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Art History

“Seasons of Russian Painting”:
A Tribute to the Past and Present of Russian Art
Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov created their “Seasons of Russian Painting” series especially for display at the Tretyakov Gallery's Krymsky Val museum. The exhibition “Seasons of Russian Painting” is running until September. Both the artists are among those few modern painters who combine innovative approaches to the tradition of large-sized themed pictures with a carefully arranged composition.
Text by Anna Dyakonitsyna
Photos by Valentin Sklyarov

The entire series is a fascinating collage based on the game of “playing the classics” spiced up with irony but also suffused with earnest enthusiasm. The immensity of the topic allows the artists to boldly integrate wildly diversified themes in an attempt to visualize the continuity of historical periods and generations, the dialogue of epochs and individualities, the peaceful coexistence, rather than confrontation, of the Realist tradition and avant-garde art. Religionthemed paintings were the only exception that Dubossarsky and Vinogradov deliberately left out of the project; there is no direct reference to Alexander Ivanov’s art.

Sections of the four paintings: Summer, Spring, Autumn, Winter.
All of which are painted in acrylics on canvas, 145x475 cm

In line with their creative credo, the famed duo of modern Russian artists visualized in this composition the quintessence of the Russian school of painting, tackling the most illustrious, “iconic” pieces from the Tretyakov Gallery’s collection, with the addition of a couple of works from the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Embracing the conflicts and dramas of art history, struggles between proponents of different artistic trends, and clashes of individuals which reconciles everything and everyone by paradoxical combinations of images known by heart from textbooks.


In keeping with the classic tradition, the series consists of four equal pictures, each of which corresponds to one of the four seasons. Each composition represents an authorial collage designed on a computer, and then printed on a canvas and overpainted with acrylics. The grouping of the characters is carefully thought out. Each of the four pieces elaborates its particular theme. “Spring” is the realm of girls’ and women’s images created by Arkady Plastov, Alexander Deineka, Boris Kustodiev, Karl Briullov, and Tatyana Yablonskaya. “Winter” is pivoted around the themes of valour and epic heroes: Alexander Nevsky stands over Maxim Gorky’s shoulder (both evoking images from Pavel Korin’s painting); the knights from Viktor Vasnetsov’s picture and the Swan Princess by Mikhail Vrubel are featured in different sections of the painting; a Bolshevik walks downstage (a visual quotation from Kustodiev’s piece); Voroshilov and Stalin bring up the rear in the picture’s right section (a mirror image of the fragment of Alexander Gerasimov’s painting), and the central part features Viktor Popkov’s self-portrait.

“Summer” is pictured as a time of outdoor relaxation and promenades on foot or on horseback, but also as a season linked to the agricultural calendar. The warm months are the traditional period of weddings and feasts. But the seemingly simplest stories look like phantasmagoria when treated by Dubossarsky and Vinogradov.

Thus Briullov’s “The Rider” seems to move next to Petrov-Vodkin’s “The Red Horse” and Nesterov’s philosophers (a mirror composition from the artist’s painting)… Plastov’s “Haymaking” is combined in the foreground with Malevich’s “Peasant Woman”. The following “Autumn” features a table set for a feast, from Niko Pirosmanashvili’s painting; seated around it are Pushkin, Peter the First, Marshal Zhukov, a girl with peaches, Dostoevsky, and the “All-Union Elder” Mikhail Kalinin; in the foreground, Lenin, his head bent low over the table, works on his notes (with visual quotes from the works of Orest Kiprensky, Nicholai Ghe, Pavel Korin, Valentin Serov, Vasily Perov, Vasily Yefanov, and Isaac Brodsky). The well-known images presented outside their familiar context become embedded into new associative and compositional linkages. Interestingly, the initial idea for the project arose not only from Dubossarsky and Vinogradov, but from the Tretyakov Gallery’s team as well. Working on the project, the artists were afforded a unique opportunity to have a close look at the paintings in possession of one of Russia’s major museums, both those on permanent display and works from the reserve collections.

“Seasons of Russian Painting”,
Alexander Vinogradov & Vladimir Dubossarsky, 2007

Every stage of the process of creation was shot on video, and now is being demonstrated alongside the work. Their work on the “Seasons of Russian Painting” opened up new horizons for the artists themselves. It is by no accident that the latest project by Dubossarsky and Vinogradov, presented at the Venice Biennale, tackled the same idea. The Tretyakov Gallery is grateful to Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov for their support of this exhibit and for donating all four compositions to the gallery. Cooperation between the Tretyakov Gallery and contemporary artists will be continued in autumn 2009 in the framework of special projects to be shown in Hall no. 38 at Krymsky Val with a new project of Francisco Infante with his 80 artworks on the theme of changeability and inconsistency of the natural world changing the very space of existence.

Editor’s note: This article was prepared with the kind cooperation of the Tretyakov Gallery Magazine,, which also made the images printed here available.

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