It is well known that two principal movements in the 20th century’s art – namely, abstract art and the art of socialist realism – emerged, found their classics and took the shape of theoretical systems not only in one and the same country but also in the same center of European culture. Both movements should be attributed to St Petersburg – Petrograd – Leningrad. It is far less known that both movements fed upon the tradition of Russian art and sprang from the same art school. By the middle of the 20th century Leningrad had become perhaps the only European cultural center to have preserved the world-famous school of easel painting based on the continuous development of age-long traditions of the national and European painting. The history of the Leningrad school of painting spans the period from 1930 through to the early 1990s. Having emerged in the time of hottest discussions on the development of art and art education in the USSR, it became the missing link that allowed for the preservation of national realist painting and provided for its further advance in the epoch of socialism. The Leningrad school proper usually refers to the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in the period between 1932 and the early 1990s, including its traditions, teachers, alumni and their art works. In its broader sense, the Leningrad school may also include a number of higher and secondary education establishments closely connected with the Repin Institute as well as the Leningrad Union of Artists in the period between its foundation in 1932 and the early 1990s. All that being true, the Leningrad school should be primarily understood as a unique alloy of personalities drawn from the richest and finest rock containing the least possible amount of impurities that had been searched for in the depths of the country, processed by the world’s finest smelter and cast in the furnace of the epoch.
About 1,200 artists may be said to belong to the Leningrad school of painting. Approximately 400 of them formed its distinguishing features in different periods and different genres. In the 1930s through the 1950s the following artists were brought up by the school: E. Antipova, T. Afonina, E. Baykova, N. Baskakov, P. Belousov, O. Bogaevskaya, A. Vasiliev, I. Veselkin, R. Vovkushevsky, N. Galakhov, V. Golubev, E. Gorokhova, I. Dobrekova, G. Yegoshin, A. Eremin, M. Zheleznov, V. Zagonek, M. Zubreeva, R. Zakharian, M. Kaneev, E. Kozlov, M. Kopitseva, B. Korneev, A. Koroviakov, E. Kostenko, B. Lavrenko, A. Laktionov, O. Lomakin, D. Maevsky, E. Moiseenko, V. Monakhova, N. Mukho, A. Mylnikov, M. Natarevich, S. Nevelshtein, A. Nenartovich, Yu. Neprintsev, D. Oboznenko, V. Ovchinnikov, L. Orekhov, V. Oreshnikov, S. Osipov, V. Otiev, N. Pozdneev, A. Pushnin, L. Russov, G. Savinov, A. Semionov, V. Serov, E. Skuin, A. Sokolov, V. Teterin, N. Timkov, V. Tokarev, M. Trufanov, Yu. Tulin, V. Tulenev, B. Ugarov, Yu. Khukhrov, V. Chekalov, B. Shamanov, A. Shmidt, N. Shteinmiller, L. Yazgur and many other famous and half-forgotten artists. Basic elements of the Leningrad school – namely, a higher art education establishment of a new type and a unified professional union of Leningrad artists, were created by the end of 1932. However, it took several more years to gather faculty members and organize art education in a new way. In 1934 Isaak Brodsky, a disciple of Ilya Repin was appointed director of the National Academy of Arts and the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Brodsky invited most distinguished painters and pedagogues to teach at the Academy. Education of future painters was based on a thorough study of drawing, composition, painting and art history. Requirements for applicants became stricter; preliminary courses and the so called. For more details please see Historical outline: http://www.leningradartist.com/outline.htm
It was thanks to their efforts that traditions of the Russian school of painting were preserved and developed. For all problems and faults of the formative years, methods of art teaching and general structure of art education adopted in the 1930 proved very successful. These methods remain relevant up to the present; they are universally recognized as the standard of art education and adopted all over the world. At present paintings of masters of the Leningrad School recide in stocks of major art museums and private collections in Russia and abroud. This school brought up eminent artists whose creative eagerness was akin to that of the old great masters. They were distinguished by the true love for the Motherland. Endowed with many talents, they were mysteriously spiritual and scorned universal mercantilism as the ultimate aim of human kind. Inseparable from the history of its century, this art will be admired by new generations not only for its skillfulness and beauty but also for its dreaminess and revolutionary romanticism, liveliness of its images, historical optimism, sincere belief in the creative and reforming ability of art, and clear understanding of involvement and personal responsibility of the artist for the fate of Motherland and the course of history.
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