Kuindzhi Arkhip Ivanovich
Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi is one of the most prominent artists in the history of Russian landscape painting. The author of the most popular paintings went through a thorny creative path from a self-taught artist to an artist-teacher. His life combined the features of a typical fate of a person from the people and a unique biography of a gifted person.
The extraordinary figure of Kuindzhi has become legendary already in the eyes of contemporaries. Subsequently, the interest in it of domestic art historians was constantly increasing. However, to this day, the life and work of the famous landscape painter are fraught with many mysteries.
The year of birth, the origin of the surname, estate, information about relatives – all this has not yet received unambiguous historical coverage. The artist was born, most likely in 1842. Kuindzhi’s childhood was connected with the Tatar suburb of Mariupol – Karasevka. The village was located on a hill, from where a wide view of the flood coasts of the ancient Kalki River and the Sea of Azov opened. Apparently, the appearance of unlimited panoramic landscapes in the work of the landscape painter is connected with these childhood impressions.
Kuindzhi was left without parents early, which predetermined the difficulties of his life path. Having not received a full school education, in 1854 he already worked on the construction of the Roman Catholic Church in Mariupol. A twelve-year-old boy amazed those around him with his drawings in a workbook and, especially, on the walls of the master’s kitchen, which served as his place to sleep. The temple was erected at the expense of Italian grain traders, who helped develop the artistic abilities of a promising young man. Handing Kuindzhi letters of recommendation, they sent him to study in Feodosia to I.K.Aivazovsky. A novice artist stayed there for several months. Direct communication of young Kuindzhi with Aivazovsky was reduced to auxiliary tasks: he rubbed paints or repainted the fence. Nevertheless, this trip confirmed the intention of the future painter to devote his life to the visual arts.
A close acquaintance with the work of the famous singer of the sea had a significant impact on the choice of plots of the first easel works of Kuindzhi. According to fragmentary information, it can be assumed that Arkhip Ivanovich, after working as a retoucher in Mariupol and Odessa, in the mid-1860s returned to Aivazovsky’s homeland in Feodosia and painted the sea coast from nature there. One of the paintings created at that time was shown shortly after Kuindzhi appeared in St. Petersburg at an academic exhibition. The first years of life in St. Petersburg were marked by an active convergence of the novice painter with the democratic ideas of artistic and creative youth. The works created by Kuindzhi in the first half of the 1870s stand somewhat apart in his work. While remaining committed to spectacular forms of images, to the transfer of the emotional state of nature, the artist combined a romantic perception of reality with a naturalistic approach to writing landscape details. The mood of these works was determined by the harsh exotics of northern nature; notes of sadness sounded in the panoramas of destitute villages.
Further, in the work of Kuindzhi, important changes took place that were of a turning point. In 1876 he painted the painting “Ukrainian Night”. She did not leave indifferent either professionals or art lovers. In the paintings “Ukrainian Night” and “Evening in Ukraine”, Kuindzhi demonstrated the virtues of his picturesque manner. Thanks to the rethinking of the artistic arsenal of the romantic landscape, he achieved the maximum poetization of the usual Ukrainian landscapes.
Kuindzhi’s perseverance was rewarded with the resounding success of his works at the VII exhibition of the Association of Wanderers in 1879. The monumental canvas “North” was unanimously perceived as the completion of the theme that appeared in the work of Kuindzhi in the early 1870s. The greatest interest of visitors to the seventh exhibition of the Association of Wanderers was caused by the painting “Birch Grove.” Her success far exceeded the public outcry from showing all of Kuindzhi’s previous works. This landscape occupies an important place in the artist. It is no accident that the plot of the painting Arkhip Ivanovich repeatedly varied in the future. For the first time in landscape painting of the second half of the 19th century, an impression of joy and optimism from a sunlit corner of nature received an almost symbolic sound.
In the late 1880s, Kuindzhi increasingly went to the Academy of Arts. Together with I.I.Shishkin, they talked for a long time with young pupils of the landscape class. As artists of the traveling spirit, they felt the need and possibility of transformations in the Academy. In 1890, Kuindzhi joined the commission on the preparation of a new academic charter. Two years later he was approved as a professor. Then he, along with Repin, Polenov, Vasnetsov and Shishkin, became a freelance member of the Academy Council. So in the creative biography of the master began a new, pedagogical stage.