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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nikolai Astrup

Marsh Marigold Night, ca. 1915, Nikolai Astrup
Very often when we read about an artist, we give little thought to his or her nationality (if, indeed, it's even mentioned). At best we may picture the artist's country on a map of the world and maybe bring to mind some vague, stereotypical image of, for instance, the Eiffel Tower in the case of France, or of Big Ben if the artist is British. All too often the artist's country is difficult to locate on the mind's map and in many cases, even more difficult to associate even a tourist landmark. If I mentioned Poland, many people couldn't even place it in Eastern Europe, much less bring to mind an image representative of the country. Yet there is probably no greater influence upon an artist's work than his or her homeland. Nikolai Astrup was a Norwegian artist born in 1880. Raise your hand; how many of you can picture Norway shortly after the turn of the century? I didn't think so (unless you're Norwegian, that is).
Spring Evening By The Vicarage Pond, Nikolai Astrup
File this in your mind's map, along
side images of fjords, mountains,
meadows, long summer days and
harsh, endless, winter nights.
Notice the painting Marsh Marigold Night (top) by Astrup, painted around 1915. That's Norway. That's an image that should come to mind when discussing Norwegian art and artists. Speaking of which, can you even name another Norwegian artist? If you came up with Edvard Munch, great! though that probably means the question was too easy. Can you name a second Norwegian artist? I thought not. I guess I need to write about Norwegian artists more often. In any case, Nikolai Astrup was born in the small village of Bremanger along the coast of Norway, but grew up in the neighboring city of Alhus in the county of Jølster just a few miles inland. His father was a priest (but obviously not Catholic). Like all good Norwegian fathers who happen to be priests, he had in mind for his son to grow up to become a priest as well. The son had other ideas. He wanted to be an artist.

As with many landscape painters, Astrup seldom painted
portraits, especially his own.
A rare Astrup portrait,
Portrait of Miss B.
Reluctantly, no doubt, Nikolai's father (who was also named Nikolai) shunted his eldest son off to Oslo where he became a student at Backer, a popular school of painting. After finishing his schooling in Oslo, Astrup studied for a short time in Paris and later in Germany before returning to Jølster. There, he married and fathered eight children (winter nights in Norway and cold and relentless). In having spent the most of his life in Jølster, the Nordic landscape was a tremendous influence. Through his paintings Astrup sought to create a national visual language that would evoked the traditions and folklore of his homeland. Despite the fact that Nikolai Astrup is seen as one of the greatest Norwegian artists of the early 20th-century, and several of his paintings have been sold at auctions for up to half a million dollars, Astrup's works have always stood in the shadow of those of his contemporary Edvard Munch. However Astrup's style is much brighter in color as well as in mood.

Nikolai Astrup's most famous image, seen here in two different
paintings and a color etching (lower-right), rivals Munch's
The Scream as an icon of Norwegian art. The paintings
have accumulated several different titles, by the way.
Astrup preferred clear, strong colors as he painted landscapes depicting his surroundings near Jølster. His paintings depict not just geographic details, but an intimate interaction between nature and the manmade environment. His paintings are characterized by bold lines and rich, distinctive color. Astrup is regarded primarily as a Neo-romantic painter, but he also worked with woodcuts. Although well known in Norway, Astrup is not well-known elsewhere. The first exhibition of his work outside of Norway took place at in London just this year (2016).The show included over 90 oil paintings and prints, most of which had never been exhibited before.

Not all of Astrup's work reflected the Norwegian landscape.
He also painted a limited number of Norwegian nudes as well.
Most of his life Nikolai Astrup struggled with poor health. Tragically, he died of pneumonia in 1928 at the age of forty-seven.

Click above for more on Nikolai Astrup's work.

Two Lovers,  Nikolai Astrup. Notice the dude
in the hayloft enjoying the view.

The interior of Astrup's studio,
with his easel and hats.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Postmodern Interior Design

Red? In a bedroom? In a bordello maybe. Postmodern daring with floating Modern furnishings and design simplicity.
As the final installment in a series dealing with the historical development of interior design in the United States (but not necessarily the rest of the world) we've arrived at our present era--Postmodernism. Before going further it would be best to suggest some definition as to what Postmodernism is...and perhaps more importantly, what it is not. Let me start with the latter. It is not eclecticism. That would be a gross oversimplification, although it does allow a limited reference to styles from the past. It is not a logical progression from Modernism. Quite the contrary, Postmodernism rejects any such attitude, not just shying away from such thinking but running like hell in the opposite direction. In short, Postmodernism rejects the idea that in art, "one thing leads to another." It rejects both the linear (one damned thing after another) and the circular (the same damned thing over and over again) aspects of art in favor of what one might call an "OMG" mindset. Postmodernism rejects any surrender to "there's nothing new under the sun" in favor of a more demanding, "Where the hell did that come from?" It might even be safe to say that Postmodernism is diametrically opposed to the long-established dogmas of Modernism such as "form follows function" or "less is more", not necessarily in terms of style, but in thinking. Postmodernism aims to put the element of "fun" and surprise (even humor) back into design--to do the unexpected rather than relying on the safety of "conventional wisdom."
The Postmodern "what'll they think of next?"
The sleeping pallet is lowered at night, raised during the day.

Let me make the point at this point, that many people, accustomed to the neat, clean, no-nonsense look of Modernism, will not like Postmodernism. Postmodernism does not strive for perfection. It is not fussy but a bit on the "messy" side adjusting to lifestyles over Architectural Digest ideals of beauty. Postmodernism accepts the fact that most people live in housing built during a different eras. In terms of interior design, rather than fight this fact of life, Postmodernism adjusts to it. Postmodern designer update when possible, camouflaging the outdated when necessary, but contend with it when costs or construction factors prohibit other alternatives. In doing so, Postmodernism designers employ their most powerful tool--ingenuity (above).

The first Postmodern house in the U.S., designed by
Robert Venturi for his mother, 1962-64
Postmodernism is fond of the practical, the structural (often downright industrial), the natural, the recycled, and the repurposed. Sturdy textures and bold colors are its friend. The Bauhaus is seen as an old school in Germany. Frank Lloyd Wright is seen by Postmodern designers as an academician while Frank Gehry is their god. Abstract Expressionism is little more than dried pigments while giant photo-murals are windows to the world. The old is refurbished to appear new again. Postmodernism embraces cross-cultural influences so but stops short of obsessions. Modernism is to be studied in books, not as precedent, but as design history. Postmodernism is a potent creative spirit distilled from all the random access memory (RAM) the mind can process.

Postmodern design--when it's good, it's good,
when it's bad, it's godawful.

Postmodern de-
signers dare what
most of us would
not even think of
doing, often with a
strange sense of
It almost goes without saying that Postmodern design is at its best when designers are daring. However, it's at its worst when it ventures past humorous into the realm of the ridiculous. Humor as it applies to Postmodern design is something of a caution zone between the good and the godawful (above). Just as in stand-up comedy, when comic goes too far, the result is offensive bad taste. For those intent upon a Postmodern interior, one of the most common errors is to think that doing so requires a whole houseful of new, trendy furniture. Make no mistake, there is a difference between the Modern and the Postmodern insofar as home furnishings are concerned, but traditional pieces, refur-bished in an innovative manner are often quite preferable to the brainstorms of cutting edge designers. The items at left are all starkly Postmodern. Yet their presence in a room does not always preclude the limited use of older pieces from the recent past. Very often that which makes a room Postmodern has more to do with the tasteful choice of decorating details than a sofa or rocking chair.

Where is it engraved in stone that a
fireplace must burn wood, or that clothes
must be hidden away in closets when
not being worn?

The postmodern decorator cares little that the starkly cantilevered fireplace (above, right) burns only gas, or that it is mostly made of insulated steel faced with a thin veneer of cut stone. And why not move the laundry into the same area as the clothes? Very often too, Postmodern designers go to what would once have been considered extreme lengths to reflect the personality of their clients, as seen in the starkly male bedroom (below) occupied by a single airline pilot on the rare occasions he's in town. One client is always easier to accommodate than two.

Part man cave, part bedroom, and totally high-tech.
So what if the bed doesn't always get made up?
Bedrooms are relatively easy for a Postmodern designer, even if there's more than one individual to satisfy. Living rooms are much more difficult. It is the one room in the house most likely to be saddled with furnishing from another period which must be skillfully and tastefully blended together and made to look and feel comfortable in an environment very often older than the client and the designer combined. Tearing down walls, integrating living spaces, introducing new textures and deep, bold colors all help, but there's no disguising an old-fashioned piano that's been in the family since 1887. Paint it white to blend with the walls? Such a suggestion might get the designer fired on the spot. With Postmodern design, compromise is often the name of the game.

Notice how skillfully the designer has blended the
old with the new in the living room just above.

Bark and stone, not usually found
in the kitchen, and the mark of an
ingenious designer and a tolerant
Another room in many homes where designers often have to struggle is the kitchen. Let's face it, kitchen appli-ances come in only one style, and it's not Postmodern. Designers have much the same problem in creating period kitchens as well. Often the answer is to choose black, or brushed chrome then blend them with stone or unfinished woods. The brave designer for the kitchen below (bottom-right) has even gone so far as to leave the bark exposed, perhaps to remind his clients of how many trees had to die to afford them a Postmodern kitchen.

Dining rooms are somewhat simpler. There are no damned appliance with hard edges and sharp corners to deal with. Nor do separate dining rooms have sinks, dishwashers, exhaust fans, ungainly refrigerators and acres upon acres of granite countertops. In fact, dining room furniture is more likely to be purchased new and more likely to bear at least some traits of Postmodern design. The problem is that separate dining rooms are now becoming nearly extinct in the context of Postmodern architecture. Postmod-ern architects love to blend living spaces, which very often puts the dining area either in or directly adjacent to the kitchen, once more imposing upon the quiet sanctity of the family dining time the hectic hubbub of food preparation and all the aforementioned robotic kitchen aides so deficient in anything other than Bauhaus modernism. The Postmod-ern kitchen designers at right have employed a number of tactics in breaking free of the sterile, white or white, ambience so common in kit-chens during the height of Mod-ernism. Ceiling beams are left open; bright colors run rampant; framed family photos adorn the walls; straight edges are jettisoned in favor of curves; comfort co-ops style; and everywhere the practical takes pre-cedence over the pretty.

Dining lends itself to styles
as diverse as Quaker and
Minimalism yet all within the
context of Postmodernism.

Unlike past decorating eras, no room in today's modern home gets more attention or lends itself more easily to Postmodern design than the bathroom. Unlike kitchen appliance designers, those involved in designing plumbing fixtures seem to be on a roll. Commodes have become sleeker, showers larger and more transparent, while bathtubs are becoming downright decadent in terms of size and shape. You can actually buy transparent Lucite bathtubs, though I'm not sure exactly why you'd want to. Statistics tend to indicate Americans are spending more and more time in areas associated with bathing, dressing, and physical exercise which, given the Postmodern tendency to combine various functional living spaces, it's only natural that bathrooms should become more spacious, more luxurious, and more beautiful. Architects are now designing bathtubs and spas set before windows affording bathers broad, unobstructed, scenic views while beside them, a fire crackles in the bathroom fireplace (probably burning natural gas).

With bathrooms like this, who needs the rest of the house?
Last, but not least, the architect's favorite plaything, the stairway, has come in for various postmodern designer treatments. For the most part they're not getting fancier or more decorative but instead, more practical as they share that trait with many other Postmodern domestic elements. Very often Postmodern designers are simply painting their stairs, modifying them at times, and adding innovative storage spaces beneath them. Kids will like one of the newest trends, the rapid descent feature--a sliding board built in next to the steps (below). Their parents will just have to be cautious going up and down on dark or stormy nights.

Putting Postmodern fun into home stairways.
A catwalk (literally)--fun and games for your family's
Postmodern feline. After all, cats are people too.

There's even a Postmodern version
of the ubiquitous electrical outlet. It
eliminates the need for a power strip. 


Friday, July 29, 2016

Richard Artschwager

A wooden book finished in Formica...a news photo painted on a Celotex ceiling it real art or fraudulent art?
One of the hardest concepts to convey in art is the concept of conceptual art. Landscapes are easy to understand. Still-lifes sometimes have embedded within them all manner of hidden meanings, but usually they're more laden with nostalgia than profundity. Portraits often deal with complex and profound character traits far beyond the subject's mere likeness...but that's rare. Even Abstract Expressionism has a concrete aesthetic foundation upon which to build an understanding of the basic art elements from which it is conceived. Conceptual art, on the other hand, frequently stretches the very definition of art nearly to the breaking point...sometimes even beyond. Is the artist using some readymade object in making a valid point, or merely deceiving the viewer into accepting virtually anything as art, provided it is isolated from its natural environment and perhaps labeled with some dubious distinction and title. Very often gallery and museum space devoted to conceptual art appears more as a sophisticated hoax than high art. He didn't start out with this in mind, but the American illustrator, painter, and sculptor, Richard Artschwager, became one of the earliest and best conceptual artists.
The head and hands behind a career of more than fifty years.
When Richard Artschwager was born in 1923, conceptual art was barely more than a figment of Marcel Duchamp's fertile imagination. His Fountain from the wall of a men's room had made for some interesting intellectual calisthenics among the jurying artists of the famed 1913 Armory Show in New York City, but it had, after all, been rejected, ending up ignominiously discarded in a back alley. Even the avant garde of the high-flown, New York art world were not ready for conceptual art, especially that involving porcelain plumbing fixtures. Even by 1941, as this son of German-born immigrants entered Cornell University to study chemistry and mathematics, cutting edge art was barely daring to explore paint splattering and Cubist constructions so rarified the artists often couldn't come up with conventional titles, finding themselves merely numbering their works instead. Art was centered on feelings rather than ideas.

Hospital Ward, Richard Artschwager, acrylics on Celotex panel.
World War II didn't change much in that regard except to stir the pot, sending Artschwager off to Germany and exposure to the remnants of German Expressionism, while bringing others of their ilk scurrying to the United States in search personal safety and the presumably open-minded freedom to explore the unknown frontiers of the ultimate "art for art's sake" as seen in the New York School. Back in the U.S. by 1948, Richard Artschwager decided to chuck his hard-earned Bachelor of Science degree in physics to indulge his first loves--his new wife, an even newer daughter, and art. The closest he could come to satisfying all three was to work as a New York City baby photographer. Even that he was often forced to put aside to earn a living as a bank teller and furniture salesman.

An altar styled after a packing
By 1956 however, Artschwager had turned his creative impulses toward the design and manu-factured of simple, practical, mod-ern furniture. His work as a furniture maker was later to leave its mark on the art he would create. In 1960 Artschwager scor-ed a commission from the Catholic Church to design and build portable altars for ships (left), which inspired him to start producing small wall objects made of wood and Formica. Moreover he was quite good at this new art form and surprisingly successful until 1958, when tra-gedy struck. A fire destroyed his entire studio and all its contents. Undeterred, Artschwager took out a large loan to restart his busi-ness.

Cradle, 1967, Richard Artschwager
Designing and building furniture set Artschwager thinking about furniture, not as utilitarian furnishings but conceptually--thinking about their shapes, their purposes, their sculptural elements. By the 1960s, Artschwager was becoming a nascent conceptual artist at a time when Abstract Expressionism and even Modern Art in general were starting to run their course. Pop lay on the horizon; action painting and the emotional upheavals which drove it were starting to become tiresome even as Minimalism pointed the way to the nihilism marking the death of nearly a century of Modernism. Artschwager slowly began to move away from producing art for art's sake but to using art conceptually to explore ideas and ideals.

Formica over wood. Comfort means nothing. Only form
and conceptual function governed Artschwager's
chairs--sculpture for the eyes.
In 1961, Artschwager discovered Celotex, a rough-textured fiberboard used on ceilings as acoustic paneling. Artschwager's paintings on Celotex during 1960s demonstrate essentially opposite characters. His paintings depict images of the environment, carefully framed with Formica. He met gallerist Leo Castelli, who liked his work and exhibited it in group exhibitions during 1964. Artschwager often used Formica that looked like burl wood, a deformity in the grain caused by trees under stress. As applied to modern geometric forms, Artschwager made sculptures that have the strange sense of being ordinary objects while simultaneously being pictures of objects. As a support for paintings focusing on architectural subjects culled from photos in newspapers, magazines, and books, Artschwager used Celotex panels rather than canvas. Its random pattern of surface texture captures little puddles of thinned acrylic paint, blurring any image painted on it. The Celotex makes painted images as fuzzy as a bad TV picture. The bulky silver frame gives the dissolving scene some heft, but something also seems askew. It takes a moment to realize that the composition's perspective is out of whack. Artschwager uses these properties to his advantage as seen in Destruction III and Destruction IV (below) based on the explosive demolition photos of the Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City.

A scene of destruction painted on a building construction
material called Celotex.
Much of Artschwager's sculpture produced in the 1960s and after relates to the then prevailing Minimalism as the artist viewed his Formica surfaced furniture as a distillation, as seen in his Table with Pink Tablecloth (below), which appears to reflect his similar treatment of chairs, pianos, clocks, doors, and other domestic items. And finally, in more recent years, Artschwager has tended to dispense with various constructed pieces in favor of installations starting with his 1976 Exit--Don't Fight City Hall (bottom) which he set up in a ground floor hallway of New York's Museum of Modern Art. By painting the word "exit" on each of five hanging lights, Artschwager demonstrated that conceptual art does not always demand the sterile environment of white-on-white gallery space to be effective. Following many honors, exhibitions, and retrospectives, Richard Artschwager died in February, 2013, after a brief illness. He was eighty-nine.

Table with Pink Tablecloth, 1964, Richard Artschwager.
Exit, Don't Fight City Hall, Richard Artschwager

George W. Bush, Artschwager's
Celotex President.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Georg Arnold-Graboné

My copy of an Alpine landscape (heavily edited). Anyone recognize the image or know the name of artist?
Many years ago, 1969 to be exact, shortly after I was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, I spent a few weeks helping my aunt and uncle redecorate a home they'd just purchased. Both were anxious to encourage my slowly evolving art skills. They commissioned a double portrait and asked me to copy an old Alpine print they had hanging over the couch in their living room. It was probably ten or twenty years old at the time and starting to fade with age. I never knew the name of the artist. The results (above) as seen from an old Polaroid color print, was among the best work I'd done at the time and the first landscape I'd painted since high school (I was about twenty-four at the time). Today, as I was picking through the paintings of the German landscape painter, Georg Arnold-Grabone, I had such a feeling of deja-vu... I don't know if the print I copied was by Arnold-Grabone or not, but my thinking is it could have been, it's so similar to his work.

The title of this is (I swear), Mountain Farm in the High Mountains,
by Georg Arnold-Grabone
Despite its redundant title, it's interesting to compare Arnold-Grabone's Mountain Farm in the High Mountains (above) as to style, composition, and content with the print by the unknown artist I copied at the top. To be fair, I also found two or three other artists doing this type of work who would be likely candidates to have originated my uncle's print. Arnold-Grabone's Summer at the Lake (below) is quite close to it as to color and composition. The more I studied and compared his work, in searching for similarities, the more came to admire the artist's rugged mountain landscapes.

Summer at the Lake, Georg Arnold-Grabone
Matterhorn Landscape,
Georg Arnold-Grabone
Usually it's about here I include a few self-portraits of the artist and a brief biography. Today you're going to have to be satisfied with just the brief biography in that I can't even locate a photo of this man, much less a self-portrait. In fact faces seem not to have been his forte. I could not find a single figure in any of his works (which is not to say he never painted people). Georg Arnold was born in Munich in 1896, the son of the Regional-President Wilheim von Arnold. He studied at the Munich Art Academy. In 1914 the young artist passed the academy exit examination, and volunteered as an enlistee in the Kaiser's Army. While serving in World War I, Arnold suf-fered a head injury from a grenade explosion. The injury left him temp-orarily without hearing or speech. Because of his injuries he was discharged from the army. He returned to his native homeland.

Every landscape painter has a favorite location.
This was Arnold-Grabone's favorite.
With no additional schooling, Arnold began to paint everything in sight. His speech and hearing gradually returned as did his love of painting. He began to study formally in Stuttgart and Vienna under Professor Lippert. There he became a member of a circle of painters known as the “Licht-Gruppe" (light group). During the 1920s, Arnold began to abandon Cubism and other experimental forms to embrace a more traditional painting style. He returned to Munich where he studied landscape painting under Heinrich von Zügel, Leo von Konig, and in Berlin with the well-known German impressionist, Max Liebermann. After winning a gold medal in 1928 for his oil painting, Hardanger Fjord, Arnold moved to Zurich where he taught at an art academy, later becoming its Rector. His View on the Catinaccio’ (below) dates from this period.

View on the Catinaccio’, 1930, Georg Arnold-Grabone
Lodzie Rybackie, 1950,
Georg Arnold-Grabon
It wasn't until 1936 that Arnold began to use the name Graboné as a professional moniker rather than Arnold. Graboné was derived from his family's traditional hometown. Although Arnold-Grabone was financially successful as a painter, he painted largely because of his love of the aesthetic. Arnold-Grabone is also well remembered as a marine painter as well. His Island of Capri (below) exhi-bits much the same bold brushwork as Arnold-Grabo-ne's Alpine mountains, only at a somewhat lower altitude.

Island of Capri, Georg Arnold-Grabone
In 1951 U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was stationed in Garmisch, (southern) Germany as the NATO commander of occupied Europe. To relieve stress, former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, encouraged Eisenhower to make painting his hobby. Eisenhower followed Churchill’s advice. He began to take lessons from Arnold-Graboné. At that time, the artist had his studio only a convenient short distance from Eisenhower’s headquarters. However, for a period of time later, Eisenhower flew twice-a-week from Paris to Fürstenfeldbruck, and then by automobile to Tutzing in order to continue his art lessons. The two formed a friendship that later found one of Arnold-Graboné’s paintings hanging in the White House. The former president also hung one of Arnold-Grabone's paintings at his home in Gettysburg.

An Eisenhower mountain scene in Germany.
Georg Arnold-Graboné’s group of American friends at NATO headquarters allowed him to market his works to the NATO junior officers whom he often invited to exhibitions of his work. As a consequence, many young American officers purchased paintings and brought them back to the United States. Through Eisenhower, Arnold-Graboné eventually came to know England's Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill was interested in the artist's palette knife technique and asked him for some help. The two of them spent several weeks one summer in the early 1950s painting together on the Isle of Man. Churchill, unlike Eisenhower, never gravitated to Arnold-Grabone's Alpine subject matter, preferring instead to paint seascapes and ships. Churchill's A View of Marrakesh (below), dating from 1950-51, is about the only painting the elder statesman ever did involving mountains.

A View of Marrakesh, 1950-51, Winston Churchill.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Abram Efimovich Arkhipov

Away Matches,  1915, Abram Arkhipov. Red was his favorite color.
I'm always amazed at the number of outstanding Russian artists I come upon which I've never heard of before. There are several reasons for this but one of the major ones is the language barrier. Several years ago I took part in a workshop aimed at teaching teachers to teach reading. As one of the early exercises, we were presented with a paragraph from a children's book printed in Russian. Not surprisingly, none of us could read a word of it. We didn't even know the alphabet (Cyrillic) the precursor to reading any language. The point was to give us a feel for the frustration a non-reader (not necessarily small children) feels when faced with learning to read English. I know exactly two words in Russian, "het" (nyet meaning "no") and "борщ" (borscht, a tart beet soup). I guess I'd do okay in a Russian restaurant--"no borscht." Today I ran smack up against this barrier as I began researching the work of the Russian Realist painter, Abram Arkhipov. Virtually all the sites were Russian; and both Bing and Google seemed to struggle with translations as if they didn't even know the alphabet. Thus, it's not so surprising that I'd never heard of Abram Arkhipov.
North village, 1900-10,  Abram Efimovich Arkhipov
In looking over a breakdown as to my readers, I'm also constantly gratified and amazed at the number of followers living in Russia and other Eastern European countries. In those countries, Google places a little dropdown window near the bottom allowing my words to be translated into virtually any language on earth. Perhaps this interest is due in large part to the large number of native artists from those countries which I've written about. Or, perhaps it's simply curiosity as to my American point of view regarding their homeland art and artists. I only hope that the translation of what I have to say is better than that I have to deal with daily in perusing websites written totally in Russian.
The artist as seen by self and others.
Now, back to Abram Arkhipov. He made his name in the history of Russian art as a sensitive, poetic artist who devoted himself to themes from peasant life. He was born Abram Pyrikov in the village of Yegorovo in the Ryazan Oblast (southeast of Moscow). His family was of poor, peasant stock. The year was 1862. He first showed an interest in drawing while still in elementary school. Abram's parents were encouraging. Sacrificing to gather the means, at the age of sixteen, that they could sent him to study at the School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow. The heart of the school were instructors such as Vasily Perov, Konstantin Makovsky, Vasily Polenov, and Aleksey Savrasov.

Along the River Oka, 1890, Abram Arkhipov
In spite of seven years of academic excellence and awards, in 1883, Arkhipov decided to discontinue his education at the Academy of Arts. The academic system of teaching disappointed him. Despite the fact that many of his paintings and drawings were hailed as masterpieces and donated to the Academy's permanent collection, Arkhipov left the Academy after Perov's death and began studying under Polenov, whose art was permeated with light and a joyful feeling for life, all of which greatly influenced Arkhipov's work. In 1888 he and several friends set off on a trip along the Volga River from the school. They slept in rural villages along the way, drawing and painting many small works. For the first time Arkhipov tried to fuse genre scenes and lyrical landscapes. Two years later Arkhipov completed one of his best known works. Along the River Oka (above), which depicts a barge floating down the river overloaded with tired peasants. Its meaning extends beyond the bare subject matter. It's a story about people who are capable of enduring a great deal without losing their moral strength. It is also an affirmation of the beauty of Russian nature, as seen in its pale horizon, spring river flooding, and streams of sunlight. The muted color scheme enhances the harmony and general mood of the painting. Arkhipov's artistic style changed as compared to the careful detail of his early work, his "post-graduate" style became freer, and more expansive.

Winter, Abram Arkhipov
Sunset over a Winter Landscape,
Abram Arkhipov
In the 1890s Arkhipov painted mostly open air landscapes portraying his peasant heroes, not in small stuffy interiors, but in broad sunlit squares, green meadows, and along rivers and roads. The painting Winter (above) breathes a frosty cheerfulness. The inhabitants of the surrounding villages are working men, women, and children, struggling against the elements with a joy of life as they await the first sunny days of spring. In Arkhipov's works people are closely bound up with nature. Their thoughts and feelings are seen through the prism of the land-scape, having an epic breadth full of gentle, lyrical poetry as seen in Arkhi-pov's Sunset over a Winter Landscape (right).

Laundresses, Abram Arkhipov
Arkhipov's paintings sometimes depict active scenes, their basic meaning revealed through the surroundings in which the events take place. One of Arkhipov's best and most interesting works is the painting The Laundresses (left), from around 1900. The Laun-dresses is an example of the artist's new exploration of color. At this time Arkhipov also painted an unusual series of portraits of peasant women and girls from the Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. Each one is dressed in bright national costumes with embroidered scarves and beads. They are all painted with broad lively strokes, and bold, décor-ative, buoyant colors, predomin-antly reds and pinks. Although Arkhipov painted his peasant beauties with a loose, painterly style, his technique tightens up considerably as he renders each portrait face.

Judging from the lively, smiling
faces, this must have been a "fun"
series to do.
The Village Iconographer, Abram Arkhipov