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Editor’s Choice

Gorgeous Exhibition of Russian Drawings at the Tretyakov
Olga Slobodkina-von Bromssen

he Tretyakov Gallery has opened its archives to treat us to master drawings of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition is called “From Orest Kiprensky to Kazimir Malevich” includes about 250 works of art created by such famous artists as Karl Bryullov, Pavel Fedotov, Aleksey Savrasov, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Konstantin Somov and others.

A pencil drawing is the beginning of all the fine arts. No artist can do without a pencil. The very word “pencil” (карандаш in Russian) is a derivative of the Turkic word “kara tash,” which means a black stone. Its ability to react quickly, its portability give it a priority over other techniques and instruments. The pencil sketches ideas. At the same time a drawing exists as an independent kind of art, having its own language, its own specific laws and history.

There are different kinds of pencils—silver, lead, graphitic, Italian, wax, coloured, lithographic and others, as well as a broad range of kindred materials for so-called dry drawing: charcoal, sauce crayons and sepia. The various devices of working with these materials reveal the individuality of the artist, his temperament, gift and the level of professionalism.

The Tretyakov Gallery has a unique collection of Russian drawings, which reflects the development of this kind of art quite closely. The current display allows us to follow this process step by step. The display shows rare 18th century drawings created using silver and lead pencils. The silver pencil, so popular during that time and which has fallen out of use now, leaves a weak silver trace on the paper while the lead pencil is recognizable by its dark-grey tone with a slight metallic shimmer.

In the first half of the 19th century, two kinds of pencils, Italian and graphite, were in broad use. The soft Italian pencil, which came to Russia from Italy, gives the drawing a lustreless, velvety quality and an intense black tone making the work look noble and warm. The Italian pencil reveals slightly blurred contours and tender light-and-shade. At the display you will see pencil drawings created by Orest Kiprensky, Alexander Orlovsky, Vasily Tropinin, Fyodor Bruni and the whole galaxy of this genre’s masters.

The graphite pencil can be of different degrees of solidness and intensity creating a greyish tone with a slight glimmer. The austere lines of the graphite pencil give the drawing hardness and precision. The display boasts perfect drawings created in graphite pencil by such renowned masters as Alexey Savrasov, Valentin Serov, Boris Kustodiev, Boris Grigoryev and Konstantin Somov.

At the end of the 19th century, coloured pencils appeared in the drawings of Lev Bakst, Konstantin Somov, Valentin Serov and Mikhail Brubel. Fillip Malyavin, known by his highly expressive drawings, paid tribute to the coloured pencils more than the others, for example in his famous work Babi (Бабы).

Close to pencils are charcoal, chalk, sauce crayons and pastel.

Tretyakov Gallery
10 Lavrushkinsky Pereulok
10.00 - 19.30
(the box office until 18.30).
Monday - day off
Until April 26th

The softness and looseness of these materials gives drawings special beauty. Free, sweeping drawings supplemented by charcoal and chalk look expressive and picturesque. Charcoal creates a deeper black tone than the Italian pencil and gives more opportunities to reveal various effects.

The exhibition shows a broad artistic variety of pencil drawings, so that the spectator, both professional and amateur, can enrich his or her understanding of the drawing techniques and enjoy the graphic masterpieces of more than two centuries of Russian art.

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