“I see no God up here.” These are probably the most famous words Gagarin spoke while in space, words that obviously are quite striking but profound. To understand this first we must understand the man, A simple Russian citizen would would rise to height none had ever achieved. Yuri Gagarin: the first man in space. Gagarin become something much more than a man and more than a Cosmonaut, his trip (the first of its kind) made him a god. The likes of which had not been seen since Stalin but this was no artificial popular movement. Gagarin did something that then was profound, amazing, and some thought was impossible. More →
In the footsteps of a giant the Russian people follow, the not so silent majority rises. The man who brought this scene to canvas was Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev, a man who had grown up poor and fell in with the Soviet ideals. As a young man he worked along other painters, one of which being Repin. Through his career he painted many scenes but Soviet Nationalism and cultural pieces stayed his focus. Pieces like this one “The Bolshevik” (1917) a work of art depicting the rise against tsarism characterized his career. The picture itself is supposedly the view Kustodiev had of the uprising from his studio window on the date that the fate of the monarchy was decided. a decision made not buy the nobility or upper classes but by the Russian people.
Being an early supporter of the revolution it is no surprise that Kustodiev uses this opportunity to glorify the part as well as the Russian people. This piece of art captures not only a snapshot of history but also a feeling. A feeling of hope for the future but also a feeling of pride. In a moment Kustodiev captures the sum of the Russian peoples victory. In his rendering of this he does not only depict what he sees. He depicts the invisible giant that leads this revolution or does he depict the man but represents his importance in his characterization as a giant? But this may not be a man at all, I am of the opinion that this giant is the Bolshevik giant. A giant representing the party that has grown large with the public’s discontent, powerful with the discord, and now it leads the mob. A mob under a red banner, a banner that leads all people from all situations to a new future. A future that will finally be shaped by the people and not the spoiled rulers.
In looking at this piece of art a few items are prevalent. First in the crowd many classes of people are shown. Soldiers, peasants, even upper class people in automobiles. The crowd seems to be marching forward with a jubilant demeanor. Perhaps the artist wanted the audience to see this a glorious, almost happy revolution and not as one that claimed many lives. The artist also depicts the crowd passing through a well built prosperous section of city, might this be a sign of good things to come? One thing is certain however, the artist believes that this revolution is just and the correct course for his nation.
Vasily Perov was one of the original founding members of the Wanderers movement in pre-soviet Russia. His works centered around a new genre of art in Russia: Critical Realism. In his piece Monastic Refectory we can see just how skeptic he was of Russian social structure and customs. Although he paints a lovely scene it is quite easy to see its true purpose.
In the painting Perov depicts a meal taking place in a Refectory. At this meal we can see three different levels of Russian society all in the same room however there means and situation greatly differ. As peasants beg on the floor the priests are drinking and gorging themselves at the table taking little notice to the starving masses on the floor. Perov also depicts the priests as fat and jovial. In the corner we can see one priest beckoning for another bottle only in what I assume to be a statement by Perov on the priests excess of alcohol.
On a close look there is also one more statement the artist leaves for us. In the top left corner we can see people obviously of the upper class. One priest is inviting them to the table however once you see their faces it is obvious they are not interested. I would even say they are disgusted to see what is going on. Is this a statement by Perov towards the fact that the upper class looked down upon the clergy? We may never fully know all his meaning in this piece but we do know it is an amazing work of art.