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Why, because of a picture painted from a photograph, the artist deprived himself of his life: Konstantin Kryzhitsky
Why, because of a picture painted from a photograph, the artist deprived himself of his life: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

Nowadays, it is difficult to believe that the appearance almost two centuries ago of photography as a means of visual communication practically revolutionized not only the history of mankind, but also among artists who for centuries have captured on their canvases everything that was paramount for a person. … We have already talked about how some painters took this technological achievement into their arms and succeeded. And today we will talk about a master who paid for this not only with honor, but also with his life.

Konstantin Yakovlevich Kryzhitsky

To begin with, I would like to say a few words about the artist himself and recall his huge creative heritage, which today is largely kept in many leading museum collections, namely in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, and the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts. And Kryzhitsky wrote about 400 excellent lyrical landscapes during his short creative career. He was a master, as they say, from God.

Konstantin Yakovlevich Kryzhitsky is a Russian landscape painter

Konstantin Yakovlevich Kryzhitsky is a Russian landscape painter of Polish origin, born in Ukraine and who made an invaluable contribution to the popularization of the Ukrainian landscape. He was one of the best students of the artist MK Klodt. Subsequently, he became an academician and full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts, as well as the founder and first leader of the A.I.Kuindzhi Society.

Thaw. Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

The future artist was born in 1858 in Kiev in a merchant family. Educated in a real school, after which he went to the Art Academy of St. Petersburg, to comprehend the art of painting. And it should be noted that during the period of his studies, Kryzhitsky mastered the wisdom of the profession so much that he was repeatedly awarded silver and gold medals for the paintings that he exhibited at annual academic exhibitions.

"Landscape". (1908). Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky. (The artist's most expensive landscape, sold at auction in 2009.)

Konstantin Kryzhitsky graduated from the Imperial Academy of Arts with a large gold medal and the title of a first-class artist. As a pensioner, he spent a lot of time abroad, studying the masterpieces of world art. He painted many landscapes in both oil and watercolors. By the way, Konstantin Yakovlevich was an excellent watercolorist. Expositions of his works have been successfully exhibited more than once at the World Exhibition in Paris and at the International Art Exhibition in Munich.

Forest gave. (1889). Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

And by the age of 30, Konstantin Kryzhitsky wrote such talented landscapes that the Russian Emperor Alexander III himself considered them a worthy decoration for his palace. He personally purchased for his collection the painting "Forest Dales", painted by the artist in 1889. Also, the best of the painter's paintings "The Thunderstorm Is Gathering" (1885), "May Evening" (1886), "Green Street" (1897), "Before Noon" (1886) became the property of members of the imperial family and the Academy of Arts.

Winter landscape with haystacks. (1910). State Art Museum, Khanty-Mansiysk, Yugra. Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

At numerous personal domestic and foreign exhibitions, the artist's paintings were also in great demand, they were eagerly bought by both leading galleries and private collectors. The artist drew motives for his magnificent works mainly from the picturesque nature of the Kiev province, where he was born and raised, as well as the environs of St. Petersburg.

"Evening in Ukraine". 1901 year. Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

"Spring breathed" - a snowy landscape, because of which the artist Kryzhitsky took his own life

“Spring Breezed” (1910). Canvas, oil. Size: 109 x 81 cm. Kharkov State Museum of Fine Arts. Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

The tragedy played out because of the landscape "It Breezed in Spring", in which the artist depicted a forest immersed in hibernation. To convey the naturalness of the snow cover, the author took a lot of time and effort. The painter thoughtfully wrote out every stroke, every nuance of the canvas: he added friability of snow, shadows that lay on the ravine, a reflection of sparkling snow, as well as the splendor of sleeping trees in anticipation of spring.

As a result, the work completely satisfied the master, and he, with peace of mind, in the fall of 1910, poisoned the picture for an exhibition of Russian painting in London, organized by K.E. Makovsky. The exhibition also featured twelve more paintings by Kryzhitsky. But the author considered his greatest pride just finished creation - "It breathed in spring". The audience was also delighted with him, and critics did not skimp on positive reviews. One of the leading museums in London even expressed a desire to purchase the painting. But the artist was eager to show it to the domestic public, and he refused. And when the painting returned to Russia by the spring of 1911, it was immediately exhibited at the Academy of Arts, where the St. Petersburg society, the creation of Academician Kryzhitsky, was met with literally applause.

Winter landscape. View of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. (1906 - 1908). Author: Yakov Brovar

But, just a few days later, like a bolt from the blue, a "revelatory" note by the artist Foma Railean suddenly appeared in the press that Konstantin Kryzhitsky copied a picture from another painter who painted almost the same, but several years earlier. The author's name was also given - Yakov Ivanovich Brovar (1864-1941). And what was said in the note was confirmed by photographs of both paintings. Following in the newspaper "Novoye Vremya" critic Nikolai Kravchenko openly accused Kryzhitsky of plagiarism … Judging by the dates of the paintings, it turned out that the academician stole the idea from Brovar. The article also said that, with the exception of a few details (the absence of bison in Kryzhitsky), everything else, especially a tree with a forked trunk, is absolutely identical!

The scandalous news was immediately picked up by other newspapers, dirty gossip and controversy in creative circles went. The discouraged academician Kryzhitsky sincerely assured that he had never seen the paintings of the artist Brovara. Of course, no one listened to him, the hype did not stop. Proceedings began.

View of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. (1906 - 1908). Artist: Yakov Brovar. / "There is a Breeze of Spring." (1910). Artist: Konstantin Kryzhitsky

And the scandalous case ended with the fact that another article about the artist Kryzhitsky in the newspaper "Russkoe Slovo" on April 5, 1911 reported that he had taken his own life: The artist, having written a note, hanged himself on the handle of a high window in his St. Petersburg apartment.

Fragments of paintings by Brovar and Kryzhitsky

Colleagues who knew the academician well commented on the incident:

And the whole thing was in that ill-fated photo, which was mentioned in the suicide note. It was made several years before the tragic events by a certain Evgeny Vishnyakov. (Some sources indicate that the picture was taken by the artist himself 23 years before the incident. But there is no logic in this and there is no confirmation of this). The author of a successful photo published it in one of the periodicals. And it so happened that the fatal frame at different times caught the eye of the artists and Brovar and Kryzhitsky, who used his motive in writing their paintings. The main object for heated debate was a massive double tree, which occupies the entire close-up of the canvas. There were no more similarities either at the level of performance, or in the color scheme, or in the semantic solution.

Landscapes of Yakov Brovar

The fact that a photograph was involved in this case was sorted out immediately, when Kryzhitsky was still alive. But the fact that the artist "simply copied" the photo, the evil tongues of envious people also rushed to condemn it zealously. Nevertheless, it was obvious to everyone that the paintings of Brovar and Kryzhitsky, although they were written one photograph each, turned out to be completely different. But there was a time when the use of photographs in the artist's work was considered an unworthy and shameful deed.Therefore, the sensitive artist could not resist … This is how the photography, which Kryzhitsky used in his work, played a tragic role in his fate.

Monument to academician K.Ya. Kryzhitsky, erected in the year of his death at the Smolensk cemetery. / The gravestone of the artist K.Ya. Kryzhitsky today

This is how the monument to the artist initially looked until the revolution of 1917. A sculpture of a seated artist and a wreath with the inscription "Unforgettable husband" were lost during the years of Soviet power.

P.S. Kryzhitsky's paintings at world auctions

As mentioned earlier, even during the artist's life, his works were in great demand and popularity not only in Russia, but also in Europe. It is worth noting that over time, his paintings have not lost their relevance. So, in 2009 at the Sotheby`s auction, the painting "Landscape" (1908), measuring 108 x 143 cm, became a record for the sale of paintings by Konstantin Kryzhitsky. It was sold for 465 thousand dollars. Literally the next year, Summer Landscape went under the hammer for $ 150,000. And in 2017, two more works of the artist with a total value of 540 thousand dollars were sold at Christie's auction.

Landscapes by Konstantin Kryzhitsky

Continuing the scrupulous topic of the importance of photography in the work of artists, I would like to recall the famous painters - Repin, Alphonse Muhu, Van Gogh, who very successfully, albeit secretly, used photographs in their work, creating their masterpieces. Our publication is about them:Why did great painters secretly use photography as nature, and what was the threat of exposure …

It should also be noted that plagiarism existed in the world of fine arts long before the first photograph was published. Everything new is well stolen old: Plagiarism, imitation, coincidences, clones in the history of painting- in our review.

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