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The secret of the picturesque ruins: what the ruins look like through the eyes of artists
The secret of the picturesque ruins: what the ruins look like through the eyes of artists

Ruins for artists is an opportunity to touch upon the themes of decay and eternity, "play" with time, transfer the action to the past or the future, or even to a parallel world. Buildings destroyed by time, elements or people are adorned with a huge number of drawings and canvases; they became part of the scenery, then the central object to which all attention was directed. Different ruins evoke different feelings for those who look at them - and here's why.

Paintings depicting ancient ruins

Ruins have long been distinguished by this property - to excite the imagination, because they represented the traces of civilizations that have gone into the past, which means they gave the key to understanding entire worlds. Interest in ruins is a very long-standing phenomenon, as is the interest of a person in knowing and studying himself. Many centuries ago, the ancient Greeks came to the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, already destroyed by the time the civilizations of antiquity flourished. Time will pass - and already the temples of the Athenian Acropolis will become ruins, inspiring artists to serve as a source of inspiration for the civilization of the new time.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Temple of Saturn

Ancient temples, the ruins of long ago destroyed palaces and temples are not just a picturesque background for the art of the present, but also a symbol of continuity, the transfer of the wisdom of the past generations to new ones. Among the ruins, with a sufficiently vivid imagination, one can also notice ghosts - after all, it was among the ruins of temples that the ancient gods would have to seek refuge, and in the depths of destroyed castles - the souls of their owners who did not find rest. Riddles about their appearance and subsequent destruction made the ancient ruins even more attractive. Stonehenge, for example, appeared to be the creation of giants ruled by the wizard Merlin.

M. Ricci. Capriccio with Roman ruins

Particular interest in the ruins arose during the Renaissance. Much attention was paid to the ruins of the ancient period - they were studied by artists along with anatomy: both were required to bring the art of painting to a new level. For the Renaissance, traces of ancient Roman culture were a symbol of enlightenment and the transfer of knowledge that had recently seemed lost. Not one, not two, or even one hundred artists visited Italy during the period of training as a painter - this was part of the compulsory program. The Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon have been carefully studied and reproduced many times on canvases and drawings. Over time, however, in order to increase the attractiveness of works with images of ruins, artists began to build the composition in their own way, without taking into account the true location of the ruins.

J.P. Panini. Fantastic view from the Pantheon and other monuments of Ancient Rome

This led to interesting consequences - for example, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an architect famous for his images of buildings and ruins, portrayed Rome so picturesquely that after exploring the city itself, tourists were disappointed: in the works of the master, the eternal city looked much brighter and more expressive than in reality …

Time travel - what ancient temples might look like in the past or modern buildings in the distant future

At first, the ruins of ancient temples were a background, a decoration for biblical subjects, and later they began to decorate works of a relatively new genre of painting - landscape.It turned out that the ruins fit perfectly into the natural landscape, and live trees and flowers harmoniously complement the stone structures. Such paintings were in increasing demand among buyers, and in the 17th century a separate genre appeared - capriccio.

J. Robert. Imaginary view of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in ruins

Artists did not just transfer images of real-life ruins to canvases - they came up with new ones. They also fantasized about how the destroyed antique buildings might once look. The French artist Hubert Robert, nicknamed "Robert of the Ruins" and who served as curator of the Royal Museum in the Louvre, created about a thousand paintings, depicting real and imaginary ruins, inspired by the ruins that he himself visited.

J. Gandhi. Bank of England in ruins

Discovered in the second half of the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum - Roman cities that perished at the beginning of a new era as a result of the eruption of Vesuvius - only added interest to the topic of ruins, which, however, never subsided among artists, art lovers and collectors. civilizations provided inspiration to artists. The story of the destroyed British abbeys turned out to be promising in an artistic sense - those that looked quiet and solemn during the day and, of course, became a haven of ghosts in the silence of the night.

S. Peter. Ruined gothic church by the river in the moonlight

Throughout the 19th century, artists depicted ruins in their most fantastic forms, carried away by the idea of ​​the frailty of all things, and history inexorably brought closer the days when what was created in modern times and what was managed to be preserved from ancient times will turn into ruins …

Ruins of the XX and XXI centuries

If Rome fell, the same may one day happen to other flourishing cities and powers - this is how the ruinists reasoned. As creative experiments, fantasy paintings appeared about what the ruins of existing buildings might look like. But the twentieth century came, and there was no longer a shortage of ruins - now they were not an echo of a long gone, but a tragic accompaniment to the century of world wars.

V.N. Kuchumov. At the Field of Mars. 1942 g

The mood of paintings and graphics has changed; this was especially noticeable in relation to the work of those artists who used to depict ancient ruins. After the poetic, romanticized component of the pastoral or the majestic background for biblical myths, the ruins began to be assigned the main role in the plots, and the paintings themselves no longer broadcast triumph and peace, but sadness and emptiness.

Some of the ruins remained only in paintings, like. for example, the ruins of the Temple of the Sun in Palmyra. The architectural landmark was destroyed already in the XXI century

And for postmodern artists, ruins have generally become one of the main symbols of new art - with their rejection of integrity, of ideas about a harmonious world. However, postmodernism is multifaceted - here, for example, 26 architectural masterpieces from different years that made a splash on the Internet.

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