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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nikolay Dubovskoy

Cottage in Sillamjagah, 1907, Nikolay Dubovskoy.
In writing predominantly about painting and painters, one of the most difficult types of art to cover is that of the landscape painter (and there are a zillion of them). The problem is that so many of them are so run-of-the-mill average--okay, but not very. In many cases it would appear such artists set out to deliberately paint, albeit with no small degree of finesse, scenes that are really quite boring. Most often such works involve fields, forests, or salty foam. They are almost invariably laden with beaucoup horizontal lines and usually lack even a shred of evidence of human existence. Quite frankly, I can only take just so much of the wide-open spaces before a lethal case of ennui sets in. I seldom write about such artists knowing that if and when I do, I'll spend more time looking for even mildly interesting scenes depicting the lives and times of these mildly interesting artists.
Sea, Nikolay Dubovskoy. Even the title is boring.
(Notice the horizon is not horizontal.)
The flipside of that problem occurs when I take on a Russian painter such as Nikolay Nikanorovich Dubovskoy. (Correctly pronouncing Eastern European names is another distressing matter.) In the case of Dubovskoy, the problem is not his boring works (and there are a few, as seen above), but in choosing which of his strikingly attractive and extremely interesting scenes to highlight from a historic, social, and compositional point of view (and there seem to be a zillion of them). Dubovskoy's Cottage in Sillamjagah (top), from 1907, is one such scene and probably my favorite Dubovskoy.

On the Catherine's Channel in the summer,
Saint Petersburg, Nikolay Dubovskoy
Nikolay Dubovskoy (late 1880s)
Nikolay Dubovskoy was born in 1859. His father was a Troop Sergeant in the Don Cossacks stationed in Saint Petersburg at the time. Young Nikolay's uncle, a local artist nam-ed A.V. Pyshkin, taught him at an early age the art of drawing from memory. His father, how-ever, insisted that he follow family tradition. He enrolled him in the Vladimir Kiev Cadet Corps in 1870. Fortunately, his instructors noticed that he spent all of his free time drawing and advised the boy's father to give him an art education instead.

Winter, 1884, Dubovskoy Nikolay, his breakthrough painting.
In 1877, after receiving his father's permission, Nikolay Dubovskoy began auditing classes at the Imperial Academy of Arts, then became a student of the landscape painter, Mikhail Clodt. Upon graduating in 1881, he was apparently displeased with his instruction at the Academy and refused to participate in the customary competition for a gold medal. He chose to exhibit at the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts instead. There he won several medals and achieved his first public recognition. In 1884 his painting, Winter (above) was acquired by the Tretyakov Gallery. Following that, he began to exhibit regularly with the rebellious Peredvizhniki (landscapes of mood) Group and became a member in 1886.

Some of Nikolay Dubovskoy's "most interesting" works.
About the same time, Dubovskoy came under the influence of the famed Russian painter, Ilya Repin, who invited him to stay at his estate in Siversky, where he painted en plein aire. Starting about 1890 and for the next ten years, Dubovskoy travelled extensively, about Russia including the Azov Sea, the Volga Region and the Caucasus. Later he traveled through Turkey, France, Italy, and Germany. He was offered a position as Professor of Landscape Painting at the Imperial Academy, but refused the offer to become instead one of the leaders of Peredvizhniki, where he was known as a moderating force when the newer members had disagreements with the older ones. During this period, he was increasingly influenced by French Impressionism. Later, in 1898, despite his refusal to accept a position there, Dubovskoy was named an "Academician" by the Imperial Academy and became a full member in 1900.

Dubovskoy's urban landscapes--"cities" of all sizes.
Dubovskoy began teaching at the Academy in 1908 and, became head of the landscape painting workshop three years later. There was an effort to build a special museum for Dubovskoy's works, however it had to be halted due to the outbreak of World War I in 1915. During this time, Dubovskoy also hosted a Tuesday "Salon", which was attended by notable figures from the scientific community, as well as by artists, writers, and musicians. Nikolay Dubovskoy died in 1918, of heart failure. He was fifty-nine.

The Waterfall at Imatra, 1893, Nikolay Dubovskoy.
What other artist paints a close-up of a waterfall?


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