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Russia's Itinerant Painters

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image of Russian History

Visual arts in Russia languished through most of her history, partly because the Orthodox Church frowned on pictorial representation, partly because there was virtually no middle class to purchase paintings. In the mid-eighteenth century Russia acquired an Academy of Arts which produced works largely in classical style and content. This changed in the 1870's when, under western influence, a group of Russian artists formed a society of "Itinerants" committed to painting in the realistic mode and to exhibit their works in various cities of the Empire rather than solely in the capital cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, as had been the custom until then. Their canvasses depicted everyday life in Russia as well as historical scenes; they also painted portraits of contemporaries. This special issue deals with the lives and work of nine leading Itinerant painters. The movement gradually lost popularity toward the beginning of the twentieth century as Impressionism and Abstract art replaced it, but it revived in the Soviet period. Today it is greatly favored by the Russian public which swarms the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the largest collection of Itinerant art.


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