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(1889) [MARC] Author: Georg Brandes Translator: Samuel Coffin Eastman - Tema: Russia
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literature the path leads from the refined heroes of
Pushkin and Lermontof to Tolstoï’s and Dostoyevski’s
dwelling upon the simple-hearted. In art, the path has
taken its course from the expounders of the deeds of
the great and the elegance of the upper circles of society
to the bald and sad pictures of the lot in life of the
oppressed and unhappy. So far as artistic fidelity to
reality is concerned, Russia now stands far above Poland,
and close to France.

It is quite true that the academy in St. Petersburg is a
sort of artistic hierarchy. The same Tchinovnisme
(official spirit) prevails there as everywhere in Russia. The
chief authorities in this establishment have no idea of
art. At the head, for form’s sake, stands Prince Imperial
Vladimir, and an ex-governor acts under him. The same
subjects are constantly given to all students: Priams who
come to sue for Hector’s corpse. It is prescribed from
which side the light shall come, what person shall stand
in the foreground, etc. It is of no use that the student
is much more interested in an old apple-woman at the
corner than for King Priam and his whole court. It is
Priam and Hecuba that he must paint. — “What is
Hecuba to him?”

Among the modern artists of Russia there is a group
of decorative colorists. The best known among them
is not a Russian, though he constantly exhibits in
Russia. It is a Pole, Semiradski, who has been under the
influences of Makart. He will be recollected by the
reader from his pictures, of which the photographs have
everywhere been widely scattered, “The Living Torches,”
“The Sword Dance,” “The Girl or the Vase?” That
which is attractive in him and which he can impart is
not the highest art, which paints the sentiment of a
scene or the expression of emotion. What he aspires to

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