Mikhail Vrubel - The artist in the role of Virgil
The artist in the role of Virgil, a tableaux vivant of Dante and Virgil, Abramtsevo artists' colony, 1893
Русский: М.А. Врубель в образе Вергилия в постановке живой картины "Данте и Вергилий", Абрамцевский художественный кружок, 1893
MIKHAIL ALEKSANDROVICH VRUBEL (1856–1910) was one of the first modern Russian artists—modern in the sense that he broke away from academic traditions, expressing his own artistic vision in a unique vocabulary. Although Vrubel is sometimes considered a Symbolist, his art is rather difficult to categorize. He perhaps tried to be different from everybody else. It is quite clear that, unlike the Peredvizhniki, those realist painters who dominated Russian artistic life during the 1870s and 1880s, Vrubel was not interested in making art that told a story easily understandable by many people. Vrubel’s concern—his “mania,” as he called it—was technique. Over and over again, he experimented with the expressive potential of color and line. A painting to him was a decorative surface, and he explored formal means for covering that surface with carpet- and mosaiclike patterns. If the impact of Vrubel’s artistic innovations on 20th-century Russian artists has yet to be completely documented, except in regard to the Symbolist painters of the Blue Rose movement, it is nevertheless difficult to believe that the creations of artists like Larionov and Malevich, who conceived of painting in terms of pure form, would have been the same without the example of Vrubel’s obsession with technique.