A Short History of Russian Art and Russian and European Paintings

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If all you think about when it comes to Russian art are the little nesting dolls and onion-domed churches, then you are in for a big surprise! Just like any other countries, Russia has a variety of different kinds of arts that they are most proud of.Louis-Abel-Truchet

Russian Icons

The history of Russian art started very early when the country converted from pagan religion to Christianity during 988. Soon Russian artists stated a new art form which is now known as Russian icons.

These religious icons are mostly images of Christian saints, Mary, Jesus Christ, and other religious figures. The birth of Christ and other miracles performed by saints were also depicted on these portraits.

These portraits were common in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as seen in different schools such as Rostov-Suzdal School, Novgorod School, Moscow School, Mstera School, Palekh School, and Central Russia.

Program of Westernizing

From 1672 to 1725, a lot of changes happened when Tsar Peter the Great started to rule and he began a program to westernized Russian culture to catch up with Europe. Neoclassicism was the style that was followed in Europe at that time, which influenced a lot of Russian works in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.


By the nineteenth century, some Russian artists got bored with the strict guidelines and limited subject given by Neoclassical art. This is when a group of artists such as the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki) created works of native Russian subjects instead of imitating Western styles. Artists who mostly create scenes related to Russian life and history can be seen in Ruzhnikov’s collection which contains the works of Max Rabes (Portrait of a Russian Soldier), Nikolai Semenovich Samokish (Night Raid), Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud (Buzkashi), Ivan Semenovich Kulikov (Portrait of the Artist’s Wife), and a lot more.

Impressionism and Modernism

Russia, again went to a lot of changes as the twentieth century began. Russian art made more experimental and avant-garde style, like what the rest of the world was also doing. Such modern painters were Louis Abel-Truchet (1857-1918), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Gustave Loiseau (1865-1935), Fernard Morin (1878-1937), and Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943) which can also be found in Ruzhnikov’s collection of Russian & European paintings.

Common styles during those years were more of landscapes, more spontaneous style, with focus on light and shade.


Russian artists also were influenced by the Futurist movement which emphasized boldness of design, modern themes, angular shapes, as can be seen in famous photomontages of Goncharova’s painting The Cyclist in 1913.

Lauren Author

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