At first glance of this scene, showing the deep Russian woods at the end of winter, you might think this is a photograph, perhaps even a very early color photograph like this one from Imperial Russia of the same era. But it’s not a photo. This is a painting called A Breath of Spring by Russian painter Konstantin Kryzhitsky, and I thought its hopeful spring-is-coming idea would be appropriate at this time of year. It’s an almost pure landscape, with the only manmade feature being a small cabin behind the trees at center. The quality of the light is depicted absolutely perfectly, exactly as a late winter evening might be in Russia in the last few years before the Revolution. This is natural romanticism at its height.
Konstantin Kryzhitsky was born in 1858 in Kiev, Ukraine, and trained at the Nikolai Murashko School of Drawing and the Imperial Academy of the Arts. Like the painting I featured last week by Kustodiev, A Breath of Spring comes from the school of Russian art that existed at its height at the tail end of the tsarist period. The choice of subject and the photograph-like quality of the picture are pretty typical for Kryzhitsky, who from the 1880s to the 1910s often painted rural scenes, sometimes involving roads or small cabins, but with natural features like trees, water and mountains serving as the centerpiece of the picture. His incredible skill is evident just looking at this example. Kryzhitsky, unlike Kustodiev, didn’t live to see the Soviet era; he died in St. Petersburg in 1911, one year after this painting was completed.
I’m gaining a great appreciation for some interesting European art as a result of this Historic Painting series. Expect some more articles like this in the near future!