Images of the Petrine era in Russian history painting
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‘Images of the Petrine Era in Russian History Painting’ examines the changing iconography of Petr I (1672-1725) in nineteenth-century Russian painting, and its relationship with Petr’s symbolic role in the cultural debate between the Westernisers and the Slavophiles over the interpretation of the Russian past and the direction of Russia’s future. Artistic developments are discussed against a background of history, historiography and literature. Paintings by Academic artists that were produced as contributions to the official cult of Petr, fostered by Nikolai I, are explored as expressions of aspects of the archetypal Hero. The evolution of historical genre painting, and particularly the developments introduced by Shvarts in the 1860s, are examined as a crucial component of the context for the emergence of the Peredvizhniki. The main focus of this study comprises the Realist history paintings of the Peredvizhniki. The pursuit of historical truth, after Aleksandr Il’s relaxation of censorship in the late 1850s, became a significant factor in the application of Realism to history painting. The treatment of Petrine themes by the Peredvizhniki in their First Exhibition in 1871 is discussed in relation to the celebrations for Petr’s bicentenary in 1872. Ge’s ‘Petr I interrogates Tsarevich Aleksei Petrovich at Peterhof’ is analysed in detail for its importance as the first treatment in a Realist style of a controversial historical incident which was unfavourable to Petr. Evidence, exemplified by Myasoedov’s ‘The Grandfather of the Russian Fleet’, is brought forward which suggests continuities between the Academy and the Peredvizhniki. The Peredvizhniki’s varied approaches to Petrine themes are examined, emphasising the group’s lack of ideological uniformity. History paintings are explored in their social and cultural context, for instance, nineteenth-century depictions of Tsarevna Sof’ya Alekseevna and the rise of Russian feminism, and the effect of Surikov’s personal experience of cultural conflict on his works.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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