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The Russian Museum

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22 February - 20 May 2007
St. Michael's (Engineers) Castle

Drawing and Watercolours in Russia. Second Half of the 19th Century is the third exhibition of the Three Centuries of Russian Drawing State Russian Museum project, aimed to show masterpieces of Russian drawing of the 18th - 20th centuries. The exhibition presents the best samples from the State Russian Museum collection - nearly 130 works by sixty-five artists. Some of them are first ever exhibited. Graphic art of the 2nd half of the 19th century is remarkable for the plenitude of genres, variety of schools, and the extreme artistry of language. It had been thriving during fifty years and by the early 20th century had acquired unprecedented independence, standing apart from painting both in collections and at exhibitions. Though changing along this long path, it retained an essential peculiarity of the art of that very period - social significancy, and contributed to the social life. Even the lyrical experience of nature was coloured not individually (i.e. stressing the world of a single man), but slightly opening those horizons where a man is inseparable from the mankind. This is the landscape interpreted by Alexei Savrasov, Fyodor Vasilyev, and Isaac Levitan. The works by these artists still decorated walls in parlours as before, however, easel drawings and watercolours were also exhibited among paintings. And the exhibitions were becoming important events of the social life; they were widely covered in the press, and gave rise to fierce debate. The number of exhibitions was also growing. In the beginning they were held in Petersburg once a year in the Academy of Arts and at times in the Society for Encouragement of Artists. From 1871 there appear annual expositions of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions. Ten or fifteen years later the exhibition boom followed, and among numerous shows there appear purely graphic ones - Blanc et noir, exhibitions of the Society of Russian Watercolourists. Drawing underlay academic education, creating the basis for high professionalism. All renowned painters, be it landscapist Ivan Shishkin, portraitist Ivan Kramskoi or genre painter Vladimir Makovsky, were equally graphic artists. Graphic works presented at the exhibition recreate the image of an epoch inspired by the oeuvre of Tchaikovsky and Musorgsky, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Repin and Surikov, Shishkin and Levitan.