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Peredvizhniki Collage

Started: 1863

Ended: 1923

"It's possible that some of my landscapes of Russian nature came out successfully because I have had to suffer and endure many terrible things. It seems to me that a cheerful person can't strongly feel Russian nature: in her there is so much melancholia, sad calmness, spiritual loneliness."

Isaac Levitan

Summary of Peredvizhniki

Established in 1870, The Society for Itinerant Art Exhibitions, commonly known as Peredvizhniki - meaning "Itinerants" or "Wanderers" - believed in representing subject-matter drawn from everyday life, with an accuracy and empathy which reflected their egalitarian social and political views. They worked across several types of painting, from landscape and portraiture to genre and historical painting, and by the close of the 19th century had become the most famous art movement in Russia. In 1923 the group was disbanded, but its impact was felt across many subsequent genres of Russian art, from Neo-Primitivism to Socialist Realism.

Key Ideas

The Peredvizhniki artists were perhaps best-known for their landscapes, paintings of archetypal Russian settings such as pine forests, wheat fields, and water meadows, which depicted their subject-matter with near photographic accuracy. At the same time, these landscapes were symbolically significant, representing the mood of the painter or viewer - as in the so-called "lyrical landscape" - or summing up some archetypal aspect of Russian culture or character.
Peredvizhniki was the first group of Russian artists to recognize that the everyday Russian citizen was a worthy subject of their attention. They set about creating portraits and genre paintings which evoked aspects of the worker or peasant's daily life, or their hopes, fears, and allegiances. In an era where focusing on the common man or woman was synonymous with political radicalism, this work effectively sounded a clarion call for democratic reform.
Peredvizhniki was the first great nationalist movement within Russian art. Rejecting what they saw as the Academy's slavish adherence to European taste, they forged a body of work which could become a talisman for an independent Russian spirit. Through their historical and religious paintings, for example, they presented the events and figures who had shaped the collective Russian consciousness.
Like many of their peers in the French Realist movement of the mid-19th century, the painters of Peredvizhniki were striving not just for a new stylistic paradigm within their nation's art, but for sweeping social and political change. But if Gustave Courbet's involvement with the Paris Commune of 1870 symbolized an unrewarded revolutionary fervor, the Peredvizhniki movement survived to witness the Russian Revolution of 1917, and thus for the transformation it had willed: if not in the form it would have expected.
Peredvizhniki Image


Peredvizhniki developed out of The Artel of Artists, a cooperative commune established in 1863 following what was called the "revolt of fourteen." This came about when fourteen young artists, all studying at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art, rebelled against the choice of topic for the annual Gold Medal competition, "The Entrance of Odin into Valhalla". The group felt that the topic summed up the Academy's stifling focus on the Neoclassical tradition, and wanted to paint the reality of contemporary Russian life, learning from the examples of Realism and Naturalism in Europe.

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