Russian & Soviet Impressionism

Gifted to the Pearson Lakes Art Center in 2007: From the October Revolution in 1917 until the collapse of Communism in 1991, there was an impenetrable ‘Iron Curtain’ around the Soviet Union. It ‘protected’ the creative community from Western Influence and kept the art of the Soviet Union hidden from the outside world. Only occasional State Sponsored Exhibits in Paris, Rome, London and Tokyo gave the art world a tantalizing glimpse of the art treasures to be found behind the Iron Curtain.

In the early 1990′s, Soviet-era Art began to appear in the west. Those viewing this Soviet Impressionism were given a fascinating glimpse into Soviet life behind the Iron Curtain. While much of the subject matter portrayed adhered to the party line, the wide range of styles and brush strokes suggest artistic freedom and honesty.

Impressionism had become an international style by the year 1900. Russian art in particular had been strongly influenced by French Impressionism; color, sunlight, painterly brushwork, and the depiction of quiet, everyday reality had come to dominate the output of many artists and the curriculum of art colleges and academies. In America and Western Europe, however, artists moved away from careful renderings of light, weather, people and places. Instead, high style paintings and sculpture became highly personalized interpretations of ideas and feelings or explorations of formal principles and media. In place of realism, there was cubism, expressionism, and abstract expressionism.

Russia, however, closed its borders to the west and was transformed into the Soviet Union. Soviet art retained and perfected the realist mode. Soviet artists concentrated on clarity of presentation, on patriotic but largely truthful rendering of the soviet people and way of life, and achieved marvelous heights of technical skill. Soviet art was an art intended to communicate and affirm the goodness and success of Soviet life.

For Americans, few opportunities existed to see Soviet art. This situation changed dramatically when the Soviet Union’s economic and political system began its collapse in the late 1980′s. Soviet paintings became available, and through the efforts of collectors and dealers, came to the United States. The exhibit Discovered Treasures: Russian and Soviet Impressionism, shown by the Pearson Art Foundation, provides a unique occasion to view paintings by some of the great masters of Soviet painting.

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