 1888 he and several friends set off on a trip along the Volga River from the school. They slept in rural villages along the way, drawing and painting many small works. For the first time Arkhipov tried to fuse genre scenes and lyrical landscapes. Two years later Arkhipov completed one of his best known works. Along the River Oka (above), which depicts a barge floating down the river overloaded with tired peasants. Its meaning extends beyond the bare subject matter. It's a story about people who are capable of enduring a great deal without losing their moral strength. It is also an affirmation of the beauty of Russian nature, as seen in its pale horizon, spring river flooding, and streams of sunlight. The muted color scheme enhances the harmony and general mood of the painting. Arkhipov's artistic style changed as compared to the careful detail of his early work, his "post-graduate" style became freer, and more expansive.

Winter, Abram Arkhipov
Sunset over a Winter Landscape,
Abram Arkhipov
In the 1890s Arkhipov painted mostly open air landscapes portraying his peasant heroes, not in small stuffy interiors, but in broad sunlit squares, green meadows, and along rivers and roads. The painting Winter (above) breathes a frosty cheerfulness. The inhabitants of the surrounding villages are working men, women, and children, struggling against the elements with a joy of life as they await the first sunny days of spring. In Arkhipov's works people are closely bound up with nature. Their thoughts and feelings are seen through the prism of the land-scape, having an epic breadth full of gentle, lyrical poetry as seen in Arkhi-pov's Sunset over a Winter Landscape (right).

Laundresses, Abram Arkhipov
Arkhipov's paintings sometimes depict active scenes, their basic meaning revealed through the surroundings in which the events take place. One of Arkhipov's best and most interesting works is the painting The Laundresses (left), from around 1900. The Laun-dresses is an example of the artist's new exploration of color. At this time Arkhipov also painted an unusual series of portraits of peasant women and girls from the Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. Each one is dressed in bright national costumes with embroidered scarves and beads. They are all painted with broad lively strokes, and bold, décor-ative, buoyant colors, predomin-antly reds and pinks. Although Arkhipov painted his peasant beauties with a loose, painterly style, his technique tightens up considerably as he renders each portrait face.

Judging from the lively, smiling
faces, this must have been a "fun"
series to do.
The Village Iconographer, Abram Arkhipov


No comments:

Post a Comment