Mikhail Vrubel: from icon to demon, the story of a new style

  • Year of birth: March 5, 1856
  • Date of death: April 14, 1910
  • A country: Russia


Vrubel is a Polish surname, but by the time Michael was born, three generations of the ancestors of the artist already lived in Russia, choosing a military path. Mikhail was left without a mother early, the family moved from place to place, following his father, an officer of the Cossack army.
Passion for painting manifested itself early. The father in every possible way encouraged the hobby of the younger son. He took him to classes at art schools and studios. When it came time to choose their profession, the future master fully resigned himself to the will of his father, who believed that his son’s future should be linked to "good for society". Vrubel entered the University of St. Petersburg at the Faculty of Law.
The university was finished, but the future artist was not a lawyer for a single day. With great difficulty he went through all the difficulties of the annual military service and, contrary to the wishes of his father, entered the Academy of Arts.
With artists Vrubel met while still a law student. Mikhail spent every free hour in the Hermitage, studying the works of great masters. In the artistic "get-together" of St. Petersburg he became his own long ago, managing to learn not only in the classes of the academy, but also in the workshops of his friends.
Teachers Vrubel noted his keen sense of form, color, the ability to convey the most complex texture. His main teacher Chistyakov considered Michael the most talented of his students. It was this professor who recommended the young master for the restoration of frescoes in a medieval monastery near Kiev.
The Kiev period of Vrubel's life is closely connected with the study of the canons of Byzantine painting. The artist works with gusto, forgetting everything in the world. But soon the passion is replaced by throwing. The master then quits his job and leaves Kiev, then returns and takes up the restoration. Such throwing could not please the customer. To creative throwing added financial problems.
The artist contributed his own understanding of biblical subjects to his works. The church refused the services of Vrubel, and only after his death recognized his correctness and philosophical interpretation of church paintings.
After the Kiev period in the artist's life comes the Moscow period. Vrubel's works are not popular, he has no customers. A happy meeting with famous patron Savva Morozov allows the artist to partly solve financial problems.
During this period, the master takes a demonic theme. His series of "demons" is still considered the most famous works of the master, a textbook for the art of modernism at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Despite the undeniable genius and innovation of the works, they can already see the signs of the ailment that will interrupt the artist’s creative work.
The patronage of Mamontov allows Vrubel to work actively in his own way, regardless of the tastes of the public. The artist draws up several opera performances, tries his hand at architecture, ceramic plastic. Criticism often responded to the works of Vrubel sharply and unfairly pejoratively.
The twentieth century brought two great tragedies to the master: his father dies, and the long-awaited son is born in a serious defect - a hare lip. To the personal tragedies add the most severe creative depression.
In 1902, the artist is placed in a psychiatric clinic. His condition is constantly deteriorating and relatives with friends are preparing for the worst. However, the efforts of Professor Bekhtereva had success. A year later, Vrubel went to rest in the Crimea. And although he practically can not work, but there is hope for recovery. Hope collapsed at once: Vrubel loses his son.
Short periods of clarification, followed by madness ... The last event that the master was able to perceive was his election as an academician in 1905.
The next five years, the artist only existed, being a regular patient of various clinics.

Paintings by Mikhail Vrubel

Self portrait with pearl shell
Demon sitting
Six-winged Seraphim
Tsarevna Swan
Fortune teller
Angel with censer and candle
Portrait of Mamontov
Portrait of Bryusov
Demon defeated
Flying demon
Snow Maiden
Virgin and Child

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