What to see at Portraying Russia exhibition: Zaryadye exhibition curator on main exhibits

What to see at Portraying Russia exhibition: Zaryadye exhibition curator on main exhibits
Fyodor Alexeyev. ‘Boyar Platform or Bed Porch and Church of the Saviour behind the Golden Grille in the Moscow Kremlin,’ 1810
In this mos.ru story, the State Tretyakov Gallery’s research associate Sofia Aksyonova gives her view on which exhibits deserve a closer look, and explains why.

For the first time in its history, Zaryadye Park is holding an art exhibition, Portraying Russia. The show features 55 landscape paintings by 36 Russian artists from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery. Before leaving for the Media Centre’s exhibition hall, read the synopsis of a guided tour for mos.ru readers by exhibition co-curator Sofia Aksyonova.

Fyodor Alexeyev. ‘Boyar Platform or Bed Porch and Church of the Saviour behind the Golden Grille in the Moscow Kremlin,’ 1810

When they enter the exhibition via the opening ‘Capital’ section, visitors will first of all see a wonderful landscape by Fyodor Alexeyev.  This exhibit is interesting for two reasons. On the one hand, it is a unique example of how the landscape painting genre developed. Alexeyev conceived the veduta genre in Russia. (Editor’s Note: The veduta is a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting or, more often print, of a cityscape or some other vista). In addition, history buffs, and in particular those interested in Moscow’s history, will like this picture very much because the location it portrays no longer exists; this section of the Kremlin has greatly changed after numerous renovations. 

Boris Kustodiyev. ‘Autumn in the province: tea party,’ 1926

While strolling around the exhibition, you will not be able to miss a small hall called ‘Traditions and fairy tales’. Please note two masterpieces by Boris Kustodiyev ‘Promenade’ and ‘Autumn in the province.’ If you stand in front of these pictures and look at them closely, you will see that they are full of amazingly interesting characters and detail, which blend into an image of traditional, or it could be said, archetypal Rus. After thinking about this, look at the year when both of them were painted, and you will be surprised to see that Kustodiyev’s Rus is totally fictional and mythical, rather than authentic and traditional.

Alexander Borisov. ‘In the land of eternal ice: summer.’ 1897

It is hard to overlook this exhibit, which is the climax of the show. One of the exhibition’s sections is named after this huge painting, titled ‘In the land of eternal ice: summer’. The work measures two by 3.5 metres and is Alexander Borisov’s showpiece. In fact, he owes his popularity to this picture. For several decades, it was not on display and was stored at the Tretyakov Gallery’s depository. It recently underwent extensive restoration and was restretched (it received a new canvas frame). Visitors have an amazing chance to see this picture and various rough sketches made by the artist during his first trip to the Extreme North. The rough drawings are located on the opposite wall. By looking from one side of the room to the other, one can imagine how a large-scale picture emerges from numerous details and small segments.

I’d like to draw attention to the picture ‘Developing a pit’ by Nikolai Denisovsky in the ‘Time marches on’ section, which is dedicated to landscapes from the first half of the 20th century. This industrial landscape shows the work of gold miners in the Russian Far East, visited by the artist. When asked to depict work in the new area down to the smallest detail, he responded in a rather unorthodox manner.  This picture can be called an artistic experiment: Thanks to its unusually high vantage point, the composition literally captivates viewers and forces them to scrutinise all the individuals depicted.

Viktor Popkov. ‘White willows in Borovsk.’ 1974

I would be very happy if visitors noticed Viktor Popkov’s magnificent work ‘White willows in Borovsk’, in the exhibition’s last section, ‘Nothing changes in nature’ which features landscapes from the second half of the 20th century. This is one of the artist’s last pictures, completed shortly before his death.

At first glance, the picture does not seem very interesting; it depicts some unobtrusive trees and a church against the Central Russian landscape. But on taking a closer look, you will see that this is a very remarkable, subtle and profound statement by the artist. He considered this place to be highly important, and he is sharing its importance with us by creating a beautiful and very harmonious image and by introducing fantastic combinations of all shades of green, purple and pink. On the one hand, this landscape depicts one of Russia’s cozy nooks. On the other, it is a lyrical and chamber-style masterpiece.