What I like
Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin is a genius among the landscape artists.
I have always admired Levitan’s artwork, and I remain his big fan. Levitan is a great artist.
Although recently I have visited the Central House of Arts, the exposition of Shishkin’s work…
First of all, his graphics must be mentioned. They are unique, divine. In my opinion no other artist has such amazing graphics. You simply must see them. His silk paintings are unbelievable, they cannot be compared with anything else. Unfortunately, his most famous works nowadays give impression of being a little kitsch: “Rye”, “Ship-forest”, “Morning in the Pine Wood”. It is such a pity that these true artworks were ruined by being replicated thousands of times on sweet wrappers and trinket boxes. In reality the kitsch was created by consumers, while the original works stayed grand. When you see the originals of Shishkin’s work, you understand how great it is.
Shishkin painted Nature from life. When someone reproaches him for being “too Russian”, I jump to his defence. If you compare Levitan and Shishkin, to me they are two sides of the same coin. Levitan depicts Russian sadness and sorrow that can take your breath away. His landscape works have the same sense of Russian melancholy as Esenin’s poetry – you look at the horizon and your eyes start to well up…- that is Levitan’s “Vladimir Tract” and “Above the Eternal Quietness“. But this feeling is a pleasant and welcome one, because sometimes we like to grieve, to mourn, to cry over a painting, a movie or a book – sometimes we intentionally call for such feelings. So Levitan evokes such feelings – you stand, look and shed a tear, and drown yourself in a maelstrom of emotions. Here it is: the sacred Russia! So heartfelt, but also so melancholic.
Shishkin is the other side of the coin: Russian Folk Heroes, the Force, the Might! And he provokes other tears – of happiness, when you feel yourself part of a great country, a grand nation, an amazing nature. Shishkin also painted Nature from life. And if you see his pine trees looking so straight, clear and tall – that’s how they actually looked, because he painted from life! This is a realistic impression of Nature made by the master with such precision that you perceive it as a photograph; only it is full of sunshine and the colours are so “tasty” and bright in his paintings! While in Levitan’s paintings we find Sorrow & Melancholy, in Shishkin’s – we find Quiet/Peace & Happiness.
While looking at Shishkin’s exhibition I realised I felt at peace. I was so happy, in such a state of mind when everything is just great and joy is overwhelming… For example, even in moments of depression or trepidation, standing before “Misty Morning” – I am inside the painting and I feel happy. I have stood before that painting for half an hour and literally felt the light breeze, heard the crickets – experienced that morning feeling, when the mist has not yet dissipated, when the sun has just started to warm up. It is still cool, then it begins to get warmer and warmer, and then you feel the day’s heat on your skin…
In Shishkin’s time, and even today, he was reproved for being “extra-naturalistic”. Naturalism? But why did somebody decide to use this word as a pejorative? No, no! “Naturalism” is not a swear word! Shishkin is so precise. He is true, real, unpretentious, his mastery of drawing and painting are unsurpassed. He is positive. Returning to comparison of these two great painters, Levitan is a light and sweet minor, and Shishkin is absolute 100% all-winning major! Shishkin is the Mozart of Art. And if you want positive emotion, look at Shishkin’s work, and your soul will find peace, happiness and beauty – all those things that we sometimes miss in everyday life.