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Why did Tretyakov not buy paintings by the artist-"thistle" Semiradsky for his gallery?
Why did Tretyakov not buy paintings by the artist-"thistle" Semiradsky for his gallery?

It often happens that the opinions of the public and professionals in assessing the work of artists are in opposition, when some violently scold and do not perceive, while others admire and extol. So it happened with the work of the famous Polish-Russian painter Henryk Siemiradzki, who created in the second half of the 19th century and left a considerable artistic legacy of large-scale canvases that attract the viewer with the skill of execution, historical plausibility and sincerity of the plots.

Heinrich Ippolitovich Semiradsky is an outstanding Polish-Russian artist, a representative of European academism

Heinrich Ippolitovich Semiradsky is a Russian artist of Polish origin, a prominent representative of European academism of the cosmopolitan direction of the late 19th century, who became famous for his monumental canvases reflecting Ancient Greek and Roman history, biblical subjects. Received the title of Academician and Professor of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, as well as the academies of Rome, Turin, Berlin, Stockholm, was a corresponding member of the French Academy of Fine Arts.

And yet:

And, interestingly, Semiradsky, brought up on Polish traditions and the Catholic religion, always felt like a Pole, but during his greatest creative ups, the Russian press and critics attributed Russian nationality to him. His works are still the property of many museums in Russia and Ukraine.

"Phryne at the Poseidon Festival" from the Mikhailovsky Palace in honor of the artist's birthday was exhibited in the Benois Wing. And for its transportation, considerable efforts of museum employees were required: at a height of 390 cm, the length of the picture exceeds 760 cm. The canvas was dismantled and transported, wound on a cylindrical shaft

Several pages from the artist's biography

Henryk Semiradsky (1843-1902) was born in Novo-Belgorodskaya Sloboda (now the village of Pechenegi), near Kharkov (Ukraine) in the family of a military doctor of Polish origin Ippolit Semiradsky, an officer of the dragoon regiment of the Russian tsarist army. Little Henry learned the basics of drawing while studying at the Kharkov gymnasium with the teacher Dmitry Ivanovich Bezperchy, a student of Karl Bryullov. It was he who instilled taste in the young talent and helped to determine the direction in art. Academic classicism in the future will become fundamental in the work of Semiradsky and will bring the artist worldwide recognition.

The confidence of Alexander the Great in the doctor Philip. (1870). National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

Henry's father welcomed his son's artistic hobby, and at the same time believed that painting could not be a source of income for a self-respecting person, and predicted a scientific career for his son. Therefore, fulfilling the wishes of his father, the 17-year-old boy becomes a student of the Kharkov University of Physics and Mathematics, where he will diligently learn natural sciences. All four years Semiradsky, while simultaneously combining university studies with drawing lessons, secretly dreams of becoming an artist.

Sinner. 1873 year. St. Petersburg, State Russian Museum. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

And in 1864, having successfully defended his diploma, the future painter went to St. Petersburg to enter the Imperial Academy of Arts. Semiradsky was admitted to the academy as a volunteer, since in those years, according to the charter of the educational institution, students who reached the age of 20 were accepted only as volunteers and only on a paid basis (25 rubles per year). During his studies, the talented student was awarded a silver medal five times and a gold medal twice.

Funeral of a noble Rus in Bulgar. Moscow. State Historical Museum. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

And, interestingly, in those years, the gold medal for competitive works entitled its owner to a six-year retirement trip to Europe at public expense.And Semiradsky, having received the Great Gold Medal for his graduation work, was sent on a foreign tour.

Roman orgy of the brilliant times of Caesarism 1872. St. Petersburg. Russian Museum. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

Henryk Siemiradzki researchers consider his work a darling of fortune. Not every graduate was given a retirement trip abroad immediately after graduating from the Academy of Arts. And the lucky Semiradsky already in 1871 went to improve his skills in Munich, from where a year later he poisons the painting "The Roman Orgy of the Brilliant Times of Caesarism" to Russia. This work became one of the best at the Academic Exhibition and immediately made the artist famous. The picture was acquired directly from the exhibition by the heir-Tsarevich Alexander (the future Emperor Alexander III), who collected his own collection of works of art and eventually dreamed of opening a museum. By the way, years later, his collection formed the basis of the fund of the Russian Museum of St. Petersburg.

Dance among the swords. Tretyakov Gallery. / Reduced author's copy of the lost original /. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

From Munich, the artist moved to Rome, where he settled until the end of his days, and came to Russia only on short visits. While he was living in Rome, the Russian Academy awarded the artist with the next titles: in 1873 - academician, and in 1877 - professor. But it should be noted that Russian critics and fellow artists often criticized Semiradsky for monumentalism, confusion of composition, crowding and coldness, unnaturalness.

Woman or vase? (Hard choice). Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

However, despite all the criticism, the audience of the artist's work simply idolized. His works were constantly exhibited at various international exhibitions held in the capitals of European states, where they were awarded with awards and prizes. In 1878 for the painting "Woman or Vase?" the master was awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris, and became the owner of the Order of the Legion of Honor.

Phryne at the Feast of Poseidon in Eleusis. (1889). Author: Henryk Semiradsky

And the painting "Phryne at the Poseidon's Day", painted by Semiradsky all for the same Paris exhibition, was bought by Emperor Alexander III, thus causing considerable irritation of Russian art critics. The artists were indignant with themselves: Myasoedov wrote about this to Stasov, calling Semiradsky a thistle. In principle, Tretyakov did not want to buy Semiradsky's paintings for his gallery, considering them far from truly Russian painting. Although, years later, the works of this master still ended up in the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery.

"Lights of Christianity". ("Torches of Nero"). (1876). / In 1879, the artist presented this canvas to Krakow, thereby initiating the creation of the National Museum. / Author: Henryk Siemiradzki

Enchanting success and overwhelming criticism came under the master's grandiose painting "Lights of Christianity", where the scene of the martyrdom of the first Christians was written. The demonstration of this creation took place in all European capitals with triumph, increasing the glory and authority of the Polish artist in the eyes of European critics and connoisseurs of academic painting. However, soon the picture began to be criticized mainly by colleagues and critics from Russia. Semiradsky was accused of being a master of external effects, creating the beauty of human bodies and objects, while not delving into the human psyche, and not being able to reflect the feelings and emotions of the characters portrayed and convey the true drama and tragedy of events.

"Christian Dirtseya in Nero's Circus". (1897). Author: Henryk Semiradsky

The same reproaches were directed at another superbly technically executed canvas, vividly reflecting the scene of the martyrdom of a young Christian during the reign of Nero, "Christian Dirtseus in Nero's Circus", where the artist, in the opinion of many, had to recreate dramatic tension and tragic atmosphere of horror on the canvas in which a defenseless victim of religious persecution dies.

But Semiradsky preferred the creation of a monumental scene to psychoanalysis and the tragedy of the situation. The viewer on the canvas sees the beauty of scenography, rich clothes and sophisticated objects. The figure of a dead martyr, her white graceful body contrasts brightly with the black carcass of a bull. The sacrifice with its ideal beauty symbolizes the spiritual values ​​of Christianity, the idea of ​​perseverance in the faith of the first Christians.

Christ at Martha and Mary. (18886). St. Petersburg, State Russian Museum. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

And I would also like to note that if the artist idealized the appearance of his characters in accordance with the ancient canons of beauty, then landscape motifs, on the contrary, created with the passion of a realist, carefully observing nature and transferring it to his canvases with almost photographic accuracy. Literally everything in the artist's work is imbued with sophistication and a subtle approach to color, composition and subjects.

The judgment of Paris. Author: Henryk Semiradsky

The artist died in 1902 and was buried in Warsaw, but in 1903 the artist's ashes were transported to Krakow and buried in the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, where prominent Polish artists are buried.

Feast of Bacchus. (1890). Author: Henryk Semiradsky Orgy of the times of Tiberius on the island of Capri. Tretyakov Gallery. Author: Henryk Semiradsky "Portrait of a Young Roman Woman" (1890). Author: Henryk Semiradsky Dancer on a tightrope. (1898). Author: Henryk Semiradsky Game of dice. (1899). Author: Henryk Semiradsky "Portrait of a Young Roman Woman". Sketch for the painting "Phryne at the Feast of Poseidon in Eleusis". Moscow. Private collection. (1889). Author: Henryk Semiradsky

Read also:The ups and downs of the most expressive Russian artist of the Silver Age - Philip Andreevich Malyavin.

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