Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin: Synthetic Vision

There is a type of artists, whose legacy, despite being deeply national, embodies the highest achievements of European fine art. Some of them managed to combine traditions of realism with symbolism, filled with a specific religious feelings. One of them was a prominent Russian painter of the 20th century Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, who died on this day in 1939.
Russian realistic school inherited some of the methods  from academy of fine arts of Bologna, since many of the artists from Russian Empire travelled to Italy for art training. Petrov-Vodkin was one of them. Yet, it was Russian icon that has influenced  his style: it comes as no surprise, as Kuzma’s first teachers were icon-painters. He combined icon’s style with Renaissance visual language. The proportions of his figures remind of trecento art of Sienna (for instance, pieces of Simone Martini, who inclined to the same type of appearance as Petrov-Vodkin did), however, the influence of Russian icon is also absolutely evident, especially in the vibrant colouring, with its accent on the tirade – red, yellow, blue.
Petrov-Vodkin developed rather slowly, changing his style gradually, like Goya and Rembrandt did. He shifted from sentimental motifs of landscapes (mainly sceneries with shining gold and green fields and rivers) to tragic realism and mastery in depiction of psychological states. Art connoisseurs, who were already at this time used to the striking color palettes and expressiveness of the futurists, were surprised at the artist’s different composition and the feeling of overt tension.  They were capitvated with the master’s attempt to synthesize Eastern and Western art, with elements of traditional Russian icons, Italian frescoes, and neoclassical trends.






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