Saturday, 3 December 2011


Finally got to the State Tretyakov Gallery - again courtesy of V - and can't believe it's taken so long to get around to it. Unlike its partner building on Krymsky Val, which involves transversing acres of the smiling peasants and heroic workers of socialist realist painting, the other older Tretyakov is a perfect size.  There is a small collection of gorgeously and unexpectedly realistic icons, but the central interest of Pavel Tretyakov (as a collector around the 1850s) was Russian realism: the catalogue quotes him as writing "... just give me a murky puddle, but let there be truth in it, and poetry."

And there are plenty of poetic 'murky puddles' here including portraits of suffering serfs and their everyday lives amid the glories and difficulties of the russian landscape. There are also artistic journeys both in unison with the rest of Europe (18th century portraiture and some late 19th century impressionism) and away from it (a 19th century politically critical realism which has some very theatrical moments, and a version of Art Nouveau which is completely absorbed by the dramas of fairytale). A great afternoon out on yet another wet and sleety day.

The painting shown is called Silence, by Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov (1903), which I photographed mainly because it eeriely reminded me of Peter Doig.

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