Andrei Rublev – Biography

Russian icon of St.Andrey Rublyov with his work
Andrei Rublev, a famous medieval painter of orthodox icons and frescos, is considered the pride and glory of Russian culture. The name of Rublev is connected not only to the flourishing period of Russian art, but also to the revival of Byzantine art after its ruin under the Ottoman rule.

However, there is little information available on Andrei Rublev’s life. It is not known where he was born but he probably lived in the Trinity St. Sergey Monastery in the small town of Sergiev Posad near Moscow. He was a monk under Nikon of Radonezh, who succeeded Sergey of Radonezh, a famous saint and Father Superior of the monastery. Rublev’s contemporaries described him as “a kind and quiet person, filled with light.” They said he was “unusually focused” and that “everything he created was a result of his deep thoughts.”

In the early chronicles, the name of Rublev comes up in connection with the construction of different churches. In the 1380s he belonged to the Prince’s cartel of craftsmen and artists who moved from town to town building and decorating churches. After the Battle of Kulikovo between the Tatar-Mongols and the Russians near the Don River in 1380, many new churches were erected in Russia, and each was decorated by Russian iconographers. This served as a source of inspiration for Rublev.

The first mention of Rublev as a painter appears in 1405 when, together with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets, he painted icons and frescos for the Cathedral of Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin. His name was the last on the list of craftsmen as he was a junior both by rank and age.

Most of his frescos were destroyed during the Moscow Kremlin fire of 1547.

Russian art was highly influenced by the art of the Byzantine Empire. Many artistic traditions, particularly in regard to icon painting and church architecture, originated in Byzantine and were aken over by other Eastern European countries, including Russia. Rublev is often considered to have been a pupil of Theophanes the Greek, a famous Byzantine painter who worked in Russia for over thirty years. However, Theophanes the Greek’s personality, as well as his views of art and life, differed greatly from those of Rublev. The elder painter’s images were tense and tragic, perceiving the sinful earth as hell. It is not known how both artists got along, but there is evidence to suggest they often worked together, and the process did wonders to develop Rublev’s genius. Nevertheless, Rublev broke away from his Theophanes’s dramatic severity of form, color and expression and developed his own light and harmonious style incarnating the epoch of liberation.

Approximately during the same period, Rublev is believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels, an illustrated Book of Gospels from the early 15th century. The book contains eight full-page miniatures, portraits of four Evangelists and four pictures of their symbols. The miniature of the angel, a symbol of the evangelist Matthew, is usually attributed to Rublev. A young winged boy with curly hair is framed in a circle, which gives the image tranquility and completeness. The colors of azure blue and fresh green create a feeling of joy and easiness. According to art historians, the light and pureness display the uniqueness of the painter’s style.

It is not possible to chronologically trace Rublev’s work, as Russian icon painters never signed or dated their works. But one chronicle confirms that in 1408 Rublev painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir with Danil Cherny and other painters. The Cathedral was widely known in Old Russia and Moscow’s Princes took great care in its decoration. In 1408, the son of Dmitry Donskoy, Prince Vladimir, ordered the restoration of the Cathedral, including the painting of new frescos to replace the one lost in the 12th century. The surviving Cathedral frescos represent a fragment of the famous composition Doomsday. Analyses of the style of the frescos helped determine their author: the artistic composition, musicality and gracefulness of the lines belonged to the hand of Andrey Rublev. The interpretation of the scene is rather unusual: there is no fear of severe punishment and the idea of forgiveness and enlightenment penetrates the composition, in line with Rublev’s worldview. ...

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