State TV and Radio Company “Kultura”, Russia
The subject discussed in the report could provide a new look at the works of Alexey Venetsianov, as well as at certain aspects of Biedermeier style.
It was long ago pointed out that the Enlightenment, despite its didactic character, was a sort of a continuation of the ideas of the Renaissance at a new level. The ideal was considered as a synthesis of the natural elements of the world around, the triumph of scientific and technical knowledge was proclaimed, a new type of an artist-the-scientist emerged, etc. Such a “Renaissance” aspect of the Enlightenment was reflected in a special human-oriented, non-official form of classicism, to which the Biedermeier style — namely its early, “high” period (from the 1810s to the early 1830s) is closely linked.
The Renaissance ideals were manifested in Biedermeier artists’ interest to a concrete, diverse reality, which they treated as a reasonably arranged system which could be perceived by both direct observations and theoretical knowledge. This explains a special, truly represented spatial-light environment of the early Biedermeier paintings where people, being self-absorbed, listen to “something more important” rather than talk to each other.
Notwithstanding the fact that Renaissance features were typical for the whole “high Biedermeier”, in Venetsianov’s works — due to national and individual characteristics of the artist — they are especially obvious. Although he was the father of “Russian Biedermeier”, Venetsianov however surpassed it: his works are at the intersection of Biedermeier and human-oriented classicism. The artist took interest in individuals rather than in environment or in interiors, as the representatives of the Western Biedermeier did. He treated his models as a part of the beautiful, reasonable universe. The specific “corporality” of Venetsianov’s paintings, which is related to the features of national mentality, is, however, merged with the “divine corporeality” of the Renaissance paintings. In the current report these and many other features of Renaissance art in the works of Venetsianov will be discussed in detail. Certain aspects of the work of the Russian artist will be compared with the works of some Renaissance masters.