Reproductions Vrubel, Michail

Michail Vrubel

1856 - 1910

Russian Art Nouveau Painter

Michail Vrubel Biography

  Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel; is usually regarded as the greatest Russian painter of the Art Nouveau movement. In reality, Vrubel deliberately stood aloof from contemporary art trends, so that the origin of his unusual manner should be sought in the Late Byzantine and Early Renaissance painting.

  Early life
  Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel; was born  in March 17, 1856 into a lawyer’s family and graduated from the Law Faculty of St Petersburg University in 1880. Next year Vrubel entered the Imperial Academy of Arts, where he studied under direction of Pavel Tchistyakov. Even in earliest Vrubel paintings, he exhibited striking talent for drawing and highly idiosyncratic outlook. Although he still relished academic monumentality, he would later develop a penchant for fragmentory composition and "unfinished touch".
In 1884, Vrubel was summoned to replace the lost 12th-century murals and mosaics in the St Cyril church of Kiev with the new ones. In order to execute this commission, Vrubel went to Venice to study the medieval Christian art. It was here that, in the words of an art historian, "his palette acquired new strong saturated tones resembling the iridescent play of precious stones". Most of Vrubel paintings painted in Venice have been lost, because the artist was more interested in creative process than in promoting his paintings.
In 1886, Vrubel returned to Kiev, where he submitted some monumental designs to the newly-built St Volodymir Cathedral. The jury, however, failed to appreciate the striking novelty of Vrubel paintings, and they were rejected. At that period, Vrubel executed some delightful illustrations for Hamlet and Anna Karenina which had little in common with his later dark meditations on the Demon and Prophet themes.
   Controversial fame
  While in Kiev, Vrubel started painting sketches and watercolour paintings illustrating the Demon, a long Romantic poem by Mikhail Lermontov. The poem described the carnal passion of "an eternal nihilistic spirit" to a Georgian girl Tamara. At that period Vrubel developed a keen interest in Oriental arts, and particularly Persian carpets, and even attempted to imitate their texture in his paintings.
In 1890, Vrubel moved to Moscow where he could best follow innovative trends in art. Like other artists associated with the Art Nouveau, he excelled not only in painting but also in applied arts, such as ceramics, majolics, and stained glass. Vrubel also produced architectural masks, stage sets, and costumes.

  It is the large painting of Seated Demon (1890) that brought notoriety to Vrubel. Most conservative critics accused Vrubel of "wild ugliness", whereas the art patron Savva Mamontov praised the Demon series as "fascinating symphonies of a genius" and commissioned Vrubel to paint decorations for his private opera and mansions of his friends. Unfortunately the Demon, like other Vrubel paintings, doesn’t look as it used to be, as the painter added bronze powder to his oil paintings in order to achieve particularly luminous, glistening effects.
In 1896, Vrubel fell in love with the famous opera singer Nadezhda Zabela. Half a year later they married and settled in Moscow, where Zabela was invited by Mamontov to perform in his private opera theatre. While in Moscow, Vrubel designed stage sets and costumes for his wife, who sang the parts of the Snow Maiden, the Swan Princess, and Princess Volkhova in Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas. Falling under spell of Russian fairy-tales, Vrubel executed some of his most acclaimed paintings, including Pan (1899), The Swan Princess (1900), and Lilacs (1900).

  In 1901, Vrubel returned to the demonic themes in the large painting Demon Downcast. In order to astound the public with underlying spiritual message, Vrubel repeatedly repainted the demon’s ominous face, even after the painting had been exhibited to the overwhelmed audience. At the end Vrubel had a severe nervous breakdown, and had to be hospitalized to a mental clinic. While there, Vrubel painted a mystical Pearl Oyster (1904) and striking paintings with variations on the themes of Pushkin’s poem The Prophet. In 1906, overpowered by mental disease and approaching blindness, Vrubel had to give up painting.