Mikhail Vrubel died 100 years ago this month. His work remains compelling and spectacular.
In 1890, fellow-painter Valentin Serov discovered Vrubel living in Kiev and rescued him from a penurious life of fresco-restoring. In the same year, Vrubel painted his famous 'Seated Demon', inspired by Mikhail Lermontov's epic poem 'The Demon'. His personal brand of experimental realism forms a crucial transition from the highly figurative art of the 19th century to the extremes of boundary-breaking modernism.
Serov introduced him to the art patron and railway tycoon Savva Mamontov. Vrubel lived for several years in Mamontov's influential creative colony at Abramtsevo, 60 kilometres north of Moscow. Even here he stood apart from the other artists, experimenting with metallic glazes and the brooding colours of Byzantine frescoes while they pursued more conventional trends in the new worlds of Symbolist painting and Russian revivalist folk art.
There is no house-museum dedicated to Vrubel, although the art gallery in his native Omsk is named after him. Moscow-based fans need to search for his work, scattered through museums and monumental buildings across the city.
Monday, 26 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
April 22 marks 140 years since the birth of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik party, one of the leaders of the October 1917 revolution and the founder of the Soviet state. Russian Communists traditionally start this day by laying flowers at Lenin’s Mausoleum at Red Square. At present, Moscow is the only European city where a mausoleum of a Communist leader remains. The other three such cities are all in Asia – Beijing, Hanoi and Pyongyang.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, his body was embalmed by a unique method worked out by Soviet scientists Vorobyov and Zbarskiy. In the same year, Lenin’s Mausoleum was built and opened for the public. The Mausoleum was also used as a tribune for Soviet leaders during parades in Red Square. When perestroika began in 1985, a number of politicians and public figures, including the then Soviet President Gorbachyov, suggested that Lenin should be buried according to the Orthodox Christian rite. Russian Communists, however, see it as an offence. Lenin’s life and ideas, they believe, are an ideal for generations to come. The Voice of Russia has tried to find out what the public’s attitude towards Lenin now is.
Human rights activist Yan Rachinskiy, the head of the Russian department of the “Memorial” international society, insists that Lenin should be buried. Lenin has nothing to do with Orthodox rites. He was not only an atheist, but a hard-line persecutor of any religion. Lenin should be buried, but with a secular rite.
Russian historian Alexander Dyukov believes that Lenin should remain in the Mausoleum. Our past, contradictory as it may be, is an inseparable line from the Russian Empire through the Soviet Union to what Russia is now. This line should not be broken. I believe that Lenin should remain in the Mausoleum and that all streets and plants built in the Soviet time should keep their initial names. It’s but elementary respect for our past.
The latest public opinion polls show that most Russians today are quite indifferent to Lenin’s figure and probably very soon he would be remembered only by historians. However, Lenin’s red granite Mausoleum still stands in Red Square – though since 1991 the funds for its maintainance and running come from private donors.
Voice of Russia