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Rich palette of emotions and natural beauty

As part of the Our Collections project, National Art Museum shows dazzling Belarusian landscape paintings

By Victor Mikhailov

Landscapes played a particularly significant role in Belarusian pictorial art in the second half of the 20th century, marked by artists who had gained prominence over preceding years. Even today, the genre remains one of the ultimate mediums for expressing patriotic love through high technical mastery. Its roots are founded in the 19th century, with artists continuing their development through the first decades of the 20th century.

Many of the current works on display date from the 1950s, when social realism ruled — firmly established from the 1930s onwards. The poetic notion of social transformations and images of Belarusian villages found focus in the mid-20th century — typified by the works of Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, Ivan Akhremchik, Nikolay Duchits, Yevgeny Zaitsev, Nikolay Tarasikov, Galina Azgur, Valentin Dzezhits, Piotr Daneliya and Vladimir Kudrevich. Picturesque scenes enjoyed delicate palettes, with many created outside, exploring the subtleties of artists’ emotional response to their environment.

Studying the exhibited works, it’s clear that their imaginative interpretation is an evolution of the strict landscape style, leading to the new manner of the 1960s, with its monumental-and-etude vision. Nature was viewed as reflecting our moral and historical experience and as demonstrating features unique to Belarus. The rhythm of everyday life and the tragedy of the past war were also major philosophical themes — as explored by Valentin Savitsky, Victor Versotsky, Sergey Katkov, Nikolay Kazakevich, Leonid Shchemelev, Nikolay Nazarenko, Pavel Maslenikov, Vasily Sumarev, Mikhail Blishch and Izrail Basov.

A decade later, a romantic trend prevailed in landscape painting, with panoramic views, ornamentation and glorification of nature prominent — as seen in works by Vitaly Tsvirko, Boris Arakcheev, Anatoly Shibnev, Anton Barkhatkov and Leonid Dudarenko.

From 1975 to 1985, the landscape genre became more narrative in nature, with artists expressing their own individual world outlook on canvas. Artists combined folklore and national-romantic motifs in creating their image of Belarusian nature — as typified by Gavriil Vashchenko, Nikolay Seleshchuk, Ivan Rei, Victor Gromyko, Leonid Shchemelev, Ivan Stasevich, Vladimir Tovstik, Boris Kazakov, Konstantin Khoroshevich and Natalia Chernogolovaya.

Soon, landscape works combined poetry, conceptual and philosophical themes, and symbolism. After the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the topic of ecology became popular with painters of all generations and styles. Landscape art played a significant role, with metaphorical images used by Gavriil Vashchenko, Vyacheslav Volynets, Nikolay Bushchik, Andrey Zadorin, Anatoly Kuznetsov, Vladimir Kozhukh and Alexander Ksendzov.

From 1990 to the early 21st century, Belarusian painters developed an interest in the idea of preserving our national culture, which gave a new emotional colouring to the landscape motif. Their generalised images and more concrete details were penetrated with deep lyrical-poetical feelings. This was reflected especially brightly in pieces by Gavriil Vashchenko, Victor Tikhonov, Oleg Skovorodko, Valery Shkarubo, Vladimir Kozhukh and Vladimir Zinkevich.

Realism remained a foundation of the Belarusian landscape genre from the 1950s through to the early 21st century, exploring figurative ideas while reflecting the social and natural environment.

The Free Land Spaces exhibition showcases 75 artworks, giving us a wonderful opportunity to observe the trends and development of the landscape genre from the second half of the 20th century to the early 21st century.

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