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Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
List of Plates
Note on Translations
Part 1 Autocratic Masculinity
1 Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, and Sons
2 Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist
Part 2 Homosociality and Homoeroticism
3 Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude
4 The Artel of Artists: Envisioning the Bonds of Men
Part 3 Modern Women and Their Wounded Men
5 Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women—Known and Unknown
6 Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability
Selected Bibliography
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Picturing Russia’s Men: Masculinity and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Painting
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Picturing Russia’s Men


Picturing Russia’s Men Masculinity and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Painting Allison Leigh

BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2020 Copyright © Allison Leigh, 2020 Allison Leigh has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgments on p. xii constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover design by Ben Anslow Cover image: Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, Ilia Efimovich Repin (1884); Oil on canvas; (© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-1-5013-4179-3 ePDF: 978-1-5013-4181-6 eBook: 978-1-5013-4180-9 Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd. To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com and sign up for our newsletters.

For my mother, the Honorable Dr. Susan J. Rabern, Captain, U.S. Navy (retired), Former ASN (FM&C)


Contents List of Illustrations List of Plates Acknowledgments Note on Translations Introduction

viii xi xii xvi 1

Part 1  Autocratic Masculinity 1 2

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, and Sons Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist

33 67

Part 2  Homosociality and Homoeroticism 3 4

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude The Artel of Artists: Envisioning the Bonds of Men

103 147

Part 3  Modern Women and Their Wounded Men 5 Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women—Known and Unknown 6 Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability




Selected Bibliography Index




Illustrations 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 3.1 3.2

George Dawe, Portrait of Aleksei Arakcheev, 1824 4 George Dawe and workshop, Portrait of Alexander Chernyshëv, no later than 1825 6 George Dawe and workshop, Portrait of Pëtr Kikin, no later than 1825 7 The Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Author’s photograph, 2015 11 Unidentified photographer, Karl Briullov, mid-1840s  15 Unidentified photographer, Pavel Fedotov, 1850s 16 Unidentified photographer, Alexander Ivanov, 1850s 17 Photo Studio of M. V. Tulinov, Ivan Kramskoi, 1866–7 18 Unidentified photographer, Ilia Repin, 1884 19 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1813–16 34 Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (detail), 1830–3 47 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1830–3 (unfinished) 49 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1830–3 (unfinished) 50 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (detail), 1848 57 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (detail), 1848 59 Pavel Fedotov, Portrait of R. M. Lermantov, 1836–7 68 Pavel Fedotov, Pavel Fedotov Riding Horseback to Pargolovo from 74 Studies, 1835 Pavel Fedotov, Avalanche of Regulations, beginning of the 1840s  77 Pavel Fedotov, Pavel Fedotov and His Comrades in the Finnish Life 79 Guards Regiment, 1841–2 (unfinished) Pavel Fedotov, Friday—A Dangerous Day (Fedotov, Torn Passions), 1843 81 Pavel Fedotov, How People Walk, 1846–7 84 Pavel Fedotov, How People Sit Down and Sit, 1846–7 86 Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music 104 and Singing (detail), 1831–4 (unfinished) Alexander Ivanov, Sitting Model Clasping His Head in His Hand, 1827–8 108


Alexander Ivanov, Sitting Model, 1827–8 (unfinished) Alexander Ivanov, Young Model with a Staff in His Left Hand, 1824 Karl Briullov, Two Models, 1813 Alexander Ivanov, Two Nude Models, 1822 Alexander Ivanov, Boy Playing a Pipe, 1831–4 Alexander Ivanov, Boys’ Heads (Etude for Cypress), early 1830s  Alexander Ivanov, Naked Boy (Rotation of Trembling Boy, Two Variants), 1833–57 3.10 Alexander Ivanov, Torso of Apollo (drawing in an album), early 1830s 3.11 Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing (detail), 1831–4 (unfinished) 3.12 Alexander Ivanov, Seven Boys in Light Clothes and Draperies, 1840s–50s 3.13 Alexander Ivanov, The Appearance of Christ to the People (detail), 1837–57 3.14 Alexander Ivanov, Four Nude Boys, 1840s–50s 4.1 Petersburg Artel of Artists, 1863 4.2 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Bogdan Venig, 1861 4.3 Ivan Kramskoi, A Corner at the Artel of Artists, 1866 4.4 Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, Birthday Address Presented to Artel-Member Aleksei Korzukhin, 1865 4.5 Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, A Thursday at the Artel, 1860s 4.6 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Nikolai Koshelev, 1866 4.7 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, 1866 4.8 Ivan Kramskoi, Self-Portrait, 1867 4.9 Ivan Kramskoi, Christ in the Wilderness, 1872 5.1 Georg Emil Hansen, Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia (Princess Dagmar), 1860s 5.2 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, née Prokhorova, the Artist’s Wife; 1863 5.3 Sergei Levitskii, Princess Helena Augusta Victoria of SchleswigHolstein, c. 1866 5.4 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Alexander Morozov, 1868 5.5 Ivan Kramskoi and Sofia Kramskaia, beginning of the 1860s 5.6 Pëtr Shmelkov, Woman Artist, late 1860s to early 1870s 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9

ix 109 110 111 112 115 117 118 120 123 133 134 135 151 156 160 162 169 171 173 174 176 186 188 189 191 192 195


5.7 5.8 5.9 5.10 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5


Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Mark Kramskoi, the Artist’s Son (detail), 1875 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, the Artist’s Daughter, 1882 Ivan Kramskoi, Unknown Woman (detail), 1883 Ivan Kramskoi, Kramskoi Painting a Portrait of His Daughter, 1884 Ilia Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581 (detail), 1885 Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Garshin, Study for “Ivan the Terrible and His Son, Ivan,” 1883 Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, 1884 Modest Musorgsky as a Cadet in the Preobrazhenskii Regiment of the Imperial Guards, late 1850s Ivan Kramskoi, Herodias (detail), 1884–6 (unfinished)

199 205 211 213 224 229 232 238 243

Plates 0.1 1.1 1.2 1.3 2.1 3.1 3.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4

Grigorii Chernetsov, Perspective View of the War Gallery of 1812 in the Winter Palace, 1829 Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 1830–3 Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (painted for the Uffizi Gallery, Florence), c. 1833 (unfinished) Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1848 Pavel Fedotov, The Gamblers, 1852 (unfinished) Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing, 1831–4 (unfinished) Alexander Ivanov, Self-Portrait, 1828 Ivan Kramskoi, Woman Reading (Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia), not before 1866 Ivan Kramskoi, The Artist’s Family, 1866 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Mark Kramskoi, the Artist’s Son, 1875 Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, the Artist’s Wife, 1879 Ivan Kramskoi, Unknown Woman, 1883 Ilia Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581, 1885 Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin (detail), 1884 Ilia Repin, Portrait of M. P. Musorgsky, 1881 Ivan Kramskoi, Herodias, 1884–6 (unfinished)

Acknowledgments This book on masculinity and nineteenth-century Russian painting began during my doctoral study at Rutgers University, and I would like to begin by thanking my mentors at that institution for providing me with the critical foundation that allowed me to produce this work. My desire to study the long nineteenth century and its incumbent modernity began in fascinating discussions I had with Susan Sidlauskas, whose intellectual rigor and breadth of knowledge continue to astound me. I still think about some of the questions Susan posed in discussions we had about the relationship between gender and modernity and I have sought to answer them (finally, after many years) here. From Susan I also learned the magic of close looking at works of art; her visionary intuition about the meanings locked in paintings and her ability to discern internal dynamics through visual analysis helped shape the scholar I have become. Jane Sharp likewise gave me a tremendous gift in the emphasis she placed on reading the scholarship of the Soviet art historians. Whereas some scholars disregard their books for being too infected with Marxist rhetoric to be of much use, Jane subtly, but rigorously, steered me to this body of research and there is indeed much treasure to be found. Only Chapter 6 of this book stems directly from the dissertation I wrote under Susan and Jane’s direction, but I nonetheless wish to thank all of my committee members, including Andrés Mario Zervigón and Gerald Pirog. They provided searching feedback that has had a tremendous effect on the book you now read. The majority of this text was developed over the last five years while I was teaching at two institutions, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I have been blessed with many supportive colleagues and brilliant students at both. I benefitted from many conversations I had in these two remarkably different places and my interlocutors at both institutions contributed vitally to the project’s completion. At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I have depended especially on the support and enthusiasm provided by Brian Kelly and John Hathorn, whose devotion to art-making has been an inspiration to me. Conversations with Brian on printmaking made me think of graphic works and the importance of drawing in new ways and several vital discussions with John on the practice of painting made all the difference at key moments in the writing of the manuscript. My



deepest thanks also go to William Germano at the Cooper Union, whose dedication to scholarly writing and the publication of “serious books” inspired me in the earliest years of my career. His enthusiasm for the project from the beginning and his advice on the process of revising the dissertation were invaluable to me. My research for the project was supported by various sources, including research awards from the Department of Art History at Rutgers University, a travel grant from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation summer research grant. I am also grateful for the language skills I acquired through a Critical Language Scholarship from the United States Department of State. Even further back though, my initial interest in studying masculinity in the Russian context began in an intermediate-level language course with James Bernhardt. I will always appreciate that he recommended Ivan Goncharov’s novel Oblomov; my work on masculinity began the moment I first encountered this “superfluous man” and it has not diminished in enthusiasm since. I am likewise deeply grateful to my first mentors in art history at American University—Kim Butler Wingfield and Helen Langa—both of whom supported my earliest inquiries in the field. In terms of research support, I am profoundly indebted to Norton and Nancy Dodge, who established the Dodge Graduate Assistantships at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, a program which I benefitted from tremendously. Norton’s tireless efforts to collect and preserve Russian and Soviet Nonconformist art were a remarkable inspiration to me as a graduate student and I am glad that I was able to express my appreciation to Norton before his passing in 2011. At Bloomsbury Academic, I wish to thank Margaret Michniewicz, Frances Arnold, James Thompson, and April Peake for their support of the project. I also wish to thank all those who gave me the opportunity to present my work publically at various stages in its development, including Kaia Magnusen, Roman Utkin, and James Hargrove, and to the audiences who heard me speak as a result of these invitations. The important insights and thought-provoking questions I received at the University of Texas at Tyler, Davidson College, and Roanoke College, as well as in panels held at the annual conventions of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the College Art Association, and the Southeastern College Art Conference sharpened the arguments contained in this book. I will always be grateful for the spirit of intellectual rigor and sheer curiosity that the students and scholars brought to bear on my work in these environments. Similarly, my special thanks go to Molly Brunson, Rosalind



Blakesley, Mary Nicholas, Maria Taroutina, and Margaret Samu—all leaders in the field of Russian art history—without whom none of my work would be possible. For research assistance at key moments in the book’s development, I would like to thank Adam H. Ortego, a former student who scanned thousands of pages of books when I needed it most, and Jared Ash, who produced digital copies of several articles at the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art when I could not make the trip to New York myself. I am also deeply grateful to Nadya Kozinets, Olena Martynyuk, and Taisiia Kolisnyk for their advice on translations and for their infinite willingness to discuss the nuances of the Russian language with me. At the Edith Garland Dupré Library of the University of Louisiana, I wish to thank Zachary Stein and Neil Guilbeau. Beyond these wonderful library specialists, I owe a special debt to the staff of the Interlibrary Loan Department at Dupré; this book would not have been possible without the absolute dedication of Yolanda Landry and Daniel Phillips. I cannot thank them enough for the way they tackled each and every one of the book and article requests I made over the years. They provided much-needed support as the manuscript developed—sharing my delight at research discoveries and meeting my excitement at the arrival of a rare book with keen interest. In Russia, I am grateful to Vera Sergeevna Bodunova, Marina Vasilevna Ivanova, Oksana Iurevna Vasileva, and Marina Fedorovna Marshkova at the State Tretiakov Gallery, Vera Kessenikh at the State Russian Museum, Marina Oganian at the State Pushkin Museum, and Zhanna Etsina at the State Hermitage Museum. The artworks at the heart of this book could not have been reproduced without their hard work and dedication. In the United States and the UK, I also wish to thank the pioneering scholars of nineteenth-century Russian art whose work has long inspired my own—Elizabeth Valkenier, Wendy Salmond, Alison Hilton, John Bowlt, David Jackson, and (yet again) Rosalind Blakesley. I return endlessly to the writings of these six scholars and am in awe of the magnitude of what they have accomplished in their careers. My deepest thanks also go to Trenton Olsen and Galina Mardilovich, both of whom read chapters as they developed and provided searching feedback and vital criticism when I needed it most. I am also grateful to the anonymous reviewers who commented on the manuscript at several key moments in the book’s development. I owe the deepest debt of gratitude to Molly Brunson, whose sage advice and profoundly knowledgeable feedback helped me re-conceptualize certain elements of the project in ways that made all the difference.



Last but not least, my research and writing would not be possible without the love and support of a host of friends and family. I thank my sisters, Stacey and Megan, for their questions about the project over the years; my father, James, for being such a supporter of all my research travels and for teaching me about the importance of time off; and my step-father, David, for his generosity, wise advice, and sense of humor. My dearest friends, Jens and Quentin, knew just when to step in to distract me, but also when to reassure and console me, and for this I will always be grateful. I am also exceptionally blessed to have had the encouragement of Carla Gervasio as well as my fellow “Dodge girls”—Amy Bryzgel, Olena Martynyuk, Ksenia Nouril, and Adrian Barr—all of whom have provided the backbone of scholarly support that kept me going over the years. And my sincere thanks go to Ryan—for showing me the supreme joys of argumentation, for love, and for being a fascinating man. This book is dedicated to my mother, Susan Rabern, who has been my greatest champion, my longest supporter, and my most avid reader. She provided support in countless ways over many, many years and no words could ever express the gratitude I feel for the mind, heart, and soul she helped shape in me. Not a day goes by that I am not in awe of her and this book would not exist were it not for her guidance, virtue, and profound work ethic. In the end, it seems only fitting that a book about men should be dedicated to a woman. In so many periods in history, strength was profoundly associated with masculinity, but my mother is the strongest person I have ever known.

Note on Translations This book incorporates a range of writings produced by a diverse group of historical figures, many of which are appearing in English translation for the first time. All translations in the text, unless otherwise indicated in the notes, are my own. I have included the transliterated Russian text in square brackets when a single English equivalent may not entirely or with full accuracy convey the meaning of the original Russian word or phrase. The Library of Congress system for transliteration of Cyrillic has been used throughout. To diminish confusion, I retain the common forms of well-known places and proper names, such as Moscow as opposed to Moskva, and Dostoevsky rather than Dostoevskii. Names of rulers are also given in their more familiar English variants, for example, Nicholas rather than Nikolai and Catherine instead of Ekaterina. In most cases, I have not transformed Russian names into their English equivalents, thus Pavel does not become Paul, nor does Mikhail become Michael. For greater readability, patronymics (middle names derived from the first name of one’s father) have also been eliminated, as have diacritical marks for proper nouns, hence Ilia instead of Il’ia and Gogol as opposed to Gogol’. The Russian language has no articles, but in most instances I added them to the titles of artworks, hence The Gamblers instead of Gamblers for the painting Igroki. I expound on nuances of the Russian language when relevant to the text under discussion in the notes. In order to facilitate future research, the notes and bibliography contain all titles transliterated from the original language rather than translations. Both the style of transliteration and the notes have been organized to make the materials easier to locate for those who wish to continue research on nineteenth-century Russian art.


Let us consult history again; it is history which explains people. Pëtr Chaadaev1 On Christmas Day of 1826, a new gallery of paintings opened in a specially designed hall in the Winter Palace of St. Petersburg [Plate 0.1]. This magnificent new room in the tsar’s residence, called the Military Gallery, contained some two hundred portraits of the men who had fought in Russia’s campaign against Napoleon from 1812–14.2 The works had been painted over the course of the preceding seven years by the British artist George Dawe, who had won the commission, according to contemporary accounts, by “prowling” around members of the Russian court in the autumn of 1818 when Tsar Alexander I was visiting Aix-la-Chapelle to discuss the balance of power in post-Napoleonic Europe.3 By the time the project was completed, Dawe and his two Russian assistants would paint an astounding total of 329 portraits. Packed tightly together and arranged in five rows running the full length of the long hall, the canvases show some of Russia’s most prestigious men in moody, bust-length paintings.4 Generals look down from these images affixed to the walls; some are smiling, but most are not. The vast majority demonstrate a poised assertiveness and dignified, even friendly, self-possession. Some of the men came from old princely families, others had more recently been promoted to the nobility, yet all were depicted in their military uniforms and decorated with a plethora of honors and medals. Many of the upstanding men on view were in attendance for the gallery’s grand opening. The construction of the space had been rushed so that the inaugural ceremony would coincide with the anniversary of the expulsion of Napoleon’s army from Russia on Christmas Day in 1812. It was carried out with much pomp and circumstance.5 Cavalry and infantry regiments marked the inauguration with a march past the portraits and the tsar himself attended the festivities. Church dignitaries read prayers and frequent discharges of cannon announced to all those gathered that this was a solemn ceremony.6 Open to the


Picturing Russia’s Men

public during restricted hours after this grand opening, the Military Gallery was frequently discussed in the Russian press.7 The appointment of a foreign artist for such an important patriotic commission sparked some controversy, leading one critic to write: “We regretted that the honor of executing this monument, most precious for our homeland was granted to a foreign artist, while our Academy had many excellent portrait painters.”8 Further polemics ensued when rumors circulated that Dawe had claimed the work of his two Russian assistants as his own and paid them little while forcing them to work in poor conditions.9 But these controversies were offset by praise for Dawe’s forceful brushwork and by tributes from poets like Alexander Pushkin, who described the artist’s “divine pencil” and “genius” in a poem entitled “To Dawe ESQ.”10 Foreigners who saw the gallery mostly disapproved of Dawe’s portraits. One British commentator described the barrage of masculine bravura on view as “male chaos.” He further pronounced the space an “endless gallery … all male and all military; like the pit in a French theatre.”11 There was, however, an internal order to all this “male chaos.” The gallery was to serve several functions—it demonstrated the adoption of European tastes and showed Russia’s place in the grander scheme of Western culture and political power. As one of the first portrait galleries in Russia not based exclusively on family lineage and dynastic history, it also set a precedent by showing the relationship between major state events and the citizens who shared in the history of the nation. The dissemination of a large number of engravings and lithographs made from copies of portraits in the gallery also showed that the work was intended to have a public life, one that brought the example of heroic Russian men well beyond the confines of the tsar’s palace.12 The art historian Galina Andreeva has described the groundbreaking function of the space, arguing that the elongated nature of the gallery resembles the main nave of a cathedral, calling to mind the traditional iconostasis in Russian Orthodox churches.13 Proceeding down it slowly, one would scan the faces and the names inscribed into each frame and absorb each man’s personality and public presence.14 Summoning this context, Andreeva calls the floor-to-ceiling nature of the Military Gallery a new type of “secular iconostasis,” one that was “canonizing a new type of hero” for the Russian public.15

Picturing Russia’s Men What kind of new “hero” did the Military Gallery glorify? Who were the men on its walls beyond their role in the war against Napoleon? What ideals of masculine virtue were displayed by those chosen for commemoration in this space, and



who was meant to be affected by the kind of manhood they represented? While the gallery did not produce a single or unified picture of the ideal male servitor, certain key traits shared by many of the men can be ascertained. Perhaps the most compelling connection between the men is that many of them fought heroically in battle. Several sustained numerous wounds on the frontlines but kept fighting anyway or returned to wars after short periods of recuperation. Grigorii Berg, seen on the southwest wall, is a good example. He showed great courage in the Battle of Amstetten, where a bullet wounded him in the head. He then fought with equal courage later that year at Austerlitz, where he was wounded in the left foot and held in captivity for several weeks. Nonetheless, he went on to fight in the Battle of Polotsk, where he was again wounded, but remained in the ranks and kept commanding his troops.16 Andrei Glebov, also pictured in the gallery, survived an even more extraordinary number of injuries. He was wounded in the left leg in the battles at Brescia and Lecco, wounded in the right leg during the battle of Trebbia, wounded in the head during military action at Novi, and then again in the head at Schwanden and during the Battle of Borodino.17 Men like Berg and Glebov are a testament to the lingering ideals for masculinity which came to dominate in Russia during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great (r. 1682–1725). This period saw the rise of standards for men which emphasized physical dynamism, bravery, and military skill. According to the historian Nancy Shields Kollman, “Peter secularized and universalized warrior virtues,” and this period saw the rejection of earlier Muscovite notions that “military valor was expected only of the elite and was associated with a Christian’s duty to defend Orthodoxy.”18 The Petrine vision of masculinity still held in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and emphasis continued to be on assertiveness and courage as intrinsic male attributes.19 Plenty of men who embodied these traits can be seen on the gallery’s walls. Denis Davidov, who appears on the east wall, invented a whole genre of poetry noted for its emphasis on macho themes like fearlessness in battle, harlots, vodka, and the value of true friendship.20 Other men figured in the Military Gallery took such ideals to an extreme. Aleksei Yermolov, whose portrait hangs just to the left of Davidov’s, was renowned for his brutality as commander-in-chief in the Caucasus. He implemented a strategy of systematic subjugation in the region, claiming that only by executing Muslims would the lives of Russians be saved.21 Yermolov had company on the walls of the Military Gallery in the figure of Aleksei Arakcheev [Figure 0.1]. A representative of Russia’s elite noble estate, Arakcheev was renowned for his maniacal dedication to order and his unwavering sense of duty to the autocracy.22 Indications of such esteemed qualities can be seen in Dawe’s portrait of him. The ironed rigidity of his red gorget combines with the impeccably systematic fall of


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 0.1  George Dawe, Portrait of Aleksei Arakcheev, 1824; oil on canvas, 70 × 62.5 cm., The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

each epaulette tassel to underscore the control this man possessed over his outer and inner life. The painted miniature he wears around his neck further reflects his devotion to the autocracy, a trait also highly valued for men at the time. It shows Tsar Alexander I and signals Arakcheev’s obedience to the emperor.23 In this period, the army came to be seen increasingly as the arena where male identity could be constructed and superior officers like these were key to the modeling of ideal behavior for subordinates. Michel Foucault analyzed a similar phenomenon in eighteenth-century France. Key for Foucault was the emergence of what he perceived to be a new concept of the soldier—one that saw men as



malleable: “the soldier has become something that can be made; out of a formless clay, an inapt body, the machine required can be constructed.”24 In Russia, male traits were not perceived as necessarily inherent from a purely biological standpoint—men were increasingly believed to be made and the bodies of army men became sites for the production of such supreme masculinity.25 The tsar who organized the opening of the Military Gallery, Nicholas I, was particularly devoted to the formation of ideal soldiers and officers. For him, defining what a soldier was led to a definition of what a man should be on a larger level. This commitment to educating young men would have important implications for artists training at the Imperial Academy of Arts as well. Instilling strident gender values became a characteristic policy at the state-sponsored institution throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.26 Even before Nicholas I came to power, Tsar Alexander’s rule saw the expansion of the university system, but also the creation of military colonies throughout the empire, a task Arakcheev was appointed to oversee.27 These colonies became renowned for their strict order and severe discipline—to the point of dehumanization.28 Arakcheev was known to force serf women into marriages and he ruthlessly tortured those who could not live up to the standards he set.29 Hatred of him grew so intense that peasants actually stabbed his mistress to death in 1825.30 He responded by sentencing twenty-four servants to be brutally beaten with the knout, including one pregnant woman and three maids, all under the age of eighteen.31 Men like Arakcheev and Yermolov were, mercifully, on the wane though. Their abusive behavior was countered by portraits showing the younger generation of generals—men like Alexander Chernyshëv [Figure 0.2], who became an important spy in his role as personal emissary to Napoleon. Part of Chernyshëv’s success in espionage seems to have been due to his ability to infiltrate the boudoirs of high-society Parisiennes. Handsome and dashing, Chernyshëv was rumored to have had an affair with no less than Napoleon’s sister, a renowned beauty who was immortalized as Venus Victrix by Antonio Canova in 1808.32 According to contemporaries, women were in raptures over his “hair thrown  in big tufts, that Tatar face, [and] his almost perpendicular eyes.”33 In Dawe’s portrait, Chernyshëv is shown, much as those lustful ladies described him—young and handsome, with “big tufts” of curly bronze hair falling in waves to frame his youthful face. Fashionably long sideburns creep down toward his jawline and his carefully clipped mustache emphasizes the sensual curve of his full lips. Unlike the confrontational gaze of Arakcheev, Chernyshëv looks unassertively off into the distance. His body remains utterly frontal though and a


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 0.2  George Dawe and workshop, Portrait of Alexander Chernyshëv, no later than 1825; oil on canvas, 70 × 62.5 cm., The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

veritable wall of medals cascades down the center of his chest. Chernyshëv was, in Dawe’s portrait, not the sycophantic and aging servitor that Arakcheev was, but a new breed, the kind of man who had not proven himself by wounds, or battle poetry, or torturing those beneath him, but through charm and social graces.34 Chernyshëv was not alone in serving as a representative of the new generation of men who had come to the fore during the war. Pëtr Kikin also provides a good example of the rising cohort—in his youth he was something of a fashionable dandy and an art lover [Figure 0.3]. Clear-eyed and shown looking as though he is just about to speak, Kikin wears his general’s uniform with ease and casual nonchalance. Although born only six years after Arakcheev, the collar of Kikin’s jacket is loosed slightly and a torrent of muddy azure and cerulean



Figure 0.3  George Dawe and workshop, Portrait of Pëtr Kikin, no later than 1825; oil on canvas, 70 × 62.5 cm., The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

blues swirl in the sky behind him. He had commanded an infantry brigade during the foreign campaigns of 1813–14, but had retired after the victory in 1815.35 He went on to become a staunch supporter of Slavophile ideas and cofounded the Society for the Encouragement of Artists—an organization which sought to promote Russian art. The overcoat thrown nonchalantly around his shoulders in the Military Gallery portrait seems to allude to Kikin’s original stylish sensibilities and Westernizing worldliness. In many parts of Europe, including Russia, it was considered important for gentlemen of the period to take an active interest in matters of appearance and demonstrate fashion sense, but one had to be careful not to let modish clothing usurp ideals for dignified masculine comportment.36


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The depictions of these men—only seven examples in a gallery of over three hundred portraits—reveal an overall fragmentation in models for manhood occurring in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat. These paintings reflect the multivalence of men’s responses to patriarchal traditions and new fluctuations in the dynamics of masculinity which arose at the time. On a larger level, the Military Gallery demonstrates how ideals of gender comportment “always had to be guarded or regained” through substantiation within culture more generally.37 Artworks played a significant role in such projects of gender ideality and maintenance; they had the power to foster standards already present in other cultural and political arenas, or, as we will see, to disrupt and even transform notions of what it meant to be a man.38 If masculinity can be defined as “a set of normative assertions about the nature of the adult male and his conduct in society,” then this book addresses how painterly representations reflected, violated, or sometimes even produced such parameters in Russian culture over the course of the nineteenth century.39 Each chapter elucidates the core tenets for manhood specific to the historical moment being scrutinized, but at the same time seeks not to flatten the inherent disorder and multiplicity which characterized prescriptions for masculinity over the course of the period. As is evident from the Military Gallery, tenets for ideal male behavior were in flux at the outset of the nineteenth century and they continued to change persistently as larger social, political, and economic sectors mutated over the course of the era. Harry Brod once wrote that: “the word ‘man’ is perplexing because each historical period, every society, and each group within a society interprets the raw materials of existence in its own way.”40 What follows reveals the complexity of these different articulations in Russian society. It examines the role art played in the construction of varying precepts for masculine behavior, revealing that “‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are the products … not of nature, but of historical processes.”41 From paintings that were made for major exhibitions in Russia to those entered into foreign Salons, from those made for a specific public commission to those only for private viewing among close friends—all of the works under examination in this book speak about what it meant to be a man in Russia at different points in the nineteenth century. Artistic works made in the period reveal a vacancy within the very heart of masculine value systems and provide unique insight into the breakdown of myths surrounding masculine strength, independence, and self-control—all long esteemed as “essential” male qualities and exclusively masculine virtues.



Nationalism and Modernity As part of the general aftermath of the war against Napoleon, the Military Gallery provides important background for my assessment of ideologies surrounding masculinity. Victory over the foreign invader ushered in a period of hope for reform and at the same time an intense new consciousness about Russia’s future and the potential of its artists. The perception surrounding the defeat of the Grande Armée was that heroic men from all sectors of Russian society had risen up against a seemingly insurmountable foe. Together, they had not only conquered the foreign invader and expelled him from Russian lands, but cinched the matter definitively by marching the vanquished French all the way back to Paris, into which the Russians entered triumphantly in 1814.42 In the wake of this accomplishment, Russian men at various levels of society, especially those in the elite nobility, began to assess the role of Russia on the world stage along with their own roles in history. A new sense of both the present and the future, and individual men’s roles within that future, was awakened, one that has important implications for the study of modernity. Renato Poggioli once claimed (and Göran Therborn has more recently argued) that modernity can be “defined culturally, as an epoch turned to the future, conceived as likely to be different from and possibly better than the present and the past.”43 This turn occurs in Russia in the years after the Patriotic War, when a sense of pride ushered in a parallel consciousness about the future of Russia and the distinctiveness of the present moment. This period saw the rise of debates surrounding Russian culture both internally and in terms of the nation’s relationship to other European powers.44 It was an “epoch turned to the future” in the sense that Poggioli described, and the transformation in worldview that occurred in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat would have lasting implications for the duration of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, the newfound sense that Russia’s future would be distinctive from both its past and present serves as a vital sign of the birth of modernity in the nation. The Military Gallery is a testament to this change in sensibilities. The opening ceremony held in December of 1826 served to consolidate Russia’s past with its present and glorify those men who were considered ideal servitors of the autocratic state. Those on its walls were meant to reinforce the ideals for manhood described earlier—physical dynamism and courage, devotion to order and duty to the autocracy, magnetic social graces, and a keen sense of refined appearance. Perhaps never was the need for institutionalization of such gender idealities more


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pressing. For in December of 1825, only one year before the opening ceremony for the Military Gallery, the authority of the tsar had been challenged in an event that has become known as the Decembrist rebellion. Tsar Alexander I had died under mysterious circumstances in November of that year and by virtue of the laws of succession, the throne should have gone to his oldest brother, the Grand Duke Constantine.45 When Constantine renounced his right to the throne, Nicholas, Alexander’s third brother, became the new emperor of Russia. Yet on the very first day of his rule, a group of insurgent guardsmen, many from leading noble families, staged a mutiny by refusing to swear allegiance to the new tsar. In response, Nicholas ordered artillery forces to open fire, killing some sixty or seventy men and forcing the rest to scatter across the frozen Neva River.46 Five men were sentenced to death for their part in the event and 121 individuals were sent to hard labor, disciplinary battalions, or exile.47 Some three hundred more were transferred to dangerous and remote garrisons, where they were kept under surveillance.48 Nicholas ultimately commuted the sentence of the five leaders to death by hanging instead of quartering, but their execution proved hardly more merciless. So began the reign of Nicholas I and a period in Russian history characterized by hostile persecution of all dissent. Nineteen years younger than his brother Alexander, Tsar Nicholas I had not been brought up in the atmosphere of enlightened humanitarianism that characterized his sibling’s youth. He had instead come of age in a time of war and, according to the historian Nicholas Riasanovsky, he “always remained an army man … devoted to his troops, to military exercises, to the parade ground, down to the last button on a soldier’s uniform.”49 Contemporaries attest to this core element of his personality: “the predilection for things military displayed by Nikolai Pavlovich from his early years remained the basic feature of his character and never left him.”50 He spent hours drilling soldiers, insisting on precision and obsessing over details of appearance among the troops. According to Elise Wirtschafter: “The desire of the imperial government to reeducate and discipline its subjects through law was nowhere more visible than in military society.”51 The Military Gallery thus served an important function in the year it was first revealed to the public. The portraits within it were an attempt to solidify not only the authority of those who had honorably served the tsar in the war against Napoleon, but the traits they possessed as men that raised them to such powerful positions. Yet where monuments like the Military Gallery seem to establish secure and stable ideals for masculine behavior to be emulated by those who visited the space, the portraits showed anxiety about the meanings men’s bodies could possess. Christopher Forth has written that “any history of masculinity



Figure 0.4  The Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Author’s photograph, 2015.

must also be the story of weakness denied” and it is exactly this dynamic which is made vivid on the walls of the Military Gallery.52 It is undeniably a monument to manhood, but what also comes to the fore on the walls of the Winter Palace is the intensity of the desire to establish models of ideal masculinity and to posit such tropes as intimately connected to the state. Row after row of heroic male faces gaze assuredly down from the walls, so many are in evidence that they must be packed tightly on top of each other, creating a veritable sea of male exemplars [Figure 0.4]. Yet all this only thinly veils the apprehension surrounding men’s actual relationship to the state in the wake of the Decembrist rebellion. The need to commemorate the War of 1812 specifically in terms of its primary male actors shows a new necessity to confirm the role of the masculine in terms of paternalism and order.53

Men’s History As a hall filled with pictures of wealthy, white men of the ruling class, the Military Gallery highlights a further factor that is crucial to this project as a whole. Put simply, it represents the standard space of history. The gallery is a celebration of history’s victors and a testament to the recording of powerful men’s lives and


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achievements over all those who were submitted to them—women, children, servants, and serfs. So why should we spend time thinking about the gallery? If men like those on its walls have been the subject of nearly all historical research to date, why add to this?54 There are several answers to these questions. David Morgan once described the paradoxical problem of how gender is treated in historical narratives as one in which women are obscured from our vision by being placed consistently in the background, while men are obscured by being pushed too much into the foreground.55 This dynamic is made vivid by the Military Gallery. The portraits within it only put men’s public achievements on view, each man became only his role in the War of 1812. The thoughts, motivations, and social prescriptions that led to such historical actions were concealed. Such elevation of male behavior to the level of history actually tells us very little about men’s real feelings, skills, knowledge, or capabilities.56 Thus, where women were systematically written out of history, men like those in the Military Gallery have been consistently hidden in plain sight. Judith Shapiro has described this as the tendency whereby “the social and cultural dimensions of maleness are often dealt with implicitly rather than explicitly.”57 This book seeks to redress this imbalance and investigate men’s experiences in the nineteenth century not obliquely, but by mining the details that made up exhortations for masculinity. In this way, the project serves as a complement to women’s studies and seeks to elaborate the tensions which resulted for both sexes from “dominant dialogues about gender.”58 Such pressures have, unfortunately, often been considered peripheral to the study of modernism. Nevertheless, I investigate the dynamics at work in men’s lives in the hope of creating a fuller picture of masculine experience, one that goes beyond the limits of normative narratives and, in so doing, also generates a fuller history of modernity.59 As a whole, this book focuses on paintings made by Russian artists during the reign of two tsars. The first half of the book explores the role that art played in envisioning a spectrum of masculinities during the autocratic regime of Nicholas I, the outset of which has been the subject of brief elaboration in this introduction. As we have seen, the war against Napoleon ushered in a more modern conception of both self and nation in the country, but then the Decembrist rebellion saw hopes dashed as Russia’s young “sons” failed to bring about change in the face of strident autocratic power. In response, Tsar Nicholas I would seek to establish himself as the “father-commander,” ruling over his citizens as a stern, even sometimes cruel and abusive, paterfamilias.60 The initial chapters focus on the period when Nicholas I forged the ideological doctrine of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality,” also known as Official Nationality.



This began what was ultimately to be the heyday of patriarchal culture in Russia, but it was nevertheless an era wrought by differing notions of what it meant to be a “good” man. These years also saw the emergence of a new character type in Russian literature, one that would recur in prose and poems by a range of authors throughout the century. He came to be known as the “superfluous man [lishnii chelovek]”—a figure who was usually from the upper classes, suffered from extreme existential boredom, and for whom purpose in life was always either a daydream never met with action or an anxious afterthought among the search for satiety.61 The term itself was originally popularized by Ivan Turgenev’s 1850 novella The Diary of a Superfluous Man, but was then applied retroactively to characters from earlier works, such as Alexander Pushkin’s verse-novel Eugene Onegin (1825–32) and Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time (1839–41).62 The superfluous man has been seen as afflicted with a deep-seated sense of alienation and disenchantment, one resulting at the most profound level from the growth of industrial production, the disintegration of the aristocracy, and the emergence of women in professional spheres. As a figure estranged from society and from the normative behaviors associated with his gender, the superfluous man has resonance with various malaise-ridden figures prevalent in Western European discourse—in particular the flâneur, dandy, and neurasthenic. All attest to a growing interest in what was seen as a new and pervasive kind of existential pain among men, one frequently linked to the detrimental effects of modernity on men’s sense of themselves. What all of these masculine types and the fictional representations derived from them shared was that they were evidence of what some scholars have referred to as a “crisis of masculinity,” one that arose despite sharp differences in cultural environments, socio-economic structures, levels of industrialization, and political systems. Unfortunately, these models for understanding masculinity by creating typologies of male experience may have blinded scholars to the tremendous variety of men’s lives outside of these standard tropes and conventions. In the case of Russia in particular, the superfluous man came to so heavily dominate scholarly discussions of masculinity during the nineteenth century that the archetype has precluded study of much else. In the years when the superfluous man first came to prominence in literature, members of the intelligentsia recognized that he was not just an imagined character type, but a figure taken to represent a real range of men who had lost their sense of purpose and become disillusioned by unsuccessful efforts for change.63 In this sense, the superfluous man was seen as a direct byproduct of


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Nicholas I’s repressive rule. Thus, this book begins with an examination of this period of oppression and disaffection but does not rely too heavily on notions of what constituted the superfluous man in the period. As a conceptual model, this character type simply does not fully explain the varied experiences of men in the nineteenth century. Moving beyond the dominance of this trope allows for a more comprehensive exploration of the changing conditions of both masculinity and modernity as they found visual form in paintings across the turbulent period.

Russia’s “Short” Nineteenth Century To begin this investigation, Chapter 1 focuses on Karl Briullov, a painter who came from a long line of artists and was trained at the Imperial Academy of Arts, an institution modeled on rigorous military ideals which served to mold the masculine social identities of its artists as future servitors of the state [Figure 0.5]. Briullov achieved more professional success than any other artist in his generation, but he resisted prescriptive gender standards and was in several ways unsuccessful as a man according to the strictures of the time. Men’s duties as fathers, sons, and husbands were key to the constitution of their masculinity in this moment, but Briullov ultimately failed to fulfill these roles. Instead, he found ways to evade the standard system for progression through manhood by substantiating himself in other arenas. The second chapter relates directives for male behavior among military servicemen with those that became evident in society more generally. The 1830s were a time in which “the entire machinery of government came to be permeated by the military spirit of direct orders, absolute obedience, and precision.”64 Thus, my attention turns to the work of an artist who grappled most profoundly with that ethos. Pavel Fedotov began serving in an Imperial Guard Regiment in 1833, yet he longed to leave the service to become a professional artist [Figure 0.6]. The portraits he made of his fellow officers show the ways men struggled to live up to the expectations for masculine behavior in Nicholas I’s autocracy. Chapter 3 begins the second part of the book and spans the end of Nicholas I’s reign and the beginning of that of his successor, Alexander II. The latter’s years of rule, from 1855 to 1881, finally brought much sought-after change to the country, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861, yet much of social and cultural life remained staunchly traditional. I turn first to issues of sexual identity in the work of Alexander Ivanov, who was also trained at the Academy of Arts, but spent the



Figure 0.5  Unidentified photographer, Karl Briullov, mid-1840s; daguerreotype, Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House), Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg.

majority of his adult life living in Italy [Figure 0.7]. Ivanov painted numerous male nudes throughout his life and these works lend insight into both his sexuality and, on a larger level, the way men’s desires and erotic proclivities were implicated in the establishment of their masculinity. Chapter 4 turns away from


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Figure 0.6  Unidentified photographer, Pavel Fedotov, 1850s; photograph published in the journal Ogonëk, no. 45 (1902), SPUTNIK / Alamy Stock Photo.

the sexual dimension of close male relationships to explore the nature of more widely accepted patterns of homosociality as they became central to art-making in associations like the Artel of Artists, which was formed in St. Petersburg in 1863. An all-male collective based on networks of exchange and cooperation, the Artel provided its members with shared working spaces and was centered around



Figure 0.7  Unidentified photographer, Alexander Ivanov, 1850s; Department of Manuscripts, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

the pooling of all earnings from the sales of paintings. It lasted only a short time, but was captured in painted works by some of its most prominent members, who strongly believed in the potential of this homosocial commune. The final section of the book turns to the production of two of Russia’s most prominent realist painters, Ivan Kramskoi and Ilia Repin. Chapter 5 explores


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Figure 0.8  Photo Studio of M. V. Tulinov, Ivan Kramskoi, 1866–7; Department of Manuscripts, The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.

Kramskoi’s various depictions of women—from portraits he made of his wife and daughter to his famous picture of a Petersburg prostitute [Figure 0.8]. Women’s occupation of roles on the problematic borderline between the domestic and public spheres in Russian society was, by the time Kramskoi made these pictures, a source of tremendous anxiety. Yet Kramskoi’s depictions of women show a profound and unusual kind of identification with the position of the female



Figure 0.9  Unidentified photographer, Ilia Repin, 1884; © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

sex throughout his life, something not typically associated with male painters living in patriarchal societies at the time. The final chapter explores the cultural debates in Russia which accompanied rising rates of alcoholism and suicide through a focus on the portraiture of Repin, who painted tragic figures like Modest Musorgsky and Vsevolod Garshin as they struggled with depression and addiction [Figure 0.9]. Repin’s depictions of men in states of injury or debility


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from the 1880s can be understood as evidence of a continually growing crisis in the gender order, one that is connected to the original rise of the superfluous man in the wake of the failure of the Decembrist rebellion in 1825, but which had grown in intensity since the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. As is evident from these chapter summaries and the title of the book itself, my focus throughout remains largely on painting. As the art historian Rosalind Blakesley has pointed out, the medium of oil painting “was considered the predominant and most innovative field of visual artistic endeavor throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”65 Oil painting was indeed held in high esteem throughout the period, but watercolor also came to the fore in the nineteenth century and was highly valued as a painterly technique which revealed the artist’s temperament due to the spontaneous application of colors that it required.66 Thus I assess a number of both oil paintings and watercolors, as well as works made in the largely Russian medium known as “sauce”—all of which were vital to these men’s creative process and, along with their drawings, lend special insight into their gendered reality. In sum, this book focuses on painting in the period from approximately 1825 to 1881, dates which encapsulate, on one side, the aftermath of the Decembrist rebellion, and on the other, the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Both moments brought tremendous change to supposedly settled versions of masculinity. This periodization seeks to provide a new understanding of the era by putting forward a “short nineteenth century” which counters the more prominent, and widely accepted, Western European “long nineteenth century”— generally understood as spanning from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of the First World War in 1914.67 Several scholars have put forward alternative periodizations that focus on the distinctive structures and events comprising the Russian context, but the idea of a distinctive short nineteenth century has not become prominent.68 I propose this innovative periodization because it also echoes the rise of Russia’s earliest modern art movements, namely, romanticism and realism. The decade after the victory over Napoleon saw the influence of European romanticism begin to chip away at the hegemony of the academic neoclassical style which had been dominant and, as in Europe, realism came to overlap and eventually supplant romanticism by the late 1850s. This style and the subject matters it brought to the fore reached a highpoint in Russia in the period between approximately 1860 and 1890. Each of the artists under study in this volume was identified with one (or both) of these two stylistic registers, making



the period between 1825 and 1881 exceptional in terms of both gender evolution and artistic practice.

Microhistories of the Masculine What comes to the fore in this description of the book’s overall scope is my reliance on two principal modes of organization and methodology. My general procedure is to use micronarrative case studies to analyze the circumstances surrounding masculinity with a degree of detail that would not be possible in a more fused or singularly focused work. The complexity found in each individual history allows us to see both gender norms and the ways men negotiated, upheld, or transgressed them—often all three—over the course of a lifetime. Raeweyn Connell has written that understanding the historical processes that undergird subjects with the amount of depth and complexity as masculinity “requires concrete study; more exactly, a range of studies that can illuminate the larger dynamic.”69 It is my hope that the type of microhistories found in this book fulfill that imperative by providing “rich historical texture for understanding and interpretation.”70 As Clifford Geertz once pointed out, if scholars engaged in the production of case studies are to be more than “mere peddlers of singularities … they must contrive to place such singularities in an informed proximity.”71 Thus I have sought to contextualize and connect each individual case in this volume as Geertz envisioned. The artworks made by each chapter’s protagonist are related to works by other artists as well as to the relevant social, economic, and political context in order to “preserve the individuality of things and enfold them in larger worlds.”72 That being said, while microhistories proved the most effective way of structuring the text given the project’s wide scope, they do not by any means provide a comprehensive or exhaustive view of the period. Instead, the case studies are organized loosely according to chronological period and by overarching themes central to each artist’s work and era. Every chapter examines the role of masculinity in the life and work of the artist under study and relates issues associated with maleness to the time in which their paintings were produced. As Christopher Forth has pointed out, “masculinity is an inherently unstable and even elastic cultural construction, one capable of being disrupted as well as validated depending on where and when it is being articulated. Yet


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as a set of ideals, attributes and potentialities … certain continuities can be discerned when viewed over la longue durée.”73 It is exactly these two sets of seemingly opposed qualities that are examined here. These case studies bring to the fore both continuities in masculine experience and the unique occurrences of individuals within a larger system. Microhistories like those contained in this book also work against the tendency to consider the male gender too simplistically, a problem that sometimes plagued scholarship in the social sciences.74 Case studies allow for an exploration of the multiplicity of male roles and account for factors such as geography, family background, social class, professional environment, and sexuality. I take as my guiding principle that there are a “spectrum of masculinities” which co-exist in any given culture and that artworks have an exceptional, perhaps matchless, ability to capture not only those qualities that are supposed to predominate, but actually do in lived practice.75 As Tim Carrigan, Bob Connell, and John Lee have pointed out, “the differentiation of masculinities is psychological … but … in an equally important sense it is institutional, an aspect of collective practice.”76 It follows that the study of men must be embedded in the dynamics of institutions and this book sees the structures that surround art-making as integral to understanding the conflicting desires of men themselves. This leads me to make one last point about my methods of assessment. I firmly believe that institutions like the Imperial Army and the state-sponsored Academy of Arts must be assessed alongside the personalities of individuals to form a complete framework for understanding gender relations in nineteenthcentury Russia. Thus, my approach is biographical as well as social historical and brings to the fore various kinds of texts to form arguments about the elastic nature of masculinity across the period. I believe that biography often helps us see artworks more clearly and that it can allow us to understand the complex ways in which creative acts participate in beliefs about gender. Biographical assessments have fallen out of favor to some extent in recent art historical scholarship, but the study of gender demands that connections be drawn between art and life.77 Thus, I draw on a wide variety of source material from the period—from poetry, advice books, and novels, to letters, personal journals, and contemporary criticism—to explore both the macro-level social ideologies and the more intimate psychodynamics within masculine experience. Much of this writing has never been translated into English or has appeared only in segmented fragments that fail to provide a complete picture of the personalities of the artist-writers. In bringing these texts to the attention of Western scholars, I want to grow the resources available for future study of Russian art. I hope



that by introducing readers to artists and paintings that have rarely resounded outside of Russia, I can create new understandings of how rapid and continual change in the nineteenth century affected men (and women) at the time. My study does not seek to make an orderly account of the transformations art underwent in this period, rather it puts in motion an interpretation of the development of modernity that sees fluctuations in gender and art as unfailingly inconsistent, complicated, and indeterminate. Picturing Russia’s men, whether that meant envisioning the self or looking deeply at another, often meant reckoning with the inherent contradictions that comprised competing ideals for manhood across the period. At the same time, looking at the paintings which were produced often means delving deeply into the most private thoughts and memories of the men who made them and bearing witness to the pain of their experiences. Photographs of the five men whose paintings form the core of this study have been included in this introduction to begin this process of embodiment. There was a discontent among men in the nineteenth century that sometimes did not stem from hunger or poverty, did not arise from threat to life or fear of war, rather it arose out of the impossibility of ever successfully negotiating the gendered antinomies of modern life. This book is a study of the dissatisfaction that grew from such paradoxes. As an interpretive history, it aims to reshape our understanding of man by challenging the enduring myths which still surround him. The Military Gallery was an early example of such mythmaking and it remains a space saturated with the heroic codes for virtuous manhood today. What follows tests the lingering power of such projects of idealization to uncover the deep structure of masculinity—the very real (and often intensely conflicted) desires, needs, and aspirations of men themselves.

Notes 1

2 3

Chaadaev, “Philosophical Letters,” in Philosophical Works of Peter Chaadaev, eds. Raymond T. McNally and Richard Tempest (Dordrecht: Springer Science and Business Media, 1991), 25. The gallery is known as the Voennaia galereia in Russian, which can translate to either the military or the war gallery; it is interchangeably referred to as both. The English painter Sir Thomas Lawrence described seeing Dawe “prowling close” to the Court of Alexander I and “creeping round it in the street.” Fragment of a letter from Lawrence, October 21, 1818, Aix-la-Chapelle, in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Letter-Bag, ed. George Somes Layard (London: Ballantyne Press, 1906), 138.

24 4

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Not all of the portraits show men who were of Eastern European descent. Included among the portraits are such figures as the Duke of Wellington, who was made a General-Fieldmarshal of the Russian army after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. See “The Creation of the War Gallery of 1812,” State Hermitage Museum, accessed January 4, 2018, https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/ explore/history/historical-article/1800/War+gallery+creation/. 5 Galina Andreeva, “The Military Gallery in the Winter Palace (The Hermitage): International Aspects of the National Memorial,” in Memory and Oblivion: Proceedings of the XXIX International Congress of the History of Art, eds. A. W. Reinink and J. Stumpel (Dordecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999), 152. For more on Dawe and the development of the gallery, see also Andreeva’s excellent study: Genii voiny, blaga i krasoty: Dzhordzh Dou, korolevskii akademik (Moscow: Pinakoteka, 2012). 6 Elizaveta Renne, State Hermitage Museum Catalogue: Sixteenth- to NineteenthCentury British Painting (St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum, 2011), 274. 7 One could gain admittance after being granted a special pass from the keeper of the Hermitage collection. These visitors often included artists, especially those who were pupils at the Petersburg Academy of Arts. See Andreeva, “The Military Gallery,” 154–5. 8 Otechestvenny Zapiski, no. 81 (1827): 153. Quoted in Andreeva, “The Military Gallery,” 156. 9 The Moscow-based Society for the Encouragement of Artists came to the defense of Alexander Poliakov and Wilhelm Golike by submitting a report to the tsar entitled “On the Reprehensible Acts of the English Artist Dawe,” which resulted in the freeing of the serf-apprentice Alexander Poliakov. See Rosalind Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 78. 10 Pushkin, Eugene Onegin: Commentary and Index, trans. Vladimir Nabokov (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 2:205. 11 The Works of Charles Lamb, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (London: Oxford University Press, 1940), 429–30. Quoted in Andreeva, “The Military Gallery,” 153. 12 See “Russian Lithographic Portrait of the 19th Century,” Hermitage News, published July 28, 2012, accessed March 15, 2017, https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/ portal/hermitage/news/. 13 The iconostasis is a wall of icon paintings that often reaches nearly to the ceiling and separates worshippers from the clergy and the altar which resides behind the proscenium of holy pictures. 14 Andreeva was the first to raise this point about the kind of movement the gallery encourages in “The Military Gallery,” 152–3. 15 Ibid., 154.



16 Alexander Mikaberidze, Russian Officer Corps of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (New York: Savas Beatie, 2005), 37. 17 Ibid., 121. 18 Nancy Shields Kollman, “‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’: Changing Models of Masculinity in Muscovite and Petrine Russia,” in Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, eds. Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002), 24. 19 The same attributes were highly valued in Western Europe, especially in England and Germany, where war was seen as a glorious opportunity to show one’s ability “to cope with pain without showing distress”—a quality which was key, along with willpower and courage—to the constitution of what George Mosse has called “normative manhood.” See The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 101. 20 For more on these themes, see Davidov’s memoirs: In the Service of the Tsar against Napoleon: The Memoirs of Denis Davidov, 1806–1814, ed. and trans. Gregory Troubetzkoy (Westport, CT: Greenhill, 1999). 21 Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond, ed. Timothy C. Dowling (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015), 967. 22 Ibid., 43. 23 The miniature shown in the portrait may in fact have been a gift from Alexander I himself. Michael Jenkins describes the tsar sending him this gift and indeed, Arakcheev always is shown wearing it in portraits made across his lifetime. See Arakcheev: Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire (New York: Dial Press, 1969), 177. 24 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977), 135. 25 This has been a major point of discussion (and contention) among sociologists writing on masculinity in the twentieth century. The idea of sex roles as biologically determined has fallen out of favor as part of the general move away from static structural dualisms in the social sciences, but also as a result of the influence of feminist scholarship. I agree largely with David Gilmore’s verdict on the subject: “we must try to understand why culture uses or exaggerates biological potentials in specific ways.” See Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 23. The idea that gender roles are socially performed as opposed to inherent in biological sex also forms the linchpin of Judith Butler’s argument in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London and New York: Routledge, 1990). 26 Naoko Seriu writes of parallel projects for the construction of ideal men in the French context. See “The Paradoxical Masculinity of French Soldiers: Representing the Soldier’s Body in the Age of Enlightenment,” European University Institute Working Papers, no. 32 (2009): 2.


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27 Rebecca Friedman, Masculinity, Autocracy, and the Russian University: 1804–1863 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 4–7. 28 For more on Arakcheev, see Janet M. Hartley, Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008), 191–208. 29 Documents reveal that peasant daughters were obliged to marry soldiers within the colony. Such unions were supposed to be voluntary, but reports show that soldiers “seized peasant girls and dragged them to church and that soldiers’ wives who had not lived with their husbands for a long time were also forced to remarry. There were also accounts of peasant girls being chosen as wives ‘by lot’.” See P. P. Kartsov, “O voennykh poseleniiakh pri grafa Arakcheeva,” Russkii vestnik 106, 1890, 2: 154–5 and A. N. Petrov, “Ustroistvo i upravlenie voennykh poselenii v Rossii 1809–1828,” in M. I. Semevskii, Graf Arakcheev i voennyia poseleniia 1809–1831 (St. Petersburg: V. I. Golovina, 1871), 159. Both cited in A. Bitis and Janet Hartley, “The Russian Military Colonies in 1826,” The Slavonic and East European Review 78, no. 2 (April 2000): 322. 30 Jenkins, Arakcheev, 239–43. 31 Ibid., 249–50. One servant was sentenced to receive 175 blows of the knout—this despite the fact that a law had been passed stipulating that minors were not to receive more than thirty blows. He died as a result. 32 Bruce W. Menning, “A. I. Chernyshev: A Russian Lycurgus,” Canadian Slavonic Papers 30, no. 2 (June 1988): 192. 33 Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Romanovs: 1613–1918 (New York: Vintage Books, 2016), 297. 34 Chernyshëv maintained an active correspondence with a number of court officials, including Arakcheev. The two men likely knew each other after the war as well. See Menning, “A. I. Chernyshev,” 195. 35 Renne, State Hermitage Museum Catalogue, 317. 36 Christopher E. Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West: Gender, Civilization and the Body (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 48. 37 Stefan Dudink, “Masculinity, Effeminacy, Time: Conceptual Change in the Dutch Age of Democratic Revolutions,” in Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History, eds. Stefan Dudink, Karen Hagemann, and Josh Tosh (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 90. 38 They were also significant tools for establishing hierarchies of power among men, a topic that the psychologist Joseph Pleck has productively explored in a different context. For him, men compete with one another in terms of their wealth, physical strength, age, and heterosexuality and this produces a considerable amount of conflict. See “Men’s Power with Women, Other Men, and Society: A Men’s Movement Analysis,” in The American Man, eds. E. H. Pleck and J. H. Pleck (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1980).



39 Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, 3. 40 Harry Brod, ed. The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1987), xi. 41 Ibid., xii. 42 The entry of Russian troops into Paris is often cited by scholars as a key event in the history of interactions between Russia and the West. The Russian army pursued the French all the way from Moscow to Paris, where they staged grandiose parades involving some 80,000–150,000 troops. These parades focused in particular on disseminating powerful images of Tsar Alexander. See Hartley, Russia, 1762–1825, 172 and Michael Adams, Napoleon and Russia (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), 489–522. 43 Göran Therborn, European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945–2000 (London: SAGE Publications, 1995), 4. Renato Poggioli argued along similar lines in his foundational work on the avant-garde: “In the consciousness of a classical epoch, it is not the present that brings the past to a culmination, but the past that culminates in the present … But for the moderns, the present is valid only by the potentialities of the future, as the matrix of the future, insofar as it is the forge of history in continual metamorphosis, seen as a permanent spiritual revolution.” See The Theory of the Avant-Garde (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968), 73. 44 As stated succinctly by Boris Groys: “The question about the specific character of Russian national culture first appeared in an urgent way after Russia’s victory in the war with Napoleon in 1814.” See “Russia and the West: The Quest for Russian National Identity,” Studies in Soviet Thought 43, no. 3 (May 1992): 186. 45 Alexander’s own rule had begun under difficult circumstances in 1801 after the short and unpredictable reign of his father Paul I, who had been murdered in a palace coup organized by some of his most trusted associates. On the coup, see David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform, 1801–1881 (London: Longman, 1992), 8–10. For more on the strange circumstances surrounding Alexander’s death, see Leonid I. Strakhovsky, “Alexander I’s Death and Destiny,” The American Slavic and East European Review 4, no. 1/2 (August 1945): 33–50. 46 Scholarship on the Decembrists is voluminous, but for a basic account of the events on the day of the rebellion see Edward Crankshaw, The Shadow of the Winter Palace (London: Penguin, 1978), 13–18. For a recent interdisciplinary treatment of the rebellion’s cultural significance, see Ludmilla A. Trigos, The Decembrist Myth in Russian Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). 47 For more on capital punishment in Imperial and Soviet Russia, see Alexander Mikhlin, The Death Penalty in Russia, trans. W. E. Butler (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999). 48 Marc Raeff, The Decembrist Movement (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 3.


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49 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 323. 50 N. K. Shil’der, Imperator Nikolai Pervyi. ego zhizn’ i tsarstvovanie, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: A. S. Suvorin, 1903), 1:15. Quoted in P. S. Squire, “Nicholas I and the Problem of Internal Security in Russia in 1826,” The Slavonic and East European Review 38, no. 91 (June 1960): 432. 51 Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, “The Ideal of Paternalism in the Prereform Army,” in Imperial Russia 1700–1917: State, Society, Opposition, Essays in Honor of Marc Raeff, eds. Ezra Mendelsohn and Marshall S. Shatz (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1988), 95. 52 Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West, 3. 53 Raewyn Connell has written productively on “the tragic encounter between desire and culture,” citing the patriarchal organization of societies which transmit gender constructs between generations in this way as leading to “the fragility of adult masculinity.” See Masculinities (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 12. Along related lines, Herb Goldberg has written of the psychological fragmentation which results from the unresolvable tension “between inner needs and social pressures” in men’s lives. For him, one’s real self becomes suppressed amidst a barrage of contradictory expectations resulting in constant conflict in adulthood. Goldberg’s writing was part of a trend within masculinity studies that came to the fore in the 1970s—the idea that men can be seen as having been oppressed in ways that are comparable to women. In this understanding, the oppressor was not women, but the male role itself. I agree that the more dominant and repressive dialogues about gender roles become, the more everybody loses, nonetheless this book does not subscribe to an understanding of mutual oppression. While I do examine the repressive reality of exhortations for male behavior with sensitivity, no self-respecting feminist historian should fall into the trap of believing that men and women have been equally oppressed. It simply is not true. See The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege (New York: Nash, 1976), 96. 54 I am not the first to ask this question. See also Sue Wise and Liz Stanley, “Sexual Politics—An Editorial Introduction,” Women’s Studies International Forum 7, no. 1 (1984): 1–6. Quoted in Harry Brod, The Making of Masculinities, 39. 55 David Morgan, “Men, Masculinity and the Process of Sociological Enquiry,” in Doing Feminist Research, ed. Helen Roberts (London: Routledge, 1981), 94. 56 Brod, The Making of Masculinities, 2. 57 Judith Shapiro, “Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Sexual Differentiation,” in Human Sexuality: Comparative and Developmental Perspectives, ed. Herant A. Katchadourian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 269. 58 Alexis L. Boylan, Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 4.



59 In addition, I contend that not examining men’s lives leaves their privilege unexamined as well. As two sociologists once put it: “Until we know how it is that men do sexual politics we can’t stop them; and we know for sure that they won’t stop themselves, for they’ve far too much invested in the successful continuance of patriarchy.” See Wise and Stanley, “Sexual Politics,” 2. 60 On the origins of the “tsar-batiushka” and the mythology that surrounded it, see Michael Cherniavsky, Tsar and People: Studies in Russian Myths (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1961). 61 The two classic studies of the superfluous man in English are: Jesse V. and Betty S. Clardy, The Superfluous Man in Russian Letters (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1980) and Ellen B. Chances, Conformity’s Children: An Approach to the Superfluous Man in Russian Literature (Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, Inc., 1978). 62 The primary example of the type is often considered to be the titular hero of Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov (1859). Excellent studies of Oblomov and of the superfluous man more generally include: Judith Armstrong, “The True Origins of the Superfluous Man,” Russian Literature XVII (1985): 279–96; David Patterson, “The Superfluous Man’s Superfluous Discourse,” Language and Style 20, no. 3 (1987): 230–41; E. A. Polotskaya, “Ilya Oblomov and the Superfluous Men of the 1880s and 1890s,” Scottish Slavonic Review 19 (1992): 27–37; and Exile: The Sense of Alienation in Modern Russian Letters (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1995). 63 See Nikolai Dobrolyubov, “What Is Oblomovism?” first published in the radical journal Sovremennik (“The Contemporary”) in 1859. 64 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 324. 65 Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 4. 66 Irina Shumanova, “The Magic of Watercolour,” Tretiakov Gallery Magazine 20, no. 3 (2008), accessed January 3, 2017, https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/ articles/3-2008-20/magic-watercolour. 67 The phrase was popularized by the British historian Eric Hobsbawn in The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848 (1962). Several alternative periodizations have been offered for the nineteenth century in the Western context. In 1909, Sir John Arthur Ransome Marriott espoused the idea of a short nineteenth century lasting from 1789 to 1878 in The Remaking of Modern Europe. Several scholars support a different conceptualization of the long century and use the dates 1750–1914. Just a few recent examples include Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann’s Civil Society: 1750–1914 (2006) and Andrew and Lynn Hollen Lees’s Cities and the Making of Modern Europe, 1750–1914 (2007). 68 Studies in English focusing on the nineteenth century in Russia tend to be organized along three standard systems of chronological demarcation. The most common is simply by general century, usually keeping the eighteenth and


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nineteenth centuries firmly separate. Volumes utilizing this periodization include: Marc Raeff ’s Origins of the Russian Intelligentsia: The Eighteenth-Century Nobility (1966) and Wendy Rosslyn’s Women and Gender in Eighteenth-Century Russia (2003). The second primary method for periodization involves works which cluster around the idea of Imperial Russia as an era unto itself. Notable studies in this category include Elise Wirtschafter’s Social Identity in Imperial Russia (1997) and Richard Wortman’s Scenarios of Power (2006). The final prominent category does entail utilizing specific dates similar to those in my periodization, but the range of dates proposed for Russia is stark. Several important volumes take 1762 as their starting point, although they usually designate different end points. Likewise, a number of scholarly studies choose 1825 as their end point, but often begin significantly earlier than 1762 in their assessment. A periodization which seems to be coming strongly to the fore centers on the Manifesto on the Freedom of the Nobility, enacted by Tsar Peter III in 1762 and the Decembrist uprising in 1825. Works centered on this periodization include Janet Hartley’s Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People (2008) and the anthology The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825: Public Role and Subjective Self, eds. Andreas Schönle, Andrei Zorin and Alexei Evstratov (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016). For more on the problems of periodization in Russian history, see my review of the last work for H-Net Reviews: https://networks.h-net.org/node/166842/ reviews/1853887/leigh-scho%CC%88nle-and-zorin-and-evstratov-europeanizedelite-russia-1762. 69 Connell, Masculinities, 86. 70 The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825: Public Role and Subjective Self (2016), 14. 71 Clifford Geertz, Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology, 2nd ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2000), xi. 72 Ibid., xi. 73 Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West, 18. 74 Brod, The Making of Masculinities, 7–8. 75 Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West, 22. 76 Tim Carrigan, Bob Connell, and John Lee, “Towards a New Sociology of Masculinity,” Theory and Society 14, no. 5 (September 1985): 591. 77 A recent article in the New York Times puts the issues surrounding the assessment of an artist’s work in the context of the recent surge of sexual harassment accusations. It cites several scholars and critics who believe that art and life should be kept separate. But separating the art from the artist not only distorts our picture of the work under investigation, it often implicitly sanctions abusive behavior. See Amanda Hess, “How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women,” New York Times, November 10, 2017, C1.

Part One

Autocratic Masculinity



Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, and Sons You are our everything: as a Russian, as a nursling, as an artist, as an articulation, as a comrade. We welcome you with open arms. Speech given in honor of Karl Briullov, delivered June 11, 18361 Sometime between 1813 and 1816, in the years immediately following the defeat of Napoleon, a boy named Karl Briullov made his first self-portrait [Figure 1.1]. In it, he looks intensely at something over his left shoulder; his eyes are wide and bright at the sight of it. His jacket is buttoned up and the cravat underneath it is carefully wound, the dark fabric neatly tucked beneath the rigid collar. His shoulders are slightly hunched, and the faintest outline of a hand appears tucked inside his jacket. Above all this, the artist carefully delineated his own facial features with light pencil strokes. He lit his own visage brightly, almost artificially, with only the faintest of shadows cast under the right eye and the bottom lip. The focus is clearly on the face, and despite the sharp three-quarter profile, the far eye is not lost, nor is it shadowed. Instead his averted gaze reads as purposeful and brightly confident. The firmness of the jaw, the aquiline tip of the nose, the sweep of the hair—all hint at the budding personality of a young man already wielding considerable artistic talent. Briullov was between fourteen and seventeen years old when he made this small self-portrait and he came from a long line of artists. His great-grandfather Georges had been a modeler in the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, his grandfather Ivan had worked as a sculptor, and his own father, Pavel, was an engraver and woodcarver who had served for a time as a professor at the Imperial Academy of Arts.2 Briullov was expected to continue in these men’s footsteps and by the age of ten, he had already begun studying at the preparatory school of the Academy in St. Petersburg.3 His older brothers Fëdor and Alexander had also begun studying there a few years before. After six years in this school,


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 1.1  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1813–16; pencil on paper, 21.8 × 16.9 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.

all three were admitted into the Academy proper, where a further six years of intense work awaited them.4 Students attending the institution in these same years attested to the brothers’ attachment to one another; they also described Karl as exceptionally talented.5 He used the drawing skills imparted to him by his father, which exceeded those in his age group, to help his fellow students with their sketch assignments—if they could pay the price of “rolls and other foods” which he required.6 The Academy of Arts had opened in St. Petersburg in 1758 and by the beginning of the nineteenth century had become the preeminent training ground and arbiter of artistic taste in Russia. In the time of Catherine the Great, the institution became the only art academy in Europe to have its own boarding school. The hope was that young men brought up in isolation from

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


their potentially ignorant families would become ideal citizens as a result of the enlightened education they received in the seclusion of the Academy’s walls. Most boys originally entered the school at the age of five or six, where they remained for nine years before being admitted to the Academy proper for another six years. From 1802, the age of entrance was changed such that students were admitted at the age of eight or nine. Thus, young men in the nineteenth century would ultimately study, as Briullov and his brothers did, for a total of twelve years. Throughout this era, the desire to transform boys into ideal citizens via an education in art remained one of the core values of the institution.7 While attending the school, boys wore a series of specific uniforms which designated where they were in their training and Briullov wears one of these uniforms in his self-portrait. The required garb included everything from shoes to undergarments and one was expected to maintain all these items with absolute precision. Rosalind Blakesley describes the rigor of life for students in the early days of the Academy in stark detail: Each boy was expected to devote himself to his moral and artistic education … Discipline was harsh, corporal punishment rife and … the student dropout rate was high—above fifty per cent in one period of twenty-seven years. From 1774 to 1783, seventy-three of the 380 students in the boarding school even died, possibly as a result of the alarming notion circulating in an Academy of Sciences publication that children from the age of six or seven should not be warmly dressed, “for in this way little by little from earliest years they learn to bear extreme cold.” … From 1788, when the Academy’s new building opened on the Neva embankment, students would sleep cheek by jowl in spartan dormitories on the top floor. Shivering in the winter or sweltering in the summer heat, they would rise at five o’clock in the morning, don the uniform appropriate to their stage of education and gather for prayer half an hour later.8

All this provides insight into how the institution sought to instill a moral education in the young men it housed under its roof, one that went hand in hand with a rigorous artistic training. Schools like this in the first half of the century were concerned above all with the dissemination of social duty and they provided strict models for the behavior of boys in their care. The pattern was set by treatises like The Honorable Mirror of Youth, the first part of which was aimed at young men. Instructions included practical prescriptions—one should stand up straight, not interrupt, be respectful toward one’s parents.9 Behavior manuals focused on male youths were also particularly preoccupied with giving instructions on how to act when mingling with those further up the


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social scale. The emphasis was continually on obedience and respect, as well as on the utter regulation of one’s emotions. Men were to demonstrate external self-control at all times, and yet also be brave and assertive when necessary. This led to something of a contradiction: “On the one hand, the ideal young man was self-restrained, modest, and malleable; on the other hand, he was eloquent, assertive through manipulation … and not unduly modest.”10 Such incongruous prescriptions for masculine behavior resulted in tension for young men like Briullov. When was it proper to be firm-willed and when should a man be obsequious? These dueling attributes seem to subtly clash in the self-portrait the artist made while still a student at the Academy. He is both assertive and modest in the drawing; his gaze is a sign of nascent confidence and control, but the averted eyes demonstrate restraint and obedience. This chapter will utilize the self-portraits Briullov made over his lifetime, as well as his letters and the reminiscences of his contemporaries, to explore the competing ideals for masculinity which rose to the fore in the period. Patriarchal male roles were key to the constitution of manhood in this moment and Briullov provides a fascinating case for investigating the evolving positions men occupied over the course of their lives as sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. Masculinity was to a large degree constituted through such close familial relationships with other men throughout one’s life, but the expectations these bonds entailed would come to clash as Briullov sought a place for himself as a man and as an artist in the world. In the end, the teenage boy in the little self-portrait would go on to achieve more professional success than any other artist in his generation. Lauded in both Russia and abroad, he became known as the “great Karl” for a singular masterpiece he completed between 1830 and 1833.11 Yet the magnitude of Briullov’s reputation has to a large extent blinded scholars to certain peculiar aspects of his masculine identity. For all his professional attainment, Briullov was in several ways a failure as a man according to the strictures of the time. He ultimately did not follow the traditional life pattern common for men in that he never fathered children of his own, but his artistic abilities allowed him to evade such expectations by adopting the paternal role of mentor to a bevy of students. Throughout his life, he continued to draw and paint himself, as well as many of those men closest to him—including some of the most notable playboys, princes, and artistic figures of his generation—all of which allow us to assess new aspects of masculinity as they rose to the fore during Tsar Nicholas I’s reign.

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


Fathers The rigorous education Briullov received at the Academy of Arts was not the only influence on the man he would eventually become. By all accounts, his father was also a domineering presence throughout his childhood. Alexandre Benois tells us: “Without taking pity on the boy, he forced little Karl to an unremitting study of nature, and punished him severely for laziness or blunders.”12 Other sources tell us that as a child Briullov was not allowed breakfast until he had completed a copy of a designated engraving or a certain number of figures or animal studies.13 His father was once so displeased by a copy of a Velazquez that he made the boy repeat the drawing twelve times before he was satisfied.14 Little affection was shown to young Karl, he said many years later that his father “in all his life kissed me just once, when I boarded the stagecoach to go abroad.”15 Several sources also report a slap Karl once received from his father that he found hard to forget; the blow left him partially deaf in his left ear for the rest of his life.16 Such severe discipline on the part of fathers was not unusual at the time and was supported by various institutions in Russia—from the patriarchal values of the Orthodox Church and the government itself, to behavior manuals and domestic handbooks. The late eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century saw a surge in treatises on conduct, which according to Catriona Kelly were “instrumental in shaping the ‘conscious’ assimilation of behavior patterns in Russia.”17 Surviving copies of manuals like Friendly Advice to a Young Man Beginning to Live in the World (1765), On the Duties of Man and Citizen (1783), and Pavel Voloshinov’s A Father’s Letters to His Son upon the Nature of a Life Distinguished by Virtue and Free of Mischief (1810) show heavy underlining and marginal notes, indicating that they were not only read, but annotated such that their prescriptions might be followed. Texts like these contributed to a civilizing process that had been in place since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Tsar Peter I’s reign was characterized by a wholesale effort at Westernizing Russia, which included compelling the nobility to adopt European styles of dress and comportment. The ruler sponsored the publication of a treatise on polite behavior titled The Honorable Mirror of Youth (1717), which became a landmark text of the time. Yet even before Peter the Great’s modernizing reign, texts like the sixteenthcentury Domostroi (literally, “household order”) reinforced that fathers and husbands were to rule in their households both as spiritual guides and as


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disciplinarians. The Domostroi makes clear that “the husband should punish his wife. Beat her when you are alone together; then forgive her and remonstrate with her.”18 More terrifyingly, the treatise makes qualified suggestions for beating one’s wife even when she is expecting a child: “With pregnant women or children, damage to the stomach could result, so beat them only with the lash, in a careful and controlled way, albeit painfully and fearsomely.”19 A notable section in the Domostroi entitled “How to Teach Children and Save Them with Fear” includes quotations from the Bible. It seems Pavel Briullov, and many fathers like him, took religious exhortations reinforced by state ideology like these to heart: Have you sons? Discipline them and break them in from their earliest years. [Ecclesiasticus 7:24] A man who loves his son will whip him often so that when he grows up he may be a joy to him. [Ecclesiasticus 30:1-3] Do not give him freedom while he is young or overlook his errors. Break him in while he is young, beat him soundly while he is still a child … [Ecclesiasticus 30:9]20

Such behavior lasted well into the nineteenth century; in fact it was not until the reforms of the 1860s that women abused by their husbands could hope for redress by appealing to the courts.21 Scholars writing on Russia have tended to focus more on physical punishments meted out by husbands against their wives than on such behavior toward sons, although recent work has begun to look at domestic violence in these early periods as it cuts across gender and class lines.22 Among the peasantry, male physical dominance was considered part of the natural order and was seen as a reflection of the tsar’s authority over his citizenry. For this reason, the state increasingly supported the patriarchal authority of fathers in their own homes and entrenched these values through the establishment of an ideological doctrine known as “Official Nationality”—a system which emphasized the people’s devotion to God and the tsar. Educational institutions were seen as key for disseminating this dogma and government officials like Sergei Uvarov, the Minister of Education under Nicholas I, took an active role in its propagation. A circular which he issued in April of 1833 made the importance of these ideals clear: “Our common obligation consists in this, that the education of the people be conducted … in the joint spirit of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality.”23

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


The State was seen in this capacity as a complement to the general function of the family. Both were key in instilling concepts of duty and obligation in sons and each had to be knitted firmly with the values of the Church. Thus, obedience to God, emperor, and father was inextricably bound in the period and supported by larger state apparatuses. And these ideas became fastened to patriarchal notions which had even older roots in Russian culture, namely the sense among the lower classes that because God gave husbands superior physical strength, they possessed the right to authority over women.24 This frequently extended to sons as well, and sometimes to apprentices in shops and factories as the century progressed.25 Numerous court records exist that show the range of abuses that took place among the peasantry as well as between estate owners and their serfs.26 Laura Engelstein has shown how “popular attitudes did not favor women in cases of physical abuse. Since beating was considered a husband’s prerogative, township courts settled such complaints in their own way, usually with leniency toward the man, rather than referring them to the regular courts.”27 Even among the upper classes, fathers were frequently strict and often distant disciplinarians. The famous poet, Alexander Pushkin, owned some of the behavior books which emerged in the 1830s and, according to his sister Olga, he was a strict disciplinarian: “Alexander thrashes his little boy, who’s only two, and he beats Masha as well; but however, he’s a tender enough father.”28 More common among noble patriarchs like Pushkin was a firm, albeit detached, control over children. Most men of his class received a military-style education and this often led them to treat their children as though they were subordinates in need of the rigidity of a hierarchical social order. In her memoirs, the revolutionary activist Vera Figner recalls: “Unconditional obedience and crushing discipline was our father’s motto … We had to get up and go to bed at a definite time, we were always dressed in the same clothing as if it were a uniform, and we always combed our hair in the same way.”29 By the 1880s criticism of such socially accepted violence in domestic relations could be found in journals and newspapers. N. Lazovskii published an article in the journal of the Moscow Juridical Society in 1883 which summed up the matter and called for serious reform: Among the peasantry the arbitrary exercise of power [proizvol] and the habit of taking the law into one’s own hands [svoevolie] are more visible, since they are expressed in more tangible form in the physical suffering of the wife from her husband’s blows … Among the upper social classes imposition of the husband’s will is already more or less concealed, often almost indiscernible to the outsider’s


Picturing Russia’s Men eye … There is no recourse to the courts in such cases, since existing law does not touch on the question.30

Unfortunately, calls for reform like this one did not reach a level of critical urgency in Briullov’s time. Taken as a whole, such data show that Russian domestic culture before midcentury was characterized by what the sociologist Raewyn Connell has called “hegemonic masculinity” in the context of contemporary societies.31 This concept entails the means by which subordinate males within a given group are disciplined in order to maintain gender norms.32 As Mike Donaldson explains, masculinist sexual ideology is “a lived experience, and an economic and cultural force, and dependent on social arrangements. It is constructed through difficult negotiation over a lifetime.”33 The role of fathers within this system is, according to some scholars, of vital importance. As dominant models for a specific kind of masculine authority, fathers frequently subordinate sons through practices which sometimes include intimidation and even exploitation, thereby demonstrating what Connell has called the “gender politics within masculinity.”34 The model of hegemonic masculinity articulates how the abuse Briullov suffered at the hands of his father functioned as a result of the policing and rigid enforcement of divisions between different categories of men.35 The model also proves useful in understanding how the relationship Briullov had with his father echoed ideological doctrines like “Official Nationality” then coming to the fore in Russian culture more broadly. All of these instilled a deep sense in the young artist of his duty-bound obligation to male authority figures all around him—whether it be his father, his teachers at the Academy, Tsar Nicholas I, or God himself.

Brothers and Sons For a time, Briullov was able to move beyond this period of fatherly control when he completed his studies at the Academy in 1821. In an act of rebellion, however, he refused to study under the supervisor he was assigned when he won a major gold medal and a fully funded place at the institution for another three years. This must have been a moment when the young man felt the kind of masculine assertiveness he had learned from his father was necessary, but the authorities at the Academy thought otherwise. His scholarship was unceremoniously rescinded. Briullov could have returned to his father’s house, but he moved in with his brother Alexander, who had already graduated from the Academy’s Department of Architecture and was then working on St. Isaac’s Cathedral. For

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


two years the brothers lived a sparse existence together in a small wooden studio as Briullov sought other means to continue his studies.36 He submitted a petition to the newly formed Society for the Encouragement of Artists, a Moscowbased institution founded in 1820, requesting a travel scholarship for him and Alexander.37 When it was granted, the two brothers left for Europe in August of 1822. They traveled for eight months through Dresden, Munich, Venice, and Florence before ultimately reaching Rome on May 2, 1823.38 Arriving in the Italian capital, both young men were struck by everything they saw around them; their letters are filled with rapturous descriptions of artworks. Karl felt inspired by the Italian masterworks, but also perhaps daunted. He wrote to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists in 1824: “it is necessary to undertake the difficult … in Rome, you are ashamed to produce something ordinary.”39 He searched for the right subject, trying out biblical themes as well as sentimental genre scenes of Italian life. Finally, in 1830, after completing a massive, true-to-scale copy of Raphael’s School of Athens to send back to Russia, he embarked on the picture that was to make him famous, The Last Day of Pompeii [Plate 1.1]. The massive canvas, over twenty-one feet in width and nearly fifteen feet high, shows the terror that ensued as Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, ultimately killing thousands. The picture surges with pathos as fire and debris rain down from the sky—buildings are crumbling, molten lava spews from the volcano in the distance, horses rear in panic, priceless possessions litter the streets. Bodies twist to protect skin from the pumice showering down and thick clouds of ash swirl in the blackened sky; muscles ripple as men and women pull and grasp for one another. Despite the chaos, the picture has an internal logic that makes it utterly readable from both an emotional and narrative standpoint. Pompeii is organized primarily around familial groupings which occupy the foreground—six clusters of different traditional family configurations provide a moral grounding to the picture. On the far left, a mother crouches with her children, clinging to them as she looks skyward. Next to this group, a young mother grasps her two small offspring—one reaches for his father who has wrapped the whole group in a cloth to protect them from the hail of rubble. At their feet is a lifeless mother, whose panicked child cleaves to her body. On the right side are three more familial pairs. A young man, frozen by grief, tries desperately to keep hold of his unconscious wife or sister. Next to them a son attempts to lift his fallen mother; she gestures for him to leave her behind. The largest group, in the near foreground, shows two valiant sons carrying their aged father. The older son bears the majority of the load; he twists under the tremendous burden, every muscle and vein in his


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legs bulging with the force of the movement. His younger brother looks tenderly at the feeble patriarch whose limp legs he holds with gentle devotion. The painting is rife with filial commitment and obligation; each figure is living out his or her own crisis between duty and self-preservation. Most act selflessly, their loyalty to one another taking precedence over the ensuing panic. Yet it is significant that men are not shown as the supreme heroes of the picture. In fact, their overall futility in the face of all this mortal danger is astounding. Despite the courageous attempts to rescue or protect mothers, fathers, and wives, Briullov shows men who will be unable to save their women from the volcano’s wrath. In this sense, the picture is part of a larger trend that had begun in the second half of the eighteenth century, when French Salon painters increasingly painted fraught family relations, in particular focusing on the tension between weakened patriarchs and their honor-bound sons. Key in this regard are the works of Jacques-Louis David, who had undermined the magisterial power of patriarchs in works like Belisarius Begging for Alms (1781, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille) and The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (1789, Musée du Louvre). Old men had long held a prominent position in the Western painting tradition; whether shown as fathers, military generals, saints, or kings, all were symbols of patriarchal authority. But the revolutionary crisis in France saw an increase in pictures featuring men in states of weakness and as the social hierarchy was called into question, so were symbols of authority more generally.40 As in these works, Briullov’s painting highlights the tension surrounding what Carol Duncan has called “fallen patriarchs” and sons’ sublimated feelings of hostility toward them: The ambivalence always inherent in patriarchal relations must have been lived with more intensity and strain in the second half of the [eighteenth] century. The painting of the time strongly suggests that negative feelings pushed for greater expression and, on that account, begged to be concealed all the more. Images of sympathetic but weakened old men could perfectly express the forbidden impulses but also keep them hidden beneath conscious feelings of love and respect.41

The group of sons holding their father in Briullov’s painting highlights such ideals of traditional patriarchal morality by showing two sons fulfilling their filial duty. Their sympathy and respect for their father are palpable. So too, however, is the patriarch’s pathetic vulnerability. The old man’s baldness, his scrawny arm, the wrinkled skin at his shoulder, the shaky hand that reaches senselessly upward, his limp, dangling feet, and the way he clings feebly to his son—all emphasize unequivocally a loss of power. And all speak

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


congruently to a loss of the ideological authority that such men were to possess according to doctrines like “Official Nationality.” The aged patriarch in Briullov’s picture is not the tyrannical ruler of a household; nothing about the way he has been depicted begets the idea that he should be conflated with God or the tsar. This father is a burden, and the sons’ fulfillment of their duty toward him will ultimately prevent them from becoming husbands and fathers themselves. In this sense, Briullov’s Pompeii is at a deep level also related to French works that more explicitly show the dual pull of masculine obligation, such as Regnault’s Le Déluge (1789, Musée du Louvre) and Girodet’s Une Scène de Déluge (1806, Musée du Louvre).42 The tension between devoted obligation and oppressive encumbrance in these paintings is echoed in Briullov’s Pompeii and, in fact, mirrors Briullov’s own relationship with his father in adulthood. Only the letters sent from Karl to his father have been published, and they seem to have only ever appeared in Russian, but they reveal a man who remained forever deferential to his aging father while at the same time struggling to shoulder the burden entailed by his filial devotion. In several letters to his parents, Karl addressed his father specifically—calling to mind various instances from the past or heading off what he thought would be his father’s anger. He wrote of seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and asked if his father remembered that it was the one “which you forced me to do sometimes, with a candle through a magnifying glass.”43 He asked for his father’s patience as he recalled such memories: “You, perhaps, are getting angry that I am scribbling rubbish instead of writing about Rome … but I want to talk to you really, and not follow the common rules.”44 He also struggled to meet requests his father was sending; he knew his obligation was to make copies of the works his father wanted, yet he was overburdened with his own portrait commissions and works for the Society: No, jokes aside, papa [papen’ka]: I cannot do it for you now, I must finish my work by March, and then I must start a copy of Raphael’s School of Athens which will be about five fathoms, with about seventy figures. Once I’ve begun to do this work, I’ll have more than one chance and the time to make your desired copies.45

It must have been a difficult balance to achieve at a time when Briullov was realizing all of the prospects his time in Italy afforded. His letters show his guilt about not writing home more often. He was a notoriously bad correspondent throughout his life—almost every letter to him begins with a chastisement over how infrequently he writes, and he apologizes for it often. Nonetheless, five letters from Karl to his parents survive from the 1820s; as well as an additional three letters specifically addressed to his father alone.


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The valedictions which end these letters reveal a great deal about Karl’s lingering submissiveness to his father even as he had established a life of his own. Every complimentary close contained some permutation of “your son Karl” in it and he consistently used the formal version of “your” in Russian—vash—never the familiar version of the word—tvoi. The emphasis is continually placed on his dutifulness and his affection. These are typical examples of Karl’s valedictions from 1823 to 1825: Your obedient son [pokornyi syn vash], Karl Briullov.46 Your truly obedient and your ever-loving son, Karl Briullov.47 I remain your loving son, brother, friend Karl Briullov.48

This stands somewhat apart from the informality and tenderness with which Karl frequently addressed his father in many of his other letters. In the salutations and in the bodies of these texts, Karl refers to his father alternatively as papen’ka or batiushka, largely with equal frequency. Russian, like English, has a range of words to denote a father, all of which inscribe a certain level of familiarity and, again as in English, often indicate the age of the speaker. The word batiushka is a largely obsolete form that is essentially the same as “father” in English.49 The other word, papen’ka, is the close equivalent of “papa” or “daddy” in English; it is a very affectionate or deferential designation for a father, even more so than the Russian papa, which is similar to “dad” in English. Papen’ka is also heavily associated with children’s speech, much like its equivalent in English.50 It seems worth noting that a contemporary of Briullov, the artist Alexander Ivanov, who is the subject of Chapter 3, conducted a much more voluminous correspondence, but he never uses the word papen’ka when addressing his father. So Karl is, as man in his mid-twenties, still deeply attached to his father in an almost childlike way and he is endlessly deferential, almost fearful in his obsequiousness. One letter Briullov sent to his father in 1826 is particularly revealing in this regard and is worth quoting at length: Dear father [batiushka]! My tears and frustration multiplied by reading the last lines of your letter, in which you write, according to Alexander Ton, that I do not find it necessary to write, because no one writes to me … One thing calms me down and it is that you know how much we are attached to and respect our parents; you, my dear father, and my late mother were able to instill this into us forever. If I do not write more often, it is not for the same reasons you wrote of. You cannot imagine my disappointment when I found out that you sent a letter to my brother in Naples before it was delivered to Rome. Do I not have the same right to receive such a pleasure? I’m not saying this so much to you, dear father,

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


but saying it to my brothers and sisters; I will not forgive them unless they write more and very often. I beg you, dear father, to explain to them what pleasure a man who is distant from his family feels when he receives a letter which includes just one address of “dear brother.” Perhaps, your admonition to them will reap some effect and I will have the means at times to be calm and forget for a while the boredom that burdens me completely. I must also ask you, dear father, to ask Pëtr Andreevich Kikin to take the trouble to forward with the first courier some item of commemoration that belonged to our dear mother: either a ring or something of hers that she left behind, something which can make me happy in the present situation … I am very sure, father, that you have come through (the loss of our mother) with the hardness [tverdost’iu] intrinsic to your experiences, but do not deceive yourself into believing you are alright: give the will of your sorrow freedom and let it dissipate in the circle of your loving family. I dare to advise you in this way only because I hope to hear soon that you are alright. Take care of yourself for your children, who love you inwardly—you have never seen external signs of affection from me, but you can be absolutely certain that you know well the heart of your son Karl.

This letter is thick with Briullov’s attachment to both of his parents; he was obviously suffering at the loss of his mother, who passed in December of 1825. He also revealed a certain jealousy toward his brother and a competition the two seem to have had over the affections of their father. Apparent in this letter as well was Briullov’s loneliness, exacerbated it seems by his longing for affection from home. Yet there remains something of a lingering fear of his father in this letter (though perhaps fear is too strong a word); it is there in the care with which he addressed him over and over as “dear father [liubeznyi batiushka]”, in the way he broached requests carefully, and in his confession that he has only “dared” to advise his father about his grief because he cares about him. The admission with which he closes—that he has never shown “external signs of affection”—is tragic in mirroring the way he described his father’s lack of physical tenderness: “[my father] kissed me all my life only once, when I boarded the stagecoach to go abroad.” So, was Briullov thinking of his father when he painted Pompeii? Perhaps. He was, in the years he painted it, very much alone. His brother, Alexander, had several years before gone to Naples for what was initially supposed to be the summer, but he ultimately never returned. His sibling traveled to Paris and then back home to Russia, where he married in 1831. Briullov lost his younger brother Pavel in 1824, and then his mother the following year. And Briullov cut off ties with the Society for the Encouragement of Artists dramatically in May of 1829. After not receiving his stipend from the organization for two years and


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repeatedly hearing rumors that they were dissatisfied with him, he sent back their money when it finally arrived and struck out completely on his own. It seems Karl did not write to his father or his brothers in these years, but his brother did write to him. Alexander chastised Karl in 1829 for not writing for nearly two years. He was incredulous over his brother’s behavior: What makes you forget all your responsibilities? I hope that it is not, as they say, that your heart has become numb. Do not be angry and do not laugh, I am telling you how I feel, and I’m sure that it will not be incomprehensible to you, if you forget even for a minute your ego [samoliubie], if you allow me to speak my mind.51

According to Alexander, Karl was failing as a son and as a sibling. It was one of their “responsibilities” to maintain correspondence, and by not writing, Karl was not fulfilling one of his filial duties. A letter from 1833 indicates that Karl knew as well that his father was increasingly ill (with what would prove to be throat cancer), thus his failure to write was that much more of an egregious violation of masculine norms.52 His father ultimately died in January of 1833. The guilt must have weighed heavily on Karl as he was trying to complete Pompeii. It is significant too then, that in this period of his life—when he had finally struck out on his own, when he was no longer indebted to the Society, when he was without his older brother watching over him in Rome, when he had nearly stopped writing home—that Briullov made more painted self-portraits than at any other time in his life. Only three self-portraits have survived from the first twentyfive years of his life; maybe he only made these three.53 Around 1830, however, something shifted for the artist. Some eight definitive self-portraits exist from just the years between 1830 and 1835—four watercolors and four in oil.54 Of all these only one is conclusively finished, and it is not a stand-alone portrait, but nestled in the monumental Pompeii painting [Figure 1.2]. Briullov placed himself in the upper left register and he is shown distinctively as an artist, with a box of painter’s tools precariously balanced on his head. He is surrounded by a number of figures—two terrified women flank him on either side and, beyond them, several muscled men bend forward as they attempt to shield themselves from the debris raining from the volcano above. Briullov is both utterly a part of the larger scene and distinct from it. He does not cling to or gaze at anyone near him; he does not even seem to notice them. Instead, he looks toward the fire and lightning erupting above with a unique intensity. Whereas so many relationships are made clear in the work, so many figures are part of familial clusters that ring with narrative clarity, the artist in the scene is dislocated from those around him.

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


Figure 1.2  Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (detail), 1830–3; oil on canvas, 456.5 × 651 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

He is, above all, simply a man and his paints. He does not strive to rescue a father or wife or son, instead he just watches. The direction of his gaze and the turn of his head echo the self-portrait in pencil from his youth [Figure 1.1]. That little boy is now this man; the Academy uniform which once identified him as an art student has been replaced by the tools which identify his trade—brushes, pots, paints—all lovingly rendered above the fray of the crowd. Karl’s close friend and a fellow painter, Prince Grigorii Gagarin, noted the distinctiveness of the self-portrait within the overall composition: “a painter with a box of colors, oblivious and absorbed completely in the extraordinary spectacle before him; he represents the true nature of the artist and in addition is a portrait of the author of the picture.”55 Gagarin also noted the importance of the familial groupings throughout the work and their significance to the picture as a whole; he believed that filial love and maternal self-denial were at the heart of the “vast composition, so rich in expressive episodes.”56 Yet Briullov renders himself outside these responsibilities. He is, in this picture, not a son or a father or a husband—he is an artist and his obligation is only to capturing the scene. There is almost an enmity to the way Briullov depicts himself outside the familial groupings; he is above the fray; unique amidst its chaos. He depicts himself with


Picturing Russia’s Men

sharp clarity as well, notwithstanding how far in the background he is—each detail of his face and hair is readable despite the distance. He is shown here much as he was affectionately described by his contemporaries, who often focused on the beauty of his face and hair, the intensity of his gaze, and his virile physique: Just as though he is before me now, I can see Karl Pavlovich, a man of short stature overall, but with a broad chest. The general outline of his head resembled an antique, with curly light-colored hair. He had blue-gray eyes that were constantly turned upward, they expressed inspiration.57 His hair was blond and curly, beautiful rings surrounded his face … the eyes and eyebrows gave an extraordinary expression to the whole face. It’s hard to believe blue eyes could possess such a sharp and profound gaze. Sparks seemed to pour out of them when he spoke …58 He was not very tall but he possessed an athletic form: a broad and heavy chest, powerful shoulders finely formed at the extremities—not to mention his beautiful head … he involuntarily attracted the attention of everyone … He had these finely drawn lips, which, when he spoke, made graceful lines. I have never seen a man’s face more beautiful than his …59

Time and again, Briullov would highlight these same features in his selfportraits. But his representation in the Pompeii picture is unique in that it was one of the only times Briullov figured himself specifically as an artist. One other selfportrait does show him with the tools of his trade, but it is a rare instance both at the time and after [Figure 1.3]. Again, he shows himself as those acquaintances had described him—fair curls, piercing blue-gray eyes, gracefully curved lips. He is well dressed; one might note the carefully tied cravat pulled high up under the chin and the crisp, white collar points which frame his Apollonian face. He depicts himself in this instance much as he did other notable men in portraits at the time—only the hunch of the shoulders and the concentration of the gaze out of the picture mark this work as qualitatively different. Most often in these years, Briullov figured himself as all fashionable gentleman, without signs of his work as an artist. His unfinished self-portrait for the Uffizi Gallery is a prime example, as is a more obviously incomplete oil portrait from 1830 to 1833 which was only recently re-discovered and remains in a private collection [Plate 1.2].60 The portrait originally intended for the Uffizi shows the distance Briullov had traversed in terms of painterly skill. His hair now has weight and density—the thick curl on the left side of his face casts a shadow that aligns with his cheekbone, as do the ringlets across his forehead, each emphasizing the

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


Figure 1.3  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1830–3 (unfinished); watercolor and pencil on paper, 15 × 14.5 cm., The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

architecture of the young man’s face. Briullov is now thirty-four years old and he is shown correspondingly plumper, with the hollows under his eyes having begun to deepen. The range of tones in the skin also seems to highlight a man at the midpoint of his life—the forehead is a tour de force of intersecting greens and oranges, all mapped over mustard-hued peaches and dabbled with highlights of lead white.61 This is Briullov trying on the romantic portraiture mode to be sure, but it is also more than that. While the artist seems able to bring the work to a state of completion, even this work was to remain unfinished. A resolved image of himself eluded Briullov in these years and what became increasingly missing from the artist’s representations was a fully inhabited corporeal sensibility. His body is largely absent from every work—even in the most realized and recognizable of his self-portraits in Pompeii. In that work, he is entirely constituted by his gaze. The body is hidden beneath an abundance of other bodies feeling and contorting and emoting all around him. The same would be true in another self-portrait study in watercolor he made between


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1830 and 1833. In it, only the faintest of lines delineates his barely visible body [Figure 1.4]. His head—and that same mop of curly blond hair—is fully realized, brought about with a tremendous sense of presence and vitality. The gaze, likewise, pierces out from the creamy page, creating what the art historian Anthea Callen has called, in another context, an “immediacy of engagement.”62 Yet the body’s lack of substantive vivacity undermines such presence and corporeality. What ground Briullov achieved through the spontaneity of watercolor was lost as the form he was constituting dissolved. In all these works, his body seems not real, even to him. Instead, what is made tangible is the sensation of seeing itself. These depictions show a man in formation, a man torn between various roles—son, brother, artist, man. They portray someone finding himself, both within the ideologically prescribed roles for young men and in a way that

Figure 1.4  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1830–3 (unfinished); watercolor and pencil on paper, 26.5 × 22.5 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


resides firmly and antagonistically outside them. Briullov had been for many years beholden to the duties inherent in being a son and brother. His father, as patriarch of a great family of artists, had tried to assure a continuity between the generations by instilling in Karl a work ethic and a devotion to art. In the Briullov household, Pavel played the part of a stern tyrant, and his sons were not just to become decorous men, but, perhaps more importantly, supreme artists. Even outside his father’s household, Karl had remained under the wing of his older brothers at the Academy. The bonds of brotherhood (or pseudofatherhood) in fact grew so strong that Karl took one of his brothers with him to Italy. In the wake of that brother’s departure and his mother’s death, however, Briullov seems to have found a new autonomy and authority, and he found it through his painting practice. His work became the excuse for why he could not write home, why he could not fulfill his father’s requests; it came to occupy a place that substituted for family, that superseded the bonds of men. So why did all these self-portraits remain unfinished? What was it about establishing his identity as a man apart from the typical obligations of family that proved so difficult for Briullov? Works like Pompeii show him straining under the weight of traditional patriarchal structures—sons must rescue fathers; husbands must cling to wives—but Briullov had neither. In this painting, by showing himself as an artist and as autonomous from the ideological controls to which so many subscribed, Briullov simultaneously upheld and opposed patriarchal norms. Neither stance was ever quite successful. Every self-portrait in this period was an attempt, through the rigors of rendering, to bring about a new sense of his own essential being, one still marked by a kind of virility that would read as indisputably masculine, if only as a result of the art itself. Each work was an attempt to answer questions of self-possession in a different way, with never a diminishment in intensity, yet also never with lasting resolution. The art historian Galina Leonteva claims that Briullov was, in this time after the completion of Pompeii: “depressed and exhausted … for the first time in his life he was in a period of physical and spiritual depression.”63 There are no published letters from this time—Briullov sent his last letter in 1831 and records do not show him resuming correspondence again until 1841. According to Leonteva, the artist made valiant efforts to overcome his depression, but it became increasingly difficult for him to work. Luckily, friends intervened. He set off on a trip to Turkey and Greece in 1835, but then fell ill with a tropical fever in Athens and the expedition ended for him there.64 It did not matter though—the artist had already been called back to Russia by the most supreme of patriarchs, Tsar Nicholas I.65 What he found in returning home would be the resolution he


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had been seeking; Briullov would find replacements for fatherhood that allowed him to reestablish his masculinity back on his native soil.

Husbands After thirteen years away from his homeland, Briullov arrived in Moscow on Christmas Day of 1835.66 The Last Day of Pompeii had been a success in Italy and had earned him a gold medal in the Paris Salon of 1834. The picture would skyrocket his reputation in Russia and he was heavily lauded upon his return. Rosalind Blakesley describes the celebrations that ensued: “a riotous gala reception was held in his honor at the Academy, complete with choir and brass band. Crowned with a laurel wreath, Briullov found himself feted in hearty, bibulous speeches, basking in astonished delight at all the pageantry.”67 The conference secretary of the Academy of Arts delivered a speech at a reception held in Briullov’s honor: You are ours in everything: as a Russian, as a nursling, as an artist, as a member, as a comrade. We welcome you with open arms. Embrace your friends as the admirers of your great talent. On this day, the most beautiful for you and for us, let there be a pledge of love, harmony and the unanimous desire of all Russian artists towards one goal alone: excellence in the name of the fatherland and prosperity for the Russian school of art.68

The Russian literary critic and philosopher Vissarion Belinskii highlighted the attachment that formed in these years between Briullov and Russia by writing of him as “our genius artist.”69 Ivan Turgenev would also write of the painter in similar terms, underscoring the idea of Briullov as the pride of the nation by calling him “the glory of Russia.”70 By 1847 the connection was firmly set: “Briullov belongs to all of us, he belongs to our generation, and he belongs to the pride of our century.”71 He must have been one of the most eligible bachelors of the time. Handsome, successful, highly employed, never married, the “glory of the fatherland”— one can imagine the talk among ladies in the salons. Various anecdotes and reminiscences paint a picture of a man who had romantic liaisons with women throughout his life. There had been a scandal in Rome in 1827, when a young woman threw herself into the Tiber from a bridge because of him, taking her own life in the process.72 Details are scant, but the artist’s close friend Gagarin recalled the event in his reminiscences and described the devastating effect it had on Briullov’s reputation. Held to be the culprit in public opinion, the artist

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took Gagarin up on his offer to spend time away from Rome for the summer so that he might restore his “shocked soul.”73 Some scholars also believe Briullov had an affair with the Countess Iulia Samoilova, but firm evidence is scant.74 Described by a poet in her lifetime as the “blazing young colt of the icy steppes,” Samoilova was a woman of astounding wealth, a profligate spendthrift and free spirit; she engaged in stormy affairs throughout her life despite being married three times.75 Her behavior made her the victim of Nicholas I’s disapproval in the 1820s and she was forced to leave Russia, settling in a villa near Milan, where she met Briullov in 1827.76 The two never publicly acknowledged their relationship, doing so would have been out of the question since Samoilova was of the nobility, but the artist painted several portraits of her—and he included her likeness in the figure immediately next to his own in Pompeii.77 No surviving letters have been published from Briullov to Samoilova, yet we know she wrote to him (calling him her “precious Brishka”) and described her devotion: “I love you more than I can say, I embrace you and will remain true to you unto the grave. Tell me where you are living and who you love. I kiss you and will write to you often, for it is happiness for me even to talk with you by pen.”78 Other women wrote to Briullov affectionately throughout his life. A letter from Iulia Zhadovskaia includes a poem she wrote for him. The concluding lines spill over with almost orgasmic praise for the artist: He is full of miraculous holy power, He is a full of vivid luminous inspiration. I stood before him in speechless tenderness. In vain I searched for words and speech: I could only repeat: Briullov! Briullov!79

Another letter concludes with begging for a keepsake so that she might feel closer to him: “Help me in my illness, send me something from your workshop, anything: a piece of a brush that was in your hands, a shred of paper with a pencil line drawn by you.”80 Similarly, it was reported that the wealthy Marquess of ViscontiAragon had a relationship with Briullov. He gave her a watercolor portrait that she declared she would not sell for anything in the world. She claimed that in her lifetime she had only ever loved two men—Briullov and the man she married.81 Details like these reveal how central the perception of women was to the constitution of one’s manliness in nineteenth-century Russia. Ideals of behavior for women in this era are perhaps more well-known; women were to be above all moral and honorable—devoted to their children, submissive to their husband,


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and effective administrators of their households. But these ideals depended on men to fulfill certain archetypes in their roles as paterfamilias.82 Women could not be submissive wives if they did not have a rational, self-reliant, and judicious husband to whom they could subordinate themselves. Therefore, the effective performance of masculine qualities in relation to women loomed large in the period. As Barbara Evans Clements writes: Never had the importance of women to the demonstration of manliness been greater than in the nineteenth century, when democratic values and migration to the cities weakened the social power of traditional affiliations such as kinship and dependencies on class superiors. The growing significance of women, or at least of wives and daughters, to men’s sense of achievement may explain, in part, the arrival of a “crisis of masculinity” toward the end of the nineteenth century.83

In this sense, Briullov’s love affairs would have allowed him to achieve a certain level of success at fulfilling the ideals for masculine comportment and character at the time, yet he failed in perhaps the most significant regard. By never becoming a successful husband or father, Briullov remained forever outside the scheme for ideal manhood that characterized his time. The artist’s one attempt at marriage proved a complete disaster. He married a woman named Emilia Timm around 1839, but the marriage was dissolved within two months.84 Contemporary sources reveal the marriage may in fact have lasted only two weeks. M. Melikov describes a “quarrel [razmolvka] with his wife from the first days of their marriage” which resulted in its dissolution shortly after.85 While further details are scant, Briullov’s failure to resolve a “quarrel” with his new wife entailed a primal loss of his masculine power. And indeed, Briullov seems to have been, according to contemporaries, inconsolable after the break: The wife of Baron P. K. Klodt, whom Briullov very much loved and respected, told me that Karl often went upstairs to the mezzanine to see her children and cried there like a baby. Briullov visited Baron Klodt’s house almost daily and was spending more time with the children, drawing them for whole days on end in different historical scenes and events. When he was told that he was too secluded from the world, Briullov said bitterly: “I cannot leave the house: they will point at me with their fingers.”86

Briullov’s despair is revealing here. It is difficult to tell what he was more upset about—the dissolution of the marriage or the way others talked about it. His desire to seclude himself from the harsh judgments of society exposes the specific anguish he felt over his damaged reputation. In this regard, it is key

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


that the constitution of ideal masculinity in the nineteenth century was not established through men’s relationships to women alone, but perhaps even more importantly, through the judgments of other men. To prove himself, Briullov had not only to demonstrate that he possessed the required masculine virtues to women, he had to win the acceptance of his male peers. His fear that members of society “will point at me with their fingers” uncovers a deep-seated desire for admission into the masculine collective—and a recognition of his failure to act in such a way that he would gain this status. It could not have been helpful then that his brother Alexander had been happily married for almost ten years. To add insult to injury, that same brother also had three children by 1839 and he would ultimately have a total of nine before his death in 1877. Briullov never had any.

“Father in Art” Fortunately for Briullov, the nineteenth century saw a rise in the value of work as a means of proving one’s masculinity. John Tosh has written on the subject in the British context but similar values hold true for Russia as well: “The idea that what a man did in his working life was an authentic expression of his individuality was one of the most characteristic—and enduring—features of middle class masculinity.”87 Productive work proved somewhat difficult for Briullov in the last decade of his life, however. He was never again able to finish historical works on the scale of Pompeii. A painting he had long been planning on a subject from Russian history never made it past the most initial stages on canvas. As an alternative, he became almost exclusively devoted to portraits and he developed a mastery of this medium. He also took on a large and consistently growing group of devoted students. According to the writer Dmitrii Grigorovich, who was also the son of the Conference Secretary of the Academy of Arts in Briullov’s time: “all the ‘academists’, young and old, were burning with desire to become Briullov’s pupils.”88 As we will see in the next chapter, Pavel Fedotov was part of this contingency, as was the genre painter Aleksei Tyranov, the portraitist Iakov Kapkov, and the landscapist Vasilii Raev.89 Alexandre Benois described Briullov as occupying a “kingly role” as a result of this “intoxicating cult formed by his pupils and other artists.”90 Contemporaries described how the best students were introduced to Briullov; he would shake hands with them and caress them affectionately, answering endless questions and advising them on their work.91


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Apparently, he especially liked to talk with students in front of their paintings, so that he might better explain the technical aspects of painting.92 Conversations would often range to other topics, sometimes outside of art. According to Apollon Mokritskii, Briullov “liked to talk about everything” and kept a wellstocked library with volumes ranging from ancient and modern history to novels, natural history volumes, and works on physics.93 Students could come to Briullov at any time and he would examine their work and give them guidance, explaining “everything with love.”94 Fëdor Solntsev described the artist as indulgent toward his students, he would never speak ill of their work, yet he still managed to give a full evaluation.95 Thus, despite his inability to foster proper family ties by becoming a husband and father, Briullov was able to find another alternative, one that did establish his masculinity in a socially acceptable role. And note how different a teacher Briullov was compared to his father! Where Pavel had been a strict and unforgiving master, quick to point out his son’s faults and make him repeat a work until he deemed it correct, Karl nourished his students with kindness and affection. Briullov did not leave writings in which he describes a feeling of paternity toward his students, but contemporaries attested to the fact that many students adored him like a father. A letter written by the painter Alexander Ivanov contained a line that described Briullov as “his father in art [ottsu svoemu po iskusstvu]” and there is evidence that Briullov may have come to think of his works as supplements for what he lacked in terms of wife and progeny.96 Even as early as 1824, he referred to paintings as his children. In a letter to Pëtr Kikin, the same man featured on the walls of the Military Gallery discussed in the Introduction, Briullov called his Italian Morning painting ditia moe, literally “my child” or “my baby.”97 And in a letter to his parents from that same year he begged his father to find the right frames for his pictures, stating: “You know how important the frame is for the painting: it’s like a corset for a girl.”98 In his adoring students and his beloved paintings, Briullov found substitutes for what society deemed necessary for a man of his age and stature. His work became the sign of his virility and his students substituted as evidence for his power to produce progeny.

Self-Portraiture and Self-Realization At the end of his life, Briullov would once again return to self-portraiture. He created two more paintings of himself, one in 1848 and one in 1849. The two canvases are nearly identical [Plate 1.3].99 In both, the artist sits slumped in a

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


Figure 1.5  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (detail), 1848; oil on canvas, 64.1 × 54 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2015.

plush chair, upholstered in red fabric; his body sinks into the ottoman as he gazes intently out of the picture. The same fair curly hair rushes like a torrent above him; the same piercing blue-gray eyes contemplate us. There is a heaviness, however, almost an exhaustion to them now. The lids are heavy, the brow bone has descended with gravity over the years [Figure 1.5]. Briullov added touches of amber, ochre, and crimson around the eyes and along the waterline to heighten the sense of a man reaching the end of his years. The pallor of his skin stands in marked contrast to the warmth of the earlier Uffizi self-portrait—gone are those verdant youthful greens and lush oranges—they have been replaced by a symphony of icy blues, subtle lavenders, and creamy white. He seems about to speak, the lips have unsealed slightly, each hair in his goatee has been tenderly rendered, emphasizing the openness of the mouth. Below it, the body is ensconced in black; his thin frame is hardly readable beneath its somber weight. Only the arm resting on the padded rail indicates the torso in space. That hand works in tandem with the mouth and both seem to highlight communication. It is significant that only the right hand is visible and foregrounded in this way—Briullov was right-handed and thus this is the hand he painted with, the implement with which he spoke to the world.100 It juts out from the picture, almost piercing into our space. The sinewy veins, the carefully


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delineated fingernails, the pull of pale skin across the knuckles—all convey an immediacy, a presence to the body that had been so long missing in all of the self-portraits from his earlier years. The hand is tired though, like the eyes; it hangs limply, as if the brush has just fallen from its grasp. By the time he painted this work, Briullov had been ailing for several months. An illness which began in October of 1847 had kept him in bed for over half a year and he remained long weakened from it. In April of 1849, likely just after completing the two self-portraits, Briullov left Russia to return to Italy, hoping the climate would improve his condition. He would never set foot in his homeland again. Friends and students continued to write letters to him from Petersburg—updating him on their progress, begging him to finish their portraits—Briullov rarely replied though. One friend, Prince Pëtr Bagration, the nephew of a general who was also depicted in the Military Gallery, wrote to Briullov in 1851. Bagration described spending time in Briullov’s Petersburg studio in his absence: “Every day when I come to the Academy, I go to your apartment, like a lover, to breathe the air of it.”101 He also admitted to sitting in the same chair Briullov pictured in his self-portrait (the artist must have left it behind when he went to Rome): “I sit down on your old red ottoman and imagine those moments when you in this exact same place conceived a lofty thought and passed it on to the centuries.”102 Briullov died a year later. Yet his legacy lived on—in his works, in his students, in the influence Pompeii had on generations of Russian artists to come—the man was a continual force well beyond his lifetime. Despite his difficult childhood, the rigors of his life at the Academy and the abuse of his father; despite his catastrophic marriage and his failure to produce children, Briullov left much that would be “passed on to the centuries.” He may not have fit the typical standards for masculinity common at the time, he may have struggled in his roles as obedient son and loyal brother, yet he found fulfillment in his work and he found substitutes for the wife and children he was never to have. And finally, at long last, he was able to finish a self-portrait. From the pencil sketch he made of himself as a boy, to the full oil painting he brought about some thirty years later, Briullov never abandoned the project of his own self-fashioning. Over the years, he went from the boy with his gaze sharply averted to the man now penetratingly scrutinizing the viewer. Along the way, he may have struggled to elaborate his identity—self-portraits from the middle of his life remained little more than disembodied heads floating above

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


nascent indications of corporeal presence—but he never abandoned selfportraiture altogether. Instead such works became embedded in larger canvases or moved toward watercolor, where the spontaneity of the medium heightened the impression of immediacy. All of these self-portraits— complete or incomplete—show a man negotiating the numerous standards and sometimes paradoxical expectations for masculinity which characterized his lifetime. Despite his upbringing in the rigidly disciplined Academy and the domineering expectations of his father, Briullov would ultimately not succumb to the expectations and exhortations of hegemonic masculinity. His self-portraits show signs of the struggle which resulted from such deviations away from the standard roles of masculine fulfillment. Nevertheless, the artist became, at the very end of his life, fully realized to himself. His 1848 selfportrait shows him not as an ethereal outline floating on a creamy page or a hidden actor on the monumental stage of the Pompeii canvas, but as a mature painter, the hand that held the brush now foregrounded like the gaze above it [Figure 1.6]. Finally, in this last self-portrait, Briullov became complete—as an artist and as a man.

Figure 1.6  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (detail), 1848; oil on canvas, 64.1 × 54 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2018.


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Notes M. N. Zheleznov, Neizdannye pis’ma K. P. Briullova i documenty dlia ego biografii s predisloviem i primechaniiami khudozhnika Mikhaila Zheleznova (Geneva, 1867), 35. Quoted in N. G. Mashkovtsev, K. P. Briullov v pisʹmakh, dokumentakh i vospominaniiakh sovremennikov (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii khudozhestv SSSR, 1961), 136. 2 Galina Leontyeva, Karl Briullov: The Painter of Russian Romanticism (Bournemouth, England: Parkstone Aurora, 1996), 8. 3 Ibid., 9. 4 For more on this academic system and its changes over the years, see Rosalind P. Gray, Russian Genre Painting in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 103. 5 Fedor Iordan, Zapiski rektora i professora Akademii khudozhestv Fedora Ivanovicha Iordana (Moscow: Biblioteka Rossiiskoi akademii nauk, 1918), 5; first published in the journal “Russkaia starina” (March–October 1879). Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 25. 6 Lev Zhemchuzhnikov, L. M. Zhemchuzhnikov: Moi vospominaniia iz proshlogo, byp. i ot kadetskogo korpusa k Akademii khudozhestv, 1828–1852 (Moscow and St. Petersburg: Sabashnikovykh, 1926), 80. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 26. 7 Rosalind Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 26. 8 Ibid., 27. 9 Catriona Kelly, Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 33. 10 Ibid., 37–8. 11 In fact, he is still revered in Russia today. An excellent recent essay tracks the changing reception of the artist’s work and his role in Russian art; see Katia Dianina, “The Making of an Artist as National Hero: The Great Karl Briullov and His Critical Fortunes,” Slavic Review 77, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 122–50. 12 Benois, The Russian School of Painting (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1916), 78. 13 Leontyeva, Karl Briullov, 9. 14 M. Melikov, Zametki i vospominaniia khudozhnika-zhivopistsa M. Melikova in “Russkaia starina” (June 1896): 643–74. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 192. 15 Zheleznov, Neizdannye pis’ma, 4. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 24. 16 Ibid. and G. K. Leonteva, Karl Briullov: zhivopisʹ, grafika (Leningrad: Aurora, 1990), 14. 17 Kelly, Refining Russia, xviii. 18 Quoted in Nancy Shields Kollman, “‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’: Changing Models of Masculinity in Muscovite and Petrine Russia,” in Russian Masculinities 1

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in History and Culture, eds. Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002), 19. 19 The “Domostroi”: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible, ed. Carolyn Pouncy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 144. 20 Ibid., 95–6. 21 Simon Dixon, The Modernisation of Russia, 1676–1825 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 104. 22 An excellent example of the former includes Marianna G. Muravyeva, “Between Law and Morality: Violence against Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia,” in Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture, eds. Wendy Rosslyn and Alessandra Tosi (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012), 209–38. 23 Quoted in Nicholas Riasanovsky, Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825–1855 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), 73. 24 S. A. Smith, “Masculinity in Transition: Peasant Migrants to Late-Imperial St. Petersburg,” in Russian Masculinities, 94. 25 Ibid., 101. 26 For many instances of this abuse, see in particular Priscilla Roosevelt, Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997) and Richard Stites, Serfdom, Society, and the Arts in Imperial Russia: The Pleasure and The Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005). 27 Laura Engelstein, The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle Russia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 123. 28 O. S. Pavlishcheva to N. I. Pavlishchev, November 22, 1835, in Pis’ma O. S. Pavlishchevoi k muzhu i otsu 1831–1837: Famil’nye bumagi Pushkinykh-Gannibalov (St. Petersburg, 1994), 129. Quoted in Kelly, Refining Russia, 50–2. 29 Figner, Zapechatlennyi trud, vospominaniia (Moscow: Mysl', 1964), 1:57–8. Quoted in Barbara Alpern Engel, “Mothers and Daughters: Family Patterns and the Female Intelligentsia,” in The Family in Imperial Russia: New Lines of Historical Research, ed. David L. Ransel (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 46–7. 30 Lazovskii, “Lichnye otnosheniia suprugov po russkomu obychnomu pravu,” Iuridicheskii vestnik, no. 6–7 (1883): 404. Quoted in Engelstein, The Keys to Happiness, 125. 31 For a definition of hegemonic masculinity, see Tim Carrigan, Bob Connell, and John Lee, “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity,” Theory and Society 14, no. 5 (1985): 551–604. For use of the concept in practice, see Raewyn W. Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987). 32 Regimes of masculinity can be reinforced by a range of agents of course not limited to fathers alone, but extending to politicians and advertisers, priests and psychiatrists, even actors, novelists, academics, and coaches. See Mike Donaldson, “What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?” Theory and Society 22, no. 5 (October 1993): 646.


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33 Ibid. 34 Connell, Masculinities (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 37. It is worth noting that while Connell’s model maintains that hegemonic masculinity is confirmed in fatherhood, other scholars, like Donaldson, argue that the emotional distance and detached discipline that actually characterize fathering within the system undermine it. See Donaldson, “What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?” 650. 35 John Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity? Reflections on Nineteenth-Century Britain,” in Gender and History in Western Europe, eds. Robert Shoemaker and Mary Vincent (London: Arnold, 1998), 75. 36 Leontyeva, Karl Briullov, 13. 37 For more on the Society’s formation and the rivalry between it and the Academy, see Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 77–83. 38 Gray, Russian Genre Painting, 103. 39 K. P. Briullov to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, 1824, in Arkhiv Briullovykh (St. Petersburg: Tip. T-va Obshchestvennaia polza, 1900), 56. 40 Carol Duncan, “Fallen Fathers: Images of Authority in Pre-Revolutionary French Art,” Art History 4, no. 2 (June 1981): 186–202. 41 Ibid., 188. 42 Much has been written on the dynamics of masculinity at work in the latter. See Dale G. Cleaver, “Girodet’s Déluge, a Case Study in Art Criticism,” Art Journal 38, no. 2 (Winter 1978–1979): 96–101 and James Smalls, “Stepping Out on a Limb: Questioning Masculinity in Girodet’s Scene of a Deluge (1806),” Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art 2 (2001): 43–71. 43 K. P. Briullov to his Parents, June 1823, Rome, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, 21. 44 Ibid. 45 K. P. Briullov to his Father, January 19, 1825, Rome, in ibid., 71. 46 A. P. Briullov to his Parents, October 9, 1823, Rome, in ibid., 27. This letter is from Alexander, but contains a few lines at the end written by Karl (likely at the insistence of his brother). 47 K. P. Briullov to his Parents, May 14, 1824, Rome, in ibid., 52. 48 K. P. Briullov to his Father, January 19, 1825, Rome, in ibid., 72. 49 Notably, “batiushka” is also the word that Pavel Fedotov used in addressing his father (see Chapter 2) as it will be for Alexander Ivanov, the subject of Chapter 3. 50 Karl also sometimes refers to his mother by a similar diminutive in Russian— mamen’ka. See K. P. Briullov to his Parents, 1823, Rome, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, 36. 51 A. P. Briullov to K. P. Briullov, May 19, 1829, Paris, in ibid., 109. 52 A. P. Briullov to K. P. Briullov, February 3, 1833, St. Petersburg, in ibid., 117–18. 53 These include one self-portrait in oil that remained unfinished from 1823 (now in a private collection), one watercolor on cardboard from 1816 (14.5 × 8.5 cm.,

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


Tretiakov Gallery), and the drawing in pencil already discussed from 1813–16 (Tretiakov Gallery). 54 The works in oil include: Self-Portrait (made for the Uffizi), 1833–4; oil on canvas, 56.5 × 43 cm., Russian Museum; Self-Portrait with Baroness Yekaterina Meller-Zakomelskaya and her Daughter in a Boat, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; Self-Portrait (unfinished), beginning of the 1830s, oil on canvas, 45.5 × 36.5 cm (oval), private collection; and the self-portrait embedded in Pompeii (1830–3). The watercolor self-portraits include: Self-Portrait (unfinished), 1830–3; watercolor and pencil on paper, 26.5 × 22.5 cm., Russian Museum; Self-Portrait (unfinished), 1830–3; watercolor and pencil on paper, 15 × 14.5 cm., Pushkin Museum; Self-Portrait, 1830–3; watercolor, 18 × 23 cm., location unknown; and Self-Portrait, 1833–5; sepia and ceruse on paper, 16.7 × 15.2, Tretiakov Gallery. There is also a self-portrait drawing from 1835 that includes additional renderings of Kiprenskii, Sobolenskii, and Tverskii (housed in the Tiutchev State Museum Muranovo collection as of 1963). All these works listed in E. Atsarkina, Karl Pavlovich Briullov: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo (Moscow: Isskustvo, 1963). 55 Gagarin, Vospominaniia kn. Grigoriia Grigorevicha Gagarina o Karle Briullove (St. Petersburg, 1900), 19–23. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 77. 56 Ibid. 57 Melikov, Zametki i vospominaniia, 643–74. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 191. 58 Mariia Rostovskaia, Vospominanie o K. P. Briullove, “Moskvitianin” 1852, vol. XIX. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 179. 59 A. Mokritskii, “Vospominanie o Briullove. Akademik Apollon Mokritskii,” Otechestvennye zapiski 12 (1855): 145. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 145. 60 For more on the private collection works of Briullov which have only recently resurfaced, see Karl Briullov iz chastnykh kollektsii Moskovy i Sankt-Peterburga (2013) and news articles such as “V Tret’iakovke predstavleny portrety Karla Briullova,” Rossiia K, published January 24, 2018, accessed May 31, 2018, https:// tvkultura.ru/article/show/article_id/217705/. 61 This palette has much in common with Delacroix, who was in fact Briullov’s exact contemporary, only one year separated their birthdates. The French painter would prove also a master of the gentleman-self-portrait in these same years. 62 Anthea Callen, The Work of Art: Plein-Air Painting and Artistic Identity in Nineteenth-Century France (London: Reaktion Books, 2015), 21. 63 Leontyeva, Karl Briullov, 40–2. 64 Gagarin, Vospominaniia, 26–30. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 119–21. 65 Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 118–19.


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66 A. Somov, Karl Pavlovich Briullov i ego znachenie v russkom iskusstve (St. Petersburg: Tovarishchestvo khudozhestvennoi pechati, 1876), 11. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 122. 67 Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 145. 68 Zheleznov, Neizdannye pis’ma, 35. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 136. 69 V. G. Belinskii, Literaturnoe nasledstvo, “Istoriia Petra Velikogo,” (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1948), 1:330. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 212. 70 Quoted in Galina Leonteva, Karl Pavlovich Briullov (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1986), 70. 71 “Repertuar i Panteon teatrov,” (1847): 2. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 221. 72 Svetlana Kazakova, “Karl Briullov and Nestor Kukolnik: A Story of Two Illustrations,” Tretiakov Gallery Magazine 4, no. 21 (2008), accessed June 5, 2017, https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/4-2008-21/karl-briullov-andnestor- kukolnik-story-two-illustrations. 73 Gagarin, Vospominaniia, 11–14. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 57. 74 Catriona Kelly is one of the few who glibly but unequivocally calls Samoilova Briullov’s mistress. See Refining Russia, 43. 75 Serena Vitale, Pushkin’s Button, trans. Ann Goldstein and Jon Rothschild (London: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), 29. Quoted in Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 147. 76 For fascinating details on Samoilova’s life and her relationship with Briullov, see Kristen Regina, “Love Letter to a Goddess,” Apollo Magazine 165, no. 544 (June 2007): 64–70 as well as Wendy Salmond, “Portrait of Countess Samoilova,” in A Taste for Splendor: Russian Imperial and European Treasures from the Hillwood Museum, eds. Anne Odom and Liana Paredes Arend (Alexandria, VA: Art Services International, 1998). 77 Regina claims the figure with the vase on her head in Pompeii is Samoilova and that there may be two further portraits of the Countess in the work. See “Love Letter to a Goddess,” 69. 78 Ivan Bocharov and Iuliia Glushakova, Karl Briullov: Italianskie nakhodki (Moscow: Znanie, 1984), 67–8. Quoted in “Love Letter to a Goddess,” 66. 79 Iu. V. Zhadovskaia to K. P. Briullov, March 1, 1849, St. Petersburg, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, 158. 80 Iu. V. Zhadovskaia to K. P. Briullov, March 1849, Yaroslavl, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, 159. 81 M. N. Zheleznov, Zhivopisnoe obozrenie 27–33 (1898). Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 96–7. 82 Barbara Evans Clements, Russian Masculinities, 7–8. 83 Ibid., 7.

Karl Briullov: Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Sons


84 Leonteva, Karl Pavlovich Briullov, 156. 85 M. Melikov, Zametki i vospominaniia khudozhnika-zhivopistsa M. Melikova in “Russkaya starina” (June 1896): 643–74. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 190. 86 F. G. Solntsev, Moia zhizn’ i khudozhestvenno-arkheologicheskie trudy, “Russkaia starina” (1876): 629. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 186. 87 John Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity?” in Gender and History in Western Europe, 69. 88 Quoted in Leonteva, Karl Pavlovich Briullov, 155–6. 89 Benois cites these figures as Briullov’s students, although many also studied under Fëdor Bruni. See The Russian School, 88–9. 90 Ibid., 81. 91 Nikolai Ramazanov, Materialy dlia istorii khudozhestv v Rossii (Moscow, 1863), 1:191 in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 141. 92 Mokritskii, “Vospominanie o Briullove,” 152–3 in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 143. 93 Ibid. 94 Solntsev, Moya zhizn’, 631–2 in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 235. 95 Ibid. 96 Ivanov is describing the relationship between Fëdor Moller and Briullov, not himself. His advice in this letter is for Moller to send a sketch he has been working on to Briullov “as his father in art.” A. A. Ivanov to F. V. Chizhov, November 1845, Rome, in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 219. 97 K. P. Briullov to P. A. Kikin, April 2, 1824, in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 42. 98 K. P. Briullov to his Parents, May 14, 1824, Rome, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, 52. 99 Briullov also made some six pencil drawings of himself in 1848, two of which have been definitively identified as studies for the oil Self-Portrait. See Atsarkina, Briullov: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo, 440–1. 100 We know Briullov was right-handed because he referred to his left hand as the “countess.” When asked why he had given the appendage this name, he replied: “because she does nothing.” See Zheleznov, “Zhivopisnoe obozrenie” (1898) in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 216. 101 P. R. Bagration to K. P. Briullov, March 14, 1851, St. Petersburg, in Arkhiv Briullovykh, prinadlezhashchii V. A. Briullovu (St. Petersburg: Soobshchil Iv. Kubasov, 1900), 130–2. Quoted in Mashkovtsev, Briullov v pisʹmakh, 248. 102 Ibid.



Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist

Connections are like dust: today a prince, Tomorrow you are dragged through the mud. The world is ruled by fortune. Pavel Fedotov1 In the spring of 1840, a young man named Pavel Fedotov, who was then serving in the Finnish Regiment of the Imperial Guards in St. Petersburg, wrote a letter to his father. It is the only correspondence between them that has survived and it describes an encounter Fedotov had: Today I was called to the Grand Duke (rejoice, father, for your son’s joys are your joys), where after praising my painting, he began making comments about the mistakes … His Highness asked whether I wished to resign and declare my retirement? If so, he said he didn’t want to know. But if you want to do this in your free time, he said, tell me what you need. I told him directly: a teacher. “Whom?” he asked. I told him, “Briullov.”2

The man Fedotov asked to study with, Karl Briullov, was by this time very famous and many were clamoring to have him as their teacher. Fedotov was something of an unusual case, however, in that he had for several years been trying to balance the duties of his life as an officer while also growing his artistic skill. He began attending evening classes which were open to all at the Academy of Arts in 1833, but he was ultimately barred from officially enrolling because he was considered too old for formal training.3 Nonetheless, by the late 1830s, he had produced hundreds of drawings and watercolors of his comrades who were also serving in the Guards. One such example of this activity can be seen in the portrait he made of his friend Rostislav Lermantov, who was also serving in the Finnish Regiment in St. Petersburg [Figure 2.1]. The portrayal has much in common with the kind of grand oil portraits which had been made for the Military Gallery a generation before (see Figure 0.3). Lermantov is shown frontally, in the uniform of his


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 2.1  Pavel Fedotov, Portrait of R. M. Lermantov, 1836–7; watercolor on paper, 19.7 × 15.6 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

regiment, and the candor of his gaze echoes that of countless generals shown in official portraits from the era. Fedotov took great care to record his sitter’s distinctive features: the low and slightly asymmetrical nature of his hairline, brown eyes the color of coffee or chocolate, the odd largeness of his ears, even the hairs that grew in between his brows. His sitter has obviously not been idealized; in fact, Fedotov seems to have undermined the romantic version of manhood

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


so typically found in military portraits of the era. Lermantov’s epaulettes appear too big for him and the one on the right bends forward strangely, refusing to conform to the body of the man who wears it. Those epaulettes are clearly an ornamental attachment; they do not serve effortlessly to make the man wearing them appear broader shouldered, or more physically fearsome. Lermantov instead looks constrained by his uniform; his collar in particular reads as severely constricting, even suffocating. But then the sleeves of his jacket look too loose compared to the compression of his neck and torso; one imagines a body underneath the clothes that was actually quite willowy—no bulging biceps or prominent pectorals lie below the dark fabric. In this sense, Fedotov’s depiction of Lermantov’s body runs counter to what Richard Dyer has described as the excessively phallic quality so frequently found in images of men: “The clenched fists, the bulging muscles, the hardened jaws, the proliferation of phallic symbols—they are all straining after what can hardly ever be achieved, the embodiment of the phallic mystique.”4 Lermantov does not possess the hard lines or angular shapes that would allow him to be priapically analogized. Only his uniform functions in this way, stabilizing and substantiating his otherwise lissome body. Fedotov would continue making portraits like this one in the years ahead and he would consistently figure his fellow officers such that their unidealized features were highlighted. He worked frequently in watercolor, taking advantage of the spontaneous nature of the technique to depict his friends in the regiment.5 Yet where oil portraits of military officers shored up the virile status of the soldiers they represented, Fedotov’s portraits troubled the gender standards typical for such depictions. The romantic machismo of such portrayals was replaced in his work by a new kind of emasculating naturalism, one that disrupted the firm signs of patriarchal masculinity. So, what changed in Russia that caused such realism to come to the fore in depictions of the country’s most valiant men? This chapter will use the paintings Fedotov made in the years leading up to mid-century to answer this question by exploring the transformations occurring in social and political life in the period. Fedotov fulfilled many of the core tenets held to be so important for men of the time—he served his country, he was hard working, he dutifully supported his aging father and sisters, he took risks which resulted in public accomplishment, and he was productively sociable with both men and women. But he also displayed features which opposed these key traits in that he never married, he suffered periods of extreme financial destitution, and he was often hesitant and introspective—all of which went markedly against the norms for manliness in mid-century Russia. Fedotov’s portraits reflect the


Picturing Russia’s Men

tensions arising from ideals for masculinity and allow us to track the pressures which arose over the course of his life as he grappled with his era’s constraints and expectations. Several scholars in a range of fields have identified the ambiguous and often conflicted nature of masculinity starkly evinced in Fedotov’s life and works. Rebecca Friedman describes how: “norms of masculinity and femininity are never monolithic, but rather encompass a range of contradictory and complementary impulses” which “change over time and across space.”6 Likewise, the psychological anthropologist Robert LeVine developed the idea of a “two systems” view for analyzing the problem of masculinity.7 In this approach, an individual must constantly balance the satisfaction of his own psychological needs with the ideals of the sociocultural system which surround him. This delicate negotiation between gratification and conformity often results in problematic compromises that fulfill neither arena. Fedotov’s life provides insight into the lived nature of such contradictory experiences of masculinity. Exploring the role that art-making played in the constitution of this particular man’s identity sheds important light on the nature of masculine duty in the time and place where he lived.

Cadet Pavel Fedotov was born in 1815—in the wake of Russia’s victory over Napoleon— and his early childhood was characterized by a period of nationalist pride as well as relative peace. He would ultimately never fight in any wars, despite ten years of service in the Imperial Guard. His father had seen war; he had been a soldier in the time of Catherine the Great. Pavel described him as a man who: “rarely talked about his campaigns, but who saw a lot in his time.”8 His father married twice and sired children from both marriages, including Pavel and two daughters from the second marriage.9 The family constantly struggled to make ends meet. Fedotov would later describe their meager circumstances: “Our large family resided in a small house, and we lived a poor life, but as long as my father could serve, we did not suffer too much.”10 This notion that remaining in military service meant having enough to subsist would prove foundational for the artist. Like Briullov in the previous chapter, Fedotov was groomed to follow a path similar to his father from an early age. He was enrolled in the Moscow Cadet School at the age of ten in 1826, where he would remain for the next seven years.11

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


Tsar Nicholas I assumed the throne in Russia just before Fedotov began at the Cadet School, and in the early years of his reign he devoted a great deal of time to developing and enforcing new regulations for cadets in the Empire’s military schools and in its universities. The Russian government saw such institutions as mechanisms by which young men might be groomed into ideal servitors of the state—obedient, respectable, and loyal to the autocracy above all else.12 Chief among the tsar’s concerns was the instilling of values for respectable masculine comportment, which meant, from a practical standpoint, regulating dress and emphasizing overall neatness. Everything from the temperature of the cadets’ rooms to the wearing of mustaches became subject to strict guidelines set forth by the tsar and his brother the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich.13 In this atmosphere, a student’s clothes and hairstyle were not simple matters of taste and status, but a means of judging their devotion to the fatherland. Failure to comply with regulations for hair to be maintained “according to military length” meant serious punishment.14 In his work on Fedotov, the literary theorist Viktor Shklovskii highlighted these directives for young cadets as vital to the artist’s formation. He was particularly interested in the ambiguous nature of many of the tenets, especially those regulations on posture and facial hair. Military rules from the time, according to Shklovskii, stated that a soldier’s stance should never appear stiff or arrogant; rather, it should seem as though he moved in accordance with the natural constitution of the body without effort or force.15 Posture marked a man as belonging not only to a certain class, but often a particular profession as well. The historian Georges Vigarello has written of the relation between correct body movement and notions of masculine morality: “The fact is that the body, just like its uprightness, is ‘caught’ in a web of categories dominated by moral expectations.”16 These principles also extended to the manner in which an officer presented his face to the world; a military man was supposed to have a mustache and whiskers, yet these were to be maintained so that one’s facial hair never became too long, as this would make the face “disgusting [otvratitel’nyi].”17 Altogether, a young man’s outward appearance was held to be a sign of his internal principles. If he could be made to look like the “ideal” man, then he might serve as a future leader in Russia’s expanding military and civilian bureaucracy. This meant fashioning masculinity into a set of stable traits and outward markers, however, and these often proved paradoxical in lived reality. It also meant that the state itself was taking on the task of “gendering its future servitors”—more intensely, in fact, than in many Western European societies.18 Elsewhere in Europe in this period, a certain amount of control over the moral


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upbringing of male citizens was being relinquished, but the regime in Russia was making a concerted effort to inculcate what Rebecca Friedman has called “an official ideal of masculinity among its future servitors.”19 This was done in three primary ways: the tsar himself began to serve as a role model of appearance and behavior to be emulated by male citizens, state-sponsored journals and newspapers began to publish moral columns which espoused certain modes of proper dress and comportment, and the empire’s military schools and university system were expanded in order to better train future officers and civil servants. Fedotov began his indoctrination into this system at the tender age of ten. Little is known about his time in the Moscow Cadet School, but in his short autobiography of 1848, he mentions that he made drawings in his time there and that he “was considered capable in painting by a few.”20 Other sources describe him correcting other people’s drawings in exchange for extra rolls of bread, but most state that he simply enjoyed making portraits of his comrades in the corps.21 Fedotov seems to have internalized the system of obedience and masculine comportment so vital to the tsar though. In his notebooks, he later wrote that: “Tidiness around oneself in one’s home is a sign of self-respect. Physical tidiness will require, in parallel, moral tidiness.”22 These views very much align with the Russian concept of nravy—a word that encompasses the idea of both manners and morality and shows the alignment of cleanliness of the body as a sign of an individual’s moral worth.

Captain Fedotov graduated from the Cadet School with a gold medal in 1833, which allowed him to choose his subsequent posting. He selected the Finnish Regiment and began his new life in Petersburg, living in a barracks on Vasil’evskii Island, not far from the Academy of Arts, then the preeminent training ground for Russian artists. He remained in the military until 1844, knowing only peacetime service and the boredom it so often entailed. His poetry touches on his disappointment with the lack of excitement: “War gives the glory of the feast/But here was peace./… My submissive meek sword/Never knew bloody menacing carnage.”23 As in the portrait of Lermantov, Fedotov’s poetry here belies the ideal phallicism so often associated with the male body, in particular the bodies of officers. In describing his sword—the sign of the phallus par excellence—as “meek” and “submissive,” he robs this metonymic object of its masculine power.24

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


Instead of active fighting, and the proving of one’s manliness it would beget, Fedotov’s main duties consisted of long hours of guard duty, tedious drills, and parades before the tsar and his commanders.25 All of this had to be executed exactly and with great attention to the finer points of formality, which would serve as an indication of the officers’ discipline. Severity was great if one violated the proper actions of the formation. Every month commanders were required to report those who were “weak on the line.”26 For even the slightest mistake, such as not maintaining the proper distance during a ceremonial march, an officer would be reprimanded with extra guard duty or even arrest.27 Tsar Nicholas was also known to shout insults at regiments that did not produce a visual impression to his liking. Shortly before he became tsar, he showered what would later become Fedotov’s regiment with abuse: “Wretched, vile, foul … Anyone who wears the Finnish uniform is a pig! Do you hear me, all of them are pigs.”28 Despite these realities, the picture that forms from Fedotov’s own reminiscences and from works he made shows that peacetime service left ample time for other activities. A journal he kept from March through April of 1835 highlights the repetitiveness of his daily behaviors, providing vital insight into what constituted life for young men at the time.29 March 18—Again the frost and snow drifts all day and there is a terrible wind. Ganetskii stopped by again for a couple of hours and I painted his face … The rest of the day … I started doing everything and ended up doing nothing.30 March 25—I painted pictures for Svoev’s translation; went for a walk. I met up with Vilken; visited Gusev—he wasn’t home … Went for a walk again. M. Krutov showed up and watched me work; he told an anecdote about a cow and a soldier, described women of different nations and all sorts of things.31 March 27—In the morning, I applied leeches. They relieved me a lot, because the blood was like a jelly, black and thick. In the evening Gedeonov showed up, he’s already an Ensign. He was sick. I gave him some of my laxative … In the evening Shevelev came; we played again, [ended up] -13.32 April 8—I went to Rodivanovskii’s place … Era Kiseleva was there. With her, and also with Anna Mikhailovna and Evreinov, I played whist. Then I sang all sorts of things and was popular with all the women. Anna Mikhailovna forcefully dragged me to the dance floor … I danced another quadrille with Kiseleva, and so on … I promised Era and someone else, I don’t know who, to draw them in their album; everything went quite pleasantly.33 April 9—I didn’t get enough sleep this morning. I sang and played the guitar … made some pancakes; read L’Hermite and played the flute … In the evening I went to Shevelev’s and played cards with Gusev till one o’clock.34


Picturing Russia’s Men April 12—I painted in the album of a woman I didn’t know. I studied Anna Mikhailovna’s [vocal] lesson from yesterday, in such I killed the day [den’ ubit], a beautiful day.35 April 21—In the morning I added a few brushstrokes to the portrait of Ganetskii. Then I went off to Novaia Derevnia—to patrol, to the laboratory. On the raft, we were waiting for Lermantov (he is off to patrol). There we drank water and beer, touched the frogs and the girls who were leaving the boats … While on duty, I slept, strolled, and scribbled on a canvas. That was all.36

These entries show Fedotov as a young man with a close circle of male friends in the regiment; these were men he painted, with whom he played cards, flirted with women, and walked about the city. The journal also provides hints about the young artist’s private life—his musings on his health, how well he slept, the fact that he liked to read and play musical instruments—all acceptable, even commendable, hobbies for a young man of his rank and station. A self-portrait sketch from the same year he kept the journal shows him riding on horseback from his studies at the Academy of Arts, where he had begun attending evening classes open to all [Figure 2.2].37 Fedotov sits comfortably on the ambling horse,

Figure 2.2  Pavel Fedotov, Pavel Fedotov Riding Horseback to Pargolovo from Studies, 1835; pencil on paper, 23.7 × 28.4 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


lackadaisically smoking a cigarette while holding the reins in his left hand. There is a slowness to the moment he captured; the smoke emanating from both the cigarette and from Fedotov’s lips tells us the horse must be dragging along for such smoldering to be visible at all. Nothing about the way they are moving or the path ahead seems to demand that the artist sit at attention. Similarly, he is slightly slouched in his regimental uniform—unusual considering the emphasis placed on good posture for men at the time.38 He is also notably small in stature; the delicacy of his booted foot in the stirrup is almost feminine in its daintiness. Contrary to these elements, tracing his body down from top to bottom, the viewer encounters a series of salient signs that reinforce his identity as a man: shako, epaulette, and saber. All tell us that he is an officer.39 Yet the book tucked under his arm and the portfolio stuffed with drawings highlight that he is also something else. The two identities—artist and officer—coexist easily in the self-portrait, as they did in the daily life recorded in his journal. What harmonized easily in 1835, however, became more complicated by the early 1840s. As Fedotov continued to paint portraits of his comrades, his desire to devote himself completely to art became stronger. He did not attend drawing classes at the Academy in the second half of 1837, but when he returned to his studies there in 1841, he experienced something of an awakening.40 He described the Academy as refreshingly free of the ranking system that structured his service life: There I found myself in a completely new world: nearby sat the son of a shopkeeper, on the other side the kammerjunker Vonliarliarskii … next to him a pupil of the Academy—a boy in a jacket … then an officer again … but all in the same competition, each delving into his own sheet, trying not to give in to each other. At the exam, the numbers are set not according to ranks … The road is open to everyone.41

Fedotov was fascinated by the mix of men he saw around him at the Academy and he was enthused by their mutual devotion to art. It was a place where rank did not seem to matter as in the regiment—all were focused simply on improving their work. The freedom of the Academy classes was dramatically different from the world of hierarchy which characterized Russian society. Since Peter the Great implemented the system of meritocracy known as the “Table of Ranks” in 1722, all those in military, civil service, and court positions were defined by their status as servitors and they were constantly aware of their position compared to their peers.42 Entrance into service brought personal nobility, one began at


Picturing Russia’s Men

the lowest fourteenth rank and could advance after a certain number of years or based on merit.43 Staying in the military and continuing to seek promotion would have been the easiest way for Fedotov to attain the coveted eighth rank, which conferred hereditary noble status. The decade in which Fedotov served saw dramatic shifts in this system, however, as the number of people achieving the eighth rank rose considerably. Between 1836 and 1843, some 7,200 people reached the eighth rank and old aristocrat families protested the advancement of so many of non-noble birth, claiming it diluted their ranks.44 Nicholas I reacted by changing the threshold such that rank five was required for hereditary noble status, making it much more difficult for someone like Fedotov to advance. The oppressive nature of the military structure and the service life it entailed would have also resonated profoundly for Fedotov because he served in a prestigious guard regiment filled largely with the sons of the noble elite. Because he did not come from a wealthy family, his station was already much lower than many of his peers and, to make matters worse, the Russian army as a whole was never funded such that there was enough to satisfy its needs.45 In the early nineteenth century, only arms and ammunition were provided through a centralized process, everything else was supplied by the units or by the officers themselves. This led to procedures like the “fixed-term [srochnyi]” system, whereby every item in one’s uniform had to be worn for a prescribed amount of time before it could be replaced.46 Similarly, officers had to pay to repair their own uniforms as well as for their transport and food. Sometimes they were even obliged to pay out of pocket for lavish receptions for their superior officers.47 Fedotov alluded to the financial strain which resulted from this system in his letters: “because of the dreadful work and the various inconveniences of this position, I had a lot of unnecessary expenditures.”48 Fedotov also suffered the additional financial burden of caring for his aging father and sisters back in Moscow. He sent half his income to them throughout his adult life, something made especially difficult because his earnings varied from year to year depending on how “diligent and zealous” his service had been.49 Records show that Fedotov was granted only 230 rubles in 1836, but then 350 rubles in 1837, and then down to 300 rubles in 1838.50 This was never enough for all of his expenses. Epaulettes alone could cost 160 rubles.51 Fedotov described these difficulties: “I have to attend balls at the Winter Palace, but … silk long stockings cost 40 rubles in the English store. And I would need to take a carriage also, because I will not be allowed near the palace in a cheap buggy [van’ke].”52 At the same time, he was struggling to buy the supplies he needed for growing his skills in painting: “I must buy everything necessary for my studies

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


myself, namely: plaster casts of antiquities, drawings and so on. For that, along with materials for drawing, from 750 to 1000 rubles are needed annually.”53 It is easy to see how he failed to make ends meet. A drawing he made in the early 1840s echoes the sentiments undergirding all these difficulties; it shows a man being crushed by a barrage of military and civil service paraphernalia [Figure 2.3]. Large folios with imperial insignia rain down on the mustachioed victim, along with a bayonet, belts, sashes, two shakos, a

Figure 2.3  Pavel Fedotov, Avalanche of Regulations, beginning of the 1840s; pencil on paper, 23.1 × 16.9 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.


Picturing Russia’s Men

rucksack, a saber (mercifully with the blade pointed away), and various papers and books. The man underneath it all flails one arm and attempts to counter the bombardment while another figure who resembles the artist flees in the background. Little angels with Fedotov’s features also flutter on the upper right, their hands folded in prayer before the flood of equipment. None of this will save the man from the assault of objects. All are normal elements of everyday life for an officer, yet taken together, their weight would have been tremendous. The man being crushed by it all looks haggard and worn down. The deep shadow of his cheekbone increases the gaunt look of his face, as does the sharpness of his upper jaw. His eyes seem to have sunk down into their sockets, creating a deep line of shadow beneath the brow. These emaciated features are belied by others, which counteract such frailty and read as definitively masculine. The hand reaching out uselessly in space has a substantive heft to it; the thickness of the tendons, the bulge of each finger joint—this is distinctively the hand of a man. Likewise, his hair is dark and abundant, it has grown thick down over his brow-line; the same with his bushy mustache, which completely covers his top lip. Adjacent to those resolutely manly elements, the forearm below the left hand looks spindly, as though it could not support the bulk of the hand pushing against the folio bearing down on it. Something of the same dichotomy present in the portrait of Lermantov recurs here—all draw on the inconsistencies and oppressive responsibilities of what it meant to be a man in mid-century Russia. Fedotov’s drawing is unique in how it summarized the difficulties he—and so many men in his position— felt as they negotiated the ideals and prescriptions for manhood enforced by the state. The tedium of guard duty and drills, the rigid strictures for uniform maintenance and overall comportment, the constant threat of punishment for arbitrary encroachments, and the unmitigated financial hardship—all created an unrelenting pressure that began to find its way into Fedotov’s art.

Comrade Fedotov clung to his friends in the regiment increasingly in these years. Portraits of them, both in pencil and in watercolor, abound in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Several of the men he named in his journal were brought to life in the artist’s albums. One of his closest friends, Alexander Druzhinin, described the artist’s attachment to his comrades in this period. For Fedotov, they were

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


Figure 2.4  Pavel Fedotov, Pavel Fedotov and his Comrades in the Finnish Life Guards Regiment, 1841–2 (unfinished); watercolor and pencil on paper, 24.8 × 33.6 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.

both a source of moral support and “abundant food for his observation.”54 In the early 1840s, the artist began experimenting with group portraiture. One example of this new resolve shows eight of his comrades gathered, along with the artist himself, for a card game [Figure 2.4]. Fedotov holds down the center of the composition; he and several others are clad only in their dressing gowns. This is a remarkable state of dishabille for men in their position—bare forearms and chests are revealed; one man’s hair is even disheveled as though he has just awakened.55 All of the figures depicted were actual men in Fedotov’s regiment and they were shown with such verisimilitude that they have been identified by scholars. This makes their state of undress even more remarkable, especially given that several of the men shown came from noble families and would go on to illustrious careers in military and state service.56 Yet here they are reduced to the basic reality of their casual daily existence in the barracks. The scene recreates what could have been any number of nights described in Fedotov’s journal. Visible on the nearest left corner of the table around which they are all gathered is a piece of chalk indicating that the men are playing cards “na melok”—making bets by recording them in chalk (without the use of


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actual cash). This was a common practice at the time; though, of course, sometimes men did play for actual rubles too. Fedotov described playing cards for pretzels in his journal and recorded astronomical losses that could not have been actual. This toggling between playing “on chalk,” playing for pretzels, and then real wins and losses underscores the artist’s perilous financial situation, but also the kind of male bonding that was central to homosocial spaces like the barracks.57 The number of mentions of card playing and gambling with fellow officers in the journal shows that this was a central activity for young men like those depicted. Despite the sense of belonging that activities like these afforded, it becomes clear that Fedotov wished he could retire from regimental life and devote himself completely to art. His artworks had begun to draw some positive attention from the authorities and he petitioned the tsar for support. He continually put off retiring, however, for fear that life as an artist would not allow him to earn enough to support his elderly father and sisters in Moscow. Remembering this period later, the artist confessed: “It was scary, terrible for me at that time: I still doubted my strength; I still did not believe in myself; I still thought that I was just a draftsman, not an artist. I was not a Frenchman … the blood of a Russian soldier flowed in my veins—foolish arrogance was not in me at all.”58 Sentiments like these run counter to ideals espoused for men at the time. Men were supposed to be proactive in their decision making; they were to operate confidently and purposefully so that they might produce concrete accomplishments, and it was even better if these kinds of actions involved embedded risk. Andrew Tolson has called the value that so many different societies put on traits like these “the deep structure of masculinity” and sociologist David Gilmore has built on this work to explore resonances in “the manly image” across otherwise widely diverging cultures.59 For the latter, the emphasis placed on decisiveness and action can be viewed as: “the sublimation of libido and aggression into culturally approved channels of practical achievement; it is also the encouragement to resist their opposites: indolence, self-doubt, squeamishness, hesitancy, the impulse to withdraw or surrender.”60 These opposite traits would have been especially frowned upon for men in Fedotov’s particular position in the Imperial Guard. There was no room for tentative officers who lacked conviction in Nicholas’s service. Nonetheless, friends who knew Fedotov at this time constantly portray him as wrought by indeterminacy. Druzhinin described the artist’s self-doubt and vacillation over what his course of action should be in these years; he claimed the artist was plagued by “uncertainty” and continually felt “pulled in different directions.”61 In his notebooks, Fedotov also expressed increasing vacillation,

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


writing that he always envied a man who could be “satisfied with his position,” but that now jealousy seemed to plague him more and more.62 Again, these feelings worked their way into his drawings from the time. In 1843, the artist produced a sketch which he titled in French “Vendredi qui fait peur” (literally “Friday which frightens”) [Figure 2.5].63 It shows Fedotov being physically pulled in different directions by fellow men. One officer yanks his coat from behind, another offers

Figure 2.5  Pavel Fedotov, Friday—A Dangerous Day (Fedotov, Torn Passions), 1843; pencil on paper, 23.7 × 19.1 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.


Picturing Russia’s Men

him a drink by placing a glass directly under his nose, and a third man attempts to lure him with cards. As each figure tries to seduce him with their respective vices, Fedotov raises his right arm in a gesture of disavowal. Approaching ten years in the regiment, the kind of masculine social activities he had shown in the card playing watercolor seem to have become a burden. Drinking and gambling—those same pastimes he had described so repetitively, and naturally, in his journal of 1835—were by 1843 something to be feared rather than embraced. Their lure was powerful.64 In part, the drawing indicates, because they were so vital to proving oneself to other men. Drinking in social contexts, especially to excess, had often been a way for young men to establish their status among peers.65 In Russia particularly, refusing to partake in the rituals of intoxicated sociability might have meant risking emasculation.66 In the words of one historian of the period: “Those who did not wish to drink were perceived as outsiders, less virile, and, by extension, less masculine.”67 Drinking among other men offered the opportunity to prove one’s impulsiveness and propensity for aggression, both key aspects in perceptions of manliness in the nineteenth century. Again though, these values contradicted the official prescriptions for self-discipline and decorum espoused by regimental commanders and the autocracy itself.68 So where did this leave Fedotov? Torn between differing masculine identities—on one hand willing to continue gambling and drinking with his comrades, but on the other wanting to shrink from such behavior. And probably knowing that no matter what he chose he still had responsibilities. Whether he continued his life as an officer—and all that entailed—or chose to take the risk and devote himself completely to art, he still had to support his family. They depended on him utterly. He described this struggle in his notebooks: “It was not easy for me to become a good young man [molodtsu], not to dance, to cavort, to chase after girls for fun … [but] my hands are needed: my younger sisters and elderly father are pleading for help.”69 In the German context, Warren G. Breckman has described the struggle between self-restraint and the desire to indulge as “a possibly unresolvable tension,” one that speaks to the paradox of conflicting desires within masculinity itself.70

Artist Ultimately, Fedotov seems to have overcome the indecision of these opposing lures. Within a year of making the sketch of himself torn between passions,

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


he chose to take the risk and retire from the regiment. He was granted special dispensation to resign his commission and devote himself completely to artistic work.71 It seems to have largely been the ideal of toil and fulfilling his true vocation which pushed him over the edge. Druzhinin remembered him stating: There are still artists who are infected with the thought that all quiet, sober, cautious work seems to them only “the virtue of women.” They want to live and work in gallops, not knowing how to balance labor and amusements: everything is brash, dramatic and violent … No! my opinion will always be in favor of working every minute and leading a most abstemious, most quiet life.72

For Fedotov, hard work and a life of restraint did not make him “womanly.” Instead, not following the path of so many men by continuing to drink and gamble meant breaking out of the typical cycle for proving one’s masculine worth. In an article for the readers of the Moscow literary journal Moskvitianin, the Russian historian and journalist Mikhail Pogodin, who knew Fedotov in the 1840s, described the verve with which the artist threw himself into his new endeavors: Fedotov retired, closed his eyes from all the honors and gains that service promised, threw off his gold epaulettes, put on a canvas apron, rolled up his sleeves, picked up the palette and began to work. He worked through the day and night, in his hole, in a garret, under an ear-shaped window; he worked a month, and another, and another, six months, a year.73

Druzhinin described the artist similarly, stating that he woke up very early in the morning and immediately opened his window and thrust his head out, no matter what the weather. Fedotov liked to breathe in the cold air and look at the activity below. Then he would pour cold water on himself, dress, and rush out to the street.74 Fedotov was firm in his resolve and careful with his money: “He went on his new path with firmness and boldness. Disregarding the hardships, so to speak, and fighting all the obstacles, he could not sacrifice halfway. The first pension payment he received, he divided into two parts and sent the larger one to his father and sisters.”75 Descriptions like these, written by those who knew him, indicate that Fedotov was, in many ways, a new man. He was now resolute and intrepid, self-assured and relentless; gone were the vacillation and hesitancy which had plagued him in the regiment. He was filled with newfound purpose and no longer found himself “killing time” with friends as he had in the barracks. The artist himself described these new feelings:


Picturing Russia’s Men A thing happened to me, a phenomenon … of which I still had only an approximate notion. It was like a spark lit in my head; I could not sleep, I felt an extraordinary strength in myself … With every vein I was aware of what I could do in that moment. I’ve never worked with such ease and so happily, every brushstroke went where it should … I could see that I was advancing.76

Productive work, so different from the monotonous guard duty and useless drills he had performed for so long, filled him with a sense of purpose and, it would seem, a new ideal of himself as a man. Friends describe him as feeling antipathy toward those who were idle; the artist stated unequivocally: “I know that a man without an occupation in his soul is the enemy of every working man!”77 Such sentiments echoed a larger shift then occurring in European society, one in which the ennui and boredom of romanticism came to be replaced by a

Figure 2.6  Pavel Fedotov, How People Walk, 1846–7; pencil on paper on cardboard, 26.2 × 25.9 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


heroization of purposeful activity. This shift was reflected in Russian literature of the period and is perhaps best embodied in one of the key works in the “superfluous man” canon. Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov (1859) centers on a main character who consistently fails to take action, even when absolutely required or necessary for his own happiness. Oblomov is countered by his German friend, Andrei Stolz, who is his dynamic antithesis. A man of intention and productivity, Stolz is nonetheless unable to inspire such qualities in his friend. Sketches Fedotov made following his retirement show him turning away from the kind of boredom that Oblomov represents (and which had characterized Fedotov’s regimental life); instead, he embraced the qualities of the man of action that Stolz would come to represent. These etudes are a testament to Fedotov’s work ethic and they show his devotion to accurately recording the actions of people from many ranks and stations of life [Figure 2.6]. On one sheet a top-hatted gentleman is striding along the boulevard, his long legs driving him forward with purpose. Next to him an officer cinched into his uniform takes a shorter step; his bushy mustache echoed by the curve of his bicorne topped with plumes. All are moving, all are men of the world. Yet this was not enough. Another page shows the artist grappling with the fluctuations of seated movement [Figure 2.7]. An older male officer sits back heavily in his chair; the hair on his head has nearly disappeared, yet his mustache remains colossal. Next to him, a young gentleman has just removed his top hat; he leans forward on the edge of his seat. Above him a heavy-set fellow twists around; one arm leans heavily on a table as the other comes across his body to snuff out a cigarette. The public is the sphere of these men and Fedotov captures their self-possession eagerly. Many of his contemporaries describe the intensity with which the artist worked in these years. The writer Ivan Mozhaiskii claimed that whenever he visited Fedotov he found him at work and he maintained that the painter preferred to be alone when producing his works. It seems the artist especially could not stand “the chatter of rich imbeciles” who sometimes called on him.78 Fedotov wrote in his notebooks: “Away from the world and people in my garret, like a homebody, scores of ideas come to engage in private conversation with me.”79 This went against prescriptions for ideal manhood of the time, however; men were encouraged to lead public lives and to embrace sociability as part of their masculine prerogative. Working to such an extent also had negative class connotations. Labor was strongly associated with men of the lowest classes—wage workers, factory hands, and serfs—who had to toil in order to feed themselves and their families. By devoting himself to manual industry in this way, Fedotov was betraying the cultural affiliation he had acquired through his service in the Imperial Guard.80


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Figure 2.7  Pavel Fedotov, How People Sit Down and Sit, 1846–7; pencil on paper, 34.6 × 22.2 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


Nonetheless, Fedotov toiled alone in his attic room, dedicated to growing his skill as a painter so that he might exhibit and find buyers for his works. He was notoriously exacting and hard on himself in these years, often describing his difficulties with specific objects and materials: “Yesterday I could not cope with the chair. I will not leave until I have learned how to do it.” Along similar lines, he stated that he would not do anything until he learned how to paint mahogany.81 He also advised the men closest to him to embrace a life of work. In a letter to one of his dearest friends, Alexander Beideman, whom he met at the Academy in the early 1840s, Fedotov encouraged him to embrace artistic labor: “Don’t be lazy, my friend [druzhok]; this artistic damage will open a new key, a river will pour out, will expand like a lake, a sea in your chest, a sea of fire, which will burn everything carnal and mundane in your soul.”82 As is subtly evident in this advice, for Fedotov, labor also meant renouncing such everyday “carnal” activities as love. We know from his journal that Fedotov had amorous interests in his years as an officer, and yet his transition to life as an artist was accompanied by an ideological shift on love and sex. His notebooks contain hints about his change of heart. At one point he described the “language of love [iazykom liubvi]” as one he was formerly engaged in, but which had become only “selfishness and coldness” to him.83 Another entry in the notebooks shows him renouncing love altogether: “Farewell to love, poor love! … Having fallen in love, then falling out of love—do not caricature yourself. It is a hellish, dismal torment.”84 These are the words of a man who has been hurt certainly, yet they also read like selfadmonishments, as though the artist was trying to remind himself not to fall in love again. Recently discovered documents in the Department of Manuscripts of the State Russian Museum make Fedotov’s feelings about love and marriage even clearer. His verdict on women was unambiguous: “so much evil wrapped in gold was brought into the world by Adam’s rib.”85 And on marriage he was no less bleak: What does it mean to get married?—to buy in [a flea] market a ready-made dress—it will be pulled out where it’s short, and where it’s loose—you’ll be told the fabric will shrink … Everything seems to fit well, everything is good, but when you come home you see that you’ve bought stolen goods … A week’s passed and you wish you hadn’t bought the thing.86

Such sentiments are surprising given that an advantageous marriage from the “flea market” could have solved many of the artist’s financial woes. And several who knew him described Fedotov’s general “weakness for the compliments and


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caresses of women,” but he was ultimately to remain a bachelor all his life.87 For Fedotov, being an artist and the intensity of devotion to work it entailed were not conducive to marriage. The two simply could not coexist. An artist had to lead a secluded life: “I feel that with the end of my solitary life will also be the end of my artistic career. I have made a sacrifice, and maybe it will be answered with an offering. No! to go, and go rightly, I must stay a lonely bystander until the end of my days.”88 Art was to take the place of love and domestic bliss and he hoped this “sacrifice,” as he called it, would be rewarded. Yet again, this was a violation of the standard path for men of his rank and former profession. By moving from the dressing gown-clad officer who spent his time drinking and gambling with friends in the barracks to the hardworking introvert toiling away alone in his garret, Fedotov adopted a new style of masculinity. Days spent playing cards with friends and whiling away the hours reading and playing the guitar—all that was the fulfillment of the tropes for conventional masculinity. But those kinds of behaviors were in the past now. Growing his skill as a painter had filled him with a new kind of purpose, one that had been lacking when he served in the regiment. The idleness that had characterized his twenties and the crushing burden of following conformist ideals for manhood had been lifted. He would not replace the duty of service by conforming to the further masculine obligations of husbandhood. For Fedotov, the life of an artist meant denying the standard course of both his class and his masculinity.

Garret This would prove a tough road. Friends describe visiting Fedotov in his new circumstances and being struck by his destitution: “It was so cold that the window was frozen from top to bottom … The poverty of the whole situation was horrifying; I don’t even remember whether there was a decent sofa or even a chair.”89 This was quite a change from how Fedotov had lived in the barracks. His rooms there had been clean and decorated with nice painted wood furniture. In his regimental days, he had plaster heads and limbs hung on the walls for his studies, a chalkboard he could sketch on, and his room was always filled with an assortment of books.90 Now not only was the artist living in conditions of squalor so that he could still afford to send money home to his family, but such deprivation was taking a toll on him physically: “from the pallor of Fedotov’s face, one could guess he had worked hard all day. His hair had thinned, his eyes

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


always seemed exhausted.”91 Fedotov persevered, believing that such suffering would improve his talent.92 Some success finally arrived when three of his paintings were shown in the Academy of Arts exhibition of 1848–9. According to those who were in Petersburg at the time, the three works shown there—The Major’s Courtship, The Choosy Bride, and The Fresh Cavalier—drew huge crowds. It was impossible to get close to them because of the throngs. The exhibition itself broke all previous existing records for attendance and Fedotov’s name began to ring in the press as the significance of his works was debated.93 He tried to segue this success by commissioning lithographs and publishing a poem that had accompanied The Fresh Cavalier, but the latter was immediately banned and he found himself in a bitter entanglement with the censors over the lithographs. Alterations were demanded before officials would allow publication. Fedotov wrote a desperate letter on Christmas Eve of 1850 to the censor: “I have an eighty-year-old father in Moscow, as well as two sisters, one of whom is a widow with two young children … The lithographs are appointed to support them … On the orphans’ behalf, Your Excellency, please, don’t refuse … let the lithographs be published.”94 He signed the letter: “Pavel Fedotov, Retired Captain of the Guard, member of the Academy;” he probably hoped his service rank would persuade the censor to grant his request by showing that he remained a loyal servant of the state. Despite his long-awaited success in the public eye, Fedotov was faced with the reality of financial struggles he had always foreseen. He was confronted with not being the breadwinner his family desperately needed him to be. He had not married so he could support them and he had sacrificed advancement through the ranks to pursue the life of an artist. Ultimately, he would not receive the permission he needed. A wave of recriminations swept Russia after democratic revolutions shook Europe in 1848 and Nicholas’s stridency only deepened in the months leading up to mid-century. To make matters worse, Fedotov became entangled with the Petrashevskii circle, a group of anti-tsarist intellectuals who suffered harsh retaliation at the hands of the emperor in 1849. The public turned against the artist. Buyers for his paintings reneged on prices they had agreed to and portrait commissions failed to materialize. Despite the setbacks, Fedotov tried desperately to stay afloat in various ways. He beseeched patrons like Fëdor Prianishnikov to pay more for his works: “You are rich … This price humiliates both me and you … Really only a 1000 rubles?”95 He wrote to others asking for “mercenary” favors or for help getting firewood to heat his freezing attic room: “I would leave you alone and just steal some firewood … but there’s no one to steal from.”96 Others petitioned the tsar on his behalf, trying to secure him government support.97


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Things went from bad to worse. The house where Fedotov was born was sold for debts and with its sale, his father and sisters lost not only their shelter but half their livelihood.98 Fedotov saw that he would have to begin making copies of his more successful works instead of producing new ones. His letters show his mood darkening: I put my works into exhibitions, but they proved utterly humiliating—my fate did not have the fury of thunder but was more like the buzzing of a mosquito … having given up ten years in the service, I was in a state of terrible desperation. I was lost. I felt some kind of continual nonsense about my insult ……… a sort of insanity.99

His friends knew something was wrong. They began to express grave concerns at the hours he was putting in, painting nearly every second of every day. The artist complained increasingly of headaches and a burning sensation in his eyes. Yet he did not stop working.

Madness By 1850, a discernible change had taken place in the overall style of Fedotov’s paintings and in the tone of his subjects. He returned to some of the themes from his life in the regiment, but now gave such topics a very bleak bite. One such painting, which remains unfinished like many of the works from this time, showed Fedotov circling back ten years to the idea of men gathered for a card game [Plate 2.1]. He pared down the multi-figure composition to just five men and again arranged them around a felt-topped table. Whereas in the 1841–2 watercolor the men leaned in with interest as they watched the game unfold, most of the figures in The Gamblers unfurl out from the center of the composition. The gentleman on the right raises his arms upward in a long yawn; the stout figure seen from behind stretches rearward as though his back has suffered from long hours of sitting. The fashionable gentleman on the left braces his head as if it aches from too long in the smoky interior. Only the figure of Fedotov himself— holding court at center with a cigar glowing menacingly from his grinning teeth—beacons them back to the game. The artist has subverted the theme of the Torn Passions drawing from seven years before. Now it is Fedotov who urges his friends back to the game; his upturned hand pleading the men to return. The fleshy thickness of that palm as it catches the light and the swollen delineation of each digit tell us this is a resolutely masculine hand. Like the

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


hand of the man crushed by an avalanche of regulations in the drawing from several years before, the upended hand does not seem to belong to the balding, diminutive man who rises above it. Below the table, one can see that this figure in fact lacks a full body; Fedotov gave himself only a shadowy outline for legs. Below his waist, Fedotov’s body turns into nothing more than a miasma of burnt sienna, as though his manhood has been singed down to nothing. Other men’s bodies are similarly severed in strange ways. The figure holding his head on the left has his right leg tucked awkwardly underneath him such that it looks sadistically amputated. The figure on the far right also lacks a definitive lower half; his legs are lost completely where the man in front of him intercedes in space. These men are worlds away from those friends Fedotov so fondly depicted playing cards in the barracks years before. Sketches for The Gamblers make the truth even clearer—the artist could no longer afford to hire models; he used mannequins to plan and plot the work. It is a sinister painting. One that underscores the devastation the artist felt by this point in his life. Letters show how much Fedotov had renounced the world: “I shook off, so to speak, everything worldly, I shouted that my heart was forever locked to everyone … indifferent to everything around me, I began my artistic intensifications … My eyes, my eyes were always burning from the surf of tears (often so very hot).”100 Removed from the world, without the comforts of masculine solidarity, and lacking a wife and children, Fedotov entered the space of his own illusory memories. The art historian Dmitrii Sarabianov believed The Gamblers was the culmination of a monstrous fantasy of mutual alienation and impotence. Yet he also argued that it put forward “a new interpretation of modern life.”101 The painting does somehow manage to do both. It is equally drawn from a space of utter imagination and at the same time devastatingly real. This is a paradox, of course, one that resembles at a deep level the frequent duality of so many of the prescriptions for ideal masculinity which had characterized Fedotov’s life. The ambiguous tenets for what it meant to be a man are reflected in the dichotomy of the painting. On one hand, the work shows a scene nightmarishly replayed from Fedotov’s now vanished past, a fantasy reverberating in his overtaxed mind from the only time he conformed to the tropes of masculinity which characterized his era. But that period was lost, never to recur again. The Gamblers arose instead from the congealed madness of his nightmarish present—a time that saw the artist unable to gain success as a painter and thus incapable of providing for his family. Fedotov’s life and art show how enmeshed the ideals for masculinity were with the changing social dynamics which


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characterized modern Russia. The former officer was unable to cope with the vicissitudes of the often-contradictory systems which surrounded him, and it now meant that all his work was for naught. He was a failure as a captain, as an artist, and as a man. As he shifted from one set of norms to another by transitioning from a life in the military to one as an artist, he found himself failing to consistently meet the expectations which accompanied both roles.102 Like Briullov before him, Fedotov chose to deviate from the strictures imposed on men at the time, but his abiding by certain ideals while transgressing others ultimately led to a breakdown. The Gamblers was to be his last painting. Those closest to him said he became increasingly suspicious and withdrawn. He made a sudden marriage proposal to the sister of his friend Beideman, but then failed to show up for the wedding.103 His biographer Andrei Somov described Fedotov talking to himself while roaming the streets and buying random items, including, at one point, a coffin.104 He disappeared and then was found in police custody in Tsarskoe Selo, where he was seen fighting someone and telling everyone that he was Christ.105 He was bound and placed in an asylum, but he could not afford his own treatment. The president of the Academy of Arts had to petition the tsar to pay for the artist’s medical expenses.106 The hospital intake form Fedotov filled out upon admission has been preserved. Its reads like a summary of the most salient elements of his masculine identity. In answers to questions about his upbringing and education, he wrote that he was brought up in the Moscow Cadet School. About his life and habits he wrote that he: “constantly worked” and led a “moderate and restrained way of life.” The final question asked him to describe whether he was happy with his fate. He wrote: “Dissatisfied with my fate. Because of the poverty of my family, who I supported.”107 In the end, it all seemed to boil down to this particular failure to fulfill the expectation that he would provide for those who depended on him. Friends who saw him in the hospital described him as having “lost everything that made him a man.”108 Fedotov died five months later at the age of only thirty-seven. He was buried in his uniform, returned the masculine dignity of a retired captain of the Finland Regiment of Russia’s Imperial Guard.

Notes 1

Fedotov, “Iz poslaniia k N. S. Shishmarevoi,” in Iakov Davidovich Leshchinskii, Fedotov: khudozhnik i poet (Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Isskustvo, 1946), 165.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist 2


P. A. Fedotov to A. I. Fedotov (draft), end of March or beginning of April 1840, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 121. 3 G. K. Leonteva, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov: Osnovnye problemy tvorchestva (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1962), 3. 4 Richard Dyer, “Don’t Look Now: The Male Pin-Up,” in The Sexual Subject: Screen Reader in Sexuality, ed. Mandy Merck (New York: Routledge, 1992), 274–5. 5 Watercolor painting had first appeared in Russia in the eighteenth century and it was a technique borrowed, as in many European countries, from England. By the early nineteenth century, it was considered unique for the precision it required and was held in esteem due to the difficulty of making alterations to the washes of color after each layer was put down. But it was also still often associated with amateur artists and those who were self-taught like Fedotov. See Irina Shumanova, “The Magic of Watercolour,” Tretiakov Gallery Magazine 20, no. 3 (2008), accessed January 22, 2017, https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/3-2008-20/ magic-watercolour. 6 Rebecca Friedman, Masculinity, Autocracy, and the Russian University: 1804–1863 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 2. 7 See LeVine, Culture, Behavior, and Personality (Chicago: Aldine, 1973). LeVine is building off of the work of a team of earlier sociologists and psychologists. See Alex Inkeles and Daniel J. Levinson, “National Character: The Study of Modal Personality and Sociocultural Systems,” in The Handbook of Social Psychology IV, eds. G. Lindzey and E. Aronson (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969), 418–506 (originally published 1954). 8 Fedotov, “Autobiography,” 1848, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 100. 9 Dmitrii Sarabianov, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1985), 5. 10 Fedotov, “Autobiography,” 1848, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 100. 11 Rosalind P. Gray, Russian Genre Painting in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 134. 12 Friedman, Masculinity, Autocracy, 2. 13 Ibid., 8. 14 Ibid., 33. 15 Shklovksii, Povest’ o khudozhnike Fedotove (Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Detskoi Literaturi, 1960), 25. 16 Georges Vigarello, “The Upward Training of the Body from the Age of Chivalry to Courtly Civility,” in Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part Two, ed. Michel Feher (New York: Zone Books, 1989), 157, 168–73, 179. 17 Shklovksii, Povest’ o khudozhnike, 25. 18 Friedman, Masculinity, Autocracy, 5. 19 Ibid.


Picturing Russia’s Men

20 Fedotov, “Autobiography,” 1848, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 98. 21 See Galina Zagianskaia, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1977), 6 and V. V. Stasov, “25 let russkogo iskusstva,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 235. N. G. Mashkovtsev states that none of his drawings from these years have survived. See “Iskusstvo pervoi poloviny XIX veka” in Ocherki po istorii russkogo iskusstva (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii khudozhestv SSSR, 1954), 150. 22 Fedotov, “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 119. 23 Fedotov, “K moim chitateliam,” 145–6. Quoted in S. S. Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia, kak almaz, bereg …, ” in Pavel Fedotov: teatr zhizni (Moscow: State Tretiakov Gallery, 2015), 9. 24 In Freudian psychoanalysis, the sword is one of many phallic symbols: “the male organ, has symbolical substitute in objects of like form, those which are long and upright … It is also symbolized by objects that have the characteristic, in common with it, of penetration into the body and consequent injury, hence pointed weapons of every type, knives, daggers, lances, swords … ” See Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, trans. G. Stanley Hall (New York: Horace Liveright, 1920), 127. 25 Svetlana Stepanova, “Human Comedy and the Drama of Life in the Art of Pavel Fedotov,” Tretiakov Gallery Magazine 47, no. 2 (2015), accessed February 26, 2018, https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/2-2015-47/human-comedyand-drama-life-art-pavel-fedotov. 26 Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia,” 9. 27 Ibid. 28 A. E. Rozen, Zapiski dekabrista (St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 1870). Quoted in Stanislav Andriainen, “Warriors in Peace: The Everyday Life of Russian Officers at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century,” in The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825: Public Role and Subjective Self, eds. Andreas Schönle, Andrei Zorin and Alexei Evstratov (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016), 169. 29 The entire journal consists of entries dated between March 1 and April 22; within that period Fedotov only failed to make entries on five days. For more on Fedotov’s journal, including translations of entries not included here, see my article, “Men’s Time: Pavel Fedotov and the Pressures of Mid-Nineteenth-Century Masculinity,” Slavic and East European Journal 63, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 28–51. 30 Fedotov, “Journal of Fedotov,” March 18, 1835, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 105. 31 Ibid., March 25, 1835, in ibid. 32 Ibid., March 27, 1835, in ibid. 33 Ibid., April 8, 1835, in ibid., 107. 34 Ibid., April 9, 1835, in ibid. 35 Ibid., April 12, 1835, in ibid. 36 Ibid., April 21, 1835, in ibid., 110. 37 See note 67 in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 250 for details on when Fedotov attended classes at the Academy and his progression through each stage in drawing.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


38 Those who knew him noted too that he did not have the typical posture of someone who served. See Ivan Mozhaiskii, “Neskol’ko slov o pokoinom akademike P. A. Fedotove,” first published in Otechestvennye zapiski, 1859. See Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 201. 39 Fedotov may in fact be shown wearing the new shako with plaited cords which was introduced in 1828. Each Russian ruler introduced innovations into the dress code, but Nicholas I had a particular zeal for revising uniform codes as a further means of instilling obedience in his subjects. He issued numerous decrees outlining regulations not only for the military and civil sector, but also for ladies at court. For more on these developments, see Irina Tarsis, “Laws and Lithographs: Seeing Imperial Russia through Illustrations of Civil Uniforms in Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii,” Slavic & East European Information Resources 11 (2010): 156–83. 40 Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 250 (note 67). 41 Fedotov, “Autobiography,” 1848, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 98. 42 David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform 1801–1881 (New York: Routledge, 2014), 128. 43 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 236. 44 Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction, 128. 45 Andriainen, “Warriors in Peace,” 158. 46 Ibid., 159. 47 Ibid., 164. 48 P. A. Fedotov to A. I. Fedotov (draft), end of March or beginning of April 1840, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 121. He also expresses concern about the state of his clothing. See the first entry in Fedotov’s “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 110. Leshchinskii explains that only eighteen letters written by the artist (twelve of them drafts) have been found in various Russian archives. But Fedotov seems to have been in correspondence with many more figures than this small number of surviving letters show. In his Povest’ o khudozhnike Fedotove, Viktor Shklovksii introduced the idea that the artist burned his archive of correspondence out of concern that he would be arrested along with other members of the Petrashevskii circle. R. M. Kirsanova believes this is plausible and explains why so few letters survive. See Kirsanova, “Veshchnyi mir epokhi v tvorchestve P. A. Fedotova,” in Pavel Fedotov teatr zhizni, 47–8. 49 Druzhinin tells us he shared his income continually in this way. See “Vospominanie o russkom khudozhnike Pavle Andreeviche Fedotove,” first published in the journal Sovremennik, no. 9, 1853, reproduced in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 188. 50 Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia,” 15. 51 Fedotov describes buying epaulettes for this amount in a journal entry. See “Journal of Fedotov,” April 13, 1835, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 108.


Picturing Russia’s Men

52 P. A. Fedotov to Sh. F. Flug in I. Zherve, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov, Biograficheskii ocherk: k 50-letiiu so dnia ego konchiny (Voennyi sbornik, 1902, no. 11), 225. Quoted in Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia,” 15. 53 P. A. Fedotov to Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (draft), end of March or beginning of April 1840, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 124. His journal provides further insight into the costs of artists’ materials in the period. See, in particular, the entry for April 20, 1835, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 110. 54 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 187. 55 See the catalog entry for the painting in Pavel Fedotov teatr zhizni, 80. 56 Alexander Drenteln (third from the right) would go on to become the GovernorGeneral of Kiev, Alexander Zherdinskii (second from right) went on to a position as the Governor of Kursk, and Petr Vannovskii (far right) ultimately became the Minister of War! 57 Fedotov, “Journal of Fedotov,” March 17, 1835, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 105. 58 V. Goldin, “Pavel Andreevich Fedotov,” Panteon, no. 1 (1854): 10. Quoted in Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia,” 15. 59 Andrew Tolson, The Limits of Masculinity: Male Identity and the Liberated Woman (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 56. 60 David D. Gilmore, Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 38. 61 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 187. 62 Fedotov, “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 111. 63 Those who knew him claim Fedotov read several European languages but could only speak Russian. See A. O., “Neskol’ko slov o Fedotove,” first published in the “Artistic Journal of Fine Arts and Literature” (Svetopis’, no. 12, 1858). Quoted in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 210. In another context, Molly Brunson raises a fascinating question about Fedotov’s drawing captions and the frequent oddity of their locations on the page. She asks whether the text or image came first for Fedotov. See Russian Realisms: Literature and Painting, 1840–1890 (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016), 46. 64 This drawing was not the only instance in which Fedotov grappled with the subject of drinking and its consequences. Watercolors such as Gentlemen! … Get Married— This Will Be Useful (1842–3, Tretiakov Gallery) and Baptism (1847, Russian Museum) portray more bitterly the burden drinking placed on families. 65 Lina A. Ricciardelli and Robert J. Williams, “Role of Masculinity and Femininity in the Development and Maintenance of Health Risk Behaviors,” in An International Psychology of Men: Theoretical Advances, Case Studies, and Clinical Innovations, eds. Chris Blazina and David S. Shen-Miller (New York: Routledge, 2011), 75. 66 Friedman, Masculinity, Autocracy, 39. 67 Ibid., 40.

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist


68 In practice, authorities frequently dealt with men’s public drunkenness with a great deal of ambivalence. See ibid., 47. 69 Fedotov, “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 110–11. 70 Warren G. Breckman, “Disciplining Consumption: The Debate about Luxury in Wilhemine Germany, 1890–1914,” Journal of Social History 24, no. 3 (Spring 1991): 490. 71 Rosalind Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 208. 72 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” 13. Quoted in Stepanova, “Ia zh vremia,” 26. 73 Pogodin, “K chitateliam ‘Moskvitianina,’” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 231. 74 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 194. Molly Brunson also discusses this morning routine at greater length in her chapter on Fedotov and the natural school. See Russian Realisms, 44–5. 75 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 188. 76 Ibid., 195. 77 Ibid., 192. In both instances, Fedotov used the word “chelovek” which, it should be noted, is gender-neutral in Russian and is frequently translated either as “person” or as “man.” Notable instances of the wholesale translation of chelovek as “man,” however, do occur—the most relevant example to his study is the “lishnii chelovek,” which is almost always translated into English as the “superfluous man.” It is worth noting as well that Svetlana Stepanova translated this same line from Druzhinin’s text into English and used “man” in both instances. Throughout the book, I have tried to be careful when translating this word and not alter the sentiment that seems to be conveyed by the writer in each instance. 78 Mozhaiskii, “Neskol’ko slov,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 201–2. 79 Fedotov’s “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 116. 80 My ideas on the relationship between class and masculinity in the context of art are indebted to the work of Tim Barringer in particular. See his Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005). 81 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 195. Several scholars discuss the relation this striving for naturalism and verisimilitude had with writers in the early realist school such as Nikolai Gogol, Fëdor Dostoevsky, and Ivan Goncharov. For more on these discussions in English see, in particular: Brunson, Russian Realisms, 26–62 and Gray, Russian Genre Painting, 147–8. In Russian, see Sarabianov, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov, 82–9 and Zagianskaia, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov, 7–11. 82 P. A. Fedotov to A. E. Beideman, no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 134. 83 Fedotov’s “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 113. The artist’s letters also attest vaguely to romantic relationships with women. He mentions a love letter he plans to “put in the purse of one young lady” in a letter to his sister from 1840–1.


Picturing Russia’s Men

84 Fedotov’s “Notebooks,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 114. 85 Department of Manuscripts, Russian Museum, Fund 9, Item 35, Sheet 9. Quoted in Stepanova, “Human Comedy.” 86 Ibid. The notion of marriage as a sham, as well as themes of infidelity and family struggle, also recurs across Fedotov’s art—see in particular works such as The First Morning of a Deceived Young Man (1842–4) and The Major’s Courtship (1848). 87 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 193. It seems Fedotov may have had the opportunity to marry a woman who would have eased his financial strain. An extended note in the Leshchinskii volume describes his relationship with Iulia Tarnovskaia (and one letter to her is reproduced in the text), but Fedotov was the one who likely declined the opportunity. See Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 254 (note 92). 88 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 194. 89 These reminiscences of Nadezhda Shishmareva were recorded by V. V. Zherve and published in his article “K biografii P. A. Fedotova,” Istoricheskii vestnik (March 1901). Quoted in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 215. 90 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 186. 91 Ibid., 188–90. 92 A line from Fedotov’s poetry touches on this idea: “Talent improves in appearance when it’s persecuted.” Quoted in Stepanova, “Human Comedy,” original lines in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 164–5. 93 Gray, Russian Genre Painting, 143. 94 P. A. Fedotov to M. N. Musin-Pushkin, December 24, 1850, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 130–1. 95 P. A. Fedotov to F. I. Prianishnikov (draft), no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 132. 96 P. A. Fedotov to P. Y. Lazarev, no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 124. Others claim that Fedotov never borrowed money from anyone and, indeed, he seems to have feared debts. A letter to Olga Zhdanovicha makes clear that friends who were concerned sent him money, but in this instance, he refused it and sent the money back. See P. A. Fedotov to O. P. Zhdanovicha (draft), no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 125. 97 Documents reproduced in Leshchinskii show that the Duke of Leichtenberg wrote to Nicholas I in October of 1850 asking that Fedotov be granted 500 rubles a year because “he is in a very difficult and even extreme situation.” See Leshchinskii, 242–3. 98 Druzhinin, “Vospominanie,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 199. 99 P. A. Fedotov to Iu. V. Tarnovskaia (draft), no date, in ibid., 132. 100 P. A. Fedotov to Iu. V. Tarnovskaia (draft), no date, in ibid., 133–4. 101 Sarabianov, Pavel Andreevich, 84–9. 102 Such failure links him, in important ways, to the rise and fall of similarly ambitious men throughout European culture, but I decided not to pursue this

Pavel Fedotov: Comrade—Captain—Artist

103 104

105 106 107 108


connection further in the interest of keeping the focus consistently on the Russian context. It seemed more fruitful, in this instance, to build arguments by using Russian artworks and connecting these to the history of this nation and its class dynamics rather than drifting into comparisons that take the focus off the Russian case. A. E. Beideman to E. F. Beideman, no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 213–15. A. I. Somov, Pavel Andreevich Fedotov (St. Petersburg: Tip. A. M. Kotoshina, 1878). Cited in Brunson, Russian Realisms, 58. On buying the coffin, see Zhemchuzhnikov, Vospominanie o P. A. Fedotove, quoted in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 219. A. E. Beideman to E. F. Beideman, no date, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 215. President of the Academy of Arts to General-Field Marshal to the Minister of the Imperial Court, June 30, 1852, in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 244. “Skorenyi listok” (filled out by Fedotov in the All Those Who Sorrow hospital), in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 246. A. O. “Neskol’ko slov o Fedotove,” in Leshchinskii, Fedotov, 212.


Part Two

Homosociality and Homoeroticism



Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude Lord, help me—do not punish me henceforth in such circumstances—give me strength to remember you in every minute of my life, and not to err. Alexandr Ivanov, “Thoughts Arising upon Reading the Bible,” 1846–71 Apollo’s translucent body glows in the half shade of a pastoral bower, resting comfortably on two large boulders, over which supple fabrics are draped [Plate  3.1]. Apollo’s face is flushed as though some vigorous activity has just ended and his gaze is turned skyward, drawing the eye to his halo of downy blonde hair and the laurel wreath which crowns his head. A naked adolescent boy named Cypress rests against his torso, ensconced contentedly in the space under the deity’s arm. He too is flushed, but his heavy-lidded eyes belie whatever activity occurred recently and indicate that he is just beginning to dose off. He caresses Apollo’s arm gently and wraps the other hand around his own waist. Cypress’s favorite companion—a tamed stag—lies fallen behind him, an accidental victim of the boy’s hunting javelin, marking the scene as tragic despite the heavy sensuality. On the left side of the canvas, a younger nude boy plays a pipe to console his companions. Hyacinthus’s tiny fingers grasp the instrument as he crouches on the rock and he looks adoringly up at Apollo to gauge his approval. In response, the glowing god reaches tenderly for the boy’s right knee and his middle finger just grazes the youth’s pristine skin, connecting all three figures through the warmth of corporeal sympathy. Hyacinthus will soon meet with calamity though, foreshadowing his fate is the discus resting against the rock. He will be struck and killed by it while trying to impress Apollo with a good catch. The red earth near Hyacinthus’s foot augurs the Greek god’s future grief, for he will make a flower, the Hyacinth, from the boy’s blood in an act of commemoration. Despite the undercurrent of sorrow in the scene, the painting is rife with sensual ease and post-coital contentment. Apollo and his two young lovers bask in a perpetual summer, playing music and enjoying the beauty of each other’s


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 3.1  Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing (detail), 1831–4 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 101 × 138.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2018

bodies. Eroticism pervades the image—flesh is everywhere buttery, the air is warm and thick with satisfaction, even the rocks seem somehow pliable, as though the young men resting on them have transformed their solidity through the sheer power of their mutual desire. Intimate touch binds the figures in the picture, bringing a sense of immediacy to their connection and conveying the gravity of their sensual all-male utopia [Figure 3.1]. Markers of arousal are unambiguously scattered throughout—in the hanging swag of fabric between Apollo’s legs, in Hyacinthus’s phallic pipe, in Cypress’s open mouth and pert testicular sac. These details bind the figures in their maleness, yet also add to the pleasure of their unity as an erotic group. The style of painting and the story itself were not uncommon, but the intensity with which the artist conveyed the eroticism of the classical subject was unusual in this time. Alexander Ivanov began this work in the summer of 1831, not long after arriving in Rome, where, like Karl Briullov, he had been sent to study as a pensioner for four years by the Society for the Encouragement of Artists.2 Like Briullov, Ivanov had also trained at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg and he likewise came from a family of artists. His father was a professor of history painting at the Academy and his mother came from an artistic family—her three

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


brothers had all trained at the school.3 Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing was the first major, independent work Ivanov began in the foreign capital. It is a painting saturated with the ideals of antiquity which the young artist had been exposed to via his formal training, but it is also an artwork that subtly exceeds the calm propriety of the established classical style. Several scholars have noted the oddity of Ivanov’s interpretation of the subject. Militsa Nekliudova described the work as: “so different from the traditional academic interpretation of antiquity;” and Iris Blochel called the painting one in which: “Ivanov goes distinctly beyond that understanding of art which was taught to him in the Academy.”4 Yet few have interpreted the canvas in terms of Ivanov’s own sexuality and its relationship to his choice of this particular theme. In 2001, Rosalind Blakesley surveyed the homoerotic tendencies in Ivanov’s art and described the “enormous implications” such work could have for developing “our broader comprehension of contemporary Russian society.”5 Yet scholars, especially those in Russia, have long shied away from such investigations, considering intimate realms of experience inappropriate for intellectual assessment. Peter Barta described the state of the field at the outset of the twenty-first century: “In Russia … neither gender nor sexuality has gained public acceptability as a legitimate branch of scholarship … Only a minor part of the academic establishment is willing to acknowledge the right of scholars to investigate these areas.”6 In art history, the explicit study of artists’ sexuality has also met with a certain hesitancy. James Smalls points out that: “until recently, art historians have been reluctant to consider seriously homosexuality and its emotional correlation to creative production prior to the twentieth century.”7 In his study of French post-revolutionary paintings, Smalls explores how homoerotic desire has been “masked behind facades of classicism and erudition” and subsumed into notions of the beau idéal (the beautiful ideal) which seek to explain away “the homoeroticism latent in neoclassicism.”8 Examining Ivanov’s artistic production from the early 1820s through the mid-1850s demonstrates the place of such homoerotic content in Russian permutations of neoclassicism. The Russian artist’s work and the many facets of same-sex desire and androgyny contained within it counter history’s supreme focus on heteronormative masculinity. This chapter explores how Ivanov’s paintings highlight his sexuality and, on a larger level, it considers the way men’s erotic proclivities were implicated in the constitution of their masculinity in the period. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that in Ivanov’s time, a recognized and self-asserted homosexual identity was not yet possible in public or in private


Picturing Russia’s Men

life.9 In Western Europe, the term “homosexuality” did not appear in print until 1869; in Russia, the adjective “homosexual [gomoseksual’nyi]” was only first used in 1895, and not common until after 1905.10 This did not mean that various forms of same-sex erotic activity did not take place in earlier periods. A male homosexual subculture can be ascertained in Russian cities as early as the 1830s.11 But, as David Halperin has noted, homosexuality in the modern sense cannot be understood to have existed “because no single category of discourse or experience existed in the premodern and non-Western worlds that comprehended exactly the same range of same-sex sexual behaviors, desires, psychologies, and socialities, as well as the various forms of gender deviance, that now fall within the capacious definitional boundaries of homosexuality.”12 What follows reconstructs the intimations of erotic longing which can be found in the art of Alexander Ivanov. Over the course of his life, the artist would constantly harken back to the themes of same-sex longing raised in Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress. Despite the fact that it was never completed, it became a cornerstone for him and motifs within it would be reworked and transposed into numerous later representations. Depicting naked bodies outdoors would ultimately prove an obsession for the artist and tracing the recurrence of this activity in the artist’s oeuvre provides insight not only into Ivanov’s sexual universe but into contemporary understandings of homoeroticism as well. Such work adds to the growing history of various kinds of male intimacies and creates a fuller picture of the continuum of masculinities which existed in the nineteenth century.

Académies—Looking at Men Alexander Ivanov entered the Academy of Arts at the age of eleven in 1817.13 Unlike most pupils, he continued to live with his painting-professor father and matriculated as an “outside” student, without state support.14 Other pupils at the school described Ivanov as something of an outsider in more ways than just his enrollment status. According to Fëdor Iordan, who trained at the Academy in the same years, the other boys looked at Alexander with envy because he was well dressed and had drawing paper and pencils in abundance. Iordan described Ivanov as courteous with his fellow classmates, but not especially sociable; instead he was “always very serious and focused” and as a result made rapid progress.15 Students at the Academy typically spent twelve years passing through a total of five stages (called vozrasty, literally “ages”). They progressed from the

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


initial copying of approved drawings and engravings, to studying decorative ornament, followed by sketching from the antique, copying paintings in the Hermitage, and then finally the life-drawing class.16 Ivanov completed all of these preparatory stages very quickly and was permitted to begin life-drawing after only two years.17 In this phase of his study, Ivanov and other advanced students would gather in the evenings to sketch a live model by lamplight in a large auditorium. Exclusively male models would assume poses inspired by classical sculpture or those found in old master paintings.18 The figure studies which students produced were known as académies and they were assessed several times a year in a series of structured examinations.19 Though these studies were typically not preserved for posterity by artists, many of the nudes Ivanov made were preserved by his father.20 These drawings show a budding artist who was mastering classical proportions and learning to internalize the nuances of the male body’s musculature. Models are captured in Ivanov’s académies from all angles and in a variety of poses [Figure 3.2]. Nude men are depicted from behind, from the front, and from the side, suggesting that the artist took up different seats in the room, moving around the sitter to show the body from a multitude of angles and distances. Some raise their elbow above their head, allowing the artist to carefully portray the serratus anterior muscles and external obliques on both sides of the abdomen. Others crouch down or sit cross legged and twist around in space. In all of his académies, Ivanov shows particular interest in the muscles that descend down the back side of men’s arms. He is meticulous in recording the subtle connection between each muscle group—the way the deltoid slides into the bicep and then meets with the bulge of a tricep, the connection between the different extensors around and below the elbow. While such attention to musculature was not uncommon, the level of connection Ivanov demonstrated with these anonymous male sitters was unusual. Several of Ivanov’s académies show the figure gazing directly down at him, as though artist and model maintained eye contact for the duration of the long session [Figure 3.3]. In one such study from his final years at the school, Ivanov rendered a model who looks to be in his late teens or early twenties. His face is soft and his lips are slightly parted as he gazes down at the artist. Ivanov has carefully captured the light as it hit the left side of the young man’s face and shoulder. Each tendril of his disheveled hair has been painstakingly recorded, as have the bones comprising his knees. Ivanov offset the far contour of the young man’s body with hatched lines; running diagonal to the shoulder and facial regions, these change direction abruptly to flow parallel with the body


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 3.2  Alexander Ivanov, Sitting Model Clasping His Head in His Hand, 1827–8; charcoal pencil, 60.4 × 50 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

around the forearm, thigh, and knee, as if Ivanov caressed these areas with his soft pencil, perhaps even rubbing those marks as the session progressed. The same model may have posed for an earlier académie made in 1824 [Figure 3.4]. In this study, a young man with broad shoulders and well-muscled arms stands with a staff in his left hand. Again, Ivanov has encased the body of this male nude in a mandorla of hatched and rubbed lines which extends

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


Figure 3.3  Alexander Ivanov, Sitting Model, 1827–8 (unfinished); yellowish-gray tinted paper, Italian pencil, charcoal, and chalk, 61 × 47.8 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

completely around his body—as if radiating from it—before falling away abruptly on the surrounding paper. Ivanov paid close attention to the shaded regions: note the dark area across the right trapezius as well as the deep shadow on the inside of the upper right thigh. The latter is the darkest and largest area of shading found on the entire body and it draws the eye to this zone, inviting closer scrutiny.


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Figure 3.4  Alexander Ivanov, Young Model with a Staff in His Left Hand, 1824; Italian pencil on paper, formerly The State Tretiakov Gallery, current location unknown

It is possible that académies like this one were the result of private sessions Ivanov conducted with some models. In an essay on the artist’s drawings and watercolors, Natalia Uvarova briefly describes how the artist engaged models outside of class: “drawing sitters independently, working overtime, out of love

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


for the work [iz liubvi k svoemu delu].”21 According to Uvarova, Ivanov continued with these private sessions and kept attending the life-drawing class even after he was awarded two silver medals for his académies in 1823 and 1824.22 One of the medals he received was for a composition with two figures; such groupings were frequently enacted in the Academy over the years. In fact, Karl Briullov had depicted a pair less than a decade before. In Briullov’s study, the two men are seen from behind with both models turning away from him [Figure 3.5]. He carefully

Figure 3.5  Karl Briullov, Two Models, 1813; graphite pencil and red chalk on paper, 60.1 × 45.3 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019


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captured the musculature, but the figures’ connection to one another was not made all that convincing. The seated man is shown looking dramatically away from his partner while the sightline of the standing man was made ambiguous. They look utterly posed, a means to an end for an artist seeking to show his technical skill and his understanding of classically ideal forms. Ivanov’s rendering, on the other hand, is a tour de force of masculine spectacle and dramatic engagement [Figure 3.6]. The standing man is seen utterly

Figure 3.6  Alexander Ivanov, Two Nude Models, 1822; Italian pencil on paper, 80 × 52.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


frontal, with his rather short right arm grasping a long rod, allowing Ivanov to concentrate on the sumptuous bulging bicep. The other arm sweeps intensely across his body, forcefully grasping the wrist of his partner. The seated man has reached up and placed his hand high across his partner’s thigh. The fingers of that hand curve convincingly around the upper quadriceps, but Ivanov fumbled somewhat the standing man’s hand—creating ambiguity as to whether that figure is pushing his partner’s hand off of his thigh or pulling it upward. This is a stark change from the figures’ arrangement in Briullov’s drawing. In that work, the standing figure does not clutch at his partner’s thigh, but instead places his hand on the opposing man’s shoulder. The gesture in Ivanov’s drawing is largely inexplicable and is reinforced as an area of attention by the seated man’s ambiguous gaze. It is unclear whether he is looking at the meeting of the hands or, more problematically, at his standing partner’s pubic region itself. Regardless of where that gaze is directed, what Ivanov highlighted in the drawing, as in so many of his académies, was the emotional connection between two men. While neither figure stares out at him, the standing figure looks unequivocally down at his seated partner with an intensity that has caused his brow to furrow. These men are not disconnected from one another, looking in opposite directions as in Briullov’s rendering. They are interwoven emotionally and physically, crisscrossing each other in space and via sight. While some scholars have tried to explain away the unusual nature of Ivanov’s drawings by stating that they are evidence of his meticulous attention to detail, more than anything, the artist’s académies demonstrate his fundamental affection for looking at the unclothed bodies of men.23 There is a penetrating honesty about all of his nude studies, a fondness for every detail of the masculine physique that is revealed in them. Ivanov’s académies possess a mutual sense of gratification in the act of looking that is noteworthy for the insight it lends into his budding sexuality. In this sense, the académies are akin to what James Smalls has described, in the French artistic context, as “visual metaphor[s] of the confrontation between the artist’s inner thoughts and emotions (i.e., his subjectivity) and contemporary historical realities.”24 In his study of the French revolutionary painter Anne-Louis Girodet, Smalls identifies a range of tactics the artist employed to claim a psychic space for himself in a period of “intense artistic conformity and personal stress.”25 The Russian Academy of Arts was certainly a space of this kind of traditionalism and scrutiny, especially in the years after Nicholas I assumed the throne, which occurred just after Ivanov won his medals for the académies. As was evident from Fedotov’s work, within the staunchly patriarchal society that


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Nicholas mandated, it became increasingly problematic to subvert the dominant gender paradigms in any way. Thus, Ivanov’s subtle marking of the male body as an erotic object for his own male gaze was dangerous no matter how veiled. Yet the time in (and out) of life-drawing classes at the Academy afforded him the opportunity to find ways to bind male figures together through gazes and gestures. Such study would prove vital as he embarked on the Apollo painting once in Rome.

Composites, Androgynes, and Desire When Ivanov arrived in the Italian capital in the spring of 1831, he was carrying a set of instructions from the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. It contained much general advice as well as some specific directives about how he was to conduct his studies. The guidelines made explicit that Ivanov was not to spend a single day without drawing, he was to send reports to the Society every two months, and he was to describe in these accounts his opinions about what he was seeing. He was also to produce a copy of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Ceiling in his second year and then in the third begin a “significant” picture of his own. This original composition had to be sent back to Russia at the end of his period of study abroad. Instructions for this independent work were more detailed: “The picture should not be complex in its meaning, for it is the quality of the figures that makes a picture good. Leave it at one standing nude and two or three figures in clothes, an entertaining subject and a decent execution, in order to show your knowledge and skill.”26 Ivanov did not wait until his third year to begin this original work. Nor did he follow the prescription to clothe the majority of the figures. Instead, he started sketching for the painting that would become Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress even while he was working on the Michelangelo copy.27 An early sketch in red chalk he made in 1831 shows a very different arrangement for the three figures than the one found in the final painting. Apollo is strumming his lyre with one of the boys nestled under his arm; the youth’s hair grazes the god’s left cheek as the two play the instrument together.28 The other boy, likely Hyacinthus, lies on his stomach with his arms folded across Apollo’s hip and thigh. This conception figures Apollo and his young lovers in a moment of musical instruction, not in the tragic period of sensual reverie he would later devise. Interestingly, Ivanov also retained positions for the feet and legs which harken back to how models

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


were posed at the Academy—seated but with one foot propped up on a box to vary the configuration of the legs. A more developed oil study shows Ivanov moving closer toward the ultimate arrangement. In it, Cypress is shown nuzzled under Apollo’s arm as he will be in the final painting. Likewise, the god is already depicted reaching with his hand toward the other boy’s knee.29 But Hyacinthus is not yet actively playing the pipe as he will be in the eventual canvas; instead, he holds it out in front of his mouth. Drawings from the time show Ivanov testing out various configurations for this figure as he considered different arrangements. Several sketches show a boy crouched and playing the pipe, his eyes upturned and the pipe inserted into his mouth. Yet other details are still shifting: sometimes Hyacinthus wears Grecian sandals or Ivanov lengthens or shortens the boy’s hair in multiples on the same sheet [Figure 3.7]. The artist also demonstratively manipulates the musculature of the child’s body. The figure on the left side of the drawing typically referred to as Boy Playing a Pipe has firmly delineated bicep and abdominal muscles, whereas such features have been reduced to create a more lithesome young body for the boy on the right.

Figure 3.7  Alexander Ivanov, Boy Playing a Pipe, 1831–4; Italian and graphite pencil on paper, 46.2 × 60.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow


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The figure will become even younger in the final canvas. The Hyacinthus found in the ultimate painting is shorter, his belly rounder and his face plumper; he has not yet developed muscles like those Ivanov’s model obviously possessed. Instead he is all soft and glowing childishness, his fingers moving up and down the pipe to please his companions. That object also underwent a number of alternations. In several drawings, the mouthpiece of the instrument is almost obscenely penile and Ivanov seems to have become increasingly preoccupied with rendering the instrument’s tip as it broached Hyacinthus’s pursed lips. On one sheet, which also figures a closed-eyed, open-mouthed Cypress, Hyacinthus is shown playing a pipe with a ridge-like circle around its upper shaft, resembling the anatomical configuration of both corona and foreskin as they meet the penile shaft.30 The changes occurring in the handling of this object and the figure may reflect Ivanov’s practice of using female models for male figures in his paintings. Fewer scholars discuss the significance of this practice and it is debated when he first began the habit. Nonetheless, it is known that Ivanov used female sitters to devise a number of the male figures in his next major painting, The Appearance of Christ to the People (1837–57). Grigorii Goldovskii believes Ivanov used female models for this work because their faces possessed greater “expressive plasticity.”31 According to Goldovskii, Ivanov worked constantly from life, “but never reproduced it literally;” instead, he coalesced models to fit his needs.32 Mikhail Alpatov describes Ivanov’s use of a specific female model, Vittoria Caldoni, for the figure of Cypress in the Apollo painting.33 She served as a model for a number of artists in the 1830s, including Karl Briullov (many scholars believe she is the figure closest to him in the Pompeii painting). An etude Ivanov likely made of Caldoni for the figure of Cypress in the early 1830s shows three different versions of her head in various stages of transformation [Figure 3.8]. On the far left, Caldoni is shown with dark hair parted in the middle and pulled back over her ears. Her eyes are heavy and her lips are pursed; she resembles the sketch Ivanov made of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna when he passed through Dresden on his way to Italy. In the middle of the sheet is a more androgynous figure. All the facial features have opened up— the eyes have been widened, the brows darkened, the mouth made fuller and less taut. Ivanov also cropped the figure’s hair, making the androgyne look more like a Greek statue than a model drawn from life. The curls appear sculpted and artificial compared to the soft naturalism Caldoni possessed in the drawing on the left. On the right is a hybrid of the two previous sketches. The chiseled, short curls have been maintained, as have the large eyes and the narrow, elongated

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


Figure 3.8  Alexander Ivanov, Boys’ Heads (Etude for Cypress), early 1830s; formerly The State Tretiakov Gallery, current location unknown

nose, but the mouth has been opened and the head tipped backward. This figure will be transposed almost exactly into the final painting. Later oil sketches show Ivanov continuing this practice, often superimposing or mixing the heads of female models with boy’s bodies [Figure 3.9].34 A sketch for a nude adolescent intended for The Appearance of Christ to the People shows two variations of the same model. On the left, the figure possesses the body of an adolescent boy complete with penis and testicles. The figure has a slender frame and the muscles of the arms are beginning to develop, as is a distinctively male pectoral region. Above this young male body, however, is a peculiarly female face—again the hair is swept up and back, but the mouth and cheekbones read as largely feminine. To the right of this mixed-gender figure is another posed in exactly the same way, with arms across the upper abdomen and feet parted slightly. As in the sketch for Cypress, this next permutation sees Ivanov shortening the hair and moving the jawline lower, making it tougher and fuller. The lips have been thinned and the brow line has become more pronounced, while the belly is made more muscled, masculinizing the features across the entirety of the form. Ivanov’s composites imply that the features of masculinity glide on the surface of the body, that they can be made and re-made, emphasized or deemphasized, that they are constructed as opposed to being innate. They suggest that sexuality and its investment in real bodies are mobile, existing in a state of flux that goes against heteronormative assumptions about male desire. In this sense, they infer a profoundly modern conception of gender and sexual desire, one that sees bodies as performing and desiring alternatively male or female


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Figure 3.9  Alexander Ivanov, Naked Boy (Rotation of Trembling Boy, Two Variants), 1833–57; oil on paper on canvas, 62.7 × 50.5 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

roles. Ivanov’s process of creating composites throughout this period was also at a deep level related to the purpose he outlined for beginning the Apollo painting in the first place. In a letter discussed by several scholars, Ivanov claimed that he began the painting “in order to create a nude that replaced that of the life-drawing class.”35 From this statement, it becomes clear that the

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


artist was seeking a new kind of nudity, one that contained the vivid intimacy he had brought to bear on his académies and one that was personal to him as an artist. Ivanov’s new ideal was derived from life, but also sought to exceed the bounds of it. He created figures which surpassed all traditional gender categories and sexual norms, while still having arisen from the intensity of life and the experience of living bodies. In his study of the Apollo painting, Mikhail Allenov also makes a claim about the sensual realness of the figures in the work, especially that of the god. Allenov argues that Ivanov wanted to show Apollo not as a great hero or a formidable deity, but as a man who had descended to live among similarly carnal and corporeal mortals.36 Allenov further claims that in Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, “Ivanov created a work that can be perceived as the most specific and sincerely intimate of all his creations.”37 The idea that Ivanov was exploring something deeply personal, to the point of exposing his own intimate desires, is borne out by the intensity with which he sketched for the project and the number of alterations the painting underwent. Ivanov ushered in a new kind of artistic practice when creating the Apollo canvas, one that was fresh and personal, but also potentially dangerous for how it revealed Ivanov’s own longings. Such mining of his own subjectivity and emotional life aligns the artist with many of the other great early modernists also rising to the fore in the first half of the nineteenth century. Like his Western European counterparts, in particular Francisco Goya and Eugène Delacroix, Ivanov demonstrated one of modernism’s key precepts: “that art is first and foremost the manifestation of an individual artist’s emotional and intellectual will.”38 Ivanov seems to have been aware that a major shift was taking place in his art. He hints that he knew his work was a radical departure from previous norms, stating: “New times call for a new art … Art will then regain its importance in social life, which it does not have now, because it does not satisfy the needs of people.”39

Corrections and the Classical Context: Winckelmann and Ephebic Masculinity There was a classical context for the kind of gender liminality found in Ivanov’s depictions. The artist had been steeped in neoclassical rhetoric at the Academy and would have found himself further immersed in such aesthetics while in Rome. Johann-Joachim Winckelmann had celebrated the ephebe, and the beauty of the ideal male adolescent body more generally, as early as the mid-1750s, in texts like Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks.40 By the 1830s,


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representations of the ephebic male body had been fully assimilated by artists, critics, and connoisseurs and can be seen in a range of depictions by French and German artists. Androgynous males took a range of forms and were drawn from a myriad of Greek myths and stories from antiquity. Some figures—Hyacinthus, Cypress, and Ganymede among them—notoriously connoted the homoerotic as a result of the narratives from which they were derived. Other figures, such as

Figure 3.10  Alexander Ivanov, Torso of Apollo (drawing in an album), early 1830s; formerly The State Tretiakov Gallery, current location unknown

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


Endymion, Hylas, and Narcissus, were more ostensibly heterosexual, although Winckelmann prized their effeminacy despite their engagement with women in ancient narratives. For Winckelmann, the Apollo Belvedere represented “the highest ideal of art among all the works of antiquity” and Ivanov’s use of this statue in modeling his own painted Apollo showed the Russian artist’s familiarity with the German writer’s work [Figure 3.10].41 Sketches made by Ivanov in the early 1830s show his careful study of both the head and torso of this specific classical prototype, which he could have seen in the Vatican. Ivanov brings the cold marble of the Apollo Belvedere to life in his drawings, paying particular attention to the subtle twist of the body, the ripple of muscles flanking the ribcage, the wide placement of the miniscule nipples, and the crux of the compressed navel. As in his earlier académies, Ivanov sensitively recorded the figure’s lean musculature, preserving the sculpture’s youthful pectorals and maintaining the classical emphasis on the descent of the external obliques into the groin. Such painstaking attention to the minutiae of male anatomy had much in common with Winckelmann’s ardent writings, where the writer frequently delineated “the articulation of kneecaps, the depth of navels, the indication of nipples, [and] the undercutting of testicles” in nearly obsessive ekphrastic detail.42 Excerpts of Winckelmann’s writings can also be found in Ivanov’s early notebooks, making it clear that the young artist absorbed a great deal of the translations made from Western literature available at the time.43 From 1823 to 1825, the same years that Ivanov was awarded medals for his académies, the Society for the Encouragement of Artists made a concerted effort to translate and publish art-theoretical writings, including those of Winckelmann.44 Ivanov’s father was also a promoter of Winckelmann’s aesthetics and may have introduced his son to the writer’s ideals of male beauty even earlier. Mikhail Alpatov describes Winckelmann’s History of Ancient Art among the Greeks (1764) as the family’s “reference book” and a portrait of Ivanov senior made by Ivan Bugaevskii-Blagodarnyi in 1824 shows him seated before a table on which a volume of Winckelmann is clearly visible.45 Thus, Ivanov was not alone in his espousal of Winckelmann’s aesthetics, nor in his rapt attention and loving affection for the male body. There was also precedent for the mixing of genders throughout the classical world. Such androgyny had been revived by French artists who produced an array of ephebes in their own mythological works, most notably, perhaps, in resuscitating the trope of the epicene. This figure, derived from the Greek word epikoinos, encapsulated both sexes by either possessing equal male and female


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characteristics, or by lacking the features of either sex and thus representing gender indistinction.46 Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Joseph Bara (1794, Musée Calvet, Avignon) is an example of this kind of polymorphic body, one that demonstrates how masculinity was fetishized and variously inflected with the political and social exigencies of its historical moment.47 The process Ivanov enacted in his formulation of Cypress and Hyacinthus has much in common with David’s Bara, as well as numerous other examples of ephebic masculinity which came to the fore in Salon paintings after the French Revolution. Ivanov’s boys participate in a similar universalizing libidinal economy, one whereby, as Abigail Solomon-Godeau has pointed out, nominally masculine figures “could be fashioned in ways whereby femininity could nevertheless be seen to ‘inhabit’ [them].”48 Ivanov’s use of dual sex models also exceeded Bara’s gender liminality, however, and forged new territory in the genre—as did his figuring of Hyacinthus as a pre-pubescent child. Recent French paintings of that figure coupled with Apollo, such as Jean Broc’s The Death of Hyacinthus (1801, Musée de Poitiers) and Merry-Joseph Blondel’s The Death of Hyacinthus (1810, Musée Baron Martin), had depicted the moment of death itself, often with the young man dying in the god’s arms. This had been Ovid’s focus too; he devoted the majority of his lines in the Metamorphoses to a description of the tragic event and its aftermath.49 Yet Ivanov departs definitively from this narrative and the typical French portrayal. And he deviates even further by figuring Hyacinthus as barely a teenager in his work. Ovid does not describe the boys’ ages in his text, yet French artists habitually depicted Hyacinthus as an older boy, albeit an effeminate one, often with long, flowing hair. The same was usually true of depictions of Cypress. Both Jean-Pierre Granger’s Apollo and Cyparissus of 1817 (Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig) and Claude-Marie Dubufe’s Apollo and Cyparissus of 1821 (Musée Calvet, Avignon) show Cypress as a young man, probably in his mid to late teens. Ivanov departed deeply from the typical age gap between the protagonists and unabashedly focused on the period of sensual reverie which took place significantly before both mythological figures’ ultimate demises. It was perhaps these deviations that led to some reproaches concerning the work from the two advisors appointed to mentor Russian pensioners in Rome. Bertel Thorvaldsen, a Danish sculptor who was something of a specialist in homoerotic ephebes, visited the artist’s studio sometime in 1831 and stared at the painting for a long time.50 A letter Ivanov wrote to the Society in August of that year described the feedback the artist received: “In general, [Thorvaldsen]

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responds to the work pleasantly; he is saying that the figure of Cypress he likes very much; he is advising me to correct the contour of the Hyacinthus figure … The suggestive illusiveness and the color palette of the picture has earned his approval.”51 Evidence of Ivanov’s attempts to correct the contour of Hyacinthus according to Thorvaldsen’s criticism is strongly visible. He moved the boy forward, bringing him closer to Apollo and redrawing the entire line of the vertebral column to be less curvilinear. The retracing of this contour extends all the way down to the buttocks, which were moved inward, forcing an additional adjustment to the foot. Ivanov also altered the angle of the pipe along similar lines, rearticulating the object in space [Figure 3.11]. Hazy lines around the base, as well as across the top and bottom of the instrument, again show Ivanov’s peculiar difficulty with the object. He obsessed over the shape and its relation to the boy’s mouth, in the process creating a blurred halo around Hyacinthus which serves as a lasting sign of his fetishization of this figure. Vincenzo Camuccini, the other official appointed by the Russian government to watch over its pensioners and then among the most distinguished of Italy’s

Figure 3.11  Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing (detail), 1831–4 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 101 × 138.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2018


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modern masters, was to deliver more exacting criticism. Ivanov described his comments in the same letter: Camuccini began with fervor to assert that I have little understanding of ​​ the sublime style, which was shown to us by the great masters of the past centuries; he hardly sees it in the figure of Cypress … At the same time he approves of the choice of such a sublime subject; he says that it is necessary for young people to think about sublime beauty, in order to accustom themselves with the help of seeing it and copying works recognized as great through the centuries, such that they might discern the truly exquisite from the ordinary.52

Camuccini must have been quite discerning to have detected something particularly strange about Ivanov’s handling of Cypress. For it was indeed this figure that Ivanov had originally composed by using a female model. Camuccini’s criticism continued, veering into disapproval over what he perceived to be the “French” manner invading Ivanov’s work. He was concerned that Ivanov’s picture was too much in the realm of a “a genre picture [tableaux de genre],” commenting sarcastically: “this is nature, but ugly nature [c’e la natura, ma brutta natura].”53 The Italian word he used to describe Ivanov’s handling of nature—brutta—had a connotation of dirtiness, as if the artist had soiled the boys’ natural beauty by handling them with such vivid realism. Such comments led the artist to attempt alternations similar to those he had carried out on Hyacinthus, but now on Cypress’s body. He adjusted the position of Cypress’s left elbow, as well as the contour of the far leg. According to Camuccini, however, the bodies Ivanov painted were too actual, too much derived from the carnal earthly realm.54 As Camuccini put it, Ivanov’s boys were too much from the sphere of “the ordinary.” Camuccini’s comments— that Ivanov had deviated from the sublime ideal, that he had portrayed nature, but an unsightly version of it—all this returns us to what the artist had himself said his goal was for the picture: “to create a nude that replaced that of the life-drawing class.” It seems he had succeeded; Hyacinthus and Cypress were indeed models from the real world and not some artificial studio fiction. Yet their transference from this context had robbed them of the idealized model of masculinity that saw ephebic young men as the apogee of beauty. Ivanov’s boys no longer conformed to the collective symbolic order; they no longer possessed what Solomon-Godeau has referred to as “the ideological value of the Neoclassical ephebe.”55 Instead they revealed a masculinity not in control of itself, one constituted at the site of its own undoing.

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“Sinful Desire,” “Strange Feelings,” and “Subjects That Are Morally Depraved” In the voluminous scholarship that has been conducted on Ivanov and his art, a handful of allusions to his potential homosexuality exist. They are usually tucked into discussions of other themes, or relegated to a footnote, yet such nascent flashes do hint at a covert consensus about some kind of homoeroticism present in the works. In a recent essay, Grigorii Goldovskii mentions the “veiled, homoerotic associations” found in some of Ivanov’s paintings. But he then diverts away from the idea to discuss the role of androgyny in the artist’s depictions.56 Mikhail Allenov similarly suggests that Ivanov was perhaps “guided by the same ‘demon of Greek antiquity’” which influenced the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder.57 He then moves away from this allusion, however, and into a larger discussion of the ideals of education as found in the writings of Herder and Goethe. Aleksei Zotov mentions in yet another way the possible influence of Greek pederasty on Ivanov’s work: “Marked with a distinct, ‘Hellenic’ sense of life, these works cultivate huge artistic interest to this day.”58 Zotov does not describe how Ivanov’s works engaged with Hellenic culture specifically; instead, he segues into a discussion of the artist’s engagement with drawing from life and the influence such studies had on later landscape painting. Hints like these are countered by infrequent, yet eruptive outright judgments which dot historiography. Erikh Gollerbakh was probably the earliest to put forward an unjustified and incendiary claim about the artist’s sex life. In 1939, he wrote a short essay in which he proposed that one “need not be a supporter of the rites of ancient male love [antichnogo muzheliubiia] … to adore the harmony and the plastic beauty of these young bodies.”59 He then goes on to suggest that Ivanov’s depictions of such “indescribably beautiful” boys likely explain the artist’s celibacy. “Perhaps his gloomy and rebellious soul was poisoned by an unconscious ‘sinful’ desire, which it was impossible to satisfy.”60 Simon Karlinsky wrote along similar lines nearly four decades later: Women were all but absent from Ivanov’s life. When they appeared in his work, it was often in an unflattering light … Pre-adolescent boys were his favorite subject, usually appearing naked singly or in groups in one canvas or sketch after another, year after year, throughout Ivanov’s career. His first major painting, based on the mythological theme of Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cyparissus which shows Apollo affectionately fondling two nude and sun-tanned ten-year-olds, gives more than a hint of Ivanov’s probable pedophilia.61


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Karlinksy was not an art historian and did not follow these comments with any further assessment of Ivanov’s life or work, but his description of the artist’s reticence toward women holds true. The artist did have difficulty forming bonds with members of the opposite sex. He never married, though he came close before his departure for Italy. He became attached to the daughter of a professor at the Music Academy in 1829, although he ultimately forsook the union as it would have meant forfeiting his trip abroad.62 Married men were ineligible for study in Rome and Ivanov’s father advised him against the marriage—himself never having traveled outside of Russia due to an early union.63 Ivanov did have several important and close friendships with men, however. He formed close ties with many of the leading artistic and literary figures of his day. These included Friedrich Overbeck and Peter Cornelius, two figures in the German Nazarene art group, and Nikolai Gogol, then a leading Russian author and playwright, who met Ivanov in Rome in 1838.64 Several scholars have investigated these relationships, especially the friendship with Gogol, but less attention has been given to Ivanov’s difficulties with women.65 Nonetheless, several Soviet researchers attempted to substantiate a heteronormative identity for the artist. Just two examples include Alpatov’s assertion that marriage was incessantly on Ivanov’s mind by the 1840s and Alexandre Benois’s pronouncement that Ivanov renounced the opportunity to marry “with inexpressible pain in his heart.”66 Little documentary evidence supports these declarations and Soviet researchers may be partly to blame. It was not uncommon for compromising materials to be concealed or even destroyed, especially after Stalin recriminalized homosexuality in 1933.67 It may also be the case that Ivanov contributed to the effort; he sometimes asked his correspondents to destroy letters they received from him.68 Nevertheless, a handful of enigmatic documents remain. Rosalind Blakelsey cites a letter sent from one of Ivanov’s artist friends in Rome, Grigorii Lapchenko, which expressed surprise at a missive he received from Alexander: “I do not understand you; where did your strange feelings [chustva strannye] in relation to me spring from?”69 Regrettably, Lapchenko destroyed the original letter containing the expression of “strange feelings”—at Ivanov’s request—but one wonders what kind of sentiments Alexander voiced that so stupefied his friend.70 Ivanov’s father may also have been aware of his son’s potentially perilous sexual proclivities. He wrote a cryptic letter to Alexander in March of 1831, the value of which bears quoting at length: I had the pleasure of reading and admiring your last report to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists from February 4 … They are extremely satisfied

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both with your remarks and with the feeling with which you are examining new things for your subject, and your previous reports were not without praise. Continue to study such forms and remember that these will attest to your moral aspect and the shape of your thoughts … I advise you to stay in Rome as long as you find it possible. The present circumstances in Europe demand special discretion, with which a young man has to carry himself … so that you do not fall into any kind of temptation [soblazn] or join up with a naughty lot [durnoi partii]. I do not expect this of you because of your discretion [blagorazumiiu], nevertheless I did not consider it useless to warn you … Dear Alexander, when you decide to do work on something seriously, do not think too much about the subject, but choose some ordinary theme and go with God … try not to reach for subjects that are morally depraved.71

Scholars have generally believed Ivanov’s father was referring to the political situation in Europe and warning his son not to get embroiled in the revolution that had begun in Paris in 1830 and then spread to Italy soon after. Yet Andrei’s words of warning potentially have meaning beyond the concern that his son might fall in with the wrong political crowd. His reference to “the present circumstances in Europe” may not only indicate his disquiet regarding revolutionary politics, but also be a veiled allusion to the licentiousness that so characterized Rome in this moment. For in the years Ivanov lived there, the Italian capital was known as one of the most permissive European cities, one in which men could enjoy an unparalleled level of sexual freedom.72 This was partly due to the fact that Rome was one of the key cities visited on the Grand Tour, when young men were away from their typical obligations, including their families, and found themselves frequently in allmale environments. Abigail Solomon-Godeau describes the pervasiveness of the homoerotic culture which characterized the Italian capital in the period: Since Rome was a papal state … women were forbidden to perform publicly in theaters; male transvestite performers filled the breach and the most famous and beautiful among them dined with (and bedded) cardinals and princes. Recovering the ambience of artistic Rome requires consideration too of its transient as well as resident population—the well-heeled aristocrats or dilettanti, the antiquarians, pedlars and forgers of antiquities, the ciceroni of lesser and greater repute, renegade Freemasons and adventurers such as Cagliostro, and a constant parade of incognito royals.73

Ivanov senior’s warning about not falling in with “a naughty lot” may thus have been an oblique reference to the kinds of playboys the city fostered, those who had fallen under the spell of the “‘Hellenic’ sense of life.” This would make sense given Andrei’s immediate turn from warnings about “the present circumstances


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in Europe” to the theme of his son’s new painting. His concern that Alexander not choose a “morally depraved” subject and this counsel’s proximity to his fear that his son might fall victim to “temptation” or “join up with a naughty lot” indicate that his apprehensions went beyond the political.74 Andrei was well aware of how critical this period was and how closely Alexander was being scrutinized from afar. He wanted to make sure that it was clear to his son that the kinds of works he studied and wrote about in his letters to the Society would be seen as direct reflections of his moral qualities (or lack thereof). It was vital that Alexander not choose the wrong forms, as these would attest to a deviant “shape of thoughts.” Italy was not the only country where such “deviant” sexual activities occurred though. According to accounts by foreign observers, sodomy had been practiced in Eastern Europe since well before the time of Tsar Peter the Great (r. 1682–1725).75 That ruler had, in fact, been the first to implement prohibitions against sodomitical acts among the military population in 1716.76 In earlier periods, the Russian Orthodox Church had been the sole arbiter of punishment for such behavior, but penalties were relatively light compared to those in Western Europe, where harsh punitive measures had been in place since the twelfth century. In 1754, Empress Elizabeth I would draft a criminal code with a proscription against “sodomitical sin [sodomskii grekh]” for civilians; however, it was not until the reign of Nicholas I that a regulation extending to all civilian males would be enacted in 1835.77 A new penal code issued in 1845 would supplant the original statute and contained specific penalties depending on whether the act was carried out by force, with a minor, or through the abuse of one’s position. This penal code reveals that muzhelozhstvo [derived from the words for “man” and “to lie”] was interpreted narrowly only as anal sex between men, however, leaving consensual oral sex among men largely unprosecuted.78 This is in contrast to Western Europe, where the term “sodomy” constituted a much more confused category—one that was historically applied to a range of sexual acts, including masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex.79 Regardless of terminology, however, the implementation of such prohibitions demonstrated that homosexual activity had existed in Russia throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to the historian Dan Healey, it may actually have flourished: “Workshops, bathhouses, and large households were sites for same-sex relations within this tradition [of masculine mutual eros], and significantly, both provinces and capitals provided such sites. Masters and servants, coachmen and their passengers, bathhouse patrons and attendants, craftsmen and apprentices, and clergy and their novices exploited the opportunities of their positions to obtain or offer sexual favors.”80 Data on

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


homosexual activity in Russia in the first half of the nineteenth century are scanter than in the latter half, yet sources do attest to a homosexual subculture in cities as early as the 1830s.81 In this decade, Nevskii Prospekt, the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, became associated with “pederastic depravity” and the following decade would see the covered shopping gallery known as Passazh earn a similar reputation.82 Eventually such locations in the city became associated with the rise of what Healey refers to as “codes of mutual recognition”—gestures and phrases which served to signal one’s interest or availability in homosexual exchange. According to Healey, “conspicuous clothing, the use of rouge and powder, and the adoption of effeminate mannerisms were mechanisms some men … used to signal their intentions.”83 The principal trope of identification among these groups was the “significant glance,” which was “the most widely acknowledged form of discreet self-proclamation.”84 In 1828, when Ivanov was still living in St. Petersburg, he painted a self-portrait which is striking for the glance it contains [Plate 3.2]. He looks penetratingly out from the portrait as if he has just caught the eye of the viewer. Seated before a table, with one of his arms casually wrapped over the back of a chair, Ivanov’s slender body twists around in space as he maintains sustained eye contact with the viewer. His striking gaze is further reinforced by the coquettish angle of his head, a detail which adds an erotic charge to what might otherwise read as an innocuous quick glance. The tilt of his head is emphasized by the large, floppy hat he wears, an item of clothing that looks particularly conspicuous and eccentric worn with the austere military uniform he dons as a student at the Academy. Out from under the brim of this peculiar sartorial item, Ivanov emphasized his own looking by enlarging the eye nearest to us. He added two slivers of pure white to accentuate the conjunction of light and his eyes’ wetness, highlighting the connection between what Ivanov sees and its entering his body through sight. He dragged his brush carefully over the right eye, producing a white mark that makes the eye glisten and provides a counterpoint to the full black of the pupil proximal to it. The same was done to the far eye on the left, albeit more temperately, the shimmer across this eye just broaches the hazel cornea. The rest of the self-portrait is all murky, muted tans and umber shades, broken only by the drab navy of Ivanov’s uniform jacket and the wash of dreary teal across the back wall. His eyes sparkle amidst the surrounding monotonous hues; they signal and beckon, as if drawing us into the interior life of the young man pictured. Only the rosy pink of Ivanov’s lips otherwise breaks the flatness of the picture. The blush physicality of the mouth helps us see an object adjacent to it that we might otherwise miss—the long cylindrical object Ivanov holds adroitly


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between his curled fingers. It reads as both a pipe and a maul stick. The latter painting tool would make more sense given Ivanov’s status as an artist, but the object’s proximity to his mouth reinforces the conception that it must be a pipe, one he has either just moved from between his lips or will soon draw from. The ambiguity of the object and its relationship to his mouth foreshadow the difficulties Ivanov would have with Hyacinthus and his instrument—moving the pipe away from the boy’s mouth and then ultimately into it over the course of his studies. Both paintings highlight and problematize the relation between hand and mouth and interceding phallic object. They both also demonstrate Ivanov’s inability to ever really reconcile their interaction in paint. Even more so than the unfinished Apollo painting, the self-portrait remains deeply unresolved; note in particular the fist-shaped section of blank canvas and the strange amorphous splash of brown in his lap. Only the “significant glance” was fully worked out; only it proclaimed a budding sense of self that sought to establish contact with the world outside. Ivanov’s inability to fully render this painting of himself was not the same kind of disambiguation found in other Russian artists’ paintings, such as Briullov’s. Where Karl was all painterly bravado and vacillating self-absorption, Ivanov is shy reticence and restrained calculation. Ivanov took further liberties that Briullov did not. Whereas the latter consistently figured himself accurately according to his age, Ivanov brought ambiguity even in this facet of his depiction. He would have been twenty-one or twenty-two years old when he made the selfportrait, yet he looks more like a teenager in the work. There is a delicacy to his frame and a squatness to his limbs that contradict the idea that he has reached full manhood. The tilt of his head and the gracefulness of his fragile body create a certain gender ambiguity in the portrait—something also not found in Briullov’s conceptions of himself. Feminine men were not unusual in Russia at the time; in fact, they had become common enough by the nineteenth century that a range of terms had been developed to describe the variety their ambiguity could take. The lexicographer Vladimir Dal’ compiled a list of such words in the 1830s–50s. Terms like devunia and devulia were used as euphemisms for men who luxuriated and had the manners or habits of women. Babatia and babulia were abusive labels used for men who presented like “hermaphrodites” or appeared “two-sexed.” If an effeminate man was married, he was known as a babiak or babenia, both of which designated him as a “sissy [nezhenka]” or a “momma’s boy [matushkin synok].” The word razdevul’e was used as a further designator for a man who was beardless and therefore “feminine-looking” or who had an “effeminate voice”

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


or “build” and as a result was “fluffy [raznezhit’sia].”85 By depicting himself as young and beardless, as well as in the graceful pose of a young effete, Ivanov potentially opened himself up to being seen as a razdevul’e, as well as to concerns that he was casting a “significant glance” indicating his homoerotic availability.

“I Will Remain Forever a Lost Man” If ambiguity characterized Ivanov’s vision of himself in 1828, it pervaded the Apollo painting that would come to consume so much of his time in Rome. No one knows for sure how long the artist kept trying to bring it to conclusion, but it would ultimately remain incomplete, just like the self-portrait which proceeded it.86 According to his letters, Ivanov was forced to begin turning away from the picture with “much regret” beginning in August of 1831. He was obliged to return to his copy of the Sistine ceiling, though he very much wished he could have made further corrections to the Apollo painting based on Thorvaldsen and Camuccini’s comments.87 He seems to have found time to continue with the work intermittently in the following years. He commented on various artworks he saw in northern Italy that might help him finish the painting in travel notes he kept in the spring and summer of 1834.88 And then he mentioned the work in a letter from November of 1834 to the Society, calling it “Apollo Singing with His Darlings [liubimtsami], Hyacinthus and Cypress,” and expressing deep regret that the work remained unfinished.89 He wrote to the Society again late in the month, this time begging for an extension of his pension and seeking further time “to prove to the most honorable Society my strength, and to justify myself before it.”90 Letters exchanged between Ivanov and his father also lend insight into Alexander’s work on the painting. His father had taken an active interest in the canvas since his son first informed him that the picture was well liked by his friends at the end of 1832. In August of the following year, he asked Alexander to send him a drawing of the picture. Ivanov complied and in return his father recommended that Apollo’s left hand and arm should be changed so that it observed the measure of the music that Hyacinthus is playing.91 This would have meant altering Apollo’s gesture of reciprocated embrace around Cypress’s young body, however, and Alexander did not make the alteration.92 By December of 1835, Andrei’s frustration seems to have grown; he chastised his son for not having abandoned the Apollo subject and accused him of working on it in his spare time instead of writing to the Society as he should have been.93


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To make matters worse, by the 1840s, Ivanov was struggling financially. Although he borrowed from friends, from the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, and from his father, he often found himself without enough money to hire models and to cover the cost of materials.94 Despite his increasing poverty, Ivanov refused to make paintings for patrons as was then common practice. He stated unequivocally: “I do not want to take commissions … Whatever the quality of my brush, I still cannot agree that it should serve such work, the truth of which I do not recognize.”95 His health began to deteriorate and he became convinced he would never be able to finish his major works. In 1844, he confessed to his father that he feared he would “remain forever a lost man.”96 A journal the artist kept between 1846 and 1847 provides insight into Ivanov’s concerns about his moral failures in this period. He ostensibly kept the journal in order to record his thoughts while reading the Bible, but he was also interested in “improving and developing moral capacities” more generally at the time.97 In the text, Ivanov described lust as the origin point for all the vices “which are still stifling mankind.”98 He alluded to himself as a “reprobate” and seized on the idea that he must now “be an instrument and servant of God in the circle of imperfect men, my Brothers.”99 He described his “devastated spirit” and “anxious mood” and prayed intensely for God’s help in keeping him from “thousands of temptations.”100 Oh, Lord, give me strength to maintain my solitude, and through abstinence [v poste] and prayer keep my soul in obscurity.101 Teach me, give me strength to read your revelations and the ways outlined in the Bible so that I can cope with finishing my current work—I’ll be humble and correct my deformities [porokov], as much as my reason [umozrenie] allows.102 Lord, my God, help me, descend in my tears to me.103

What exactly were the so-called “deformities” that Ivanov fought so hard to correct? What caused him such tears and made him write down these vehement thoughts begging for God’s support? The force of Ivanov’s longing for God’s help is heart-breaking, as is the degree to which he believed he had to remain in solitude in order to preserve his serenity. Desire figures repeatedly throughout the journal and was obviously a central concern for the artist in these years. He described the need to be a “constant watchman” over himself, to protect against the “uncleanness of the flesh [nechistoty plotskoi],” and “surrender to everything that God indicates.” He became increasing convinced of the artist’s special role in spiritual life, at one point even stating that he needed to “become a priest of the future of Russia.”104 In order to fulfill this role, he had to “give

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


up all sensual pleasures” and lead “the sinless and solitary life of an artist.”105 Only then would all these tribulations end and he would be able to “enjoy all the blessings of life.”106 Despite the intensity of his turn to God in the late 1840s, Ivanov ultimately never parted with the Apollo painting. Even amidst his financial destitution, he never sold the work, instead keeping it for the rest of his life.107 His last mention of the painting, in a report from May of 1857 to the president of the Academy of Arts, still referred to the work as unfinished. It is in this report that Ivanov calls the work by the title it has largely become known by today, finally retreating from the more suggestive titles in his earlier letters.108 Keeping the canvas with him proved influential for later projects and details from the work found their way into compositions many years removed from the original painting. Researchers have noted the similarity between the figure of Hyacinthus playing his pipe and a boy shown similarly in profile in a presumed study for The Appearance of Christ to the People from the 1840s [Figure 3.12].109 As in the Apollo canvas, the boy in the study occupies a position on the left side of the painting. He is shown similarly seated and he holds a staff in his upraised hands. As in the depiction of

Figure 3.12  Alexander Ivanov, Seven Boys in Light Clothes and Draperies, 1840s–50s; oil on paper on canvas, 43.7 × 64.5 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 3.13  Alexander Ivanov, The Appearance of Christ to the People (detail), 1837–57; oil on canvas, 540 × 750 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Hyacinthus, the cylindrical object held by the boy is shown in close proximity to his mouth and the hands are arranged in the same configuration—the right hand lower on the staff and the fingers of the left curling around the upper portion. The seated boy in the plein-air study also has much in common with a figure in the final version of The Appearance of Christ to the People [Figure 3.13]. A bearded man seated behind and directly underneath John the Baptist’s outstretched arms has been identified by scholars as yet another self-portrait.110 Like the boy on the far left of Seven Boys, Ivanov depicts himself in profile and holding a rod which can be seen emerging above the brim of his hat. As in the original iteration of all of these figures, Hyacinthus, he is shown gazing upward, but now toward Christ as opposed to Apollo. It seems Ivanov’s method of constructing figures via the production of composites did not end with the painting of the Greek lovers. For his self-portrait in the biblical painting harkens back to his original figuration of himself back in 1828. As in that self-portrait, Ivanov wears an oversize hat,

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


he is once more wrapped in a blue garment, and he is shown yet again with a phallic object adjacent to his face. Both self-portraits serve to tie together Ivanov’s figurations of himself with the young male models who served him. Artist and sitters are coupled to form the definitive composite, collapsing the space between their bodies to form a hybrid produced out of the pressure of Ivanov’s own desire.

Return to the Nude: The Legacy of Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress This cluster of compressed longing—Ivanov, Hyacinthus, and the Italian boys who served as his models—would ultimately find other forms as the years wore on and The Appearance of Christ to the People remained unfinished much like the earlier Apollo painting. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Ivanov would come to produce a number of separate paintings of nude boys in the Italian countryside. One such example shows four boys in the open air, with two naked in the background, one lounging in the foreground and another standing on the right [Figure 3.14]. The upright boy is shown, like the one in the foreground

Figure 3.14  Alexander Ivanov, Four Nude Boys, 1840s-50s; oil on canvas, 47.7 × 64.2 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019


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of Seven Boys, just after he has removed his garment. He holds it in front of him, his right hand still tucked in the fabric, as he gazes at the boy lying on the ground. This standing boy twists in contrapposto, exaggerating the swing of his hips and the gyration of the buttocks. A sinewy line runs down the boy’s form to indicate the indentation of the spinal column as it meets with the gluteal cleft; this curve is carried on by the serpentine contour of the reclining boy to his left. The curvature of the underside of the upright boy’s buttocks is echoed by the arc of the tendon joining the other boy’s heel and calf. The eye moves from here to the languidly crossed legs; one long femur traversing the other to meet a bony pelvis, complete with a shaded indication of nascent pubic hair. Ivanov delineated each of the ribs, their careful demarcation like the individual toes on the dangling foot above. This boy looks out from the painting as his thin arms encircle his cherubic face in what was traditionally a pose reserved for women as a signal of their submission.111 Several scholars have noted that these paintings of nude boys seem to exceed any sort of study Ivanov needed to conduct for The Appearance of Christ to the People. Some investigators have argued that their value was in the development of Ivanov’s painterly vision, but most scholars maintain that the paintings’ function was to study the effect of natural sunlight on the body.112 According to Blochel, these paintings show “a clear effort to discern the model as objectively as possible … the painter endeavors to capture the effect of light on objects as precisely as possible.”113 The intimate concentration with which Ivanov carried out the studies, however, contradicts notions of such objectivity. The artist sensitively recorded the distinctive features of each boy—the length of their hair, the various heights, the tone of their skin—and he methodically delineated the boys’ burgeoning muscles and the bones beneath their skin. These paintings are not about capturing “the effect of light on objects” as empirically as possible. Ivanov’s subjectivity—the way he felt about seeing the boys naked in the open air—saturates the works, much as his longing had pervaded the earlier painting of Apollo and his “darlings.” In the end, these pictures of nude boys return us to Ivanov’s early académies and the sensitivity with which he recorded those young men’s features. They recall too the exchange of gazes that took place in those early works. The reclining boy staring directly out of the picture echoes Ivanov’s original connection to his male models at the Academy. But the inclusion of the boys’ clothes in so many of the plein-air studies adds a new dimension to the works. Recently discarded garb can be seen throughout these paintings and serves to strengthen the eroticism

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


of the works. As Anthea Callen has pointed out in her work on French paintings from later in the century, discarded clothing implied that undressing had not taken place in private and thus violated both social etiquette and the sanctity of the classical nude. For Callen, evidence of undressing hinted at a “scene of seduction” and was part of an iconography of lustful interaction.114 In Ivanov’s case, the inclusion of discarded garments served as a signal for the erotic act that making these paintings was for him. There was little value in their inclusion if Ivanov’s focus was really on recording the effects of sunlight on bodies. By showing so many of the figures in Seven Boys dressed in their contemporary garb, Ivanov also locates the scenes definitively in the present. This is not the timeless drapery of the classical world, but the real Italian countryside. These boys are not models who undressed behind a studio screen; they are instead shown in the process of taking off their clothes. As a result, identification with the figures is immediate and their various states of undress become all the more sensualized. To be clear, nudity itself was not the problem; the depiction of a nude body under controlled circumstances was not considered immoral or crude. It was showing a figure in a state of semi-nudity which was viewed as obscene, even perverse, in this period. By showing the boys dressed and undressed, and by consistently including their clothing when they were nude, Ivanov foregrounded the immediacy of his own pleasure in looking and violated norms for masculine desire and propriety. Ivanov had modernized the scene of Greek love he first tried to paint in Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress and he finally achieved his goal “to create a nude that replaced that of the life-drawing class.” But the result revealed the pleasure bound up in his own same-sex desire and his torturous attempts at selfregulation. For these paintings of nude boys belong to the same period when Ivanov was keeping the journal to record his thoughts while reading the Bible.115 This adds a new dimension both to the paintings of the boys and to Ivanov’s desperate pleas for God’s help with his “temptations.” Seen in the light of Ivanov’s writings, the paintings of the nude boys give new meaning to the artist’s fervent wish “not to err” and his promise to correct his “deformities.” Taken together, they reveal a man deeply conflicted about the nature of his own sexuality. In Ivanov’s works, long unmitigated desire clashed powerfully with strict religiosity and both were compounded by years of poverty and self-imposed isolation. His inability to finish his works was a symptom of these antinomies, but perhaps also a means of prolonging the sensual embodiment of his desires since they could not be carried out in actual life.


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Ivanov’s striving for a means to revitalize Greeks ideals of homoeroticism by incorporating images of real boys into his paintings was unprecedented. It would take another three decades before such imagery became common among British, French, and American artists such as Paul Cézanne, Thomas Eakins, and Henry Scott Tuke.116 However, Ivanov’s modernism does not end with his anticipation of subjects that would later become popular. His modernity is perhaps best seen in his view of bodies as never entirely male or female, but always in a state of polymorphic performance, shifting between binaries. While there was language to describe such gender ambiguity in Ivanov’s time, his composite representations exceeded the limitations of derogatory terms for feminine men like devunia and devulia. By integrating himself into the mix as a double for these androgynous boys, Ivanov embraced both his own position of masculine liminality and the pathos-ridden impossibility of his own desire’s fulfillment. And, in perhaps the most modern fashion of all, he created works in which “the external world became the exact equivalent of his internal life, its container,” putting him in line with other great romantic modernists in the West who have long been recognized for the uniqueness of their vision.117 Ivanov would not gain recognition for the profundity of his ground-breaking achievements in his lifetime. He returned to St. Petersburg, after twenty-eight years abroad, in the spring of 1858, with hopes of selling The Appearance of Christ to the People. It had long been promised to the tsar, although no purchase price had ever been settled. Ivanov hoped to receive about 30,000 rubles for the work he had labored on for more than twenty years, but his hopes were dashed.118 Grand Princess Maria Nikolaevna, the daughter of Nicholas I and then president of the Academy of Arts, offered Ivanov only 10,000 rubles for it.119 Ivanov was told his monumental painting simply did not create the same impression that Briullov’s Pompeii had two decades earlier.120 Ivanov quickly discovered that it was not just artistic tastes that had changed in the two and a half decades since he had been in Russia. The country the artist returned to was wracked by disillusionment after years of Nicholas I’s suppression of all dissent. The autocratic emperor had died in 1855, but that same year saw bitter defeats in the Crimean War and a new, more radical intelligentsia emerged in militant opposition to the autocracy. Nonetheless, Ivanov plunged into this new society, meeting with many of its leading writers and critics, making numerous visits to the Academy, and trying to negotiate the maze of bureaucratic officials who might help him find an

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


alternative buyer for his painting in Moscow.121 After The Appearance of Christ to the People was displayed for five days in the Winter Palace, however, a scathing review of the work by Vasilii Tolbin appeared in the Russian press.122 In it, the critic stated that Ivanov had completely disregarded the Academy’s canons for proper depiction by “not even showing any concern for conformity with Classic types of Apollo … and other statues.”123 Such criticism must have reminded Ivanov of Camuccini’s original reproaches of Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress. Completely disillusioned, Ivanov fell ill and died on July 3, 1858, a mere fortyfour days after arriving back in his homeland. Behind his coffin marched some of the men who would become the leading figures of the 1860s, including the revolutionary writer Nikolai Chernyshevskii and a young painter named Ivan Kramskoi.124 The former would describe Ivanov as one of the “men of the future,” honoring the legacy of an artist who failed to find approval or fulfillment among the heteronormative prescriptions for men which characterized his time.125 Members of the next generation, like Kramskoi, would study Ivanov’s work, but ultimately turned away from the problems that plagued him to instead form new male utopias in the decade to come.

Notes Aleksandr Ivanov v pis’makh, dokumentakh, vospominaniiakh, ed. I. A. Vinogradov (Moscow: Izdatelskii dom XXI vek—Soglasie, 2001), 648. 2 Iris Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov (1806–1858): vom Meisterwerk zum Bilderzyklus (Berlin: Reimer, 2004), 43. 3 N. P. Sobko, Slovar’ russkikh khudozhnikov (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia M. M. Stasiulevicha, 1895), 2:6. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 25. 4 M. Nekliudova, “‘Apollon, Kiparis i Giatsint,’ kartina Ivanova,” Iskusstvo, no. 1 (1960): 53, and Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov, 47–8. 5 Rosalind Polly Gray, “The Homo-Erotic Paintings of Aleksandr Ivanov,” in Gender and Sexuality in Russian Civilisation, ed. Peter I. Barta (New York and London: Routledge, 2001), 166. 6 Barta, Gender and Sexuality in Russian Civilisation, 2. 7 James Smalls, “Homoeroticism and the Quest for Originality in Girodet’s Revolt at Cairo (1810),” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 20 (1999): 465. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Dan Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 11. 1


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11 Simon Karlinsky, The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 56–7. 12 David M. Halperin, “How to Do the History of Male Sexuality,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 6, no. 1 (2000): 89. 13 Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov, 20. 14 Sobko, Slovar’ russkikh khudozhnikov, 2:7. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 28. 15 Memories of F. I. Iordan (1879) in Mikhail Pavlovich Botkin, A. A. Ivanov. Ego zhizn’ i perepiska. 1806–1858 (St. Petersburg: Tip. M. M. Stasiulevicha, 1880), 397–8. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 29. 16 Rosalind P. Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 26–7. 17 Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov, 21. 18 The practice of using only male models for these studies was not unique to Russia. See Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 22. For more on the study of the nude in Russia, see the writings of Margaret Samu, especially “Sluzha iskusstvu … Khudozhnik i model’ v russkoi khudozhestvennoi XIX veka,” Iskusstvoznanie 3–4 (Autumn 2014): 434–47 and “Modelos En Academias De Bellas Artes Y En Estudios Privados,” in La Tradición Académica, exh. cat. (Madrid: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando; St. Petersburg: Academy of Arts, 2017), 54–65. 19 Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 27. 20 Natalia Uvarova, “Risunki i akvareli Aleksandra Ivanova,” in Alexander Ivanov (Moscow: Palace Editions, 2006), 29–30. 21 Ibid., 29. 22 Ibid. 23 Mikhail Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1956), 1:22. 24 Smalls, “Homoeroticism and the Quest for Originality,” 459. 25 Ibid., 460. 26 Instructions from the Society for the Encouragement of Artists given to Ivanov when he was sent abroad, St. Petersburg, 1830, in A. P. Novitskii, Opyt polnoi biografii A. A. Ivanova (Moscow: K. A. Fisher, 1895), 20–7. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 47–8. 27 Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, v. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 59. 28 The sketch is in the collection of the State Tretiakov Gallery and can be seen reproduced in Mikhail Allenov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov (Moscow: Izobrazitel’noe iskusstvo, 1980), 1:19. 29 The oil study is in the collection of the State Russian Museum (inventory no. Zh5262) and can be found reproduced in Aleksandr Ivanov (2006), 48. 30 The drawing can be found reproduced in Nekliudova, “‘Apollon, Kiparis i Giatsint,’” 60.

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31 Grigorii Goldovskii, “Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov iubileinye razmyshleniia,” in Aleksandr Ivanov (St. Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2006), 17. 32 Ibid. 33 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 1:117. 34 One of the few modern figures marked by the kind of gender ambiguity contained in Ivanov’s work might be found in Eugène Delacroix’s Massacre at Chios of 1824 (Louvre Museum, Paris). Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby makes a claim for the male académie in the foreground of the painting having begun as a female model named Aspasie. Grigsby believes the figure morphed over time into the male that can now be seen in the final work, but that it remains nonetheless a “decidedly hybrid character.” See Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 259–66. 35 Novitskii, Opyt polnoi biografii, 33 and N. Romanov, “Kartina A. Ivanova ‘Apollon, Giatsint i Kiparis’,” Starye gody 1–2 (1916): 49. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 64. 36 Allenov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 19. 37 Ibid., 102. 38 H. H. Arnason and Elizabeth C. Mansfield, History of Modern Art, 7th ed. (London: Pearson, 2013), 1:3. 39 Aleksei Zotov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov: 1806–1858 (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1945), 8. 40 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble, 143–4. 41 Kenneth Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015, first published 1956), 51. 42 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble, 144–5. 43 Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov, 28. 44 Ibid., 20. 45 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 36. 46 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble, 134–5. 47 Ibid., 142. 48 Ibid., 139. 49 Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Stanley Lombardo (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2010), 272. 50 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 1:118. For an example of Thorvaldsen’s ephebic depictions, see especially his Ganymede Offering the Cup (1804, Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen). 51 A. A. Ivanov to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, August 2, 1831, Rome, in Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 20–2. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 66. 52 Ibid., 65–6. 53 Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 20. Quoted in Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 1:118. 54 In many ways, Ivanov’s figuration of the group reflected the ancient Greek custom of pederasty, in which adult men engaged in erotic relations with adolescent boys. While it falls outside the scope of this chapter to fully assess Ivanov’s understanding


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of paiderastia, it is notable that Ivanov departs from the tradition by greatly reducing the age of Hyacinthus and by not making clear the hierarchical dynamic between the “active” erastes and his “passive” eromenos in the work. 55 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble, 101. 56 Goldovskii, “Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov iubileinye razmyshleniia,” in Aleksandr Ivanov (2006), 19. 57 Allenov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 108. 58 Zotov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 17–18. 59 Erikh Gollerbakh, “Ital’ianskie mal’chiki,” reprinted in Novyi mir iskusstva 2 (1998): 7. 60 Ibid. 61 Karlinsky, The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol, 190. 62 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 1:43. 63 Zotov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 5. 64 For more on Ivanov’s relationship with the Nazarenes, see Vahan D. Barooshian, The Art of Liberation: Alexander A. Ivanov (Lanham, MD, and London: University Press of America, 1987), 7–9 and Dmitrii Sarabianov, Russkaia zhivopis XIX veka sredi evropeiskikh shkol (Moscow, 1980), 97. 65 For more on Ivanov and Gogol, see especially Pamela Davidson, “Aleksandr Ivanov and Nikolai Gogol’: The Image and the Word in the Russian Tradition of Art as Prophecy,” The Slavonic and East European Review 91, no. 2 (April 2013): 157–209. Rosalind Blakesley has been one of the few to assess Ivanov’s relationships with women. She claims: “Ivanov’s flight from marriage may be indicative of a growing awareness of his homosexual orientation.” See Gray, “The Homo-Erotic Paintings of Aleksandr Ivanov,” 168. 66 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 2:94 and Benois, Istoriia russkoi zhivopisi v XIX veke (St. Petersburg: Znanie, 1901), 98. 67 Gray, “The Homo-Erotic Paintings of Aleksandr Ivanov,” 170. 68 Ibid. 69 Akademiia nauk Rossii, Institut russkoi literatury (Pushkinskii dom), f. 365, op. 2, ed. khr. 39, 2. Quoted in Gray, “The Homo-Erotic Paintings of Aleksandr Ivanov,” 170. 70 It is also noteworthy that the surviving letter from Lapchenko has been dated to 1833, when Ivanov was likely still trying to complete the Apollo painting. 71 A. I. Ivanov to A. A. Ivanov, March 5, 1831, St. Petersburg, in A. I. Ivanov, Pis’ma A. I. Ivanova k synu (Russkii Khudozhestvennyi arkhiv, 1892–93), 23–4. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 59–60. 72 Gray, “The Homo-Erotic Paintings of Alexander Ivanov,” 166–7. 73 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble, 93. 74 Goldovskii has written of potential “secret meanings” in letters between the father and son, but he does not conduct a sustained analysis of such potential hidden

Alexander Ivanov: Desire and the Male Nude


references. See “Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov iubileinye razmyshleniia,” in Aleksandr Ivanov (2006), 10. 75 Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, 13–21. 76 Ibid., 22. 77 Ibid., 80. 78 Dagmar Herzog has claimed that oral sex could lead to seizure of property and a sentence to hard labor. See Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 36–7. 79 Halperin, “How to Do the History of Male Sexuality,” 92. 80 Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, 22. Healey’s work also makes clear that homosexual liaisons in Russia were often characterized by an uneven power dynamic in which an older and frequently wealthier man propositioned (or was offered) sex by a younger, subordinate male. This dynamic also relates to the uneven power structure (and age relations) in Ivanov’s painting. 81 Simon Karlinsky has argued that male homosexuality was, in fact, largely tolerated in Russian high society and in the upper spheres of government for much of the nineteenth century. He describes “prominent and in some cases highly visible homosexual circles in St. Petersburg” during the 1820s–30s. See The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol, 56–7. 82 Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, 31. 83 Ibid., 37. 84 Ibid. 85 For all these terms and their meanings, see Vladimir Dal’, Tolkovyi slovar’ zhivogo velikorusskogo iazyka, 4 vols. (St. Petersburg-Moscow: Izdanie M. O. Vol'f, 1903–9). 86 Blochel claims he broke off from making corrections to the painting in 1835. See Aleksandr Ivanov, 43. Allenov believes he stopped work on it in 1833. See Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 20. 87 A. A. Ivanov to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, August 2, 1831, Rome, in Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 20–2. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 66. 88 A. A. Ivanov, “Puteshestvie po severnoi Italii,” (Spring–Summer 1834), in N. G. Mashkovtsev, “Putevye zapiski Aleksandra Ivanova,” Severnye zapiski 7–8 (1915): 131–7. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 141. 89 See A. A. Ivanov to the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, November 1834, Rome, in B. M. Bernshtein, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov (1806–1858). Pis’ma i zapisnye knizhki. Sostavlenie, predsil i primech (Moscow: Mastera iskusstva ob iskusstve, 1969), 6:288–9. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 149. 90 A. A. Ivanov to the Committee of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, November 27, 1834, Rome, in Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 55–6. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 151. 91 Alpatov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 1:120.


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92 He did, however, follow his father’s advice to make Hyacinthus look directly at the god. 93 A. I. Ivanov to his son A. A. Ivanov, December 1835, St. Petersburg, in Ivanov v pis’makh, 160. 94 Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 22. 95 Quoted in Nikolai Chernyshevskii, N. G. Chernyshevskii ob iskusstve: stat’i, retsenzii, vyskazyvaniia (Moscow: Izd-Vo Akademii Khudozhestv SSSR, 1950), 240. 96 A. A. Ivanov to A. I. Ivanov, August 1844, Rome, in Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 168. 97 Quoted in Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 50. The Bible had played an important role in Ivanov’s life since his childhood: it was read aloud in the Ivanov family and the artist had long taken notes from scriptural texts. See Uvarova, “Risunki i akvareli,” in Aleksandr Ivanov, 35. 98 Ivanov, “Mysli, prikhodiashchie pri chtenii Biblii,” in Ivanov v pis’makh, 646. 99 Ibid., 646. 100 Ibid., 647–8. 101 Ibid., 648. 102 Ibid., 650. 103 Ibid., 661. 104 Ibid., 652. 105 Ibid., 659–60. 106 Ibid., 663. 107 He thought of selling it for 4,000 rubles in 1845, but he ultimately could not bring himself to let it go. See Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 30. 108 A. A. Ivanov, Report to the President of the Academy of Arts, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, prepared for Prince G. P. Volkonskii, May 1857, Rome, in Botkin, A. A. Ivanov, 390. Quoted in Ivanov v pis’makh, 64. 109 The brief comparison can be found in Ivanov v pis’makh, 683. 110 Ibid. 111 Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, Painted Men in Britain, 1868–1918: Royal Academicians and Masculinities (Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 98. 112 Galina Zagianskaia, Peizazhi Aleksandra Ivanova: problema zhivopisnogo metoda khudozhnika (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1976), 87. 113 Blochel, Aleksandr Ivanov, 185. 114 Anthea Callen, “Doubles and Desire: Anatomies of Masculinity in the Later Nineteenth Century,” Art History 26, no. 5 (November 2003): 692–3. 115 This has been noted by Goldovskii as well. See “Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov,” in Aleksandr Ivanov (2006), 20. 116 This point is also made by Blakesley. For further examples, see Gray “The HomoErotic Paintings of Aleksandr Ivanov,” 172–3. 117 Zagianskaia, Peizazhi Aleksandra Ivanova, 105.

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118 E. Guseva, “Novye materialy k biograrii A. A. Ivanova,” Iskusstvo 7 (1976): 59. Cited in Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 67. 119 Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 68. 120 Ibid., 69. 121 According to Barooshian, Ivanov met with Ivan Turgenev, Nikolai Nekrasov, Nikolai Chernyshevskii, and Ivan Goncharov, among others, once he returned to the capital. See Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 66–9. 122 Ibid., 68. 123 Tolbin, “O kartine G. Ivanova,” Syn otechestva, no. 25 (June 1858), 710–13. Quoted in ibid., 69. 124 Also in attendance at Ivanov’s funeral were such leading figures as Nikolai Dobroliubov and Nikolai Nekrasov, as well as a number of artists, scientists, writers, and many young people. See Zotov, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, 30. 125 Chernyshevskii, “O khudozhnike A. A. Ivanove,” in Chernyshevskii ob iskusstve, 237–41. Quoted in Barooshian, The Art of Liberation, 76.



The Artel of Artists: Envisioning the Bonds of Men Everything that artists know … must be attributed to their energy, love, diligence, and competition, all between themselves, that is, all that they learn one from another. Ivan Kramskoi1

In early October of 1863, fourteen graduating students from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg submitted a petition requesting the right to choose their own painting subjects for that year’s Gold Medal competition: Since the Academy Council … has itself acknowledged the need in certain circumstances to grant independence to the personal proclivities of the artist, we for our part have decided to announce our sincere wish that those of us who are desirous of doing so be permitted to select freely a subject of our choice, over and above the assigned theme. On these grounds we petition the Council to extend this rule to all in cases where the theme or subject does not coincide with the aspirant’s direction.2

The signatures of fourteen men between the ages of twenty-two and twentynine appeared below the petition’s request: Alexander Morozov, Firs Zhuravlev, Aleksei Korzukhin, Nikolai Shustov, Mikhail Peskov, Ivan Kramskoi, Nikolai Petrov, Konstantin Makovskii, Alexander Grigorev, Pëtr Zabolotskii, Alexander Litovchenko, Bogdan Venig, Kirill Lemokh, and Nikolai Dmitriev. The collective document marks an important moment in each of their careers, for much was at stake in the competition for the Major Gold Medal. It was one of two awards that graduating students could compete for—Gold and Silver—and these were subdivided into major and minor prizes, each accompanied by a distinctive rank and title. The Major Gold Medal was the top honor; the artist who won it was granted the title of Class Artist of the First Degree and was given the tenth rank in the formal classification system which


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organized all military, government, and court positions in Imperial Russia. The other medals were accompanied by lesser titles and lower positions in the Table of Ranks: the Minor Gold Medal earned its recipient the twelfth level and the title of Class Artist of the Second Degree, while the Major Silver Medal winner was given the fourteenth rank and the title of Class Artist of the Third Degree.3 These titles were not mere honorifics, but had serious ramifications for the artists competing for them. Russia in the nineteenth century was more rigidly structured in terms of its class system than in Western Europe. The various ranks were firmly defined by law and also rigidly upheld in social relations. A student then attending the Academy, Ilia Repin, would later describe the important implications this class structure had for young artists: “the estate system played an important role in relations between people … When you attained the first rank [the fourteenth], the familiar ‘ty’ was replaced by the respectful ‘vy,’ and a well-born hand would be extended to you at meetings. In all social relations, there was this severe caste system.”4 Whoever won the Major Gold Medal would make a significant advance in terms of his status—one that would have tangible and appreciable repercussions for the duration of his life. For that prize also came with a six-year fellowship to study abroad, thus success in the competition had vital implications for one’s artistic career. Because the stakes were so high, the contest had long been regimentally structured. After the assigned subject was announced, competitors were kept in closely supervised seclusion for twenty-four hours while they produced a sketch for the composition. The winner was then not allowed to deviate from the original etude in any way as he produced the final painting over the following one or two years.5 This tight control had long frustrated Academy students, who saw the authorities’ dictation of a subject as an infringement on their freedom as artists and individuals. Such sentiments were reinforced by recent articles in the press which vilified the Academy and the artists within it for their servility. A particularly scathing piece had, in fact, just appeared in the Petersburg-based journal Iskra; it was published a mere four days before the first petition was filed. Its author, the satirist and critic Ivan Dmitriev, called art in Russia “neither a real activity, nor a vital necessity, but only a pernicious triviality.”6 Dmitriev focused his vitriol on the lack of significant subject matter in contemporary painting, notably the same element that the petitioners were requesting freedom in choosing. Dmitriev’s pronouncements on the current system for art-making were sweepingly disparaging: “Here in Russia it is only artists who have no purpose … Art has become well-known as a functionary, servile practice, a sort of poorly-composed

The Artel of Artists


memorandum in form, an extremely fruitless, insignificant affair comprising a multitude of senseless reports, references, letters, transactions and so forth.”7 Matters at the Academy were further complicated by an unusually high number of students competing for the top prize in 1863 and by new conditions for entry.8 Only one Major Gold Medal was going to be conferred for history painting in this year and students would only be allowed to compete for the award one time.9 The stakes were thus impossibly high and a perception grew that the subject dictated by the authorities could make or break one’s chance of success. A second petition was sent to the president of the Academy after the first request was denied, this time detailing the students’ specific concern on this point: Some of us are tranquil people whose sympathies lie with everything calm and sorrowful, while others are energetic and hot-blooded, and their artistic creativity can reveal itself fittingly only via an expression of the powerful impulses of the human soul … This is why to set one theme for all, without distinction, will be the salvation of those whose abilities suit the theme, while it will be the downfall of those who, given a free choice of subject, would have been able to express themselves.10

One of the signatories of the second petition, Ivan Kramskoi, later described the fervor that characterized dialogues among the students at the time. According to Kramskoi, those involved met frequently to discuss their course of action and their “resolutions were quite unanimous.”11 The students decided to call on various professors in their homes to plead their case. They were told that their entreaties were “well founded” and “would likely be granted,” yet these sentiments proved little more than empty words.12 On November 9, 1863, the petitioning students were summoned to the Council Hall to learn what had been decided. The original fourteen signatories stayed up late the night before talking about what might happen and forming a plan. They decided to elect Kramskoi as their representative; if necessary, he would speak the next day on everyone’s behalf.13 He explained what transpired in a letter from later that same month: On the day of the competition, November 9th, we came to the office and decided to go upstairs all together … to learn what the Council had decided … We walked in. [Conference Secretary of the Academy] F. F. Lvov announced the subject, “The Feast in Valhalla,” from Scandinavian mythology, in which the heroes, the warriors, brawl constantly with god Odin presiding, two ravens on his shoulders, two wolves at his feet … and a lot of other nonsense … one of us, namely Kramskoi, stepped out of the group and said: “We ask permission


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to address a few words to the Council.” (Silence. All eyes fixed on the speaker.) “Twice we have submitted a petition, yet the Council has not found it possible to approve our request. We do not consider that we have the right to insist further … we respectfully ask that we be excused from the competition, and issued diplomas certifying us as artists.” A few moments of silence. Finally, [Vice-President of the Academy] Gagarin and [Professor] Ton mumbled: “Is that all?” “That is all,” we answered and went out.14

Much has been made of the events that took place that November day. The incident became known as the “Revolt of the Fourteen” and scholars have long debated the motivations that brought the insurrection about as well as the consequences the action had for institutional power structures like the Academy.15 It was certainly a remarkable act of rebellion; one that would have profound consequences for the group of men who took part in the action. What has not been assessed in scholarship, however, is the unique sense of comradery and brotherly solidarity that characterized the protest from its inception. As Kramskoi described it, the fourteen men convened frequently to debate the course of action in the days before and they, importantly, decided to go before the Council that day “all together.” They walked in as a group, they addressed the authorities before them as a unified body (“we ask permission,” “we have submitted,” “we have the right”), and they exited together after answering in unison. Notable in these contemporary descriptions is the way these men collectively organized in their attempt to enact change. This fraternal dynamic would continue, and in fact strengthen, as the men decided what to do next. Kramskoi defined the sentiment which arose at the time: “since up to now we have gone hand in hand, we have decided that, in order not to perish we must hang on to one another.”16 Realizing that no retreat was possible, the artists decided to bond formally to survive the difficulties that lay ahead: We wished to form an artists’ association, that is, to work together and live together. United for, perhaps five years, during which time we would accumulate capital … Our field of activity will encompass: portraiture, painting iconostases, copies and original paintings, drawing for illustrations and on wood panels. That is, all that relates to our profession. Out of the general sum of money we will set aside thirty percent to create a working capital. The rest, divided in equal parts, will cover our living expenses.17

The association Kramskoi described became formally known as the Petersburg Artel of Artists [Peterburgskaia Artel’ khudozhnikov], a cooperative that would

The Artel of Artists


Figure 4.1  Petersburg Artel of Artists, 1863; photograph, The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow. Seated in first row (from left to right): Kirill Lemokh, Alexander Litovchenko, Konstantin Makovskii, Vasilli Kretan, Nikolai Shustov. Seated in second row (from left to right): Firs Zhuravlev, Alexander Morozov, Ivan Kramskoi, Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, Mikhail Peskov, Aleksei Korzukhin. Standing (from left to right): Bogdan Venig, Nikolai Petrov, Alexander Grigorev

shape not only the working dynamic, but also the living conditions and the very outlook of these men for the rest of the decade. A photograph taken at the time commemorated the formation of the Artel and lends unique insight into the ways the men presented themselves as a united corporation to the public [Figure 4.1]. In the picture, likely taken late in 1863, the artists form a single amorphous group.18 It is difficult to parse out where some men’s bodies end and others begin, so bound are the men within and amongst each other. Despite the fact that they are arranged in three rows—five men seated on the floor, six in chairs, and three standing—their bodies are deeply intertwined and intricately connected. They lean into one another, the backs of some rest on the legs of others, knees abut shoulders, and hips skim shins and ankles. Several of the artists reach for one another, further reinforcing the sense of intimate fastening which characterized the group at its inception. On the far left, Bogdan Venig has his arm around Alexander Morozov’s shoulder (a gesture reciprocated affectionately by the latter’s hand around his comrade’s bicep) and, on the right side, a seated Mikhail Peskov clasps the shoulder of Vasilii Kreitan


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while Alexander Grigorev reaches out to place his arm on Mikhail’s back. The photograph makes literal what Kramskoi (who is seated fifth from the left) wrote just around the time the photograph was likely taken: “in order not to perish we must hang on to one another.” The artists who formed the Artel were indeed a unified force, clinging to one another in a show of mutual integrity and brotherly support. No man was separate from the group and the photograph was a testament to the strength of their masculine bonds at the outset of their endeavor. Group photographs of artists like this one—which seek to promote the idea of the artistic cooperative as a collective body—are virtually unprecedented in nineteenth century art.19 Their closest corollary exists only in painting, specifically in the unusual group portraits Henri Fantin-Latour made between 1864 and 1885. Yet these portrayals of French artists and writers are largely imaginary as opposed to being made from the real gathering of mutually inclined practitioners as in the Artel photograph. Furthermore, works like Fantin’s A Studio in the Batignolles Quarter (1870, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) portray men neither touching nor looking at one another, creating a wholesale different effect than the Artel photograph with its intense interweaving of bodies and glances, and demonstrating the tensions inherent within French artistic groups in the period.20 As Bridget Alsorf has argued, Fantin’s invented portraits show how group associations in France were frequently fraught with rifts and precarity, revealing the “fragile nature of their collective life” and artists’ desire to keep their individuality while still reaping the benefits of collective support.21 In its earliest moment, the Petersburg Artel of Artists projected a very different ideal—one free of both individuality and hierarchy and which used the visual language of corporeal association to imply the bonds of men as they embarked on this unprecedented partnership together. Models of masculine artistic cooperation had emerged in France in the wake of the French Revolution, when fraternité became not only a political ideal, but an archetype for studio culture that drove innovation in painting. The art historian Thomas Crow has explored the implications this kind of collective male artistic practice had on French neoclassical painting: “Artists were asked not only to envisage military and civic virtue in traditionally masculine terms, but were compelled to imagine the entire spectrum of desirable human qualities, from battlefield heroics to eroticized corporeal beauty, as male … The studio was the place where these forces crossed and had to be transformed into a practical form of life.”22 As in post-revolutionary France, Russia in the 1860s was a hotbed of social and political change and the transformations occurring in society had

The Artel of Artists


serious implications for artistic culture. As an organization, the Artel has long been recognized as belonging to the larger “spirit of the 1860s,” a time that saw the achievement of liberal social reforms which had been called for in Russia for decades. Scholars have described the ways the protestors who ended up forming the Artel were inspired by the kinds of working collectives featured in some of the radical writings of the period, notably Nikolai Chernyshevskii’s novel What Is to Be Done?, which was published in the same year as the Artel’s formation.23 The functioning of the Artel in terms of the masculine collectivism it espoused is actually an inversion of the prominent example in the novel, however, in that the cooperative Chernyshevskii imagined was an all-female sewing venture. By inverting the feminine collective into an exclusively masculine brotherhood, the members of the Artel built on progressive thought then burgeoning in Russian society while still maintaining patriarchal values which saw only men as fit to inhabit the professional sphere. Depictions of the Artel and its members emphasize this separation of roles for the sexes, reinforcing conservative ideals which contrast sharply with Chernyshevskii’s major project. In order to better understand the tension between socialist politics and traditional values which rose to the fore in the period, this chapter investigates the nature of relationships within the Artel over the course of its existence from 1863 to 1870. The Artel was in many ways a reflection of the fraternal values that characterized several patriarchal societies, yet it also differed in certain respects, highlighting anxieties unique to Russian conceptions of masculinity in the second half of the century. Mapping the changing dynamics and goals of the group in terms of social expectations for men in the period, this case study explores the activities of the Artel through the production of some of its leading members, lending insight into the homosocial networks that were vital to Russian artistic life during this era of radical social change.

“Reality, Not Fantasies” From the beginning, Kramskoi admitted that the members of the newly formed Artel were unsure whether the organization would succeed and even how it would realistically function. In a letter written only three days after the students walked out of the Academy, Kramskoi acknowledged that their plan was “not remarkably practical” and “still far from clear.”24 But the desire for freedom remained strong, even as the necessity of organizing on practical matters became


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apparent. Kramskoi recalled the mix of emotions which flooded the group at the time: “I felt, finally, this frightening freedom, for which we all had strived so greedily. Beyond that I remember nothing. Reality, not fantasies, began to set in, and so let’s proceed to reality.”25 According to Kramskoi, from this general sense of newfound freedom, the Artel came about naturally: “[it] appeared by itself … Circumstances developed such that the form of mutual support was imposed of its own accord. Who first said the first word? … I do not know.”26 The sense of mutual cooperation Kramskoi recorded was likely in large part also due to the men’s shared social position. Of the artists who took part in the rebellion, the vast majority were from the lower middle class—in fact, only one came from the gentry estate (dvorianstvo). Kramskoi himself came from one of the two lowest classes in Russian society. He was the son of a minor official and thus a member of the petty bourgeoisie (meshchane), below which was only the peasantry (krest’iane).27 Born in Ostrogorzhsk, a small town some four hundred miles south of Moscow, Kramskoi worked first as an apprentice to an icon painter in Voronezh before being taken on as an assistant to an itinerant photographer. In this capacity, he became highly skilled at retouching photographs, ultimately arriving in Petersburg in 1857 with aspirations to attend the Academy of Arts and become a painter.28 He described the chasm he felt regarding his social position once he reached Petersburg: “I have never envied anyone (in the very broad sense of the word), as much as a really educated man. Previously, I even had a lackey’s panic before every student at the university.”29 It was significant for Kramskoi that the university was located in close proximity to the Academy. Several artists from the period record interactions with students there and express their amazement at the kinds of conversations the students had with one another.30 The university on Vasil’evskii Island was, in these years, a hotbed of advanced scientific and social thought and many students became key figures in the emerging revolutionary movement. According to the Soviet art historian Irina Punina, one of the few scholars who has written extensively on the Artel, connections between students from the Academy and the nearby university became firmly established by the end of the 1850s and the student populations at both institutions were extremely mixed in the period.31 Many provincial pupils from different classes comprised the student bodies, a fact the art critic Vladimir Stasov also attested to: “In complete contrast to the preceding two periods, the period beginning in the 1850s saw artists … from the most varied array of provinces in the north, south, east, and west.”32 Kramskoi also referred to the varied backgrounds of his classmates: “the Academy’s classes were filled with young people, a rabble of all kinds of illiterate and poorly developed people.”33

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Despite his own precarious social position, Kramskoi from his earliest days at the Academy became something of a natural leader amidst this “rabble.” According to the Soviet art historian Sofia Goldshtein: “Kramskoi gained undeniable authority among his closest friends. Even at school, he initiated evening drawing classes in which sketching from nature was accompanied by reading books and pamphlets devoted to a wide range of subjects, and, first and foremost, questions of art.”34 One of Kramskoi’s contemporaries, Mikhail Tulinov, described how these evenings became like a “new Russian academy” for the young men; the nights spent together made them feel “full of fire, energy, strength, youth and purpose.”35 According to Kramskoi, the young men began learning more from one another than from their actual professors at the Academy: The guidance of the professors, to tell the truth, almost does not affect the progress of the students: everything that artists know in this field must be attributed to their energy, love, diligence, and competition, all between themselves, that is, all that they learn one from another. I’m not alleging this, ask the first person you meet about this—he will say the same thing.36

Testaments like these show that even before the petitions and the walk-out, a sense of masculine comradery and supportive bonding was a vital part of the artists’ young lives. From contemporary accounts, it becomes clear that students gathered around Kramskoi almost every day after their regular classes at the Academy. He established a program in which someone from the group would read aloud while others worked on their assignments from the Academy. Others were engaged in making sketches, including frequently Kramskoi himself, who devised a method for making portraits of his comrades which, according to Tulinov, took only about three or four evenings to complete. Kramskoi used an unusual medium known as “sauce” to bring about these intimate portraits of his comrades. A traditional Russian material, sauce is made from of a mixture of clay, chalk, glue, and dyes that in some ways resembles pastel and sepia, although it has more intense tones. Sauce comes in a limited range of colors—only black, white, brown, and gray— and can be applied using either a dry or wet method. To make his portraits, Kramskoi dissolved a piece of sauce in a small amount of water, then applied it to a sheet of paper using a watercolor brush. For small details he would add pencil marks and then he would additionally achieve transitions between tones through the use of ceruse or feathering [rastushka] once the image was dry.37 Overall, the technique was similar to painting with watercolor, but the artist worked only with tones and shadow as opposed to modeling through color and hue.


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Kramskoi made several sauce portraits during these communal evenings in 1860 and 1861, some of which display future members of the Artel while they were still students at the Academy. One such portrait shows Bogdan Venig two years before his participation in the revolt [Figure 4.2]. He sits comfortably gazing out from the sheet, his curly hair grown out to frame his elongated

Figure 4.2  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Bogdan Venig, 1861; sauce and ceruse on paper, 56 × 42 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

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face. Kramskoi was careful to record his friend’s features accurately—his large forehead and bulky ears, a bulbous nose below somewhat wideset, dark eyes. Venig is dressed fashionably, yet not extravagantly—his starched white collar was likely of the detachable variety and the cravat beneath it is simply arranged, its black color denoting the informal nature of the evenings.38 Venig would have been twenty-four years old when this portrait was made. He was in fact the same age as Kramskoi; the two men were born within two months of one another in 1837. The frankness of Venig’s gaze out at Kramskoi speaks volumes about the solidarity the young men felt as they met for these evening sittings. Kramskoi captured his friend honestly, without embellishment or affectation, using the sauce medium to bring about a portrait using only light and shadow. The painting evokes a photograph, yet its scale is significantly larger than that medium would have allowed at the time. The magnitude of the sheet— nearly 16 by 22 inches—makes Venig almost life size, recording his attendance at the communal evenings as if to inscribe his bodily presence for posterity. Already, it would seem, a brotherhood was forming in Kramskoi’s mind; one that was reinforced by his practice of gifting these sauce portraits to his friends when they were completed. After the students walked out of the Academy together, Kramskoi described the sense of comradery that took hold of the men, now free of the strictures of the institution and its stifling rules: “In our meetings after leaving the academy in 1863, caring for each other was our most outstanding concern. It was a very good moment in my life, yes, I think in our life.”39 For Kramskoi, this was an important moment in the shared life that now unfolded before all of the men, the success of which depended on their “caring for each other.”

A Family of Men With Kramskoi rising to the helm, much as he had in their student days, the Artel began to plot the course ahead. By late November, the group decided to release a public statement in Petersburg and Moscow, and then in the rest of Russia, announcing that as an “Artists’ Commission Association” they were ready to accept orders for everything from portraits and icons to sculptures and designs for memorials. They met almost daily as a group to “think through the enterprise” and decide how assignments were going to be meted out, as well as to determine what percentage of funds should initially be used to set up capital.40 All but a few members agreed they would live together and share three large


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studios amongst themselves. Hopes ran high that bonding in this way would improve their condition as a whole: “by uniting we’re not losing but positively gaining. Even now each of us is earning something, and later we’ll earn much more.”41 In accordance with this sentiment, the group rented a large apartment with workshops on Vasil’evskii Island, in the historic heart of St. Petersburg. According to Ilia Repin, then a close friend of Kramskoi’s, everyone had comfortable rooms and the mood was generally cheerful.42 They placed advertisements in the newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti on January 3 and 8 of 1864 and, as a result, some orders began to appear.43 In the afternoons, the Artel members worked on these commissions and kept busy with organizing the association’s affairs. In the evenings they would gather in the large workshop, just as they had in Kramskoi’s apartment while still students. Here they worked on fulfilling orders or on their own independent works and they often sketched each other from life.44 Repin, a regular visitor to these evenings of communal artistic activity, described how the artel’shchiki (as the members were called) talked seriously with one another, commenting openly if there were shortcomings in a picture and making observations without “flattery or malice.”45 According to Repin: Everyone felt himself to be in the closest circle of friendly, honest people. Every artel member worked sincerely and gave himself to the forum of his fellow mates and acquaintances. From this he drew strength, learned about his shortcomings and grew morally … What could each of these poor artists have had alone, all by himself?! Some musty, badly furnished room with a landlady embittered at the whole world, a bad lunch in the kitchen … a spiteful mood and hatred for everything. What could a poor artist create in such conditions? But here, in the artel, united in one family, these same people lived in the best conditions of light, warmth, and training assistance.46

The comparison Repin drew between the men’s lives without the Artel and within this “closest circle” was stark. Repin painted a picture of the “poor artist” not only alone, but hampered by a woman, one who created conditions which impeded the artist’s ability to work. In contrast, the artel’shchik who was nestled in the “forum of his comrades” was an artist who drew strength from the men around him. He was more productive in this exclusively male “atmosphere,” a domain without women and their “hatred for everything.” Not only was the artel’shchik able to be more industrious, the artist who was surrounded by his male colleagues was also able

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to grow “ethically.” In essence, he became a better man by removing himself from the influence of women. This kind of emphasis on all-male solidarity in many ways reflects wider cultural and social values concerning men’s place in the world. Many scholars have explored the ways all-male organizations like the Artel maintained hegemonic codes of masculinity in times when the inviolability of male dominance in public life was under attack. For the sociologist Mary Ann Clawson, during the nineteenth century, “fraternal orders not only offered an alternative social space for the expression of male solidarity, but dignified and idealized it by means of rituals that excluded women and celebrated the creation of specifically male social bonds.”47 Such idealization of the all-male utopia was characteristic of several brotherhoods in the period—from the Nazarenes in Italy to the Pre-Raphaelites in Britain. The art historians Laura Morowitz and William Vaughan have written productively on the absence of women in these groups: … by definition the group is male-oriented and encourages male bonding. In its gender specificity it echoes the male-centered structure of modernism, but does so more insistently and explicitly … The structure of the brotherhood was set up to both reinforce patriarchal structures (through the system of masculine privilege) and also to provide a temporary structure, an alternative system of community, outside the biological family.48

Repin’s description of the Artel makes more sense in this context. For Repin, the artel’shchik gained a new position by living and working outside the typical obligations of husbandhood, one that affirmed his masculinity through a substitute patriarchal structure. The Artel-artist became “united in one family,” but it was one uniquely composed without wives—a family of men. In reality, women were present around the edges of the Artel though, mostly due to the fact that some of its members were married by 1863. The wives of both Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii and Kramskoi were a constant presence in the Artel’s apartment in the early years of the cooperative’s operation. They can be seen in the few images that record the Artel’s inner functioning, highlighting the fact that Repin’s vision of a “forum of comrades” was something of a creative fiction. The family atmosphere he described was indeed tangible, however, as evidenced by a sketch Kramskoi made in the 1860s [Figure 4.3]. Titled A Corner at the Artel of Artists, the work shows three of the men who signed the original petition and walked out the Academy. Nikolai Shustov smokes in the open doorway, smiling and leaning comfortably against the door jam, while Aleksei Korzukhin sits crossed legged in shadow behind the drawn curtains.


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 4.3  Ivan Kramskoi, A Corner at the Artel of Artists, 1866; sauce and ceruse on paper, 35.5 × 28.8 cm., Museum of Fine Arts, Kiev

Beyond him, Dmitriev-Orenburgskii sits with his hands folded across his legs. Light from the adjoining room starkly highlights half of his face and casts deep shadows over his waistcoat and legs. The three men are shown conversing late into the evening; the artificial light from the neighboring chamber conveys the longevity of their discourse.

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Dmitriev-Orenburgskii’s wife, seated next to him and slightly further back, additionally reinforces the durational aspect of the work. She is shown sleeping— her head having collapsed onto her arm—indicating that this exchange was no brief encounter. Shustov has smoked much of his cigar and Korzukin’s raised hand seems to indicate the beginning of a yawn. This space may contain a woman, but she is not an active participant in the scene of male sociability and discourse. Kramskoi emphasized quite the opposite, showing her as unable to participate in the men’s dialogue. She cannot endure the long intensity of these Artel evenings and thus she is excluded from involvement in the masculine forum. Her sleep indicates female weakness; she may be present in the space due to her husband, but she is no more a part of the Artel than the curtains which mimic and visually mirror her own dress and shawl. Such views of women were in many ways characteristic of the turbulent 1860s, a period which saw much social reform, but remained undecided on what came to be referred to as the “woman question.”49 Literary discussions in the period framed gender issues differently than the previous generation had; where the earlier romantics had framed masculinity and femininity in terms of difference, the radicals encouraged women to seek higher education and individual liberation. But, as Arja Rosenholm and Irina Savkina have pointed out, “in the discourses of the ‘thick journals,’ men and women were placed quite asymmetrically: women—still mainly from the upper classes—longing for cultural activities were to be re-educated, while male agents were to be the new teachers.”50 Such a view of women as playing a passive role to their more active male counterparts was posited by Dmitriev-Orenburgskii in a sepia commemorating an Artel member’s birthday in 1865 [Figure 4.4]. Four distinctive registers of activity are featured on the sheet, each suggesting a unique narrative. Across the top, large trompe-l’œil letters which resemble sculptural masses provide context for the scenes below. The monumental blocks spell out the words “St. Petersburg Artel of Artists” and emerging from the letters comprising “artist” are thirteen individual hands. All are shown actively partaking in the dissemination of bread to the group. Some hands reach for a piece, others cut off slices, a few are shown tearing pieces off, while some hold plates out to receive their portion. The hands are metonymically connected to the men and their shared artistic labor, each actively participates in the dividing up of the collective work and remuneration for it. Directly below this top register, the main section of the narrative unfolds. Thirteen men are arranged around a table; they raise their glasses in a toast which


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 4.4  Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, Birthday Address Presented to ArtelMember Aleksei Korzukhin, 1865; sepia and wash on brown paper, 32 × 26.6 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

reads above and below: “to our dear artel’shchik Korzukhin [on his] name day.” The men look not at each other, but in a variety of directions, indicating that the scene was cobbled together from sketches of each man Dmitriev-Orenburgskii had made during their evenings together. Shown seated and standing in front

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of the table are two women dressed in sober attire—probably the wives of Kramskoi and Dmitriev-Orenburgskii. Only the sides of their faces can be seen and they are again not shown as full participants in the action. Neither seems to hold a glass like the men around them and their dark dresses mark them as distinctive from the artel’shchiki. The men are all depicted in frock coats, with white shirts and ties—conspicuously masculine dress—indicating the formality of the occasion. The hands in the register above are all fashioned similarly, with white shirt cuffs peeking out from dark jacket sleeves, demonstrating that only men share the communal bread.51 As in Kramskoi’s sepia sketch, women are shown as present at Artel gatherings, although they are consistently figured as separate from the masculine collective. The notion of the Artel as a zone of delimited maleness is further reinforced by the two cameo scenes in the bottom register, on either side of which are trompe-l’œil sheets of paper bearing the signatures of the artel’shchiki. The paper is faded, yet the signatures of ten men, including those of Kramskoi, DmitrievOrenburgskii, and Venig, are still visible. The disparity between the number of signatures and the men figured in the registers above may reflect frictions that were beginning to form within the group by 1865. Some two months after the birthday celebration for Korzukin, only eleven men signed the Statute of the Artel which was ratified by the Minister of the Interior on June 9, 1865. One of the men had died, but two of the initial protesters—Alexander Litovchenko and Konstantin Makovskii—did not sign the document.52 It would seem that if the Artel was a group of men “united in one family,” as Repin described it, then as in most families, some personalities clashed. A letter Kramskoi sent in the spring of 1864 describes the conflicts then arising, most of which centered on money. Members had been asked to contribute twenty rubles each to cover renting their shared apartment and further newspaper advertisements. Some offered to put in even more, but then failed to actually pay. This led others to begin hesitating; many waited to see if orders would come in before contributing. As Kramskoi described it: The majority, as one should have expected, have taken a wait-and-see position, i.e., none of them, except for four or five people, put in their ten percent from their personal income and sat back and waited to see what would happen in the Society, whether there would be the kind of work that would give all of us a lot of money straight away.53

Matters worsened when members realized that the advertisements were not leading to significant commissions. Orders were placed, but they were minor.


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Kramskoi admitted that he knew the Artel would “only be able to stick together if it can offer each of its members individually some sort of direct benefit.”54 Reality clashed with the fantasy of the homosocial collective that had been envisioned. Alexis Boylan has described a similar paradox among American artist groups at the outset of the twentieth century. She explains how Ashcan artists “attempted to both mourn the modern condition that pushed white men away from each other and attempted to reimagine—through their own bodies—friendships, intimacies, and a kind of companionship.”55 The Russian artel’shchiki faced a similar paradox several decades before their Ashcan counterparts. The men cared for one another and hoped their union would bring them all greater success, but at the first signs that this might not prove the case, the cohesiveness of the group faltered. Modern marketplace conditions met with the ideal of male intimacy that the original protestors had cultivated. Ideologies surrounding the benefits of masculine companionship clashed with other social constructs which saw men as needing to be in persistent competition with one another for money and professional success.

Money and Morality Kramskoi later described how he grappled with the realization that not all men were invested in the ideological aspect of the project to the same extent: The competitors who refused the chance to travel abroad at government expense and found themselves obliged to hang on to one another were not all people of ideas and convictions. I took the whole business seriously, and I know that, aside from me, there were other comrades who took it seriously. But such is life, and man’s steadfastness, moral strength, or any other trait (within his grasp) very soon show what they’re made of.56

The idea that a man should possess “ideas and convictions” was resonating loudly in several different cultural arenas in the period. Writers for the journals The Russian Word, The Cause, and The Contemporary had all issued calls for men to allow themselves to be guided by their authentic feelings, as opposed to the formulaic affective dispositions which had marked earlier periods.57 According to thinking at the time, possessing the kind of convictions Kramskoi described required a man to be in touch with his own individual desires and needs. One could only acknowledge such genuine emotions, however, if a new emphasis was

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placed on sensory experience as opposed to the artificial dispositions inculcated by society. Kramskoi hinted at such a tension between genuine emotion and “the laws of decency” in a journal he kept while still a teenager. For him, the discrepancy was one profoundly associated with life in the city, where he felt he could not freely express himself: I am doing almost as well here as at home, but the difference consists of the fact that in a town well-known to me, I could talk with my buddies, friends, and acquaintances about everything that came to my mind … But here? Oh! Here it’s the complete opposite! Here I must conform to the laws of decency, which are somewhat irrelevant.58

Concerns over the incongruity Kramskoi described were shared by Nikolai Dobroliubov and Dmitrii Pisarev, two radical thinkers who became prominent after Tsar Alexander II assumed the throne in 1855. Both urged their readers to unlearn the preconceived ideas about “correct” affective responses that had been inculcated into them by teachers, parents, and caregivers.59 Scholars refer to this notion of being true to one’s own feelings, a sentiment shared by many radical writers of the period, as “rational egoism” and they frequently point to the writings of Nikolai Chernyshevskii as providing the most salient example of the system in practice.60 The slogan of the hero in Chernyshevskii’s influential 1863 novel What Is to Be Done? sums up the ethics of rational egoism: “Calculate what’s the most advantageous for you.”61 A tension arises in this system, however, as acting in one’s own interest is not always aligned with the need for solidarity with others. According to Victoria Frede, who has written on the development of rational egoism, Chernyshevskii believed “there should be no harm to society if people act according to their dispositions, so long as they are natural and healthy. By nature, people are disposed to increase not only their own pleasure and utility, but those of other people as well, because they take pleasure in helping other people.”62 This sentiment is very much aligned with what Kramskoi described as the Artel members’ natural inclination toward “caring for each other” and “mutual support.” Nonetheless, such spontaneous solidarity was clashing with the realities of rational egoism as each man sought to do what was most advantageous for himself. When large commissions failed to appear, the men, in Kramskoi’s words, showed what they were truly “made of ” and their natural inclination toward acting in solidarity (which the radical writers had made such strong claims for) was tested. Kramskoi’s admission that the Artel would “only be able


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to stick together if it could offer each of its members individually some sort of direct benefit” makes more sense in this context. If the Artel was to survive, it had to find ways to resolve the inherent conflict between individualism and collaborative unity; the group needed to begin making money as well as find ways to bolster the men’s “moral strength.”63 The former was addressed by continuing to increase the public presence of the Artel and its activities. More advertisements were placed in April of 1864, this time in the newspaper Golos, and the group began organizing exhibitions.64 The first was held in the spring of that year in the Artel’s apartment. It was a small show, only comprised of fifteen works by Artel members, yet its success led Kramskoi to seek a more prominent venue the following year.65 He travelled to Nizhny Novgorod in July of 1865 to organize an exhibition that sought to attract a wider audience and thus also more buyers. The show opened on August 12 and included not only works by Artel members, but over a hundred paintings by Russian artists from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It provided a survey of the “Russian school” by showing paintings made by the Artel next to more established masters from earlier periods such as Karl Briullov.66 Despite the fact that it was visited by many people and positively reviewed in the press, Kramskoi’s letters from the fall of 1865 describe the exhibition as a “failure.”67 Apparently, the expenses associated with arranging the show meant that the exhibition did not bring in any profits and Kramskoi’s letters show his growing concern over the lack of revenue.68 He admitted that the Artel’s inability to make itself financially solvent was a source of embarrassment for him in these years, adding a further, deeply gendered, dimension to the activities of the Artel and problems arising from such forms of cooperative association.69 As in a number of other cultures, expectations for men to serve as the breadwinners for their families (in Russian known as the kormilets, literally the person who feeds) were high throughout this era. Sons were consistently envisioned as future providers for families of dependents, as evidenced by popular sayings such as: “feed your son for a while, the time will come when your son will feed you.”70 Laura Morowitz and William Vaughan have described the particularly problematic position of the male artist in terms of his potential for earning. “If the very notion of masculinity depended upon negotiation of the market-place and the earning of income, the financially strapped artist faced a constant challenge to his manhood. The artistic brotherhood served as an alternative way of acquiring masculinity, one that would prove extremely useful in many ways.”71 Kramskoi would have felt the burden of expectations for men to be breadwinners doubly. For by the mid-1860s, he was not only the leader of the

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Artel and thus depended on by this group of men, he was also a husband and father, the implications of which will be explored in the next chapter. To fulfill his role as kormilets for both the group and his growing family, Kramskoi had to find ways to increase their collective income when the advertisements and exhibitions failed. Sometimes increasing the group’s profits meant conducting shady business practices, including outsourcing work and pocketing the additional income.72 But when even measures like these failed to bring in the revenues the group needed, Kramskoi was forced to accept a commission in Moscow, painting the dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This project took him far from his wife and comrades but would bring a much-needed cash infusion to the Artel. Even in this context, Kramskoi remained committed to the ideals of brotherly cooperation. He insisted that the work be shared with Bogdan Venig and Nikolai Koshelev, stating unequivocally: “I will not work otherwise than on an equal footing with my comrades.”73 Koshelev had only recently joined the Artel, but the Moscow commission shows how he was immediately ushered into the cooperative system Kramskoi had devised. Far from the Artel’s headquarters in Petersburg, the three men still organized themselves in a way that modeled the main collective. They lived in a shared apartment and worked on the dome, according to contemporaries, “from morning to night and even on holidays”—maintaining the Artel’s emphasis on communal living and work arrangements.74 When the project was completed, Kramskoi submitted 3,000 rubles to the Artel’s shared coffers. At first the artel’shchiki did not want to accept such a vast sum, yet Kramskoi absolutely insisted, even going so far as to state he would leave the Artel if they did not accept it.

Homosociality, Rivalry, and Desire Unfortunately, the group’s collective income was not the only problem. Kramskoi began to worry that the men’s sense of solidarity was not as strong as it had been at the outset; his hope must have been that returning to the kinds of gatherings that had been so central for the men while still at the Academy would reinforce the ideology of their original union. In his memoirs, Repin left an account of the communal evenings which began to be held at the Artel, including a description of gatherings that were open to outsiders as well: On Thursdays, the Artel held open evenings for guests, when recommended by members of the Artel. Between forty and fifty people would gather and enjoy themselves there. An enormous table was set up the length of the whole room, it was covered with paper, paints, pencils and every sort of artistic implement.


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Whoever wanted to could chose the material of his liking and worked on whatever came to mind. In the adjoining room, someone would play the piano and sing. Sometimes serious articles about exhibitions or about art were read out loud … After these serious readings and doing a wide variety of drawings, a very modest but very joyful dinner followed. Sometimes after dinner, there would even be dancing, if ladies were present.75

These Thursday gatherings were important not only for publicizing the Artel’s activities, but also for reinforcing the bonds of its members through a process of enlightened discussion and education. The structure Repin described—someone reading aloud while the men, all seated together at one vast table, sketched and painted—was an extension of the earlier communal evenings from their student days, now on a much larger (and more public) scale.76 The project went hand in hand with a larger goal Kramskoi was writing about at the time, what he referred to as “supplementing the gap in the education of artists” in order “to eradicate the shortcomings” left by the Academy.77 Kramskoi wrote vehemently in 1865 that “the artist should not be below the level of education that exists in society at a given moment” and the Thursday gatherings became an important tool for correcting this discrepancy.78 Dmitriev-Orenburgskii left a sketch depicting one of these Thursdays that illustrates much of what Repin described [Figure 4.5]. Some ten men are seated at a large table, several are shown busily drawing, while others, more loosely sketched in, watch over their shoulders. A few men are not shown sketching; instead, they appear to be listening to the speaker. The man with his back to us in the foreground is likely the one reading aloud, the figures nearest him look in his direction and their heads tilt slightly to signal their attention. One of the figures listening is a woman; she is again likely one of the men’s wives, but she is shown looking intently at the speaker, making her presence qualitatively different from those women included in earlier works.79 It is unclear what she is doing with her hands—perhaps taking notes, maybe even sketching—but she is shown actively participating in the gathering. Although she is entirely surrounded by men, she serves an important function in that she does not fulfill any of the usual tropes for depictions of solitary women amongst groups of men. She is not their model—in fact, none of the men appear to be sketching her—and she is not attending to the men as a wife or servant. Nonetheless, her presence among the men subtly reinforces their heterosexuality. Her inclusion dissipates some of the homoerotic tension that can arise in scenes of all-male sociability, especially those that take place in interior spaces. Brotherhoods were often vulnerable to suspicion in staunchly

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Figure 4.5  Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, A Thursday at the Artel, 1860s; pencil on paper, 21.4 × 34.1 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

heteronormative societies where members’ bachelorhood and constant proximity to other men left them subject to doubt.80 In this sense, the homosocial dynamic of groups like the Artel was seen as both a source of strength and a site of potential vulnerability. For, as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick astutely pointed out in her work on the slippage between the homosocial and the homosexual: “to be a man’s man is separated only by an invisible, carefully blurred, always-alreadycrossed line from being ‘interested in men’.”81 If artists like Kramskoi and Dmitriev-Orenburgskii were concerned to highlight their heterosexuality by including images of their wives in depictions of the Artel’s activities, Repin was likewise invested in creating such a vision, although he took a different tactic. In his memoirs, Repin relayed an anecdote which emphasized the heterosexuality of the Artel members in important ways: One morning, on a Sunday, I came to Kramskoi; he had just begun to explain something to me about my work when a bell rang; a troika pulled up to the house and in walked a gang of artel’shchik-artists with frost still on their coats; they entered the hall with a beautiful woman [krasavitsu]. I was simply stunned by her wondrous face, the height and all the proportions of the blackeyed brunette’s body … Chairs clattered in the overall commotion, easels were moved, and quickly the common room became a life-drawing class. The beautiful woman was put on a raised platform … all around her were easels and


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artists with palettes. I do not remember how many artists sat there—how can one remember anything at the sight of such a ravishing beauty!82

Repin goes on to describe his attempt to capture the woman’s features. He struggled, felt embarrassed, and then proceeded to look at some of the other men’s drawings. He called Kramskoi’s sketch the most successful of the assembly before returning to a discussion of the woman’s effect on the collective group of men: “The original is inexhaustible! She laughed and said something to Shustov. What dazzling teeth! How beautiful the span of her heavy purplish lips and the bend at the tip of the nose! We sketched happily: flirted, joked, and smoked a lot. Everyone was excited.”83 The story as conveyed by Repin is one of men bonding over their shared desire for an attractive woman in their midst. The line between the Artel members’ interest in her beauty as artists and as “excited” men is continually transgressed. Repin’s refrain of exclamations about the woman’s main features—her face, her body, her teeth, her lips, the tip of her nose— becomes like the running tally on a scoresheet of heteronormative assertions. The Artel became, in this sense, a reiteration of the dominant patriarchal structures then prevalent in Russian society, yet with an important twist. For, in reality, the Artel brotherhood replaced the traditional Oedipal hierarchy of struggle against one’s father with that of perpetual fraternal rivalry. The Artel brothers shared mutual bonds of affection, but in the “family” Repin described, members also became like siblings locked in constant conflict. This can be seen in how each man sought the attention of the beautiful model: moving their easels around her and, as Repin described it, trying to make her laugh with their jokes. A similar dynamic was also apparent in the men’s desire to outdo one another in speeches delivered at the Thursday gatherings. Repin recalled how: “Each talented speaker wanted to show his eloquence, add something new, something of his own to this grandiose idea of Kramskoi’s ​​ club.”84 Apparently, Kramskoi often became the sole mitigating force tempering the men’s raucous tendencies during the evening gatherings.85

Picturing the Bonds of Men While it would be easy to assume that Kramskoi became the domineering father figure of the group, he appears more often as something of an elder brother in the second half of the 1860s. He made several efforts to further unify the group, first by returning to making portraits of his comrades as he had in their Academy

The Artel of Artists


days. In 1866 he depicted Koshelev, Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, and Zhuravlev, each in their own stand-alone portrait, much in the same style he had Venig at the outset of the decade. The portrait of Koshelev shows the sitter seated before his friend, gazing out of the portrait intensely though not confrontationally [Figure 4.6]. Kramskoi focused all his attention on rendering his head; the clothed

Figure 4.6  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Nikolai Koshelev, 1866; Italian pencil, sauce, and ceruse on paper, 62.4 × 46 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019


Picturing Russia’s Men

body is indicated, yet not fully executed. Only one lapel has been sketched in while the lower half of Koshelev’s body fades away into irregular marks made with the sauce-laden brush. At the heart of the composition, Koshelev’s face is rendered with near photographic precision. Touches of white ceruse across the brow, malar groove, and tip of the nose bring Koshelev dimensionally forward on the sheet, making his face almost sculptural. His dark curly hair above and long, unkempt beard below provide an internal frame for the face, pushing it forward in space and increasing the vividness of the depiction. As in the earlier sauce portrait of Venig, Kramskoi used a large sheet; this one is, in fact, even larger, making Koshelev nearly life-size. He composed a portrait of Dmitriev-Orenburgskii on a similar scale that same year [Figure 4.7]. Again, the attention is kept largely on the face, with the body fading out into vague obscurity around its lower edges. It is in this area that Kramskoi signed the portrait, adding his surname and the year just under his friend’s left lapel in order to emphasize the men’s interaction. By inscribing a manifestation of himself on his friend’s body, Kramskoi collapsed the space between sitter and portraitist, drawing them together in a union of permanent connection. And as in the portrait of Koshelev, the monumentality of the likeness emphasizes the men’s interaction in real life. Neither portrait is a full-scale oil rendition, but both are nonetheless colossal. They possess the spontaneity that more traditional oil depictions would have destroyed. These portraits demonstrate the fondness Kramskoi felt for his friends within the Artel in this moment. And throughout his life, the artist would recount the bonds of affection that drew him to other painters: How often it has happened to me, when meeting someone … with one word: “he paints” or: “he loves art”—I completely lose all hostile feelings, and by respecting him, I become attached to him, and I attach powerfully, powerfully! … I become attached to him only because he loves art, I respect him in my soul for the fact that he respects this high and elegant art, I love him and become attached to him.86

Love. Respect. Attachment. All the repetition here is significant; Kramskoi was desperately seeking language that would convey how a shared passion for art led to the most profound of connections with other men. Kramskoi found other ways to convey the depth of his feelings for his fellow artists in the Artel years, notably through how he painted himself. He made his first oil self-portrait only a year after painting Koshelev and DmitrievOrenburgskii and he figured himself much in the same format as his friends

The Artel of Artists


Figure 4.7  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, 1866; Italian pencil and sauce on paper, 57.4 × 42.7 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

[Figure 4.8]. Kramskoi arranged his body in a similar three-quarter view, with his head turned away at a matching angle. He also wears his hair and beard long like them, with curly tendrils framing his gaunt face. Like his fellow artel’shchiki, he is also dressed simply; none of the men demonstrate much in


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 4.8  Ivan Kramskoi, Self-Portrait, 1867; oil on canvas, 52.7 × 44 cm. (oval), The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

the way of sartorial concerns. All present themselves simply as gentlemen, the signs of their masculine presence in the world—clean shirt, simple tie, dark jacket—clearly foregrounded. In this sense, all three of the portraits echo a desire that would become a frequent refrain for Kramskoi: “ranks and privileges for artists, regardless of their kind, must be abolished.” He viewed such honors

The Artel of Artists


as corrupting the vocation and he saw it as better to be “simply a man.”87 The portraits from 1866–7 indeed show the artel’shchiki as equals and as simple men bonded through pictorial rendition and their shared “love” for art.

The End of the Artel Despite Kramskoi’s efforts to create solidarity among the men through such portraits, as well as through the Thursday gatherings, the Artel ultimately did not last. Punina characterizes the group’s demise as resulting from the gulf that opened up between the men’s pecuniary concerns and their faltering moral convictions: Kramskoi no longer found understanding and sympathy for the high civic motivations that inspired him all his life among his comrades. He aspired to further fight for the development of democratic art, whereas many members of the Artel did not want to sacrifice material well-being for the sake of communal ideals. Between Kramskoi and the artel’shchiki a wall of misunderstanding gradually arose.88

Repin described specific problems which came to the fore at the end of the 1860s: “At first, there were domestic disagreements between the wives of the artel’shchiki which ended with the withdrawal of two members. Then one of the members of the Artel came under the special patronage of the Academy and held the prospect of a trip abroad paid for by officials.”89 Kramskoi found this comrade’s action to be “a violation of their main principle” as a group.90 He wrote a heated message to all the members in the fall of 1870 in which he asked for Dmitriev-Orenburgskii’s state-sponsored trip to be discussed “collectively,” but he made it clear that for him this was a “reprehensible” defilement of their core beliefs.91 On the whole, the text Kramskoi composed was an impassioned appeal to the men’s shared sense of respect and responsibility, one that asked the group to remember their collective history: Several times already the Artel has experienced inner upheavals, with regrettable consequences for its development and harmful effects for all its members … rather than making things easier for everybody, internal life becomes harder and harder … People might tell me that the Artel … has long ago vanished, or worse, that it is all a figment of my imagination and that I keep creating childish and unreal responsibilities, that I get worked up about it and advance views that everybody considers wrong. But, gentleman, I will once more turn to our


Picturing Russia’s Men

past, this time for the last time. Regardless of our mistakes, there remained one untouchable sphere that was for us a source of pride—our walking out of the Academy—that gave people the right to … respect our character.92

In the end, Kramskoi returned to their beginning. He asked his fellow artel’shchiki to recall their original collective action and the respect it had earned them in the eyes of society—as artists and as men. Nonetheless, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The Artel members did not agree with Kramskoi’s verdict on DmitrievOrenburgskii’s actions. According to Punina, it was in this period of reflection and doubt that Kramskoi first conceived of his painting Christ in the Wilderness [Figure 4.9]. It would take him the next two years to bring it about, but the canvas shows the religious figure wrought by indecision. His hands are clasped intensely as he stares down at the barren rocks surrounding him. Kramskoi later wrote of the picture’s personal meaning:

Figure 4.9  Ivan Kramskoi, Christ in the Wilderness, 1872; oil on canvas, 184 × 214 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

The Artel of Artists


Under the influence of a number of impressions, I had a very heavy feeling of life. I see clearly that there is one moment in the life of every man … when he finds himself meditating on whether to go to the right or to the left … So this is not Christ. That is, I do not know who it is. This is an expression of my personal thoughts.93

Kramskoi had reached a crossroads. He realized that the brotherhood he had envisioned—a unified cooperative of men attached to one another through their shared love of art and one another—had “long since died,” or worse, perhaps had never really existed.94 There proved to be a vast distance between what the men had envisioned at the outset of the Artel’s formation and the actual shortcomings of its members. The exemplary standard of brotherly cooperation which characterized the group’s beginning was based on several interrelated notions—that all of the men within the group would act in solidarity, contribute equally, and take pleasure in helping each other while also acting naturally in their own best interests. These were also ideals held for men in Russian society more broadly. In reality though, the Artel demonstrated that all too often men would not act in harmony with one another. They would instead compete for the affections of favorite models, try to outdo one another, or squabble over pecuniary concerns. They also failed to subsidize the group equally, whether it was as a result of not winning commissions or reneging on their share of the rent. All this showed an emptiness lying at the heart of the dominant dialogues about the potency of masculine camaraderie. As opposed to demonstrating the power of male bonds, the Artel highlighted the conflicts within men’s relationships and the breakdown of myths surrounding the strength of their brotherhoods. As in the works by Briullov, Fedotov, and Ivanov, the fantasies of men’s desires and aspirations crashed headlong into the realities of their concrete experiences and actions, producing a distressing rupture in gender value systems. As Kramskoi pointed out, when problems arose, men very quickly showed “what they’re made of ” and the essence which was revealed was terribly disappointing. On November 24, 1870, he resigned from the Artel. According to Repin, after Kramskoi left the group, it “soon lost its meaning and melted away unnoticed.”95 Yet despite the group’s failure, this would not be the end of such ventures in Russia. That same year, artists from Moscow and Petersburg banded together to form the Peredvizhniki (usually translated as “Wanderers”), a group which mounted traveling exhibitions held in numerous cities as well as in the provinces. The Peredvizhniki were a far cry from the artel’shchiki, however, and the new group’s earliest leaders showed no desire to be linked to the earlier


Picturing Russia’s Men

cooperative.96 It seems the Peredvizhniki had learned several important lessons from the demise of the earlier Artel, for members did not live together, did not pool earnings, and did not hold communal gatherings like those Kramskoi had organized. Instead, the rhetoric of homosocial idealism and its concomitant dream of creating a communal artistic brotherhood collapsed with the group’s end, never to be seen with such force in Russia during the nineteenth century again.

Notes 1

Ivan Kramskoi, “Zapiska po povodu peresmotra Ustava Akademii khudozhestv,” 1865, in Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, i khudozhestvennokriticheskiia stati, 1837–1887, ed. Aleksei Suvorin (St. Petersburg, 1888), 716. 2 Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi. Pis’ma, ed. S. N. Goldshtein (Moscow: Isskustvo, 1965), 1: 480–1. Quoted in Russian Realist Painting. The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, eds. Elizabeth Valkenier and Wendy Salmond, Experiment 14 (2008): 59. 3 Rosalind Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 231. 4 I. E. Grabar, Repin (Moscow, 1963), 1:64. Quoted in Elizabeth Valkenier, Russian Realist Art. The State and Society: The Peredvizhniki and Their Tradition (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1977), 13. 5 Valkenier, Russian Realist Art, 6. 6 Ivan Dmitriev, “Art that Bows and Scrapes: On the Annual Exhibition at the Academy of Arts,” Iskra, no. 37 (1863), 505–11, trans. Carol Adlam, accessed June 2, 2018, https://www.dhi.ac.uk/rva/texts/dmitriev/dmi01/dmi01.html. 7 Ibid. 8 Evgeny Steiner, “Pursuing Independence: Kramskoi and the Peredvizhniki vs. the Academy of Arts,” The Russian Review 70 (April 2011): 254. 9 Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 232. 10 “Petition of the fourteen students of the Academy of Arts to Prince G. G. Gagarin, Vice President of the Academy of Arts,” October 10, 1863, trans. Carol Adlam, accessed September 16, 2018, https://www.dhi.ac.uk/rva/texts/fourteen/petition2/ petition2.html. 11 Ivan Kramskoi, “Sudby russkogo iskusstva,” 1877, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 613. 12 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, November 13, 1863, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:9–10. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 60. 13 Kramskoi, “Sudby russkogo iskusstva,” 1877 in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 615–16. 14 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, November 13, 1863, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:9–10. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 60.

The Artel of Artists


15 See especially Steiner, “Pursuing Independence” and Irina Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’ khudozhnikov (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1966). 16 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, November 13, 1863, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1: 9–10. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 61. 17 Ibid. 18 Thirteen of the original petitioners are pictured; on November 9 only Pëtr Zabolotskii lost his nerve and opted to take part in the Gold Medal competition after all of his comrades walked out. He was replaced by Vasilii Kreitan (who is shown seated in the foreground fifth from the right). 19 Andrey Shabanov, Art and Commerce in Late Imperial Russia: The Peredvizhniki, a Partnership of Artists (New York and London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 85. 20 Alsdorf, Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in NineteenthCentury French Painting (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 153–5. 21 Ibid., 12. 22 Thomas Crow, Emulation: David, Drouais, and Girodet in the Art of Revolutionary France (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 2. 23 In English, see especially in this regard: Valkenier, Russian Realist Art, 15–17 and Blakesley, The Russian Canvas, 234. 24 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, November 13, 1863, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:9–10. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 61. 25 Kramskoi, “Sud’by russkogo iskusstva,” 1877, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 617. 26 I. N. Kramskoi, Pis’ma (Leningrad and Moscow: Izogiz, 1937), 2:231. Quoted in Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 32. 27 Valkenier, Russian Realist Art, 11. 28 S. N. Goldshtein, “I. N. Kramskoi,” in Istoriia russkogo iskusstva, ed. I. E. Grabar (Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1965), vol. 9, book 1:176. 29 Kramskoi, “Avtobiografiia I. N. Kramskoi,” 1880, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 6. 30 Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 18. 31 Ibid., 19. 32 Vladimir Stasov, “Dvadtsat’-piat’ let russkogo iskusstva. Nasha zhivopis’,” Evropeiskii vestnik (November–December 1882 and February, June, October 1883), in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 326. 33 Kramskoi, “S.-Peterburgskaia Akademiia Khudozhestv v 1867,” in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 586. 34 S. N. Goldshtein, “I. N. Kramskoi,” in Istoriia russkogo iskusstva, vol. 9, book 1:177. 35 M. V. Tulinov, “Vospominaniia ob I. N. Kramskom,” in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 31–2. 36 Ivan Kramskoi, “Zapiska po povodu peresmotra Ustava Akademii khudozhestv,” 1865, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 716. 37 Tulinov describes this method in his “Vospominaniia ob I. N. Kramskom.” See Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 31.


Picturing Russia’s Men

38 Philippe Perrot, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Richard Bienvenu (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 119. 39 I. N. Kramskoi to Vladimir Stasov, October 1, 1882, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 2:78. 40 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, November 23, 1863, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:11–12. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 62. 41 Ibid. 42 Ilia Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe (Moscow: Iskusstva, 1964), 163. Quoted in Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 32. 43 Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 76. 44 Ibid., 36. 45 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 173. 46 Ibid., 173–4. 47 Mary Ann Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood: Class, Gender, and Fraternalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 179. 48 Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Laura Morowitz and William Vaughan (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2017), 7–8. 49 The first sustained discussion of the “woman question” in Russia was carried out by the poet and radical publicist M. L. Mikhailov, who published a series of articles on the subject between 1859 and 1865. See Richard Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860–1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 38–47. 50 Rosenholm and Savkina, “‘How Women Should Write’: Russian Women’s Writing in the Nineteenth Century,” in Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture, eds. Wendy Rosslyn and Alessandra Tosi (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012), 178. 51 In his work on the later Peredvizhniki artist group, Andrey Shabanov discusses the men’s adoption of European fashion like that shown in Dmitriev-Orenburgskii’s picture for the purpose of unifying the group and glossing over their different social backgrounds. See Art and Commerce in Late Imperial Russia, 99. 52 Mikhail Peskov died July 31, 1864. See Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 76. 53 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, April 21, 1864, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:14–15. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 65. 54 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, April 21, 1864, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 1:14–15. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 64. These sentiments are very different from those that undergirded later movements like the Nabis, who prided themselves on indifference to all financial concerns. Maurice Denis’s claim that “the moment the artist thinks of money; he loses the sentiment of beauty” were typical in this regard. See Laura Morowitz, “Anonymity, Artistic Brotherhoods and the Art Market in the Fin de Siècle,” in Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century, 188.

The Artel of Artists


55 Alexis L. Boylan, Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 193–4. 56 I. N. Kramskoi to Vladimir Stasov, October 1, 1882, in Kramskoi. Pis’ma, 2:78–9. Quoted in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 71–2. 57 Victoria Frede, “Radicals and Feelings: The 1860s,” in Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe, eds. Mark Steinberg and Valeria Sobol (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011), 62. 58 Ivan Kramskoi, “Sovremennye zapiski,” entry from October 25, 1853, Kharkov’, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 19. 59 N. A. Dobroliubov, “Organicheskoe razvitie cheloveka,” 3:108; D. I. Pisarev, “Zhenskie tipy v romanakh i povestiakh Pisemskogo, Turgenev i Gocharova,” (1861), in N. A. Dobroliubov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 6 vols. (Leningrad, 1934–41), 3:365. Discussed in Frede, “Radicals and Feelings,” 67. 60 Frede, “Radicals and Feelings,” 69. 61 Nikolai Chernyshevskii, What Is to Be Done?, trans. Michael R. Katz (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989), 116. 62 Frede, “Radicals and Feelings,” 70. 63 Aleksei Fëdorov-Davydov, one of the leading Marxist art historians during the 1920s, argued along similar lines, claiming that the origins of the Peredvizhniki group which emerged after the Artel were “economic, not ideological.” See his Russkoe iskusstvo promyshlennogo kapitalizma (Moscow: GAKhN, 1929), 189– 200. This kind of argumentation was common in the years after the Bolshevik Revolution, when art history became dominated by studies devoted to narrow economic and class motivations. Such texts are frequently brushed off by Western scholars as too ideologically motivated to be of use today, but Fëdorov-Davydov made several important points in his work on the Artel and Peredvizhniki. While I disagree with his perception that the Artel should be understood as entirely motivated by “the commodity-money nature of the art economy,” selling work was indeed a vital factor in how the men organized themselves. 64 Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 76. 65 Ibid., 55. 66 Ibid., 55–6. 67 Ibid., 56–7. 68 Ibid., 57. 69 I. N. Kramskoi to Mikhail Tulinov, May 12, 1867, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 56. 70 Marina Kiblitskaya, “‘Once We Were Kings’: Male Experiences of Loss of Status at Work in Post-Communist Russia,” in Gender, State and Society in Soviet and PostSoviet Russia, ed. Sarah Ashwin (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 91. 71 Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Morowitz and Vaughan, 11.


Picturing Russia’s Men

72 Steiner describes an example in which the Artel received a commission to paint religious icons for a buyer in the Caucasus, but then outsourced the work. See “Pursuing Independence,” 259. 73 Tulinov, “Vospominaniia ob I. N. Kramskom,” in Kramskoi: ego zhizn (1887), 39. 74 Ibid. 75 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 176. 76 Repin named several radical writers and social critics, including Chernyshevskii and Dmitrii Pisarev, whose writings were read on these Thursdays. Ibid., 174–5. 77 Kramskoi, “Zapiska po povodu peresmotra Ustava Akademii khudozhestv,” submitted to Count S. G. Stroganov in 1865, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 705. 78 Ibid. 79 Blakesley believes she is Dmitriev-Orenburgskii’s wife. See The Russian Canvas, 291. 80 Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Morowitz and Vaughan, 22. 81 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 89. 82 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 175. 83 Ibid., 176. 84 Ibid., 171. 85 Ibid., 178. 86 Ivan Kramskoi, “Sovremennye zapiski,” entry from November 18, 1853, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 21. 87 Ivan Kramskoi, “The Destiny of Russian Art,” 1877, in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 124–5. 88 Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 65. 89 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 179. 90 Ibid. 91 Ivan Kramskoi, “Message to the General Assembly of the Members of the St. Petersburg Artel of Artists,” 1870, Iskusstvo 5, no. 4 (1937): 82–8, in The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology, 70. 92 Ibid., 69–70. 93 Ivan Kramskoi, Pis’ma. 1876–1887 (Leningrad and Moscow, 1937), 2:140–2. Quoted in Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’, 65–6. 94 Kramskoi, “Message to the General Assembly,” in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 723. 95 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 178. 96 Shabanov, Art and Commerce in Late Imperial Russia, 19.

Part Three

Modern Women and Their Wounded Men



Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women—Known and Unknown An artist is also a man, after all. Ivan Kramskoi1 A young woman sits comfortably, her head leaning against the edge of her hand, while she casts her gaze down at an open book before her [Plate 5.1]. Seated in a hushed grove, the reader is absorbed in the text she holds. Leafy vines snake around her, cascading over the stone ledge upon which she rests her elbow and spilling over the barrier in the background. Her day dress is composed of the same muted colors that characterize the flora and fauna around her; a creamy blouse with translucent ivory sleeves is tucked into her wide belt, from which pour the folds of a voluminous lilac skirt. Her legs appear crossed beneath the fabric, the topmost knee juts slightly upward to meet her slender hand as it bridges the spine of the large book. Her skirt is the color of a blush on pallid skin—not quite pink, yet not really lavender either—the palette is entirely subdued. Even the accessories are handled with a minimum of fuss; the brooch in the center of her chest glistens only faintly, the metallic handle of her parasol barely catches the light. Fading sunbeams fall on the left side of her face and shoulder, grazing the brim of the hat she must have worn earlier in the day, but has no need for now. Instead she has gathered the thick shawl around her; it pads the space where her elbow rests on the gritty ledge, its fringe dropping heavily as it encircles her body. Ivan Kramskoi painted this portrait of his wife, Sofia, in the early years of their marriage. The exact date of the picture is not known, although it was definitively produced by the artist sometime before 1866. These were busy years for Kramskoi both professionally and personally, for he was not only helming the Petersburg Artel of Artists, he had also become a new father. After their marriage in 1863, which took place only a few months before Kramskoi participated in the Revolt of the Fourteen, Sofia gave birth to three children in the space of three years.2


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 5.1  Georg Emil Hansen, Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia (Princess Dagmar), 1860s; albumen carte-de-visite, 8.8 × 5.6 cm., Given by A. W. Russell Moller in 1955, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


A son, Nikolai, was born at the end of 1863 and he was followed by another son, Anatolii, in the first half of 1865. Then a daughter, Sofia, named after her mother, arrived in the middle of August the following year.3 The portrait of his wife reading was most likely made either early in 1864 or in the autumn of 1865, in the short windows between her pregnancies or when she was not yet showing. Indeed, Kramskoi emphasizes her slender midsection in the picture by figuring her wearing a Swiss waist, a belt pointed at the front to emphasize the bust line. Waists like these were a notable component in women’s dress not only in Russia, but also in large parts of Western Europe and America.4 The future Empress of Russia, Maria Feodorovna, can be seen in a similar ensemble in a photographic portrait also made in the 1860s [Figure 5.1]. She too wears a white blouse with puffed sleeves which has been tucked into a Swiss waist and these are paired with the kind of voluminous separate skirt Sofia wears, all highly fashionable at the time. There are more similarities between the portrait of the artist’s wife and the photograph of the future Russian empress, for Kramskoi’s depiction of Sofia also evokes the tonal range of the carte-de-visite. He had spent three years working successfully as a retoucher for the itinerant photographer Iakov Danilevskii, traveling all over Russia and developing the skills that would allow him to enter the Academy of Arts in 1857.5 Even while a student there, he continued working as a retoucher for the photographers Ivan Aleksandrovskii and Andrei Dener, in whose studios he became known as the “god of retouching.”6 In the 1850s, photographs were commonly altered and the work of retouching could cover a range of activities, from the addition of color to the removal of technical imperfections. Coloring photographs was seen to alleviate to some extent the harshness and mechanical quality of the monochrome images, yet it could also be used to reduce blemishes and wrinkles, hence its appeal to customers.7 Kramskoi was engaged in both coloring photographs and retouching imperfections, both of which influenced the budding painter and may explain the muted range of hues in Sofia’s portrait. She was an important subject for him throughout the 1860s. He made several portraits of her in a range of media in the years surrounding their marriage. She is the sole figure in an oil painting called Interior which he made in 1862 (State Russian Museum). Then she appears again in two sauce portraits made in 1863, the year of their marriage [Figure 5.2]. Kramskoi focuses all of his attention on the depiction of her face. She smiles faintly, her averted gaze hinting at modesty but also a subtle self-possession and intelligence. Her husband carefully recorded the glisten in her large, somewhat wide-set eyes and the bushy irregularity of her


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 5.2  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, née Prokhorova, the Artist’s Wife; 1863, sauce, watercolor, ceruse, and black pencil on paper, 37 × 24 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

dark, barely arched brows. Below these, her nose and mouth are brought about with affectionate precision. Kramskoi added not only watercolor to the sauce, but also ceruse and pencil marks to render her features with soft exactitude. The portrait again mimics the tonal range of photographic carte-de-visites, yet also seems to have been derived from a common compositional motif found in

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.3  Sergei Levitskii, Princess Helena Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, c. 1866, albumen carte-de-visite, 8.5 × 5.5 cm., Given by Ripon College, 1976 © National Portrait Gallery, London

photographs at the time. Sergei Levitskii, another major photographer working in Petersburg in the 1860s, produced a range of photographic likenesses of women which focused exclusively on their heads [Figure 5.3]. As in Kramskoi’s portrait of Sofia, the body of the Princess that Levitskii photographed around 1866 fades away into nothingness below the collar of her dress.8


Picturing Russia’s Men

In this regard, the sauce portrait Kramskoi made of Sofia is qualitatively different from those he was making of the men in the Artel of Artists in these years (see Figures 4.6 and 4.7). In those works, Kramskoi depicts his male colleagues such that their shoulders and chests are vividly included in the space of the picture plane. In fact, the men’s bodies are often expressive in ways that are precluded in Sofia’s portrait. A confident self-assurance is conveyed by Kramskoi’s figuration of the genre painter and his fellow artel’shchik Alexander Morozov with his arms overlapped across his chest [Figure 5.4]. If this portrait only featured Morozov’s head, ending at the collar just below his chin as does Sofia’s, so much would be lost of the man’s sense of himself. It is also significant that Kramskoi’s sauce portraits of men in the 1860s consistently feature male sitters who look directly out from the frame. The men’s gazes are friendly, albeit also intense and unyielding. Alternatively, Sofia’s sidelong glance into the distance posits her as unavailable to the beholder. Where the men confront us with the intensity of their stares, Sofia is made a passive object for contemplation. She is beautiful, but inaccessible; close at hand, but expressively remote. A similar dynamic can be found in a photograph of Kramskoi and his wife taken some time in 1863 or 1864 [Figure 5.5]. The newlyweds posed for their portrait in a professional photography studio, complete with heavy neutral backdrop and plush carpeted flooring. Ivan is seated in a chair, his legs crossed right over left, while Sofia sits on a lower stool beside and beneath him. She leans into him heavily, her head resting gently on his left shoulder such that the right half of her body is tucked behind him. Ivan stares out from the picture, not quite meeting the photographer’s gaze, yet asserting a serious intensity. Sofia’s eyes are averted; her gaze is passive and she looks somewhat uncomfortable. The pair nonetheless appear deeply interconnected. For an instant, it is even unclear whose hands belong to whom. The positions of their bodies make it seem that Sofia may have her hand across Ivan’s topmost leg, while his hand rests atop her dress as she folds her own around it. In reality, the two are not intertwined in this way—Ivan’s hands are crossed in his own lap and hers follow suit atop her legs—but they appear entwined as a result of their positionality. There is an intense familiarity and a closeness between them that result from more than proximity. Photographs like this one work in tandem with Kramskoi’s depictions of his wife from the early years of their marriage to reveal a great deal about their relationship. Such images also provide insight into dynamics between men and women more broadly in the second half of the nineteenth century. Scholars have frequently described these years as driven by a rise in anxiety among men. By

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.4  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Alexander Morozov, 1868; sauce and ceruse on paper, 84.4 × 59.4 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 5.5  Ivan Kramskoi and Sofia Kramskaia, beginning of the 1860s; matted collodion print. The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

the 1880s, women’s roles on the problematic borderline between the domestic and public spheres would become a major source of apprehension. As women became increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction with restrictions on their lives and the power their husbands held over them, it led to what some have referred to as a “crisis of masculinity,” one in which notions of male identity fluctuated violently. Barbara Evans Clements summed up the situation in Russia as one in which women’s growing significance combined with the weakening of

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


traditional family ties to alter men’s sense of themselves and their social power more generally.9 Kramskoi was by no means immune to these concerns over women’s growing enfranchisement and he often struggled to transmute the gender politics of the time into a stable symbolic order in his painted works. This chapter primarily investigates pictures that Kramskoi made of the women closest to him to explore the ways that masculinity was shaped by familial relationships in the period. Over the course of the two and a half decades which comprised Kramskoi’s marriage, he continually painted his wife and his only daughter, as well as, though more rarely, his sons. Kramskoi’s masculinity is illustrated by his involvement in his family as well as his interest in the women that made up the Petersburg demimonde. Examination of some of the portraits he made of such women—from those like his wife who were well known to him to those who operated on the fringes of his perceptive view— has the potential to deepen our understanding of changing gender roles in the second half of the nineteenth century. For rather than asserting an aggressive or dominating masculinity in the face of the gender transformations which characterized his lifetime, Kramskoi showed a radical kind of identification with the position of women—something not often associated with male artists in societies as staunchly patriarchal as Russia. Overall, the flux in gender dynamics which characterized Russian society is reflected in the works he created, all of which provide singular insight into the intersection between masculinity and modernity in the second half of the century and offer yet another opportunity to see the spectrum of masculinities which co-existed at the time.

Domestic Ideals: “In Order to Go Forward, One Needs to Be Married” When Kramskoi married Sofia in 1863, he was twenty-five or twenty-six years old. In this, he was fairly typical, for the average age at which men married in the period was 24.2.10 Sofia was a few years younger than he; she had been born in 1840, making her twenty-two or twenty-three at the time. In this she was typical too, for the average age of marriage for women in Russia was 21.4.11 Sofia being younger than Ivan was also common for marriages in Imperial Russia. The Holy Synod, Russia’s highest ecclesiastical authority made up of a collegial board of clerics, had long sought to reduce the number of marriages in which the female was older than her male counterpart.12 Despite the typical nature of his marriage in terms of the general social order, however, Kramskoi’s mother


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did not support his decision to wed. He later recalled that she called the union “a waste [naprasno],” proclaiming further that if he wanted to be an artist he needed to focus on his studies.13 Yet for Kramskoi, marriage felt vital to his development: “I then vividly felt the need for a moral life [nravstvennoi zhizni] in order to have the opportunity to evolve. I do not know why, but it seemed to me at the time that in order to go forward, one needs to be married.”14 Kramskoi’s own childhood was marred by a father who drank heavily and had an extremely bad temper. His father was keen on taunting Kramskoi’s mother and frequently berated her in the mornings as she fiddled with the stove.15 Nevertheless, Kramskoi was to become a very different kind of husband and father than his own had been. His longing for domestic tranquility as opposed to patriarchal tyranny can be seen in the representations he made of Sofia in the early years of their marriage. In addition to depicting her alone, he began rendering her more frequently in her role as a mother. In an 1866 sepia, Kramskoi portrayed Sofia with their infant daughter and her mother [Plate 5.2]. Sofia is seen from the rear; she holds their baby carefully in her arms, looking down at the newborn’s upturned face. A lamp glows from the center of the composition, casting its inviting rays on everything and everyone in the harmonious space. The sleeping face of baby Sofia, named after her mother, is touched with white ceruse, giving the infant an angelic glow. These highlights extend to the soft bedding inside the rocking cradle and to the face of the proud grandmother watching her daughter contentedly. Her arms are crossed around her midsection as she looks on with serene joy. The artist captures the three generations of women with tremendous tenderness and quiet admiration. The viewpoint of the work is even set low, as though Kramskoi was sitting just outside the space, looking up at the women and the scene of domestic bliss before him. In addition to starting a family in these years, Kramskoi was also teaching in the St. Petersburg Drawing School for Auditors, under the aegis of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. The school had opened a separate department for women in 1842 and Kramskoi took a position teaching the gypsum and life drawing classes in this female division in 1862.16 The second half of the nineteenth century was characterized by growing opportunities like these, but ultimately women would still not be admitted to the Academy as fully fledged students until 1873.17 Throughout the previous decade, they studied informally at several other schools, including the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, but women continued to be plagued by perceptions of dilettantism and were frequently treated as objects of curiosity. A watercolor made by Pëtr Shmelkov in the late 1870s attests to this perception of women’s artistic practice [Figure 5.6].

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.6  Pëtr Shmelkov, Woman Artist, late 1860s to early 1870s; watercolor and pencil on paper, 20.9 × 18.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

A man looms over the shoulder of a refined lady seated before an easel. She holds brush and palette as she works on the canvas before her, but the gentleman does not seem impressed as he inserts his face into her zone of production. By all accounts, Kramskoi was nothing like this stern-faced and judgmental gentleman in Shmelkov’s watercolor. He had some forty women as students in his time at the Petersburg Drawing School and he was known as an attentive and serious teacher, even inviting his pupils to his house, where he gave them further advice and painted alongside them in the evenings. From the beginning of his time at the school he was also committed to innovation; he emphasized the


Picturing Russia’s Men

careful study of drawing and devised a short course in anatomy after realizing that his female pupils were making figural paintings without ever having studied the body.18 According to Anna Tsomakion, one of Kramskoi’s first biographers, many excellent female artists emerged thanks to his efforts, including several who went on to become drawing teachers themselves.19 Kramskoi did not remain an instructor at the school for long, however. He departed from his role there in 1868 and in the following year he left Russia to make his first trip to Paris. From the beginning, Kramskoi took great care to convey his impressions of the foreign cities (he stopped in Berlin, Dresden, and Vienna on his way to Paris) to his young wife. The letters he wrote to Sofia from this journey provide further evidence of the distinctive closeness and sense of familiarity the artist felt with her. The candor with which Kramskoi expressed himself regarding the women he was encountering in the West was, in many ways, stunning in its veracity. While still in Berlin, Kramskoi wrote to Sofia, calling her by the affectionate diminutive for her name, Sonia: My heart is pounding here, my dear, I don’t know what will happen to me in Paris if the women in Berlin have made such an impression on me. However, mankind is declining in morality … and I’m afraid for my children: when they grow up, then it will be even worse. Then again, let’s drop it. I think (or maybe it only seems so to me) that when I begin to talk to you about this, it seems that you are not laughing at me inwardly, but treat it somehow ironically, as if thinking: “and what kind of man is this—a softie [triapka], I cannot bear it.” … I am talking about things now which, of course, one is not supposed to say … I’m sorry, my good Sonia. May God watch over you, pray with the children, and I will recite the “Our Father” here, as if the boys were near me … I kiss my children and hug you tightly. I. Kramskoi20

The artist expresses multiple levels of concern here—over the decadence he perceives in Western Europe, over the future his children will inherit, and especially concerning his own ability to maintain control over himself. Kramskoi is also deeply apprehensive about his wife’s perception of him; he does not want to be taken for a triapka—a word that means everything from a doormat to a pushover and was associated with general and pervasive weakness. Such fears were reinforced in culture more broadly; both etiquette manuals and handbooks regarding social comportment of the time firmly advised men against any behavior which might earn them such a reputation. One example, titled “A Handbook for Young and Old of Both Sexes,” was published in Moscow just before mid-century and stated the matter succinctly:

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Women demand from men a superior education, tender feelings, and modesty, but not at the expense of masculinity, steadfastness, and strength of character. The man must be the anchor that can moor a woman during life’s stormy days; she can rely with confidence on only such a man as this. An effeminate weakling is incapable of securing her future; she will look on him as a toy, a doll.21

Views like these help explain why Kramskoi’s admissions perhaps came in such fits and starts in his letters. Nonetheless, Kramskoi continued along similar lines in letters to his wife once he reached the French capital: Paris: the view is wonderful and frightening … along the streets and boulevards, carriages and people are continuously moving, it makes one dizzy … it produces a dreadful impression … In one word, the city is noisy, merry, clinking, a city of wine and women, all lying here at my feet … In short, I simply forgot myself completely, and to me it became sad, such melancholy attacked me, it made me sad for my dear little children, those little babies, that they will also have to endure the difficult times in life, and maybe they will not even survive (how do we know?) in this strange, this mysterious world … Who knows whether God will give my boys as happy a fate as me—their father, whether He will send them such good women as their mother; yes Sonichka, our dear Sonichka, will she meet in life such a man who wouldn’t be a scoundrel?22

Kramskoi’s anguish over the fate of his children is palpable. He is concerned about the future lives of not only his sons, but his daughter as well. Being exposed to more of the world allowed the artist to see in frightening reality all the struggles that potentially awaited them. He berated himself for initially being charmed by the city “of wine and women” and all of the excitement it held. It was the thought of his children in this new part of the modern world he was experiencing for the first time that pulled him back from having forgotten himself “completely.” What is stunning is that he admitted all this to his wife. Shortly after these lines, he goes further—confessing that he became quite drunk and, after stumbling home, wrote the letter containing these admissions. He then expressed concern that his wife was not writing him very often before closing his missive in a way which reveals a romantic, perhaps even subtly erotic, dynamic between them: “I kiss you firmly. Your I. Kramskoi”.23 This was unusual for the time. Etiquette manuals consistently highlighted that relations among couples should be characterized by an appropriate separation: “The difference between the sexes mandates that a distance always be observed between husband and wife … On the one hand, modesty and reserve are required, and on the other, respect and consideration … Therefore familiarity and complete freedom can


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exist only in friendship between members of the same sex; it is unthinkable between a man and a woman.”24 The letters Kramskoi wrote to members of his own sex at the time reveal nothing of the kind of sentiments he expressed to his wife. He was writing in these same weeks to the collector Pavel Tretiakov as well as to Mikhail Tulinov, both men one might expect the artist could more easily express himself to regarding the impressions the city (and its female inhabitants) was having on him. Yet such thoughts seem to have been reserved for Sofia alone. Kramskoi’s concern over what kind of man he was and his desire to fortify himself against “indecency” by reciting prayers and remembering his children can be seen reflected in the larger culture which surrounded him in late Imperial Russia. Since the eighteenth century, Russian law had made a distinction between what were considered crimes against morality (such as fornication, adultery, and prostitution) and those like rape and kidnapping which were codified as crimes against the security of citizens.25 The implementation of a new Code of Criminal Laws in 1833 divided sexual offenses into three categories: indecent behavior (which included drunkenness, gambling, and unruly public conduct), offenses against family rights (specifically polygamy and adultery), and unlawful satisfaction of carnal passions (comprising incest, infanticide, rape, sodomy, and bestiality).26 These values and categorizations were further reinforced by the Orthodox Church, which permitted divorce only for adultery, abandonment, sexual incapacity, or penal exile. Kramskoi does not specifically mention adultery in his letters to Sofia, but they nevertheless reveal a man concerned with maintaining his own “decency” in the face of a new set of temptations unleashed by the Western capitals and their abundance of modern women “all lying here at my feet.”

Fatherhood Upon his return from Paris, a shift occurred in Kramskoi’s artmaking. He turned away from depicting his wife as frequently as he had in the 1860s and instead began representing his children. Likely just after his return from Paris, he began making a portrait of little Sofia (1870s, State Russian Museum). She looks about five or six years old and stares earnestly out at her father, dressed in a simple white dress with her hair tied in a blue bow. In 1875, Kramskoi continued the practice by making a sauce portrait of his third son, Mark, the first to be born after his trip abroad [Plate 5.3]. The diminutive boy gazes intently out from the picture; he

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.7  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Mark Kramskoi, the Artist’s Son (detail), 1875; sauce, Italian pencil, and ceruse on paper, 62 × 42 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2018

is composed almost entirely of murky umbers and hazy ochre tones. Kramskoi added thin traces of pencil to forge some of the details of the face and hair; then the finest dashes of ceruse were brushed onto the paper to emphasize where the light touched his cherubic face [Figure 5.7]. The boy’s lips are slightly parted, revealing uneven baby teeth. He seems to have inherited his father’s mouth; both possess the same cupid’s bow and a distinctive flat vermillion border. Mark’s ears are much too large for his diminutive face, however, and his head is oddly shaped. His cranium seems slightly pointed at the top, a feature emphasized by the flat bowl haircut with its characteristic straight fringe across the forehead. The largeness of his head is accentuated by the narrowness of his shoulders, which are virtually the same width as his head. His body appears slight beneath the simple brown jacket and his unruly shirt collar has escaped the bounds of the area just above its topmost button. It juts out, hanging over the nearby brown fabric and casting a long shadow which parallels his jawline. Such haphazard details underscore the boy’s innocence; this is obviously a child who did not dress himself. One imagines Sofia’s maternal hand fastening that topmost button and tucking in the collar before little Mark sat down in front of his father to have his portrait made.


Picturing Russia’s Men

The boy’s innocence and smallness are counteracted somewhat by the largeness of the portrait itself. Kramskoi used a sheet that is nearly as big as those he used for portraits of his fellow artel’shchiki and he figured the boy in a similar vertical format and in the same medium. By representing his son in the same palette and overall arrangement, the artist projects little Mark into the space of mature adulthood, anticipating the man he will become. Those fearful lines Kramskoi had written to Sofia are echoed by the handling: “it made me sad for my dear little children, those little babies, that they will have to endure the difficult times in life.” Somewhere amidst the misshapen head, the tiny jacket, and those tenderly delineated baby teeth are the fears of a devoted father: “maybe they will not even survive (how do we know?).” Such sensitivity on the part of a father and deep concern over the welfare of his children can be seen reflected in Russian society more generally in this period. For Kramskoi was not alone in his devotion and attention to his wife and the children they shared. In the second half of the nineteenth century, long-standing ideals for men such as industriousness, skillfulness, and the ability to provide for one’s family were mixing with new domestic virtues which centered on the home and family life more generally. Abusive behavior of the kind Kramskoi and Briullov suffered at the hands of their fathers waned. Men were increasingly expected to treat their wives with kindness and spend their leisure time with their families as opposed to in bars or playing cards with other men.27 As Barbara Evans Clements has pointed out, the fact that women were: … longing for a kinder, gentle masculinity is documented by the huge increase in the number of women in the Russian Empire who sought to end their marriages in the late nineteenth century. Between thirty and forty thousand women petitioned the government for legal separation from their husbands between 1884 and 1914. In 1893, 88 percent of the petitioners for separation were women, and of that group, 80 percent were city residents who had been born peasants.28

Women’s rights were still severely limited, but they did increasingly have recourse if their husbands proved abusive, adulterous, or impotent. Barbara Alpern Engel has further described the condition women like Sofia found themselves in by the 1880s: “Under Russian law, a wife owed her husband ‘unlimited obedience’ and required his permission before she could take a job, enroll in an educational institution or acquire the internal passport she needed to reside more than about fifteen miles from the husband’s official place of residence.”29 The reality of such “obedience” can be seen evinced in

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


letters Kramskoi sent throughout his life. In 1876 he explained to the artist Vasilii Vereshchagin: “My wife and six children follow me blindfolded, and no matter what kinds of things I do, they believe in me and follow along.”30 He also described Sofia’s deference in a letter to Pavel Tretiakov, stating that she “sacrificed everything” when his “art required it.”31 Thus, in many ways, husbands remained patriarchs, especially in the countryside, but in the cities, they were increasingly expected not to act as tyrants over their wives and children. Instead men were encouraged to be involved fathers and active administrators within the domestic environment. Especially in households where labor was carried out by servants, giving orders to hired help “was something in which men could become involved without necessarily losing class status and the prestige of sex.”32 Such changing values extended to childcare as well and can be seen in a letter the Russian poet Vasilii Zhukovskii wrote in 1850, expounding the importance of both parents’ involvement in child rearing: “Early moral education and children’s early attempts to form thoughts belong to father and mother alone: they are something sacred, not to be shared with anyone.”33 Similar changes can be seen in American society in the middle part of the nineteenth century. Debates over the proper structure of the family became widespread in the 1840s, with conservatives lamenting the advent of the sentimental family, which exalted equality within the domestic sphere. Men who opposed such progressive ideologies, such as Heman Humphrey, maintained that: “every father is the constituted head and ruler of his household. God has made him the supreme earthly legislator over his children.”34 Conservative values like these could equally be found in Imperial Russia, where proverbs such as “a Husband’s fist leaves no bruise; a good husband is father to his wife” were common throughout the period.35 Critics of such patriarchal values emerged strongly, however, among the male socialist writers of the 1850s and they brought increased pressure for social reform. Their calls for change had deep effects on ideals of fatherhood and a discernible increase in respect for women within the family can be detected after mid-century, especially in cities like St. Petersburg, where Kramskoi was then living. For women in the privileged and educated strata of society, at least, the intensified influence of the ideals of romantic love and companionate marriage, the widespread critique of arbitrary patriarchal authority (within as well as outside the family), and demands for a better social and legal position for women appear to have generally resulted in greater independence … These pressures for change likewise resulted in improved family life.36


Picturing Russia’s Men

Richard Brodhead has described similar social transformation in America. He identifies the emergence of a new middle-class paradigm in the decades around 1830; one in which “the new model family” was based on “discipline through love.”37 This system placed high value on “extreme physical and emotional closeness between parent and child” as well as the expectation that parents would make children the center of their attention.38 In Russia, Vasilii Zhukovskii had sought to systematize the idea of one’s relationship to family as the highest spiritual value in the first half of the nineteenth century. He espoused an ideal of domestic life characterized by the central figure of the “kind father,” who worked in tandem with his wife as the guardian of the hearth, to produce a familial unit joined by multifaceted internal bonds.39 As Ilya Vinitsky has explained in his work on the poet’s emotional life: “The members of such an ideal family would be bound together not only by the bonds of blood, but by a spiritual affection that enables an almost wordless understanding between them.”40 Kramskoi’s portrait of his son Mark clearly demonstrates such closeness between father and son. Even the viewpoint of the work undermines the traditional patriarchal position of dominance, for Kramskoi places himself level with his child and meets his gaze as an equal head-on. In addition to the way he depicted his children, Kramskoi also wrote about how much he longed to be close to his family after departing for Paris again in April of 1876, a year after making the portrait of Mark. Kramskoi demonstrated vulnerability by admitting how much he missed his children and wished the family was all together again: My dear, dear Sonechka, truly, truly I am telling you it is so difficult for me to be alone! All the greatest delights of nature and art turn out to be bitter, spoiled, and you don’t know how much I would sacrifice so that my dear babies could run here …41

He then continues along the same lines he had written to her during his first journey to the foreign capital; assuring her about what kind of man he is: Do not think that your husband turned out lower than you, in mind or in heart. When I remember my boys with their books, you with perpetual frustrations and troubles, then … but you will say: why couldn’t it be different? It is possible, my dear, but I could not live, that is, I would not be the artist I am. But you would not want this yourself. I know, or at least I think I know you—you are ambitious and proud. To have a husband, and not a pawn, but a man, who can’t be passed by without noticing … But I’m sorry, my dear, this is all nonsense.42

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


As in 1869, Kramskoi assured his wife that he would not disrespect their union by lowering himself in his thoughts or in his feelings while away from her and their children. He also admitted to a new tension growing for him in this moment—between the demands of his life as an artist and as a husband and father. He had left for Paris in order to devote time to a new canvas depicting Christ being mocked by Roman soldiers. Familial obligations had kept him from working on the painting in earnest and he hoped that spending several years in France would allow him to complete it. The artist realized the toll this took on his family, however, and scholars have described the pressure which grew for the artist as a result of his opposing commitments. According to Anna Tsomakion, Kramskoi continually had to put off work on his new canvas and he hoped that by going abroad he could finally devote himself to it entirely.43 Yet news came not long after he arrived in the French capital that his son Mark was seriously ill. The boy had contracted scarlet fever and then his youngest son, Ivan, also became ill. Neither would ultimately survive. Mark died in October and Ivan a few years later. The children’s early deaths were not uncommon for the era, in fact most scholars estimate child mortality rates in the period were quite high.44 In the countryside parents sometimes even invested only minimal amounts of emotional and physical energy in the raising of their children due to high death rates. From the 1870s to the 1890s, doctors working in Russian villages noted how numb parents were toward the deaths of their children; some even thanked God for taking their excess progeny.45 But the letters Sofia sent to her husband revealed she was utterly devastated.46 Kramskoi decided to abandon his plans of staying in Paris and hurry home to his family. On Christmas Day in 1876, he wrote hastily to Tretiakov: “I am returning to Russia. Staying here any longer would be a crime. I have one more on the road to death (the smallest) and Sofia Nikolaevna, judging by her letter, is not in a normal state.”47 The problem of reconciling his personal and professional life—and the virtues for masculinity that both entailed—would continue to be a problem for the artist in the decade to come.

Return to Petersburg: Love, Loss, and Hardship In the spring of 1879, the same year that Kramskoi lost yet another son, this time his youngest, the artist made an oil portrait of his wife [Plate 5.4]. Sofia looks significantly older and heavier than in Kramskoi’s earlier representations


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of her. The skin of her neck and chin has slackened and her face seems swollen; it bulges beneath her open lips, accumulating in heavy folds beneath her loosened jawline. She is nearly forty, has given birth to six children, and lost two of them in the span of just three years. All this has taken a toll on her features. The black dress she wears hides most of her body and the deep scarlet background further mutes the outline of her frame. Her arms are folded across her midsection almost defensively and her hands are tucked into the lacy ends of her sleeves, furthering the inaccessible nature of her comportment. A sliver of her wedding band catches the light, however, despite how deeply buried her fingers are inside the fabric of her dress. It is paralleled by the simple outline of the cross she wears around her neck, a small item of jewelry framed by the square bodice of her dress below it. Within the space of a few years, Kramskoi would begin producing more portraits of his daughter, Sofia. He made a small watercolor of her in the early 1880s and it evokes the prior figuration of her mother from twenty years before [Figure 5.8]. Young Sofia is shown averting her eyes much like her mother once had; she timidly gazes away from her father to regard something in the distance. She wears a high-collared dress, while her hair is covered by a lace veil wrapped carefully around her shoulders. Sofia is the picture of youthful modesty, but there is an element of inquisitive interest too in those large fluid eyes. Kramskoi always claimed to love the face and its expressive possibilities and he saw the eyes as a particular locus for capturing the personality. While still in Paris, he wrote to the art critic Vladimir Stasov, describing his focus on this specific element: I have always loved the human head, focused on it, and when I do not work, I’m even more occupied with it, and I feel the time has come, I now understand how God makes what we call the soul, expression, the heavenly gaze, and all other nonsense (if you’ll permit me to say so); I even seem to understand the passions and character of a person … they are inspired by what they have lived through.48

Such interest in the human head and the character its features could contain translated well to portrayals of those closest to him. Sofia and her mother seem to represent opposite sides of Kramskoi’s idea that the gaze of the sitter is “inspired by what they have lived through.” Where the teenage Sofia is all hopeful exuberance, her expression one of keen interest and concentrated awareness, her mother’s face tells a story of fatigue and heartache. Yet Kramskoi’s wife and daughter were not the only women he was interested in painting. For his second visit to Paris also saw him deliberating on the nature

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.8  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, the Artist’s Daughter, 1882; watercolor on paper, 16.5 × 11 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow


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of inspiration and the particularly masculine passions which undergirded them. In that same letter to Stasov, he strove to describe where the imagery for his pictures came from: What is inspiration? The heartbeat. I have here, one can assume, a certain sediment of feelings which resulted from my life, which compels me to relate to one fact or another in a known and fatal way … How can I talk about inspiration when I am either living and feeling and, therefore, inspired every second or I am binge-eating, living a low life and have become an animal …49

Somewhere between the bestial and the humane, between his vulgar appetites and the accrual of his inner feelings, arose the nature of depiction for Kramskoi. It was a fine line to tread. One that harkened back to those original letters he wrote to Sofia, in which he questioned what kind of man his thoughts about foreign women made him and what the lack of “decency” he perceived around him meant about the larger world his children would inherit. In this same context, Kramskoi remained concerned about the state of society, calling the era in which he was living “a severe time,” one characterized by tremendous opposing energies. There were forces of “colossal meanness and sophisticated forms of robbery” but these were countered by “the breathtaking spirit of the discoveries of science.”50 It was a difficult time to be an artist, he claimed, nonetheless he sought inspiration by looking around him. What he saw was just a range of the usual subjects though: pictures of historical or religious families, portraits, genre scenes, and what he described as “women, women, and more women, in all forms except those who are real in the present.”51 Once he returned to Russia, it would be to the painting of “real” women that he would turn. He began with those women closest to him—his wife and daughter—but by 1883 he decided to embark on a new project. In this year he began sketches for a picture he only ever referred to as the Unknown Woman [Neizvestnaia], a departure from portraying the ladies in his familial circle, but one that shows his continuing interest in rendering women “who are real in the present.” For Kramskoi, Western European artists were failing to paint “real” modern women, but his position as a devoted father and coequal husband made him wellsuited to the endeavor. While many men were responding to women’s shedding of patriarchal constraints with apprehension, resentment, or even outright antagonism, Kramskoi’s progressive masculinity, marked as it was by his position as a dedicated family man, allowed him to explore a range of depictions for different kinds of “real” women—something which makes him distinctive in the history of art.

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Unknown Woman also represents a subtle shift away from his sensitive and sympathetic paternal identity, one that revealed more of the side Kramskoi described resisting in his letters. The depiction of a beautiful woman supposedly “unknown” to him indulged subtly those moments when he “forgot” himself in Paris, that part of him that described his heart “pounding” at the sight of foreign women, and the “animal” drives of inspiration. These aspects of his masculinity were not incompatible, but they existed in perceptible tension with one another and the Unknown Woman painting shows the artist’s fascinating negotiation of the two viewpoints. From the beginning, he envisioned a woman sitting in an open carriage, the streets of Petersburg unfurling behind her. She looks haughtily down at the viewer, her knowing brown eyes peering languorously out from beneath heavy dark lashes [Plate 5.5]. The skin comprising her face is a tour de force of blended hues—her forehead is a sooty lavender while the space between her thickly arched eyebrows is touched with dabs of white. Then her cheeks are modulated with shades of tawny caramel and sandy pink; these tones coexist effortlessly next to the pale greens and silvery blues around her mouth and on her far cheek. Not a millimeter of the skin of her body below is revealed, every inch of the figure aside from her face is covered in either velvet or leather or fur. And yet the figure Kramskoi created is packed with molten sexuality. This “unknown woman” ripples with icy heat—an effect echoed by the flushed warmth of her cheeks against the snowy frost of the environment which surrounds her. Kramskoi never named his sitter for the picture, though audiences clamored to know the identity of the woman in the carriage.52 Some critics suspected she was a woman of ill repute.53 Writing in Sankt Peterburgskie vedemostii in September of 1883, A. Z. Led remarked that she represented the “not entirely pure side” of youthful beauty and Jean Fleury called the painting a portrait of a charming cocotte in his review of the exhibition for the Journal de St Pétersbourg in March of that year.54 Others left the matter more ambiguous, calling her characteristic of the time: “It is unknown who this woman is, respectable or venal, but in her sits an entire epoch.”55 A handful of critics made more direct reference to the sexual status of the woman in the carriage by association. P. N. Polenoi, writing for the journal Zhivopisnoe Obozrenie, referred to her as a modern Aspasia, “rushing along the Nevskii, gazing at the world with contempt from the height and grandeur of her carriage.”56 Aspasia was a noted Athenian courtesan and the lover of the prominent Greek statesman Pericles and, as Trenton Olsen has pointed out in his work on the painting, her invocation by


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the critic can be seen as a reference to the figure’s potential sexual deviancy and prostitution more generally. Along similar lines, another critic writing for the newspaper Russkie Vedomosti, which was published in Moscow, referred to her as a “Camellia,” invoking Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias of 1848, a novel about a French courtesan which was subsequently adapted into a play and well known in Russia by the 1860s.57 This critic issued a scathing assessment of Kramskoi’s heroine: If it is a portrait, then it is not permitted to congratulate this woman that he has painted because almost everyone standing before this painting has accepted this portrayed character as a Camellia … Judging by the setting, the worn out carriage, the compulsory isolation and soliciting gaze, as well as by the title of the painting Unknown Woman, the public likely does not err in thinking they have been given a portrait of an expensive Camellia … And if this is so, then it is not permitted to show Kramskoi the least bit of acclaim … Could the artist really only find fair posture, an elegant face and an evocative, noble gaze in the life of a Camellia? We … know what constitutes the life of a Camellia … We know that behind a beautiful exterior they acknowledge a lurking mountain of dirt and filth, and that they pay for a moment of outward success by countless offenses.58

For this writer, it was a combination of factors that produced the sensation that this must be a depiction of a prostitute. Everything from the carriage to her gaze to her isolation and the title itself shaped the impression. For him, the woman’s outward beauty belied the awful reality of her existence, one composed of “countless offenses” and a “mountain of dirt and filth.” Similar insults had been leveled at Édouard Manet’s Olympia when it was first exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1865. There too critics automatically assumed the woman depicted was a prostitute, calling her “a courtesan,” a “woman of the night,” and a “a grotesque … on a bed” and bolstering such invectives with references to dirt and disease similar to those leveled at Kramskoi’s Unknown Woman.59 Such abusive language reflected fears surrounding the spread of venereal disease then sweeping both France and Russia. By the later nineteenth century, public health officials were deeply concerned about the spread of contagion from migration. As rising numbers of male and female peasants traveled to the cities in search of work, medical officials within the Ministry of the Interior argued that the syphilis which had long been prevalent in the countryside as a result of overcrowding and lack of hygiene would soon reach endemic proportions in urban populations.60 In response, they implemented a complex system of regulation over those women who “traded in vice [promyshliaiut nepotrebstvom]” or who “made debauchery into a trade [obrativshie rasputstvo v promysel].”61 Such women had to register

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


as prostitutes and appear regularly for genital examinations by a physician. The “mountain of dirt and filth” the art critic referred to in his assessment of Kramskoi’s “Camellia” was thus a central concern in Russia in this moment, one that had associations with debates over the migration of rural populations to the cities and the social implications of such movement. Thus, by painting a woman who viewers associated with prostitution, Kramskoi was entering into a realm of heated medical and social discourse then erupting in Russian society. For the critic who ventured to call the picture what it was—“a portrait of an expensive Camellia”—painting such a subject was a serious mistake on Kramskoi’s part. The writer was incredulous that the artist had chosen to produce such a thing. He asked outright in his review: “What is Kramskoi doing in his painting?”62 It is a valid question. What was Kramskoi doing when he painted a woman who was clearly not his wife or his daughter (or more identifiably a portrait sitter who had commissioned the work)? What neither this critic nor the others at the time seem to have accounted for was the possibility that Kramskoi identified with his heroine. Scholars since have likewise failed to recognize the artist’s solidarity with a woman in her position, as well as the sympathy he felt for those women in his immediate familial circle. These were difficult years for the painter. He began to have health problems in late 1879 and he became increasingly fearful that he would not live to provide for his wife and children. He took on more and more portrait commissions to earn the income his family needed, nonetheless his debts continued to mount. In the two months that he was completing the Unknown Woman, his financial concerns reached a fever pitch. He sent a series of frantic letters to the collector Pavel Tretiakov a mere seven weeks before the exhibition opened. In them, he described his willingness to sell himself to anyone willing to buy him: Since the autumn, when my affairs were revealed to me completely, I have made myself for sale [ia sebia prodaiu] — who will buy? With this proposal, I went first to Betgrov and told him: “Would you like to rent me [vziat’ na arendu]? Everything I’ll do will be yours (except for my paintings), and you pay me (that is, give out) 1,000 rubles a month.” He says: “What do you intend to give me?”— “Everything that I’ll do!”63

This is a man in a desperate position, offering himself, much like the “Camellia” on the street in his painting.64 He uses the language of the commodity domain— sell, buy, rent, pay—yet he has turned all this inward on himself. He does not advertise his skills as a painter, instead injecting an almost bizarre level of vagueness and innuendo into the proposition.


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Three days later he sent another letter to Tretiakov, again reiterating his willingness to sell himself: My situation has reached a painful point, I’m ready to cry out: “Help!” That’s where my letter to you came from. I’m coming to you and I’m saying: Help! … I only want one year of artistic life in which I’m not forced to chase bread. Only this … I say: buy me, while I’m still good. Maybe I’ll even be a lucrative machine … I’ll be the first to submit to the circumstances. I am not selfdeluded.65

Kramskoi had reached the point of desperation. He wanted creative freedom, but he also knew he had to provide for his large family. His letters indicate that he was willing to sell himself—his abilities, his labor, the activity of his body—in order to make ends meet. And he was painting a prostitute at the very same moment. How could a man writing about his willingness to sell himself not have identified with one of the “unknown” women of the Petersburg streets? But where Kramskoi admitted defeat, where he begged for freedom and accepted submission as its price, his painted the Unknown Woman such that she refuses to relinquish her pride. She maintains her dignity, buttoned up in her blue velvet gown and furs, even in the face of the critics who claimed that lying beneath such finery was only a “mountain of dirt and filth.” If they claimed that her “moment of outward success” was paid for “by countless offenses,” what they failed to see was that the artist who painted her had suffered similar indignities as he was “forced to chase bread.” Kramskoi’s identification with an unknown woman on the streets of St. Petersburg is further reinforced by a key detail within the composition itself. For placed in red letters across the part of the carriage that most abuts the space of the viewer is the artist’s signature [Figure 5.9]. It mediates the space between our world and the woman in the carriage, interceding on her behalf by forcing us to pass through Kramskoi on our way to her. His name placed so prominently in the scene further marks the painter’s identification with his heroine. And in addition, the signature serves to underscore the commodity nature of both painting and prostitute in St. Petersburg in this moment. By labeling the canvas so flagrantly—SPB. Kramskoi 83—the artist was reinforcing that the picture was made in St. Petersburg (commonly abbreviated SPB) by Kramskoi in 1883, in essence advertising the triad as a valuable product, much like the unknown woman marketed her wares by appearing alone in an open carriage on a major street. The conflation of artist and prostitute is made complete by knitting them together as items for consumption within the picture itself.

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Figure 5.9  Ivan Kramskoi, Unknown Woman (detail), 1883; oil on canvas, 76.1 × 102.3 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

In the end, the deep bond of sympathetic understanding evinced in Kramskoi’s painting was not understood by the critics. The artist’s ability to relate to the women around him, even a prostitute on Nevskii Prospekt, made him fundamentally different from most of the men of his time. Where the majority of those around him could only express horror when faced with the spectacle of an enfranchised woman in an urban space, Kramskoi realized that under the condition of modernity, everyone was bought and sold. When he offered himself as “for sale” in the letter to Tretiakov, Kramskoi exposed the breakdown then occurring in mythologies of male power and invincibility. The capitalist marketplace was coming for one and all—regardless of men’s hope to remain exempt from the kind of exploitation women had suffered for so long. Alas, none of this would help him find a buyer for his picture. Despite Kramskoi’s entreaties and Tretiakov’s wealth, the collector did not buy the painting. Shortly after the exhibition’s opening, Tretiakov received a letter from the influential critic Stasov which likely steered his decision. Stasov declared that Kramskoi’s latest works were little more than vain attempts: “in these new works there is no body, only paint, searching and only to a certain extent achieving. How I long for the former Kramskoi! In my opinion, he is now on a slippery path.”66 Tretiakov concurred, writing back: “I also like Kramskoi’s earlier works better


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than these last ones.”67 The artist was forced to continue painting commissioned portraits. His health worsened, but he put on a brave face and began receiving injections of morphine to prolong his ability to work.68

Daughter—Artist—Self The year after Kramskoi exhibited the Unknown Woman, he completed a small self-portrait which featured his daughter [Figure 5.10]. It is a tiny jewel of a painting—a mere sixteen by twenty-four centimeters—about the size of a human hand. The artist depicted himself with his back to the viewer; he leans forward intently in the act of painting. His gaze is denied to us, but he appears to be looking at the canvas before him as he adds details to a hat, the thin fibers of his brush just graze its bounded edge. While it is unclear where Kramskoi is looking, the gaze of his daughter is crystal clear; she stares out from her portrait despite the angled orientation of the easel. The demure sidelong glance in portraits he made of her just a few years before has now become the confident gaze of a mature young woman. Sofia was seventeen years old when Kramskoi made this dual portrait and the painting seems to function both as a commentary on her nascent adulthood and his paternal desire to protect her from the world. The placement of the maulstick such that it grazes over her neck and shoulder serves the latter purpose, taking on a gently prohibitive force. He paints her as an object of the viewing public’s gaze, then undermines our access to her with the maulstick, as well as with his own right arm and leg. Despite her marriageable age, he further marks her as still under his paternal purview by showing her portrait in an unfinished state. Her face is nearly complete, yet her body remains in a state of formation, emphasizing the artist’s perception of her continuing youth. That body dissolves into a series of rapid brushstrokes, demonstrating that for Kramskoi she was not quite fully formed. This effect is furthered by her lack of presence outside the space of depiction. She is not shown sitting for the portrait or modeling for her father, though it is possible she was seated just out of the frame, in the dark recession of space that opens up on the left side of the composition. Instead Kramskoi seems to be completing her portrait from memory, and collapsing his vision of himself with his idea of her. There is a tremendous tension in this small work between competing domains of portraiture. It is, on one hand, decisively a self-portrait of the artist in the act of creating. The viewer encounters the body of the painter first; this is ensured

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


Figure 5.10  Ivan Kramskoi, Kramskoi Painting a Portrait of His Daughter, 1884; oil on canvas, 16.5 × 24 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

by Kramskoi as he made his own looming presence occupy the entire left size of the canvas. Nevertheless, it is firmly a portrait of his daughter too—a reality underscored by the way the painting has been titled, not as Self-Portrait, but as Kramskoi Painting a Portrait of His Daughter. In this way, the agency of the painter is imposed but then instantly refuted. By positioning himself such that he is seen only from behind, Kramskoi mediates our view of him, putting forward his daughter as his simulacrum. Our only access to him is modulated by this view of his daughter, who becomes not only the object of his gaze and therefore the subject of the painting, but also a signifier of his dual status as a father and an artist. And as in the painting of the Unknown Woman, Kramskoi’s signature reinforces his identification with the depicted figure. By signing the work not on the self-portrait portion of the canvas, but on the trompe l’oeil portrait of Sofia, Kramskoi imprints himself on her image. Configuring the work in this way allows the painter to establish an identity for himself that is made up of both his paternal and painterly roles; the two are utterly conflated in the space of his self-representation. Again, Kramskoi shows an extraordinary ability to identify with the women around him—both those close to him like his daughter and those on


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the periphery of the social realm. A mutual feeling of selling oneself drew him to the woman on the street, but something else drew him into a sense of sympathetic engagement with his daughter. It was not just that she was his progeny, however, for father and daughter had something else in common beyond their shared bloodline and the lasting closeness produced by domestic bonds. Sofia was, in fact, also a painter—something that terrified her father and is rarely discussed in scholarship. Kramskoi blamed himself for the fact that she had taken up the brush and numerous letters from the last years of his life describe his fears for her: A girl, and so strong, as if already a master. When I think about it sometimes, it is terrifying … her personal life threatens to turn into a tragedy! After all, this is a woman! And suddenly—an artist … Is it not surely a tragedy? You are saying: “Talent is the greatest resource in our agitated life.” Of course it is, but not for a woman. If nothing else, we do not have enough experience with such a thing, the attitude of society to the talent of a woman—except for stage talents—has not yet formed.69

For Kramskoi, the problem was not that one of his children was becoming an artist; instead, it was that society still had not developed to the point where it could accept a woman as an artist. He foresaw only tragedy for her as a result. Kramskoi was more familiar with the struggles women faced in becoming professional artists than most men of his time. After all, he had taught the ladies enrolled at the St. Petersburg Drawing School for Auditors throughout the 1860s. The idea of artistically gifted women was thus not antithetical to him in the way it was for many male artists in this era. But his own daughter becoming an artist nonetheless flooded him with anxiety. Those old fears he had expressed to Sofia when his children were still toddlers now took on new dimensions nearly two decades later. Writing from Paris in 1869, Kramskoi had expressed his concerns that society only seemed to “regress in decency;” he was afraid of what this meant for his children, that “when they grow up, then it will be even worse.” The way the critics contemptuously dismissed the figure he depicted in Unknown Woman had shown him how deep the misogyny of Russian society still went. Despite the fact that he identified with a woman who had to sell herself, Kramskoi had been forced to acknowledge that many saw only a “mountain of dirt and filth” when they looked at her. The artist had long felt close to the women in his life—he shared his trepidations with his wife from abroad even though doing so meant he might be perceived as a “softie” and he admitted feelings of anxiety about the future even

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when such confessions violated the standards for typical masculine behavior within a marriage. His paintings demonstrate further the progressive nature of Kramskoi’s masculinity. The tender portraits he made throughout his life of his wife and children show a man who was a sensitive and devoted father, one who was committed to integrating his personal and professional life as much as possible. This was not always an easy task, for the potency and resoluteness which were expected of him as a paterfamilias sometimes conflicted with the temptations and trepidations that characterized his life as an artist. Trying to satisfy his own needs (and those of his family) while still operating successfully within the gendered social system which surrounded him proved a delicate balancing act. In the process of negotiating a compromise, Kramskoi developed a remarkable empathy, one that allowed him to identify with women all around him, even if they were not members of his immediate family. By the end of his life, he came to feel so utterly connected with his daughter that he intertwined their portraits just as she was becoming a talented painter in her own right. Perhaps it is fitting then that the last surviving letter Kramskoi wrote was to one of his former female students—the painter and postcard designer Elizaveta Bëm. He sent her a note ten days before he died, calling the drawings she and her sister had made “superb.”70 He closed the missive by expressing his “profound respect” for her and then he signed the letter: “I. Kramskoi.” It was the same signature he had affixed to the portrait he made of his family in 1866, as well as the way he closed every letter to his wife. It also echoed the way he signed both the Unknown Woman and the self-portrait he made with his daughter in 1884. The appearance of his name on each showed a man who was exceptional in his time for his ability to sympathize not only with those women who were most known to him, but with those who would always remain unknown as well.

Notes 1 2

I. N. Kramskoi to Ilia Repin, September 28, 1874, St. Petersburg, in Ivan Kramskoi, Perepiska I. N. Kramskogo (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1954), 313. Sources differ on when the marriage took place. Of the few scholars who mention the artist’s marriage, Anna Tsomakion claims it took place in 1862, but the more recent exhibition catalog celebrating the 150-year anniversary of Kramskoi’s birth lists it as taking place in 1863. See A. Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi: ego zhizn’ i khudozhestvennaia deiatel’nost’, 1837–1887: biograficheskii ocherk (St. Petersburg:


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Tip. Obshchestvennaia pol’za, 1891), 36 and Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi. 1837–1887: Vystavka proizvedenii k 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1988), 45. 3 Kramskoi. 1837–1887: Vystavka, 456. 4 Lydia Edwards, How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 82–3. 5 Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi, 16. 6 Nikolai Mashkovtsev, Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi. 1837–1887 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Iskusstvo, 1945), 7. See also in Tatiana Saburova, “Early Masters of Russian Photography,” in Photography in Russia: 1840–1940, ed. David Elliott (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), 39. 7 John Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), 1:1189–90. 8 Kramskoi was clearly aware of Levitskii’s photographic works as he would later paint a portrait of the Empress Maria Feodorovna (1882, State Russian Museum) from one of Levitskii’s photographs of her (1881, National Portrait Gallery, London). 9 Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, eds. Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 9. 10 Boris Nikolaevich Mironov, with Ben Eklof, The Social History of Imperial Russia, 1700–1917 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 1:69. 11 Outside of the cities, the statistics were about the same. For male serfs in Russia’s central provinces, the average marriage age ranged from eighteen to twenty-five and for females it was seventeen to twenty-one. See Boris B. Gorshkov, Peasants in Russia from Serfdom to Stalin: Accommodation, Survival, Resistance (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 26. 12 Gregory L. Freeze, “Bringing Order to the Russian Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 1760–1860,” The Journal of Modern History 62, no. 4 (December 1990): 732. 13 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, January 12, 1883, St. Peterbsurg, in Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, i khudozhestvenno-kriticheskiia stati, 1837–1887, ed. Aleksei Suvorin (St. Petersburg, 1888), 451–2. 14 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, January 12, 1883, St. Peterbsurg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 452. 15 His father died when Ivan was twelve years old, ending the poor example being set for how to conduct oneself in marriage when the artist was still somewhat young. See Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi, 7. 16 Ibid., 26. 17 Rosalind P. Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 292. 18 Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi, 39–40.

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19 Ibid., 40. 20 I. N. Kramskoi to S. N. Kramskaia, November 17, 1869, Berlin, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 62–3. 21 Ruchnaia i vspomogatel’naia kniga dlia molodykh i pozhilykh osob obego pola, soderzhashchaiay v sebe pravila priatnogo obrashcheniia s litsami znatnogo klassa i s damami pri vizitakh (Moscow: V. Got’e, 1849), 15–20, 60–5. Quoted in Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Tales, Songs, Plays, Movies, Jokes, Ads, and Images from Russian Urban Life, 1779–1917, eds. James von Geldern and Louise McReynolds (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998), 95. 22 I. N. Kramskoi to S. N. Kramskaia, December 4, 1869, Paris, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 65–6. Sonichka is yet another common diminutive for the name Sofia in Russian. 23 Ibid., 66. 24 Zhizn’ v svete, doma i pri dvore (St. Petersburg, 1890): 23–31. Quoted in Entertaining Tsarist Russia, 97. 25 Marianna G. Muravyeva, “Between Law and Morality: Violence against Women in Ninteenth-Century Russia,” in Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture, eds. Wendy Rosslyn and Alessandra Tosi (Cambridge: OpenBook Publishers, 2012), 214. 26 Ibid., 215–16. 27 Barbara Evans Clements, A History of Women in Russia: From Earliest Times to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 150–1. 28 Ibid., 151. 29 Barbara Alpern Engel, “Women and Urban Culture,” in Women in NineteenthCentury Russia, 27. 30 Kramskoi describes this conversation with Vereshchagin in a letter to Sofia. See I. N. Kramskoi to S. N. Kramskaia, Paris, June 14, 1876, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 291–2. 31 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, January 12, 1883, St. Peterbsurg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 452. 32 Catriona Kelly, Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 130. 33 V. Zhukovskii to P. A. Pletnev, March 6, 1850, in Sochineniia v 3 tomakh (Moscow, 1980). Quoted in Kelly, Refining Russia, 130. 34 Heman Humphrey, Domestic Education (Amherst, MA: J. S. and C. Adams, 1840), 16. Quoted in David M. Lubin, Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 164. 35 Russian Women, 1698–1917: Experience and Expression, an Anthology of Sources, eds. Robin Bisha, Jehanne M. Gheith, Christine C. Holden, and William G. Wagner (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), 58.


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36 Ibid., 60. 37 Richard H. Brodhead, “Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America,” Representations 21 (Winter, 1988): 70. 38 Ibid., 74. 39 Ilya Vinitsky, Vasily Zhukovsky’s Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2015), 12–13. 40 Ibid., 12. 41 I. N. Kramskoi to S. N. Kramskaia, May 15, 1876, Naples, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 284. 42 Ibid., 284–5. 43 Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi, 68. 44 In the province of Moscow, 51.6 percent of children died by age five. David L. Ransel, “Infant-Care Cultures in the Russian Empire,” in Russia’s Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation, eds. Barbara Evans Clements, Barbara Alpern Engel, and Christine D. Worobec (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 114. 45 Ransel claims examples of such numbness are legion. See ibid., 120. 46 Tsomakion, I. N. Kramskoi, 71. This is a claim made by Tsomakion. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any published letters (or even excerpts from missives) written by Sofia. If they exist in Russian archives, it would make a fascinating study to explore her responses to Kramskoi’s letters and her state of mind while suffering these losses. 47 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, December 25, 1876, Paris, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 330. 48 I. N. Kramskoi to V. V. Stasov, July 19, 1876, Paris, in ibid., 303–4. 49 I. N. Kramskoi to V. V. Stasov, July 19, 1876, Paris, in ibid., 302. 50 Ibid. 51 I. N. Kramskoi to F. F. Petrushevskii, June 17, 1876, Paris, in ibid., 294. 52 Mashkovtsev claimed that not even Kramskoi’s close friend Ilia Repin knew her name. See Mashkovtsev, Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, 31. 53 Kramskoi’s Unknown Woman was exhibited in the eleventh Peredvizhniki exhibition, which was held in Petersburg from March 2 through April 10 before traveling to Moscow where it was exhibited from April 16 to May 29. See F. S. Roginskaia, Tovarishchestvo peredvizhnykh khudozhestvennykh vystavok (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1989), 419. 54 A. Z. Led, “Iskusstva i Kritik,” Sankt Peterburgskie vedemostii 244 (September 11, 1883). Jean Fleury, “Exposition des tableaux,” Journal de St Pétersbourg 1–2 (March 13, 1883). Both quoted in Trenton B. Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood and Modernity in Ivan Kramskoi’s Unknown Woman (1883),” (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 2014), 12. 55 P. Boborykin, “Kramskoi i Repin,” Novosti i Birzhevaya Gazeta (March 24, 1883): 1–2. Quoted in Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood,” 3.

Ivan Kramskoi: Painting Women


56 P. N. Polenoi, “Malen’kii khudozhnik odinnadtsataia peredvizhnaia vystavka,” Zhivopisnoe Obozrenie 11–13 (March 12, 19, 26, 1883). Quoted in Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood,” 14. 57 The novel notably figures in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, first published in the Moscow journal Russkii Vestnik serially between 1868 and 1869. 58 F.-v M., “Na peredvizhnoi vystavke kartin,” Russkie Vedomosti 145 (May 29, 1883). Quoted in Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood,” 15. 59 Jules Claretie, “Deux Heures au Salon,” L’Artiste (May 15, 1865). Jean Ravenel, L’Epoque (June 7, 1865). Amédée Cantaloube, Le Grand Journal (May 21, 1865). All quoted in T. J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 86, 88, 94. 60 Laura Engelstein, The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle Russia (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), 178–87. 61 Barbara Alpern Engel, “St. Petersburg Prostitutes in the Late Nineteenth Century: A Personal and Social Profile,” The Russian Review 48, no. 1 (January 1989): 23. 62 F.-v M., “Na peredvizhnoi vystavke kartin” (1883). Quoted in Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood,” 15. 63 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, January 12, 1883, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 453. 64 He had actually written of his willingness to sell himself as far back as 1880. In a letter to A. S. Suvorin from that year he states: “Imagine what kind of request I am going to ask you. Would you like to buy me [ne zhelaete li vy kupit’ menia] … ?” See I. N. Kramskoi to A. S. Suvorin, November 29, 1880, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 430. 65 I. N. Kramskoi to P. M. Tretiakov, January 15, 1883, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 456. 66 V. V. Stasov to P. M. Tretiakov, March 15, 1883, in Perepiska P. M. Tretiakova i V. V. Stasova. 1874–1897, eds. N. G. Galkinoi and M. N. Grigorevoi (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1949), 78. Quoted in Olsen, “Fallen Womanhood,” 17. 67 S. N. Goldshtein, Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: zhizn i tvorchestvo (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1965), 225. 68 S. N. Goldshtein, “I. N. Kramskoi,” in Istoriia russkogo iskusstva, ed. I. E. Grabar (Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1965), vol. 9, 1:216. 69 I. N. Kramskoi to N. A. Velogolovom, January 17, 1886, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 557. 70 I. N. Kramskoi to E. M. Bëm, March 14, 1887, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, 576.



Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability

I chose this form voluntarily, having in mind … the future art historian, who, I’m sure will thank me for my intimate details, no matter how mediocre I may become. Ilia Repin1 The year is 1884. Ilia Repin, one of Russia’s most celebrated realist painters, now approaching age forty, has begun work on an unusual canvas [Plate 6.1]. First displayed in the thirteenth Peredvizhniki exhibition in February and March of 1885 under the title Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581, the work was begun the summer before and proves something of a riddle.2 It is unusual in Repin’s larger oeuvre, for it is one of only three history paintings he completed over the course of his career. The artist more frequently depicted scenes from contemporary life or was engaged in making portraits of some of the most prominent cultural figures of his time. Ivan the Terrible was thus a departure for the middle-aged artist and by the time he decided to paint it in 1884 it had been lingering in his mind as a possible subject for a few years. Most scholars agree that Repin first conceived the work in the immediate wake of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in March of 1881. Terrorists had been trying to kill the great “Tsar-Liberator”—so-called because he had freed the serfs in 1861—throughout the previous two decades.3 Dmitrii Karakozov made the first attempt on the tsar’s life in 1866 and this was followed a year later by an attack on the sovereign’s carriage at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris.4 Further attempts were made on the tsar’s life in 1879 and 1880. Each time Alexander seemed to escape by sheer luck—a gun misfired, a bomb missed his train car, he outran five shots fired at him—but an organization known as the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) would finally succeed on March 1, 1881. On this day, a revolutionary named Nikolai Rysakov threw a bomb under the wheels of the tsar’s carriage. Because the vehicle was bulletproof (a gift from Napoleon III), only the driver and bystanders on the sidewalk were wounded. A


Picturing Russia’s Men

second member of the People’s Will, however, was waiting for the tsar to emerge after the explosion.5 At that moment, Ignatii Grinevitskii detonated a second bomb at his feet.6 The chief of police, Adrian Dvorzhitskii, who was following the tsar’s carriage that day, recalled the bloody chaos of the assassination: I was deafened by the new explosion, burned, wounded and thrown to the ground … His Majesty was half-lying, half-sitting … I tried to lift him but the tsar’s legs were shattered, and the blood poured out of them. Twenty people, with wounds of varying degree, lay on the sidewalk and on the street. Some managed to stand, others crawled, still others tried to get out from beneath bodies that had fallen on them. Through the snow, debris, and blood you could see fragments of clothing, epaulets, sabers, and bloody chunks of human flesh.7

Alexander bled to death, his legs mutilated, his stomach ripped open, and his face disfigured nearly beyond recognition.8 Repin was in St. Petersburg at the time these events occurred and he would return a month later to attend the hanging of those who had planned and executed the attack.9 The bloodshed profoundly affected the artist; he later admitted that Ivan the Terrible arose in its wake: “My emotions were overwhelmed by the horrors of contemporary life. This mood was then a common one. Terrible scenes were in everybody’s mind, yet no one dared paint them … It was natural to look for a way out of this painful and tragic situation through history.”10 Almost all commentators on Repin’s painting have drawn parallels between the tsar’s assassination and the gory violence in the work he produced in response. Molly Brunson has investigated the historical analogy the artist was drawing between Ivan’s murder of his son and the tsar’s execution of the young revolutionaries, stating that since a painting of the actual assassination could not be made, “Repin turned back the clock … inspired by … the very real historical moment.”11 David Jackson likewise explores the picture’s ties to the murder, declaring that “for Repin the painting was clearly an emotional release, a means to placate the horrors of contemporary life.”12 Viewers at the time were astounded by the painting. It attracted throngs to the Peredvizhniki exhibitions in both Petersburg and Moscow. Women fainted when they saw the work and it was hotly debated in the press.13 Pëtr Gnedich, writing shortly after the exhibition’s opening, described the unique way the work transcended the historical genre: One of the picture’s accomplishments is that when you look at it you forget that it is a historical subject. Passions are so strong … that you do not sense those

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


three centuries that separate you from the actors. The usual alienation of the viewer from the heroes of historical canvases, which one always feels in front of a colossal painting, is absent here. The drama is too much alive.14

Repin’s friend and fellow painter, Ivan Kramskoi, was in raptures over the work. He wrote to the journalist Aleksei Suvorin in late January of 1885, describing its importance: You positively must go to Repin and see his picture: “Ivan the Terrible Having Killed His Son” … positively go, if you haven’t seen it and become acquainted with it. It must be seen! It is necessary to see it personally (to put your fingers in as they say), to understand that Russian art is finally maturing. You cannot imagine what an encouraging conviction this is … history painting is so interesting, so necessary and should stop the contemporary artist, inasmuch as it is a parallel, so to speak, of modernity, and inasmuch as it would offer to a viewer something to be learned from!15

For Kramskoi, the link between contemporaneity and history painting was vital. Repin’s work was showing how the past could intersect with history unfolding in the present and this served as an indication that Russian art was attaining new heights. Yet not everyone was convinced of the value of such a realistic (and bloody) historical picture. When the work was shown in Moscow, it met with official disapproval. The Chief-Procurator of the Holy Synod, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, wrote to Tsar Alexander III: I saw that painting today and was unable to view it without disgust … the art of today is remarkable: without the slightest ideals, only the sense of naked realism, critical tendentiousness and denunciations. Previous paintings by Repin were distinguished by this inclination and were also offensive. It is hard to understand what thought induced the artist to describe in such total realism these particular moments.16

The painting was ultimately removed from the show in Moscow and its buyer, Pavel Tretiakov, was forbidden from exhibiting it or publishing its reproduction. Such reactions beg several questions: was it really the subject and the lack of ideals that were so offensive? Could the connection between a murdered ruler and a slain son, so clearly on everyone’s mind, truly prove so unacceptable? Or had the artist’s “total realism” captured something else? Had Repin touched on a reality that hurt more in the male imaginary than the recent losses of the present and their echo in the distant past—something that only his brand of “naked realism” could reveal? To answer such questions, one must return to the


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 6.1  Ilia Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581 (detail), 1885; oil on canvas, 199.5 × 254 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2015

canvas Repin began in 1884. For at its most basic level, Ivan the Terrible is a painting of two absolutely broken men [Figure 6.1]. One, the tsar-father, has lost all authority; he has been stripped of his patriarchal dignity. Having struck his son with a pointed staff in a fit of rage, he is not shown as the ruler of Russia; instead, he is merely a man devastated by his own inability to control himself. His cataritic eyes bulge out of their sockets, his brow is furrowed deeply in utter disbelief, and the strands of hair on his balding head stand on end from the frenzy of the fray. The signs of his psychological devastation are everywhere present in the painting. His right hand grasps the waist of his son, veins bulging over the thin skin, as if he is rocking him like a child. Above this, his left hand clasps desperately at the wound inflicted on the young man’s head. The fingers are flat and pressed tightly together as though the sheer power of his grip might staunch the flow of blood. Ivan is detached from reality in this moment—he has awakened to “the terrible” in his own nature and he is consumed with panic at the loss of his regulation and composure. The son is equally beyond the realm of all self-control, but his losses are in the domain of physical debility and utter

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


somatic incompetence. He grasps inanely at his father’s upper arm, the fingers flailing as they seek a connection with the jacket; the disconnected digits slide slowly down the dark fabric as life passes out of his extremities. Viscous blood pours from the gash in his head, seeping from between the father’s fingers to pool in the ear cavity and beard hair. A thin stream of blood has begun to flow from his nose as well, tinging his parted lips. It is echoed by a single tear shed by an eye that can no longer see; that eye is all indistinct perceptive absence. This is no longer a man; instead, it is a shell of a human being, passing into another realm. It is no wonder viewers were stunned by the painting. It directly evoked the tsar so recently dying on the streets of Petersburg, his body shattered as “blood poured out” of it. In this painting, Repin captured not the heroic actions or valiant suffering of great men, but their devastation and pain, what the artist referred to as “the horrors of contemporary life.” Both figures are reduced to their state of mutual, albeit distinctive, forms of injury. In this sense, Pobedonostsev’s description of the painting’s “total realism” proves quite apt. For the work was “offensive” in that it showed great historical men “without the slightest ideals,” reducing them to their most vulnerable state. It put on display the irreparable relationship between a father and his son. In so doing, it captured the mood in these years, for Russia and her sons (as well as daughters) were locked in an ideological battle over the future of the nation that would have devastating consequences in the century to come. As this chapter will demonstrate, Pobedonostsev was also correct in pointing out that this was not the first time Repin had captured “in such total realism these particular moments.” After 1881, the painter would increasingly focus on depictions of men laid bare by his “naked realism.” In this way, Ivan the Terrible has implications beyond its links with the revolutionary political era from which it first arose. The painting is one of several which originated in this historical moment and sought to grapple with men in states of physical and psychic debility. Kramskoi had recognized this potential within Repin’s practice when he wrote of history painting as a “parallel of modernity.” The realization would lead the artist to undertake a brutal historico-biblical work of his own in the same years, one that also figures a man in a state of utter physical devastation. Investigating how these paintings came about and the connections between them will demonstrate that the years after the tsar’s assassination were characterized by an increased interest on the part of artists like Repin and Kramskoi to capture, via the sort of “total realism” Pobedonostsev described, men’s increasing sense of their own vulnerability. Wounded men of the kind


Picturing Russia’s Men

found in Ivan the Terrible were a sign of rupture in this era. A dam had finally broken in representation, but it was not just radical politics that had caused the breach in the usual strategies of pictorial containment. By the 1880s, dominant dialogues about gender had been profoundly called into question and myths of the male ideal were utterly breaking down. Firm ideologies of masculinity ruptured as the social and political conditions that had produced them entered a time of violent flux, exposing what Christopher Forth has called a “paradox in the conflicting desires of men themselves.”17 The years surrounding 1884 show the impossibility of transcending these forces and the works produced in and around this year reveal artists struggling to transmute the radical politics of the time into something that might still pass as a stable symbolic order.

The Making of Ivan the Terrible According to Repin, the initial idea to paint Ivan the Terrible occurred to him after hearing a concert which deeply moved him in 1881: One evening when I was in Moscow I happened to hear Revenge, a new composition of Rimsky-Korsakov. This work made a powerful impression on me. I fell completely under the spell of those sounds and thought how I could express on the canvas the mood the music evoked in me. Then Tsar Ivan came to mind. This was in 1881 when everybody was excited about the sanguinary event of March 1. A streak of blood seemed to run through that year.18

Repin did not immediately embark on the project, instead it lingered in his mind. Living in Moscow, he felt disconnected from the excitement of the capital city. He frequently traveled to Petersburg and his letters show he increasingly desired to move there: “Now I want to grab something from the modern present, from burning life itself; I want to move to St. Petersburg; Moscow has become boring and even somehow oppressive with its bourgeois atmosphere.”19 In 1882, he took the plunge, arriving in the capital by October with his family. By this point in his life, Repin had a rather large household. He had married Vera Shevtsova in 1872 and was ten years her senior. Within a year of their union they had their first daughter, Vera, and she was followed by a second daughter in 1874. A son, Yuri, was born in 1877, followed by their last child together, Tatiana, in 1880.20 The move to Petersburg brought about new concerns regarding the cost of living for the artist. Expenses were higher in the capital and Repin estimated that he would need 10,000 rubles annually to meet his family’s needs.21 Despite these worries, the move to Petersburg brought about fresh opportunities for the

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


artist. Being in the capital allowed him to widen his social circle and afforded him greater opportunities for portrait commissions. Repin eagerly sought these connections with the Petersburg elite and he became a regular at many salon gatherings. On Wednesdays he visited the home of the chemist Dmitri Mendeleev; on Saturdays he attended the open house of the army officer-turned painter Nikolai Iaroshenko; and on Thursdays he held his own salon, where painters, composers, and writers would assemble and engage in animated games or discussions.22 By most accounts, Repin’s wife did not take an active interest in her husband’s expanding social life. She was preoccupied with caring for their four children and the relationship between Repin and Vera grew strained.23 Matters were made worse by Repin’s numerous affairs with servants, models, and some of the society ladies who commissioned portraits from him. He was candid about these liaisons and they seemed part of his general libertine outlook. Repin’s correspondence contains numerous refusals to curb what he saw as his natural male instinct: I, as a heathen, as an admirer of nature and all the life in it, deeply resent all sorts of voluntary ascetic wisdom. It is sensible for everyone to enjoy themselves, to revel in the wise creations of our maker, to thank him every minute for the delightful things with which we are surrounded in life! … This is how all of nature lives … And God created all people with desires and gave them reason for regulating their desires, and not for remaking the ingenious creation that is man. And I am thinking, how audacious of a man to alter his own nature!24

He also dispensed marriage advice to his friends and acquaintances which was laden with traditional patriarchal values concerning the proper role of a wife: Prepare in advance that your love will pass; it has to be replaced by friendship. And friendship is born only from devotion. If a woman is capable of being completely devoted to the interests of her husband, she is a precious friend who is indispensable to a man, with whom he will not part even for a minute throughout his life.25

Vera was not capable of such utter “devotion” to the interests of her husband, however, and she became increasingly disturbed by Repin’s philandering. Her angry outbursts increased after their move to Petersburg, so much so that both Tretiakov and Stasov noted in their letters the untenable family situation which had begun to interfere with Repin’s work.26 Although Soviet scholars heavily edited Repin’s letters, making it difficult to reconstruct his sexual liaisons and various affairs, the artist’s amorous interests have never been entirely hidden or suppressed.27 We know that the painter’s erotic life had a significant impact on the works he was producing around 1884, for the couple separated early


Picturing Russia’s Men

in this year after tensions reached a climax. Repin bought another apartment for his wife, where she lived with their two youngest children, while the eldest daughters stayed with him.28 In the wake of their separation, Repin threw himself into work, finally embarking on Ivan the Terrible in the summer of 1884. Repin’s daughter Vera described him first making studies in the palaces of the Kremlin, then rearranging the furniture in his studio, and adding sixteenth-century objects he borrowed to it.29 According to those who knew him in this year, Repin worked like a man possessed, becoming increasingly fearful of his own creation.30 He could not sleep and had strange visions: “I worked like one bewitched. At moments I was seized with terror and would turn from the canvas or hide it from view. My friends shared this impression from the picture. Yet something drew me to it and I would resume work.”31 He began searching for the right models. An artist friend suggested an old man he had seen in Tsarskoe, named Pavel Blaramberg, who might serve for the figure of Tsar Ivan.32 Repin made an oil study of him and also asked the artist Grigorii Miasoedov to pose. The son in the painting proved equally problematic. Repin made a portrait sketch of the artist Vladimir Menk in 1883, yet it was not until he asked the writer Vsevolod Garshin to pose for the son that he finally began to bring the painting into its final form. Repin had met Garshin in late 1882 when he had already achieved a great deal of acclaim for his short stories.33 His “Four Days,” an account of a wounded Russian soldier left behind with the body of a man he had killed in the RussoTurkish War, first published in 1877, made him an overnight sensation. Garshin had fought and been wounded in the war and was renowned for his mix of physical beauty and melancholic sensitivity. According to the Slavicist Robert Wessling, ladies swooned upon meeting him and even men referred to him as the “ideal of beauty [ideal krasoty],” specifically citing his “comely figure, long dreamy eyelashes, and alluringly attractive facial features” which harkened back to romantic portraiture from the earlier part of the century.34 Upon meeting Garshin in 1884, one male fan, V. S. Bibikov, claimed the writer’s stunning beauty completely paralyzed him. Another man recalled being completely speechless upon encountering the writer.35 Repin too was struck by Garshin’s beauty, but also by his fragility and what the artist perceived as his innate, angelic goodness. In his memoirs he recalled their interactions: From my very first meeting with V. Garshin … I felt a special tenderness for him. I wanted to make him more comfortable, to make it so that he would not get hurt … Garshin was handsome and good-looking, like a sweet, kind, beautiful

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


girl … When Garshin came to me … he entered silently and always brought with him a quiet rapture, like an ethereal angel. Garshin’s eyes were particularly beautiful, full of heavy modesty, and they were often clouded with a mysterious tear.36

The oil study Repin made of the writer the year after they met echoes his written memories [Figure 6.2]. Dressed in a dark coat, with a crisp white shirt encircling

Figure 6.2  Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Garshin, Study for “Ivan the Terrible and His Son, Ivan,” 1883; oil on canvas, 47.7 × 40.3 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow


Picturing Russia’s Men

his lean neck, Garshin reclines backward, much like Ivan would, nestled in his father’s arms, in the final painting. It is an unusual angle, one that allowed Repin to capture the fine descending slope of the writer’s nose, with its slightly upturned tip. Garshin’s eyes are indeed beautiful, their lucid blue color echoed by the pale cerulean undertones of his skin. The study is tinged with sadness, something also noted by those who knew Garshin in these years: “when I saw the graceful, broad-shouldered Vsevolod Mikahilovich, I could tell at first sight that his countenance had been stricken by a unique sadness.”37 The writer struggled with depression throughout his life and he was institutionalized several times in the 1870s and 1880s. His first mental breakdown occurred when he was only seventeen and may have resulted from the suicide of his brother. Garshin was admitted to a psychiatric clinic for half a year and he would ultimately lose another one of his brothers to suicide.38 He was hospitalized twice more between 1879 and 1880; the first time at a psychiatric clinic in St. Petersburg and then after he was found wandering Central Russia in a state of intermittent insanity.39 Theories regarding the causes of and treatments for various mental disorders, from hysteria to mania and depression, were a prominent fixture in the intelligentsia’s journals throughout the era. Understandings of mental illness were frequently linked to social circumstances and modern Russian scholars have continued to interpret Garshin’s depressive condition as stemming from the crisis in social life which characterized the second half of the century more generally.40 In Europe and America, disorders such as neurasthenia—a common diagnosis for those suffering from fatigue, anxiety, or a depressed mood—were also linked to the stresses of the modern lifestyle, but mental degeneration in Russia was more frequently interpreted as resulting from the unfavorable political climate. Russian psychiatrists like Nikolai Mukhin referred to the neurasthenic character of the Russian people throughout the late 1880s, calling the nation a “pathological ground where the flowers of degeneration develop” because of shortages, poverty, and a repressive regime.41 Similarly, the Moscow psychiatrist Mikhail Lakhtin would later write that conditions in Russia were responsible for the rise of broken individuals who had been ground down by political conditions.42 Garshin knew several of the leading Russian psychiatrists of his time, including Ivan Sikorskii, then one of the most prominent promoters of mental hygiene. Sikorskii was convinced that the arts, and especially literature, provided an important barometer for assessing the health of society. He claimed that: “the highest ideal life of Russian people is manifested in

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


creative work, and the psychiatrist, without doubt, should know this higher life as closely as the ill, declining, decadent life.”43 Garshin’s stories, which often dealt with madness in various forms, were thus assessed as a sign of the general degeneration of Russian society and his own mental illness was problematically romanticized as an emblem of his “superior artistic spirit rather than a psychiatric condition.”44 From the beginning, Repin was fascinated by Garshin’s temperament and the effect his bouts of depression had on his physiognomy.45 Garshin’s troubled personality worked well for the Ivan the Terrible canvas given that it was about men’s suffering, but including him also drew the work out of its sixteenthcentury context and added contemporary dimension to the psychological effects Repin was trying to capture. Two statements the artist made, likely at about the time when his relationship with Vera was reaching its breaking point and also when he first made the study of Garshin for Ivan the Terrible, provide important insight into what Repin hoped to achieve with his work: A painting is a deeply complex thing and very difficult. Only by exerting all one’s internal strength into one feeling can one comprehend a painting, and only in such moments will you feel that the truth of life is above everything …46 With all my paltry strength, I strive to embody my ideas in truth; contemporary life affects me deeply, it does not give me peace, it begs to be represented on canvas.47

Such complexity (and difficulty) certainly characterizes the work Repin was making in 1884, but Garshin was too fascinating a subject to paint only in the context of history. Contemporary life affected him deeply as well and Repin told Garshin that he wanted to complete a stand-alone portrait of him at “a more convenient time.”48

Beautiful Broken Men Using Garshin as a model, Repin began Ivan the Terrible in the summer of 1884, as he described it, “on an impulse.” Nonetheless he found it was only progressing “in fits and starts.”49 He claimed that his “emotions were overburdened” from the work, so he began a separate portrait of Garshin as respite from the more difficult depiction [Figure 6.3]. Repin referred to the time he spent sitting with the writer as his “vacation [otdykha]” from the grueling process of bringing Ivan the Terrible to fruition. He painted the portrait of his friend over only two


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 6.3  Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, 1884; oil on canvas, 88.9 × 69.2 cm., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image Source: Art Resource, NY

months (between July and August) and the hours they spent together cemented their friendship.50 At Repin’s request, whenever the day’s work did not require Garshin to remain absolutely motionless, he would read aloud. The two would spend long hours discussing various topics and Repin admitted he had difficulty parting from his friend at the end of their days together.51

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


The portrait he made certainly evokes these long hours. It shows the writer seated before a desk, his hands on either side of an open book, around which are stacks of further volumes and an assortment of papers and pamphlets. Garshin is dressed simply in a black coat, its profound inkiness contrasting with the lighter texts around him. The dark jacket frames the sitter’s body like a protective case, its folds underscoring the writer’s broad shoulders, but also the weight of his body as it bends heavily on the wood beneath his arms. His shoulders are deeply hunched, the interminable bend of his long spine echoed by the curve of the desk’s nearest corner, both arcs reverberated by the tufts of his dark hair above. His disheveled locks and scruffy beard are mirrored by the untidy papers—all signs of the man’s labor, but also his disregard for appearances, what Repin had called his “heavy modesty.” He looks up from his work as if interrupted, although not a single ounce of frustration shows on his face. Instead Garshin is all dejected sorrow. His features are wrought by despondency, as though he is overwhelmed by the world. James Bezant, an English manager of a trading firm in Petersburg, who was in close contact with the writer between 1882 and 1884, noted that Garshin’s struggles with mental illness affected the overall look of his features. Bezant saw his countenance as characterized by the “impress of melancholy which, by this time, had become more and more symptomatic of the disease which was gaining ground with painful rapidity.”52 He claimed that Garshin “was always on the brink of a precipice and he knew it” and that this affected his working habits and his overall appearance.53 Repin too described the imprint the writer’s bouts of anguish left on him, claiming that “deep suffering could be seen on his beautiful, but very darkened face.”54 It makes sense then that Repin focused so much of his attention specifically on the features of the writer’s face [Plate 6.2]. Whereas the book and papers are brought about in thick, loose brushstrokes, Repin handled Garshin’s facial features with firm naturalistic precision. The eyes especially are rendered with careful attention as Repin sought to capture their particular beauty as they “clouded with a mysterious tear.” They are a strange color—neither brown nor sage—and there is something verdant, yet also slightly decayed about them, especially the eye receding back in space. The thick, uneven brows add to the painful expressivity of the figure, as do the touches of inflamed red encircling the upper and lower lids. These warm tones are contrasted with the nearby cool blues brushed in thinly across the lacrimal bone. The veins which traverse the orbital cavity can be seen through the thin skin in this area, revealing a man who has overworked and under-slept for significant periods of his life. Garshin seems a reflection of what Repin himself described


Picturing Russia’s Men

feeling as his “emotions were overburdened” in the wake of his separation from his wife and the labor of bringing about not one, but two, paintings of utterly dejected men. The writer retains his beauty, yet he is also shown vulnerable and defeated, physically bowed from the crushing heaviness of his thoughts. In this period of positivist medicine, the exterior body was considered a map of signs that could be assessed for disease. Visible symptoms of underlying disorders were seen as either enhancing the face and body aesthetically or disfiguring it, and the eyes and skin were considered especially important for uncovering underlying conditions.55 Those who knew Garshin in these years noted the effect his mental anguish was having on his features. His first biographer, Iakov Abramov, noted the way his appearance was changing: “the extent to which he really suffered is indicated best of all by his yellowed, drawn face.”56 Repin captured the flaxen tone of Garshin’s skin well—the area above the nasal bone is built up with touches of buttery saffron as are sections of the upper cheeks, where Repin layered tawny buff shades next to muted pinks and subtle oranges. The writer’s eyes also have a xanthous hue to them, the area between the tear duct and the iris especially is marred by sallow tones, as if Repin brushed in the white of the sclera over yellow he had laid down first. Such changes to the eyes were also considered important signs of underlying disorders and another one of Garshin’s memoirists, Nikolai Reiegardt, described the change he saw come over his friend. “They say the eyes are the mirror of the soul. In that case, did his gaze reflect … an embryo of that mental illness which led him to an early, tragic end?”57 Repin seems to ask a similar question in his painting. By focusing heavily on the expressive potential of Garshin’s eyes, Repin was grappling with the physiognomic repercussions of his friend’s mental illness in a way that aligned him with popular discourses. A fine line was being tread, however, in capturing both the writer’s physical beauty and the indications of degeneration that were wracking his appearance. For if Garshin was posited too much in terms of his mental weakness or his psychic vulnerability, he would no longer fit firmly in the masculine domain. Garshin was already noted for the duality of the opposing qualities which characterized him. Those who knew the writer were in raptures over his handsome, distinctively male features—thick hair, broad shoulders, firm jaw— but they also commented frequently on the traces of his sensitive, depressive temperament. He was referred to as “weak [slabyi],” “soft [miagkii],” “sensitive [chuvstvitel’nyi],” “feminine [zhenstvennyi],” and “nervous [nervnyi]” as a result of his struggles with depression and his history of institutionalization.58 One memoirist associated his eyes in particular with a certain femininity, stating that:

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


“A similar gaze I have encountered … especially among those women whose common lot it is to bear the burdensome cross of life.”59 All of this ran the risk of aligning the writer too much with the realm of the female, a danger Repin also had to confront with his portrait depiction. By representing the writer such that both his physical beauty and his mental instability were highlighted, Repin risked feminizing him and making him a symbol of male degeneration in Russian society more generally. In this sense, the portrait of Garshin finds its problematic complement in the Ivan the Terrible he was working on at the same time. Both pictures which Repin was completing in 1884 forced him to grapple with men in states of debility—a father who has lost all control, a son who is mortally wounded, and a writer doing battle with his own inner demons. All these men were being pictured by the artist in an era when discussions of degeneration in Russian society as a whole were reaching a fever pitch. And each of these paintings was made in the immediate wake of Repin’s own marriage breaking down. His wife had left him and taken their two youngest children just a few months before, perhaps awakening in the artist a sense of his own vulnerability and forcing him to confront the repercussions of his inability to control himself sexually.

The Portrait of Modest Musorgsky Repin’s depictions of Garshin were not the first time he had sought to capture the complex “truth” of contemporary life by depicting the mental anguish and physical debility of a man close to him. Almost every scholar who discusses the painting Repin made of Garshin in 1884 links it to an earlier portrait the artist had made of the composer Modest Musorgsky in 1881 [Plate 6.3]. David Jackson states that “Repin’s portrayal of Garshin ranks alongside his earlier ‘Portrait of Modest Musorgsky’ for its incisive delineation of a complex personality.”60 Igor Grabar placed the portrait of Garshin among Repin’s best, stating that it was not quite equal to the depiction of Musorgsky, but of the same caliber.61 Elizabeth Valkenier also mentions the two pictures in the same breath, calling the portrait of Garshin “as insightful a likeness of a complex personality as his portrait of Musorgsky.”62 What all of these scholars describe as the quality that links the paintings is the intensity of the portrayal. In both, Repin was uniquely able to combine the powers of realist depiction (i.e., the recording of an accurate likeness) with the portrayal of his sitter’s inner qualities (their distinct psychological states).63


Picturing Russia’s Men

Yet scholars have failed to assess the paintings in terms of the breakdown in myths of masculine ideality they also share. For Musorgsky was, like Garshin, a man in a state of profound debility when Repin painted him. In fact, he would die from complications resulting from alcoholism within ten days of sitting for the portrait Repin made. The artist was well aware of the composer’s propensity for drink; the two men had been friends since 1871 and had long taken an active interest in each other’s work.64 From the beginning, they had a natural affinity for one another and saw their goals as mutually aligned. Their letters attest to the eagerness with which they spurred each other on. Musorgsky wrote to Repin after seeing his painting Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870–3, State Russian Museum) for the first time, stating that he too believed that “the life of the Russian people is an inexhaustible ore from which everything genuine can be extracted.”65 That same year, Stasov recalled a visit he received from the two men and how Repin “was in ecstasy at everything that Musorgsky had composed.”66 The composer had long sought escape from his emotional problems through alcohol, however, and by the late 1870s he had “taken to wandering for days about the capital … turning up unaccountably ragged and penniless at the homes of friends or mere acquaintances.”67 Musorgsky had begun drinking heavily as a young man, likely as a coping mechanism while enrolled at the School for Guards’ Cadets, a training ground for men who were expected to have illustrious military careers.68 Much like Pavel Fedotov in the 1830s (discussed in Chapter 2), Musorgsky fell victim to the environment of masculine bravado centered around drinking which was still rampant in Petersburg in the second half of the century. According to David Brown, the future composer sought respite from the world of harassment and hazing then common at cadet schools.69 As an adult, Musorgsky increasingly sought refuge in wine, cognac, and vodka. He could be found frequently in Petersburg taverns like the Malyi Iaroslavets, where “he and his fellow drinkers idealized their alcoholism, raising it to a level of ethical and even aesthetic opposition.”70 After he had a stroke brought on by excessive drinking, his friends placed him in the psychiatric division of the Nikolaevskii Military Hospital. It was around this time that Repin read in the newspaper Russkie vedomosti that his friend was “very ill.”71 The artist rushed to Petersburg to visit Musorgsky in the hospital, where he painted his portrait in just four sessions between March 2 and 5.72 In Repin’s account of the sittings, the two men freely conversed and had fun in what would be their final hours together.73 Repin set up his canvas on a small table while Musorgsky sat before him, clad only in an old dressing gown and

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


nightshirt.74 In the portrait, signs of Musorgsky’s physical debility are made vividly present. His hair is an unwashed mass of tangled strands, creating a disheveled halo around his exhausted face. His eyes are doubly rimmed with heavy bags, making him look much older than his forty-two years. His complexion is composed of a flurry of short strokes—ashen whites laid down next to tawny beiges—built up more thickly and hastily than the face in Garshin’s portrait. His beard below is a symphony of grays and ginger-toned browns; it has obviously not been trimmed in weeks and coarse strands have grown down over the composer’s tightly pursed lips. His eyes remain clear, even bright, but they are juxtaposed with the ruddy, swollen nose at the heart of his face—the clearest indication of his long alcohol abuse. Musorgsky’s drinking habits, much like Garshin’s depression, were well known among the public. And as with Garshin, Repin showed profound interest in recording the emblems of degeneration on Musorgsky’s features. He would later describe the deterioration he saw take place: It was really incredible how that well-bred Guards officer, with his beautiful and polished manners, that witty conversationalist with the ladies, that inexhaustible punster … quickly sank … and soon descended to some cheap saloons … where this childishly happy child, with a red potato-shaped nose, was already unrecognizable … Was it really he? The once impeccably-dressed, heel-clicking society man, scented, dainty, fastidious? Oh, how many times V. V. [Stasov] on his return from abroad was hardly able to get him out of some basement dive, nearly in rags, swollen with alcohol.75

Photographs taken much earlier in Musorgsky’s life show the “well-bred Guards officer” that Repin described [Figure 6.4]. One, taken when the composer was still a cadet in the Preobrazhenskii Regiment of the Imperial Guards, captures the society gentleman that Musorgsky had once been. He holds himself with the kind of erect but natural posture which had been valued for officers since Fedotov’s time; his lithe body effortlessly ensconced in his guards’ uniform, complete with epaulettes and sword. Repin would capture the distance Musorgsky had travelled in terms of deterioration in his portrait of 1881. Much of what the painter described as the composer’s current state is recorded—the red nose, the swollen face, a body nearly in rags—all signs of his lack of self-control and his descent into a state of “unrecognizable” debility. For Repin, Musorgsky’s downfall through drink robbed him not only of his former beauty and polish, but also of his very manhood. He became a grotesque child as a result of his addiction. From the “well-bred Guards officer” and “society man” seen in the photograph—both widely accepted


Picturing Russia’s Men

Figure 6.4  Modest Musorgsky as a Cadet in the Preobrazhenskii Regiment of the Imperial Guards, late 1850s; GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


versions of masculinity that reinforced the dominant dialogues about gender— Musorgsky was in the portrait reduced to a swollen, silly child. Where Garshin’s depression feminized him, Musorsky’s alcoholism infantilized him, and both perceptions echoed anxieties about men’s degeneration in society at large. Concerns about alcohol had been growing over the course of the century and perceptions were largely that alcoholism among men was not only rampant but increasing.76 Leading writers expressed grave concerns about Russian drinking habits in the popular press, and foreigners consistently noted the intensity of the problem, calling it “the true plague of the Russian empire.”77 Lev Tolstoy led a temperance movement beginning in the 1890s and Fëdor Dostoevsky decried the detrimental effects of liquor on men in particular, stating that “the consumption of alcoholic beverages brutalizes and makes a man savage, [it] hardens him … and in general uproots any kind of humanity.”78 Some blamed the problem on modernization and the changes it wrought in terms of a loss of religious values. Others criticized the conditions of poverty and its attendant social ills.79 The urgency of discussions regarding which treatment options would prove most effective only increased as the century drew to a close.80 In this sense, Repin’s portrait of Musorgsky, like that of Garshin, was deeply embedded in concerns about male weakness characteristic of the time and both were embroiled in contemporary anxieties about men’s mental and physical degeneration. The painted depictions, with their mutual and unrelenting realism, showed two of Russia’s heroic modern men—a gifted writer and a composer of epic music— in the throes of their debility, with the signs of their vulnerability actively consuming their minds and bodies. In the end, it would prove Musorgsky’s inability to control his own desires that brought about his early death. He was to sit for one more session with Repin, but when the artist arrived at the hospital, he found the composer dead. Repin described the events many years later: The name day of Modest Petrovich was approaching. He lived under a severe regime of sobriety and was in an especially fine sober mood … But as always, alcoholics are gnawed by the worm of Bacchus; and M. P. was already dreaming of rewarding himself for his long patience. Despite strict orders … forbidding cognac … an attendant obtained a full bottle of cognac for M. P.’s name day (he was loved by all) … My last session was planned for the next day. But when I arrived at the appointed hour, I did not find M. P. among the living.81

Musorgsky had acquired the cognac by bribing a guard. He drank it in one sitting, with only an apple as an hors-d’oeuvre, and doing so brought on a fatal stroke.82


Picturing Russia’s Men

Repin’s “total realism,” as Pobedonostsev called it, was there to capture the fragile vulnerability of Musorgsky’s last days. The artist would submit the picture as a late entry into the Peredvizhniki exhibit which had in fact opened on the very same day the tsar was assassinated, less than a mile from where the bombs were thrown.83 This meant that Repin’s portrait of the composer was also embroiled in the bloody chaos of that event and its aftermath. Musorgsky’s deep state of injury parallels that of the tsar and becomes part of the build-up to Repin’s Ivan the Terrible and its attendant portrait of Garshin. All were depictions of men that captured the disintegration of myths regarding masculine strength and self-control, exposing them instead as weak, infirm, and vulnerable. This aligns Repin’s paintings too with those works from earlier in the century which had shown the collapse of firm gender values and the disintegration of ideals for male behavior in the social system more broadly. From Briullov’s inability to finish his self-portraits to Fedotov’s tortured gamblers and Ivanov’s androgynous boys— each set of paintings echoed the discontent which resulted from the distance between the gratification found in conformity and the desire to satiate one’s own needs by transgressing such norms. Repin’s ability to lay bare the empty center at the heart of masculine value systems was thus not unique among Russian artists, but his realist facility was to have perhaps the most profound effects on those who saw his works.84 For in the wake of the tsar’s murder and the death of the beloved composer, thousands flocked to the exhibition which contained Repin’s latest painting. There was such a crush around Musorgsky’s portrait that it was actually knocked to the floor several times.85 Repin’s old friend Ivan Kramskoi was especially affected by the work. The art critic Vladimir Stasov described the impression it made on the artist: “Kramskoi simply sighed in amazement. After the first seconds he grabbed a stool and sat in front of the portrait, in line with the face, and did not leave it for ages. ‘What Repin has done here,’ he said, ‘is simply inconceivable … what a work!’”86 Three years later, Kramskoi would try to create a work centered on a wounded man of his own.

Coda, an Unfinished Painting First displayed in an exhibition in December of 1887, the history painting that Kramskoi began in 1884, just as Repin was embarking on Ivan the Terrible, has become known as Herodias before the Head of John the Baptist [Plate 6.4]. It depicts one of the most sadistic of all Bible heroines, a woman who used her

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


daughter, Salome, to revenge herself on John the Baptist by demanding his head in exchange for a dance Salome performed for King Herod. Very little is known about why Kramskoi was originally drawn to the subject. He did not mention the painting outright in any of his published letters and he was ultimately never able to finish the canvas he started. The work seems to have been the last in an odd series of works on Christian subjects which held personal significance for him.87 The one immediately preceding it had been in progress for five years before Kramskoi abandoned it, still unfinished, in 1882. Consistently referred to simply as Laughter in his letters, it was not until 1877 that the artist struck upon the title Hail, King of the Jews, which seemed to last.88 In correspondence, Kramskoi described his desire to depict Christ’s persecution through the mocking laughter of a mob-like crowd. In 1872, he wrote to the artist Fëdor Vasilev: “This laughter has been haunting me for several years now. It is not that hard [ne to tiazhelo], not that hard, but then it’s hard, that they are laughing.”89 Then in 1874, he wrote to Repin, describing how such laughter had been plaguing him: “I don’t know how it is for you, but for years now I keep hearing this laughter everywhere. Wherever I go, I will surely hear it. I have to do this, I can’t move on with what is next without making a clean sweep of it.”90 Before embarking on Laughter and the later Herodias, Kramskoi had managed to complete the first and most famous of his religious works, the Christ in the Wilderness of 1872, a work which was also personal for him and brought him into contact with none other than Vsevolod Garshin (see Figure 4.9). In correspondence with the writer, who was profoundly interested in the meaning of the work, Kramskoi referred to the picture as “an expression of my personal thoughts.”91 The painting of Christ was to be the only religious canvas of the three that Kramskoi was able to finish, although it too caused him certain problems. In the early twentieth century, Alexandre Benois asserted that Kramskoi did not know what he wanted to communicate with the painting. Relying on correspondence, Benois claimed: “When Garshin asked him what he wanted to express with his Christ, the answer he gave was so tortuous, confused, and vague that one could only infer one thing from this explanation, namely that Kramskoi himself didn’t really know why he had chosen this theme, and what kind of a spiritual relationship it had to Christ in any case.”92 If Christ in the Wilderness was a fraught painting, one that mirrored Kramskoi’s feelings as the Artel of Artists dissolved in the late 1860s, and Laughter was his attempt at ridding himself of critical demons, then Herodias was to be the most tortured of them all. No other work by the painter reached the level of indecision that characterized this canvas.


Picturing Russia’s Men

Herodias is racked by doubt and reluctance, but its unfinish is actually of a strange variety.93 Kramskoi did not hesitate to put paint down in the work, in fact nowhere is bare canvas showing. The paint has in sections been built up quite thickly, yet the forms still seem to shift within a pocket of irresolution. Shades of murky rust occupy much of the foreground; he seems to have laid that down first. This underpainting the color of dried blood penetrates everything: it runs along the left side of the canvas, beneath the sheer fabric of the skirt and nearby table, and underneath the dark blue curtain on the right. That ruddy underpainting tinges the gloomy fabric with purple in places where the blue was not painted thickly enough to resist the red bleeding through. That whole area is like an old bruise, the lack of finish making the fabric swell and ripple with color flushing up from below. Out of this underpainting forms emerge, albeit haltingly. This is not unfinish of the kind that is visible in Ivanov’s Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, where contours are shifting because the angles of bodies were constantly amended. Kramskoi’s handling of Herodias’s limbs actually has a strong surety to it. The serpentine line of her booted foot—a slick smear of unadulterated red with a sliver of burgundy placed underneath—easily delineates the foot’s protruding roundness without any hesitation. Beyond this though, her body is a baffling improvisation. Kramskoi does not seem to have been able to quite realize her corporeally. She is both too big and too squat and her compactness is at war with what reads as a kind of surly brawniness. The monumentality of her arms paradoxically confronts the fragility of the skin stretched over them. And there is so much red everywhere: in the drapery slung across the barrier in the foreground, comprising the boot encasing her slender foot, swelling up from underneath her diaphanous skirt. A body burns beneath that thin garment, with touches of gold licking at the surface like flames. There are further splotches of vermillion in the foreground table and then there is that swirling square of crimson right at the center. Inside it, sweeps of oxblood run next to thin swirls of scarlet, neither forming a recognizable object, instead sinking into little more than indeterminate abstraction. The only thing that does seem resolved in the work is the Baptist’s grotesque head [Figure 6.5]. Never has flesh been so heavy or bound by the laws of gravity. That head is as finely painted as anything Kramskoi ever brought to completion, but its vividness is terrifying. The gradations of color are astounding: a silvery gray for his sunken eye sockets, lavender for those barely parted lips, then shades of pistachio, almost lime green across the nose, with tinges of olive and moss in the chin. Never has flesh looked more fragile and organic. The set of the jaw and

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


Figure 6.5  Ivan Kramskoi, Herodias (detail), 1884–6 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 142 × 118 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Author’s photograph, 2018

unevenness of the eyelids tell us more about rigor mortis than we might ever want to know. The softness and clarity of the severed head, its presentness if you will, exist in impossible tension with the indeterminacy all around it. That head belongs too much to the world and its specificity spills out onto everything near it. The white fabric and ornamental carvings on the gold platter supporting the head are intricately painted, as is a thick drop of blood that has not had time to sink into the cloth below. The usual strategies of representation are of course going to fail here. Perhaps above all because none of the normal signs of femininity would do for Herodias. Her sadism made her beyond her gender—as did her power. She needed to be both represented and resisted, both alluring and disgusting. Herodias is a far cry from the depictions Kramskoi made of his wife and daughter in the previous two decades, but she is still not entirely unsympathetic. In many ways, Herodias seems to reflect popular interest in the women who were joining Russian revolutionary


Picturing Russia’s Men

movements in the 1870s; her depiction may even echo the murderous actions of specific female terrorists from the period. Women like Sofia Perovskaia had captured the public imagination after taking part in numerous attempts on the tsar’s life between 1879 and 1881. Similar to Herodias, Perovskaia did not commit any killings herself, instead she helped plot attacks and ultimately participated in the successful assassination of Alexander II by giving signals to those with the bombs using her white handkerchief.94 Kramskoi may also have been inspired by the even more terrifying example of Vera Zasulich, who had walked into the office of the governor of St. Petersburg in 1877 and shot him in front of a room full of witnesses. She would ultimately be found not guilty in a muchpublicized trial before managing to flee Russia so that she could avoid being retried.95 Throughout the decade that preceded Kramskoi’s work on Herodias, such revolutionary women loomed large in the public imagination, inspiring suspicion and anxiety among male writers as it became clear that rebellion against patriarchal structures was devolving into increasingly radical action. Thus, while Repin was grappling with how to paint a historical subject such that it reflected recent terrifying events, Kramskoi was attempting his own transmutation of the politics of the day. Both men were seeking a way to represent what Repin had called “the horrors of contemporary life,” but Kramskoi would ultimately be forced to move in a different direction. For violence was not posited in his work as a power struggle between a father and son, or a man with himself, but as a battle between a man and a woman. And unlike Repin’s painting of a raging father who has killed his son, Kramskoi’s painting is unmistakably a depiction of a man killed by a woman—an inversion of the usual power dynamic within the traditional gender order. Consequently, Kramskoi had to confront us with Herodias’s body as a female body, yet somehow displace the signs of the feminine elsewhere. He had to scatter their threat throughout the painting, dispersing them in order to lessen their influence. But the feminine was already present in the work. It was there in the decimated woundedness of John. The man without a body by default became the strongest token of the female in the painting because he was configured there entirely as a wound, as the symbol of womanly weakness par excellence. In figuring a man in this way—a Biblical hero moreover—Kramskoi disrupted the gender identities that patriarchy held in such fragile balance. The masculine could not be figured as a wound, but in this painting (and Repin’s) he was. John’s figuration as utter weakness made the whole painterly realm he occupied unstable. The devastation wrought on his male body feminized him, much like Garshin and Musorgsky before him, making him indicative of the larger gender

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


disruptions then occurring in Russian society. In Kramskoi’s painting, the severed head became a synecdoche for the masculine body as now irremediably castrated, of the injury that is the mark of the female in its most supreme guise. This rupture would come to spill out onto everything. It destroyed all hope of symbolic unity and all potential for finish. That bloody red spread everywhere and made the entire pictorial field evocative of the wound that is sign woman, yet here configured as utterly male. Herodias. Ivan the Terrible. Garshin. Musorgsky. All were canvases that centered on wounded men—each laid low in their own way. Each harkened back to that incendiary moment when the tsar’s body was ripped open on the streets of Petersburg. He too was robbed of the standard emblems of masculine invulnerability as the bomb rendered him corporeally decimated beyond repair. These paintings all portrayed men who failed to emblematize the kind of strength and control which were supposedly reserved for them as men. The representations of them as depressed, or addicted, or wounded—and therefore vulnerable—made them beyond their gender, although of course they all still lingered amongst the now-exploded remnants of the old system. For Kramskoi, the tension brought about by such disintegration proved too great and Herodias remained unfinished when he died on March 24, 1887. Repin saw the painting in Kramskoi’s workshop a few months later and he immediately wrote to Pavel Tretiakov, begging him to buy it. Repin claimed he could not get the picture out of his head, stating that it had made a “profound impression” on him.96 Perhaps Repin saw an echo of his own striving to embody truth in the late canvas left behind by his old friend. Both men grappled with modernity in their painting practice and, through it, came to reckon with their own fragility as men. One year later, on the exact same day that Kramskoi died, Garshin would also pass. During a bout of acute depression, he threw himself down a flight of stairs.97 In the days after, Repin met a friend who had arrived at the bottom of the landing in the wake of Garshin’s suicidal act. He described the writer’s painful screaming, the awfulness of his broken legs, and the terrible remorse Garshin felt when he saw the suffering of all those dear to him.98 The story must have evoked that awful day when the tsar’s body laid shattered on the city streets. Garshin would die five days later and he was buried in the Volkovo Cemetery in Petersburg. His final resting place was not far from where Pavel Fedotov, Alexander Ivanov, and Ivan Kramskoi had all been buried. Each man left behind artworks which disclose the values for masculinity which characterized his era. Sometimes their paintings demonstrated that the ideals


Picturing Russia’s Men

for male comportment were paradoxical in nature, making it nearly impossible for men like Briullov and Fedotov to succeed as men when the larger social and political structures were in constant flux around them. In other instances, the lives of artists revealed the spectrum of masculinities which co-existed in Russian culture over the course of the nineteenth century. In the case of Ivanov and Kramskoi, this meant exploring the often intensely contentious desires which comprised their search for satisfaction in matters of friendship, love, and sexuality. Both of these men sought gratification in their relationships but had to find such fulfillment while also negotiating the narrow standards which bound them. Then the representations which Repin made in the 1880s captured the demise of gender ideologies that had long asserted men’s invulnerability, finally laying bare the hollow core of such fantasies. Contemporary life affected all of these painters intensely and the art each man produced serves as a lingering testament to the profound conflict then burgeoning between the masculinity of the past and the modernity that was ushering in the future.

Notes 1






I. E. Repin to I. N. Kramskoi, January 1, 1874, Paris, in Ilia Repin, I. Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma. 1867–1930, ed. I. A. Brodskii (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Iskusstvo, 1969), 1:103. The painting was originally titled Filicide, but, as David Jackson has pointed out, was likely changed to avoid censorship. See The Wanderers and Critical Realism in Nineteenth-Century Russian Painting (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), 106. Lynn Ellen Patyk, Written in Blood: Revolutionary Terrorism and Russian Literary Culture, 1861–1881 (Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), 248. For more on the first attempt, see Claudia Verhoeven, The Odd Man Karakozov: Imperial Russia, Modernity, and the Birth of Terrorism (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2009). The further attempts are recounted in Michael Kemp, Bombs, Bullets and Bread: The Politics of Anarchist Terrorism Worldwide, 1866–1926 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2018), 11. Richard S. Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy from Peter the Great to the Abdication of Nicholas II (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013), 241. Alison Rowley, “Dark Tourism and the Death of Russian Emperor Alexander II, 1881–1891,” Historian 79, no. 2 (Summer 2017): 229.

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


Quoted in Edvard Radzinsky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (New York: The Free Press, 2005), 415. 8 Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra: The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (New York: Modern Library, 2012), 17. 9 Repin’s movements can be reconstructed from his letters. He wrote to Kramskoi from Moscow, where he was then living, on February 16, 1881, then to Tretiakov from St. Petersburg on February 27. He remained there and wrote to Surkiov on March 3, but then was back in Moscow to write to Stasov on March 18. See Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 244–7. 10 Archives of the Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg, fond 25, 1, 27, 1.1. Quoted in Jackson, The Wanderers and Critical Realism, 105. 11 Molly Brunson, “Painting History, Realistically: Murder at the Tretiakov,” in From Realism to the Silver Age: New Studies in Russian Artistic Culture: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, eds. Rosalind Polly Blakesley and Margaret Samu (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014), 98. 12 Jackson, The Wanderers and Critical Realism, 108. 13 Fan Parker and Stephen Jan Parker, Russia on Canvas: Ilya Repin (University Park and London: Pennsylvania University Press, 1980), 83. 14 Rectus (P. Gnedich), “XIII peredvizhnaia vystavka,” S. Peterburgskie vedemosti, no. 46 (February 16/28, 1885): 1. Quoted in Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, Ilya Repin and the World of Russian Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 122. 15 I. N. Kramskoi to A. S. Suvorin, January 21, 1885, in Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, i khudozhestvenno-kriticheskiia stati, 1837–1887, ed. Aleksei Suvorin (St. Petersburg, A. Suvorin, 1888), 510. 16 Konstantin Pobedonostsev to Alexander III, February 15, 1885, in K. P. Pobedonostsev i ego korrespondenti (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo, 1923), 1:498. Quoted in Jackson, The Wanderers and Critical Realism, 107. The original Russian for “the sense of naked realism” in Pobedonostsev’s text is: “s chuvstvom gologo realizma” and “in such total realism” reads in the original: “vo vsei real’nosti.” It is worth noting that Dmitrii Sarabyanov’s translator rendered these lines slightly differently. She used “bare realism” and “startling realism” respectively. See Sarabyanov, Ilya Repin, trans. Xenia Danko (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955), 49. 17 Christopher E. Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West: Gender, Civilization and the Body (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 52. 18 Quoted in Sarabyanov, Ilya Repin, 45–6. 19 I. E. Repin to L. N. Tolstoy, November 19, 1880, Moscow, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 241. He also wrote to Kramskoi claiming he was “sick of Moscow.” See I. E. Repin to I. N. Kramskoi, February 4, 1881, Moscow, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 242. 20 Valkenier, Ilya Repin and the World of Russian Art, 107–8. 21 Ibid., 107. This estimate for his annual budget is comparable to what Kramskoi claimed he needed per annum in the same period. In a letter to Pavel Tretiakov 7


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written on January 12, 1883, Kramskoi broke down his monthly needs as follows: 500 rubles for daily expenses, 200 for the apartment, 100 rubles for teachers and tutors for his children, and 200 that “one should always have in reserve,” thus stating he needed 12,000 rubles annually. See Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 454. 22 Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 110. 23 Ibid., 108. 24 I. E. Repin to V. G. Chertkov, July 3, 1889, Paris, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 362–3. 25 I. E. Repin to A. V. Zhirkevich, August 8, 1888, Petersburg, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 352–3. 26 I. E. Repin to P. M. Tretiakov, November 4, 1883, in Perepiska s P. M. Tretiakovym, 1873–1898 (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1946), 79. See also the letter from Stasov to the sculptor Mark Antokolskii quoted in S. A. Prorokova, Repin (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1960), 254. These tensions may also have partly motivated the trip Repin took with Stasov through Europe in 1883. The two visited Paris, Madrid, Rome, Munich, and Holland between April and June. 27 As Elizabeth Valkenier points out, only a few heavily excerpted letters to Elizaveta Zvantseva (with whom Repin had an affair after his separation from his wife) have been published. See Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 108 and 216 (note 13). The letters Repin sent to the actress Polina Strepetova (who he also painted twice in 1881–2) also had sections removed when they were published in the 1960s, leading me to believe they may contain references to an affair as well. See I. E. Repin to P. A. Strepetova, June 4, 1881, Khotkovo, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 257. Greater study of the letters in the archives is needed to determine the extent of Repin’s liaisons, although we do know that he sired three illegitimate children over the course of his life. 28 Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 108. 29 Brunson cites Vera’s unpublished memoirs (Nauchno-bibliograficheskii arkhiv Akademii khudozhestv, fond “Penaty,” A-1, K-1, op. 54, XVII) in her essay on the painting. See Brunson, “Painting History, Realistically,” in From Realism to the Silver Age, 101 and note 38. See also Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 83. 30 Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 83. 31 Quoted in Sarabyanov, Ilya Repin, 45–6. 32 Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 82–3. 33 Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, “The Writer as Artist’s Model: Repin’s Portrait of Garshin,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 28 (1993): 210. 34 Robert D. Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin, the Russian Intelligentsia, and Fan Hysteria,” in Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture, eds. Angela Brintlinger and Ilya Vinitsky (Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press, 2015), 82. 35 V. S. Bibikov, Rasskazy (St. Petersburg, 1888), 349–50. D. Garin, “Moia edinstvennaia vstrecha s Garshinym,” Al’bov et el. Section 1: 29–30. Both described in Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 82.

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


36 Ilia Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe (Moscow: Iskusstva, 1964), 389. 37 Bibikov, Rasskazy, 350. Quoted in Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 84. 38 Valkenier, “The Writer as Artist’s Model,” 210. 39 Garshin was told he suffered from “cyclic psychosis.” All of these biographical details are outlined in Vsevolod Garshin at the Turn of the Century: An International Symposium in Three Volumes, eds. Peter Henry, Vladimir Porudominsky, and Mikhail Girshman (Oxford: Northgate Press, 2000), 1:14–15. 40 Alevtina Kuzicheva, “‘And Suddenly My Star Has Faded’: On the Psychology of Garshin’s Creative Work,” in Vsevolod Garshin at the Turn of the Century, 80. 41 Mukhin, “Neirasteniia i degeneratsiia,” Arkhiv psikhiatrii no. 1 (1888): 49, 67. Quoted in Irina Sirotkina, Diagnosing Literary Genius: A Cultural History of Psychiatry in Russia, 1880–1930 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 126. 42 Lakhtin, “Patologicheskii al’truizm v literature i zhizni,” Voprosy nevrologii i psikhiatrii 7 (1912): 294. Quoted in Sirotkina, Diagnosing Literary Genius, 127. 43 I. A. Sikorskii, “Uspekhi russkogo khudozhestvennogo tvorchestva: Rech’ v torzhestvennom zasedanii II-go s’ezda otechestvennykh psikhiatrov v Kieve,” Voprosy nervno-psikhicheskoi meditsiny 3 (1905): 497. Quoted in Sirotkina, Diagnosing Literary Genius, 137. 44 Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 77. 45 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 389. 46 I. E. Repin to P. M. Tretiakov, March 8, 1883, Petersburg, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 275. 47 I. E. Repin to N. I. Murashko, November 30, 1883, Petersburg, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 292. 48 V. M. Garshin to his mother E. S. Garshina, March 15, 1884, in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii. III, Pis’ma, ed. Iu. G. Oksman (Moscow/Leningrad, 1934), 315–16. Quoted in Valkenier, “The Writer as Artist’s Model,” 211. 49 “A Talk with Ilya Repin,” Russkoe Slovo (January 17, 1913). Quoted in Grigori Sternin and Jelena Kirillina, Ilya Repin (New York: Parkstone Press, 2013), 108. 50 Jackson, “Writer and Artist in a Creative Relationship,” in Garshin at the Turn of the Century, 2:103. 51 Sometimes he would walk Garshin back to his apartment, but they would often stroll back and forth along Petergofskii Prospekt, the artist too fascinated by the argument to depart. See Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 390. 52 James A. Bezant, “Vsevolod Michailovitch Garshine” [sic], Proceedings of the AngloRussian Literary Society (A.R.L.S.), xx–xxvi, no. 23 (1898–99): 44. Quoted in Peter Henry, “James Aaron Bezant, Garshin’s English Friend,” in Garshin at the Turn of the Century, 1:58. 53 Ibid. 54 Repin, Dalekoe blizkoe, 391.


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55 Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 78. 56 Iakov Abramov, “Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin (Materialy dlia biografii),” in Pamiati V. M. Garshina, khudozhestvenno-literaturnyi sbornik, eds. Ia. V. Abramov et al. (St. Petersburg: V. I. Stein, 1889), 60. Quoted in Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 78. 57 N. V. Reiegardt, “Dve vstrechi,” in Krasnyi tsvetok. Literaturnyi sbornik v pamiat’ Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshina, eds. M. Al’bov, K. Barantsevich, and V. Likhachev (St. Petersburg: Tip. I. N. Skorokhodova, 1889), section 1:59. Quoted in Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 78. 58 Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 80. 59 Reiegardt, “Dve vstrechi,” in Krasnyi tsvetok, 56. Quoted in Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 80. 60 Jackson, “Writer and Artist in a Creative Relationship,” in Garshin at the Turn of the Century, 2:103. 61 I. Grabar, I. E. Repin (Moscow, 1937), 2:460. 62 Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 111. 63 Scholars also consistently highlight the function of the portraits in terms of their resonance with larger social concerns rising to the fore at the time. Grigori Sternin and Jelena Kirillina describe this as the quality by which “Repin’s interest in the social conditions of nineteenth-century Russia drove him to transcribe reality without the slightest compromise.” See Sternin and Kirillina, Ilya Repin, 149. Dmitrii Sarabyanov argues along similar lines, calling the portrait of Musorgsky “an embodied query about contemporary life grinding down man and binding his creative energies.” See Sarabyanov, Ilya Repin, 39. 64 Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 90. 65 M. Musorgsky, Pis’ma i dokumenty (Moscow, 1932), 251. Quoted in Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 45. 66 V. V. Stasov to D. V. Stasov, July 31, 1876, Stasov Archives, Institute of Russian Literature. Quoted in Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 45. 67 Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 63. 68 David Brown, Musorgsky: His Life and Works (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 5. 69 Ibid. 70 Solomon Volkov, St. Petersburg: A Cultural History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 87. 71 I. E. Repin to V. V. Stasov, February 16, 1881, Moscow, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 243. 72 Parker and Parker, Russia on Canvas, 63. 73 I. E. Repin to V. V. Stasov, March 26, 1881, Moscow, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 249. 74 These details can be found in David Jackson, The Russian Vision (Schoten: BAI, 2006), 184.

Ilia Repin: On Masculine Vulnerability


75 Quoted in Harold C. Schonberg, The Lives of the Great Composers, 3rd ed. (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1997), 359. 76 Patricia Herlihy, The Alcoholic Empire: Vodka and Politics in Late Imperial Russia (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 8. 77 August von Haxthausen, Studies on the Interior of Russia, ed. S. Frederick Starr (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 211. Quoted in Herlihy, The Alcoholic Empire, 5. 78 D. G. Bulgakovskii, Gore goremychnoe (Moscow, 1911), 14. Quoted in Herlihy, The Alcoholic Empire, 7–8. 79 Herlihy, The Alcoholic Empire, 9. 80 For more on discussions of treatments, see ibid., 36–51. 81 From Repin’s letters to A. N. Rimsky-Korsakov, 1927, in M. P. Musorgsky. Pis’ma i dokumenty, ed. A. N. Rimsky-Korsakov (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. Muzykal’noe iz., 1932), 252–3. Quoted in Valkenier, Repin and the World of Russian Art, 99. 82 Volkov, St Petersburg, 88. 83 Rosalind Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 297. 84 This idea of “the vacant center of masculinity” is borrowed from Norman Bryson’s discussion of Géricault’s military paintings. See “Géricault and ‘Masculinity,’” in Visual Culture: Images and Interpretation, eds. Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 245. 85 I. E. Repin to V. V. Stasov, April 12, 1881, Moscow, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 251. 86 V. V. Stasov, “Portrait Musorgskogo,” in Izbrannye sochineniia v trekh tomakh: zhivopis’, skul’ptura, muzyka (Moscow: Gos. Izd-vo Iskusstvo, 1952), 2:120. First published in Golos, no. 76 (March 17, 1881). Quoted in Jackson, The Russian Vision, 186. 87 There had also been an early religious work that Kramskoi completed while still a student at the Academy—Prayer of Moses after the Israelites Crossed the Red Sea (1861, The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk)—but it was not a depiction from the time of Christ like the later three canvases. 88 Walther K. Lang, “The ‘Atheism’ of Jesus in Russian Art: Representations of Christ by Ivan Kramskoi, Vasily Polenov, and Nikolai Ghe,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 2, Issue 3 (Autumn 2003), accessed October 4, 2016, http://www.19thcartworldwide.org/autumn03/73-autumn03/autumn03article/272-the-qatheismqof-jesus-in-russian-art-representations-of-christ-by-ivan-nikolevich-kramskoyvasily-polenov-and-nikolai-ghe. The unfinished work is in the collection of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. 89 I. N. Kramskoi to Fëdor Vasilev, December 1, 1872, in Ivan Kramskoi, Perepiska I. N. Kramskogo (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Iskusstvo, 1954), 2:112. 90 I. N. Kramskoi to Ilia Repin, January 6, 1874, St. Petersburg, in Kramskoi: ego zhizn, 195.


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91 I. N. Kramskoi, Pis’ma. 1876–1887 (Leningrad and Moscow, 1937), 2:140–2. Quoted in Irina Punina, Peterburgskaia Artel’ khudozhnikov (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1966), 65–6. For more on this work, see my discussion of it at the end of Chapter 4. 92 Alexander Benois, Istoriia russkoi zhivopisi v XIX veke (Moscow: Respublika, 1999, 3rd ed.; orig. ed. 1902), 258. Quoted in Lang, “The ‘Atheism’ of Jesus in Russian Art,” n.p. 93 Lack of finish tends to be under-examined in art history, as though all incomplete paintings are of a similar variety at least formally. The reasons artists fail to bring paintings to a state of completion vary of course, the context for their abandonment differs, but most would say unfinished is unfinished in the end. There actually tends to be a great variety to be found in unfinished works from a formal standpoint, however, and I believe Kramskoi’s Herodias is unfinished in a particularly fascinating way. 94 Edvard Radzinsky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar, trans. Antonina W. Bouis (New York and London: Free Press, 2006), 412. 95 Five Sisters: Women against the Tsar, eds. Barbara Alpern Engel and Clifford N. Rosenthal (New York and London: Routledge, 1992), xxix. 96 I. E. Repin to P. M. Tretiakov, May 4, 1887, Petersburg, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 320. 97 Wessling, “Vsevolod Garshin,” in Madness and the Mad, 76. 98 I. E. Repin to V. G. Chertkov, April 14, 1888, Petersburg, in Repin, Izbrannye Pis’ma, 345.


Our artist remains a riddle, as ephemeral as a woman. Vissarion Belinskii1 Over an eighteen-month period beginning in 1848, the Russian writer Alexander Herzen composed a sequence of essays which came to be published under the title From the Other Shore. In the eight sections which comprise the book, Herzen evaluated the effects which the failure of the European revolutions of 1848 had on contemporary men. For him, the years around mid-century were ones of tremendous promise but also bitter disillusionment, and they reflected the larger “struggle between conscience and the passions” which he believed characterized life in the era.2 He made an explicit declaration along these lines in the work’s introduction, addressed to his son: Do not look for solutions in this book—there are none; in general modern man has no solutions. What is solved is finished, and the coming upheaval is only beginning. We do not build, we destroy; we do not proclaim a new revelation, we eliminate the old lie. Modern man, that melancholy Pontifex Maximus [great bridge builder (Latin)], only puts a bridge in place—it will be for the unknown man of the future to pass over it.3

According to Herzen, what constituted “modern man” was not something that could be resolved. There were no solutions to be found in his book and the men of his time had no answers to offer more generally anyway.4 I have argued, in opposition to Herzen, that the men of the nineteenth century, in particular those who were artists, offered many solutions to the riddles of the period. As a study of masculinity in Russia during the nineteenth century, this book sought to reveal the discontent of Herzen’s “modern man.” By assessing representations of him, evaluating the circumstances from which he grew, and considering the words he used to describe himself (and those around him), this research sought answers to some of the pressing questions


Picturing Russia’s Men

of the period. How did men picture themselves and those around them? How did they relate to one another within domestic settings and in professional groups? What were men’s lives like as they negotiated the responsibilities of work and family? What comprised men’s relationships with women and how did the opposite sex help constitute men’s sense of themselves? What specific organizations, as well as larger social and political systems, structured men’s lives? And, perhaps most profoundly, what were men’s desires, aspirations, and fears in this historical moment? Did most find fulfillment in the settled versions of manhood prescribed to them or did a significant majority find such exhortations stifling? Each chapter tackled one or more of these interrelated questions and provided answers by exploring artworks and the lives of the painters who made them. Each artist under consideration thus became the kind of “great bridge builder” that Herzen described. Nineteenth-century men acted as a conduit by which I traced the clash between long-standing models of masculinity and newer versions that came into conflict with them back to their origins. For the age which preceded our own was one of unprecedented development and achievement, but the modernity which both constituted it and brought it about also transformed the human condition. The continual change which characterized the nineteenth century ushered in previously unheard-of levels of opportunity, but was also marred by a rise in masculine apathy in the face of that very hope. Furthermore, the years under scrutiny were especially turbulent ones in Russia; they encapsulated a period that began with invasion by a Western tyrant and ended with the very bloody and public murder of a sovereign. All in all, my objective in writing this book was to re-examine assumptions currently held about the past in order to better approach the future. Just as Herzen believed modern man would build a bridge for coming generations to pass over, so too does the art historian carve a path toward what is coming. In this sense, the work contributes to the growing body of scholarship within men’s studies and an effort to revitalize such analyses within art history specifically. The 1990s saw a spate of research on male gender identity arise in the domain of visual culture and it became popular throughout this period to assess what was referred to as the “crisis in masculinity,” a phenomenon perceived to have occurred especially in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France.5 Some art historians defended the worth of this crisis model, calling it “useful as an historical category” and stating that its value lies in the fact that it “sheds light on what has been at stake in the normal” and makes clear that “what is taken as natural is often liable to break down.”6



Others questioned the value of such discourses of crisis, however, and began resisting the construct or altering its parameters. Abigail Solomon-Godeau stated that “crises in masculinity are neither unprecedented nor exceptional” and Martin Berger declared that he too was “leery of the ways in which a crisis presupposes gender as otherwise stable.”7 For Berger, manliness is “always under construction” and the invocation of a “crisis” plaguing males in any given period posits too much that the pressures men experienced were “unprecedented” or “exceptional.”8 More recently, the art historian James Smalls wrote: “In more cases than not, the ‘masculinity in crisis’ contention has become a convenient arthistorical fallback to hide very complex and often ambiguous and contradictory social, political and psychological changes manifested through various forms of visual and non-visual representation.”9 In line with these scholars, I have generally avoided evoking the idea of a “crisis in masculinity” throughout the book. Looking at men’s history shows that no one period is “uniquely tumultuous and troubling for beleaguered male egos” and that ideologies of manliness have always, to a greater or lesser extent, resulted in conflict and pressure.10 In the standard gender crisis model, masculinity is too casually presented as one side of a binary in a state of fragmentation, dissolving in the face of an aggressive new female sexuality. The reality is much more complicated, and Picturing Russia’s Men sought to unpack this paradigm by demonstrating the ways that manhood was continually navigated and re-defined across the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, research into changes within masculine experience and gender identity has failed to receive consistent attention since the spate of intellectual production which took place in the 1990s and scholarship on masculinity within art history has waned in recent years.11 Likewise, in the field of Russian studies, several important books on the topic of men appeared in the first decade of the twenty-first century, yet most recent work has focused on the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.12 While historians have long recognized the role that art played in the substantiation of qualities for desirable femininity, the manner in which iconographies of the masculine developed has received significantly less consideration. Among both Slavicists and art historians, writing on gender remains largely concentrated on the experiences of women, while the study of men has returned mainly to the sectors from which it originated, most conspicuously sociology and psychology. At the same time, it has become more common for feminist theorists to express hostility toward the study of masculinity by arguing that such investigations constitute a potential slight to the feminist agenda.13 Again, James Smalls provides insight into this conflict: “Some feminists have grown suspicious of academic inquiries into masculinity,


Picturing Russia’s Men

contending that explorations into how it operates are unnecessary due to the fact that master narratives within academic disciplines such as art history and literature are already dominated by the theories and ideas of men.”14 Nevertheless, many historians have argued for the value inherent in studying male identity, specifically citing the important dimensions such reciprocity adds to our understanding of power dynamics between the sexes. The historian Natalie Zemon Davis addressed the matter succinctly back in 1975: “It seems to me that we should be interested in the history of both women and men, that we should not be working only on the subjected sex any more than an historian of class can focus entirely on peasants. Our goal is to understand the significance of the sexes, of gender groups in the historical past.”15 More recently, John Tosh argued that “the gendered study of men must be indispensable to any serious feminist historical project.”16 Along the lines indicated by these two scholars, I have built a historical narrative in this book which fully embodied men, in a way that echoes feminist writing which sought to re-inscribe women’s experiences into the canon. Both endeavors create new knowledge of the past and build systems for understanding “social relations as a whole.”17 By exploring masculinity in the context of painting, Picturing Russia’s Men also asked specific questions about the relationship between art and experience and probed whether the images produced by a given generation reveal facets of the past that perhaps no other cultural sector can. Contemplating the kind of historical truths that artworks contain was a preoccupation of thinkers in the nineteenth century as well, and many theorists sought to discover whether visual experience could be relied upon to access inviolate certainties. In the 1840s, the literary critic Vissarion Belinskii noted that writers and artists were suddenly turning to the reproduction of “life and reality in their truth” and in the following decade Nikolai Chernyshevskii began discussing how the truth revealed in history was directly related to the kind of “psychological and moral truth” he saw in art.18 Art critics also described the facticity they saw burgeoning in the works of specific artists. In 1849, a writer for Sovremennik noted that in Fedotov’s canvases: “idealization was replaced by the representation of real phenomena in their entire fullness and truth.”19 Around that same time in France, it was said that Gustave Courbet “loved truth too much” and that such adoration was evident in his paintings.20 Artists themselves also wrote of their desire to represent modern life honestly. Repin sought to embody his ideas “in truth” and stated repeatedly that “above everything else stands truth to life.”21 All of this has been explored by a range of theorists as what constituted the movement of realism in both art and



literature. Linda Nochlin characterized the aims of this program as centered on the desire “to give a truthful, objective and impartial representation of the real world” and feminist historians since have built on her scholarship to determine the implications such depictions had for understanding the lives of women.22 Herzen too was interested in the implications of artistic and literary realism and once claimed that he had “no interest except the truth” and sought to express it as it appeared to him. I too have sought to reconstruct, as truthfully as possible, the way life felt in the nineteenth century—how men in one distinct culture made sense of their lives as they negotiated the pressures which typified their experiences. I opened the book with photographs of the five artists whose paintings were the most intensely studied within it, so that their lived presence might resound throughout the chapters. Sometimes in art history, the very real human beings behind the artworks under investigation seem to be forgotten, but probing the intersection of masculinity and modernity demanded keeping the men behind the canvases vividly present as I sought the life held captive in their pictures. In so doing, I hoped to bring to the fore several voices which have rarely resounded outside of Russia such that hearing them might construct a fuller history of modernity than has existed thus far. Now I want to end by quoting one more section of Herzen’s From the Other Shore. It in many ways embodies the connections I have drawn between the artists in this study and the time in which they lived. For Herzen, man could not but reflect his environment and I maintain that the art men produced likewise should not be disentangled from the epoch in which it was made. The dependence of man on his environment and his epoch is indubitable. It is all the stronger for half the ties being fastened outside his consciousness. There is the physiological tie against which the will and the brain can rarely struggle; there is the hereditary element which comes to us, like our facial features, at birth, and which constitutes the link between the present generation and all those that have gone before; then there is the physiologicomoral element, education, which grafts man on to history and the present day … The environment into which a man is born, the epoch in which he lives lead him to participate in whatever is happening around him, to continue what was begun by his fathers; it is natural that he should become attached to that which surrounds him, for he cannot but reflect in and through himself his times and his environment.23

Along similar lines, one cannot analyze gender with any degree of rigor or specificity without fleshing out the bonds between men’s individual lives and the socio-political structures which contained them. And no scholarly account


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should seek to anesthetize the lived, and often painful, realities lurking behind artistic creations for the sake of scientific objectivity or historical rationalism. In assessing the paintings of a select group of Russian artists from the nineteenth century, I sought the life encapsulated in their pictures and the truth that can be drawn from texts and images as fragments of humanity. In looking back, I crossed the bridge that Herzen described and examined the images men left behind—from self-portraits, depictions of comrades, and académies, to images of wives, portrayals of children, and tortured history paintings—all in order to challenge the enduring myths of masculinity which constitute so much writing on modernism. Picturing Russia’s men in this way meant collapsing the space of the past with that of the present and bearing witness to the discontent that arose among men as they traversed modernity’s volatile, and often perilous, new terrain.

Notes on-inskii [V. G. Belinskii], “Khudozhnik T. m. f. a.,” Molva, part IX, no. 24–26 (1835): 401–3. Quoted in Katia Dianina, “The Making of an Artist as National Hero: The Great Karl Briullov and His Critical Fortunes,” Slavic Review 77, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 131. 2 Herzen, From the Other Shore, trans. Moura Budberg (London: Library of Ideas, 1956), 137. 3 Ibid., 3. Translation modified slightly. 4 The Russian word he used when he described “solutions in this book” was reshenie—which can refer to solutions, answers, or even decisions. 5 Aside from those works cited in the introduction or elsewhere in this conclusion, art historical studies from the 1990s which centered on masculinity include: Gillian Perry, Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture (1994); Thelma Golden, Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (1994); Hebert Sussman, Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art (1995); and In Visible Touch: Modernism and Masculinity, ed. Terry Smith (1997). 6 Satish Padiyar, “Crisis? What Crisis?” Art History 21, no. 2 (June 1998): 276. 7 Solomon-Godeau, Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 21. Berger, Man Made: Thomas Eakins and the Construction of Gilded Age Manhood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 10. 8 Berger, Man Made, 10. 1

Conclusion 9







James Smalls, “In Bed with Marat: (Un)Doing Masculinity,” in Interior Portraiture and Masculine Identity in France, 1789–1914, eds. Temma Balducci, Heather Belnap Jensen, and Pamela J. Warner (New York: Routledge, 2010), 149. Harry Brod, “The Case for Men’s Studies,” in The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies, ed. Harry Brod (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1987), 46. I also agree with Raewyn Connell’s assessment that if masculinity is to be understood as “a configuration of practice within a system of gender relations,” then we “cannot speak logically of the crisis of a configuration; rather we must speak of its disruption or its transformation.” See R. W. Connell, Masculinities (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 84. There are some notable exceptions, however, and recent works in the field (aside from those already cited in the introduction) include: Marcia Brennan, Modernism’s Masculine Subjects: Matisse, the New York School, and Post-Painterly Abstraction (2004); Thomas Crow, Emulation: David, Drouais, and Girodet in the Art of Revolutionary France (2006); Pre-Raphaelite Masculinities: Constructions of Masculinity in Art and Literature, eds. Amelia Yeates and Serena Trowbridge (2014); Agustín Arteaga, Guy Cogeval, Ophélie Ferlier, and Xavier Rey, The Male Nude: Dimensions of Masculinity from the 19th Century and Beyond (2014); Gabriel Koureas, Memory, Masculinity and National Identity in British Visual Culture, 1914– 1930: A Study of “Unconquerable Manhood” (2017); and Anthea Callen, Looking at Men: Art, Anatomy and the Modern Male Body (2018). Examples of the scholarship on Russian women include: Memories of Revolution: Russian Women Remember, ed. Anna Horsbrugh-Porter (2013); Natalia Pushkareva, Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, trans. Eve Levin (2016); and In the Shadow of Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War, eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick and Yuri Slezkine (2018). Just a few recent examples of the increasingly voluminous literature on Soviet and Post-Soviet masculinity include: Eliot Borenstein, Men without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian Fiction, 1917–1929 (2000); Rebecca Kay, Men in Contemporary Russia: The Fallen Heroes of Post-Soviet Change? (2006); Maya Eichler, Militarizing Men: Gender, Conscription, and War in PostSoviet Russia (2011); and Gender, State and Society in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia, ed. Sarah Ashwin (2012). See, in particular: Rosi Braidotti, “Envy; or with Your Brains and My Looks,” in Men in Feminism, eds. Alice Jardine and Paul Smith (New York: Routledge, 1987), 233–41 and Joyce E. Canaan and Christine Griffin, “The New Men’s Studies: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” in Men, Masculinities and Social Theory, eds. Jeff Hearn and David Morgan (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), 206–14. Smalls, “In Bed with Marat,” in Interior Portraiture and Masculine Identity, 136–7.


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15 Davis, “‘Women’s History’ in Transition: The European Case,” Feminist Studies 3 (1975): 90. Quoted in John Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity? Reflections on Nineteenth-Century Britain,” History Workshop 38 (1994): 179. 16 Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity,” 179. 17 Ibid. 18 Belinskii, “Vzgliad na russkuiu literaturu 1846 goda,” (1847). Quoted in Molly Brunson, Russian Realisms: Literature and Painting, 1840–1890 (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016), 29. Chernyshevskii, “The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality,” (1853) in Selected Philosophical Essays, trans. The Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953), 376. 19 “Vystavka v Imperatorskoi Akademii Khudozhestv,” Sovremennik 11 (November 1849), 82–3. Quoted in Elizabeth Valkenier “The Intelligentsia and Art,” in Art and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Russia, ed. Theofanis George Stavrou (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 158. 20 Jules-Antoine Castagnary, “A Biography of Courbet,” in Courbet in Perspective, ed. Petra ten-Doesschate Chu (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977), 21. 21 I. E. Repin to N. Murashko, November 30, 1883, in I. Repin. Izbranniye pis’ma, v dvukh tomakh (Moscow, 1969), 1:291–2. Quoted in David Jackson, The Wanderers and Critical Realism in Nineteenth-Century Russian Painting (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), 24. I. E. Repin to Pavel Tretiakov, March 8, 1883, in Pis’ma I. E. Repina. Perepiska s P. M. Tretiakovym. 1873–1898 (MoscowLeningrad, 1946), 62. Quoted in Jackson, The Wanderers, 45. 22 Nochlin, Realism (London: Penguin Group, 1971), 13. 23 Herzen, From the Other Shore, 128.

Selected Bibliography Allenov, Mikhail Mikhailovich. Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov. Moscow: Izobrazitel’noe Iskusstvo, 1980. Alpatov, Mikhail Vladimirovich. Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1956. Andreeva, Galina. Geniuses of War, Weal and Beauty: George Dawe, RA. Moscow: Pinakoteka, 2012. Ashwin, Sarah. Gender, State and Society in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia. New York: Routledge, 2012. Balducci, Temma, Heather Belnap Jensen, and Pamela J. Warner, eds. Interior Portraiture and Masculine Identity in France, 1789–1914. New York: Routledge, 2017. Barooshian, Vahan D. The Art of Liberation: Alexander A. Ivanov. Lanham, MD, and London: University Press of America, 1987. Barringer, Tim. Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Barta, Peter I., ed. Gender and Sexuality in Russian Civilisation. New York and London: Routledge, 2001. Benois, Alexandre. Istoriia russkoi zhivopisi v XIX veke. St Petersburg, 1901. Berger, Martin A. Man Made: Thomas Eakins and the Construction of Gilded Age Manhood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Bisha, Robin, Jehanne M. Gheith, Christine C. Holden, and William G. Wagner, eds. Russian Women, 1698–1917: Experience and Expression, An Anthology of Sources. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002. Blakesley, Rosalind P. The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757–1881. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Blakesley, Rosalind Polly and Margaret Samu, eds. From Realism to the Silver Age: New Studies in Russian Artistic Culture: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014. Blazina, Chris, and David S. Shen-Miller, eds. An International Psychology of Men: Theoretical Advances, Case Studies, and Clinical Innovations. New York: Routledge, 2011. Blochel, Iris. Aleksandr Ivanov (1806–1858): vom Meisterwerk zum Bilderzyklus. Berlin: Reimer, 2004. Bocharov, Ivan, and Iuliia Glushakova. Karl Briullov: Italianskie nakhodki. Moscow: Znanie, 1984. Botkin, Mikhail. A. A. Ivanov. Ego zhizn’ i perepiska. 1806–1858. M. M. Stasiulevich, 1880.


Selected Bibliography

Boylan, Alexis L. Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. Brintlinger, Angela, and Ilya Vinitsky, eds. Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture. Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Briullov, Karl. Arkhiv Briullovykh. Edited by I. A. Kubasov. St. Petersburg: Tip. T-va Obshchestvennaia pol’za, 1900. Brod, Harry, ed. The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1987. Bruka, Ia. V., ed. Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, 1837–1887: Vystavka proizvedenii k 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia. Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1988. Brunson, Molly. Russian Realisms: Literature and Painting, 1840–1890. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016. Bryson, Norman, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey, eds. Visual Culture: Images and Interpretation. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London and New York: Routledge, 1990. Callen, Anthea. “Doubles and Desire: Anatomies of Masculinity in the Later Nineteenth Century.” Art History 26, no. 5 (November 2003): 669–99. Callen, Anthea. The Work of Art: Plein-Air Painting and Artistic Identity in NineteenthCentury France. London: Reaktion Books, 2015. Carrigan, Tim, Bob Connell, and John Lee. “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity.” Theory and Society 14, no. 5 (1985): 551–604. Chernyshevskii, Nikolai. N. G. Chernyshevskii ob iskusstve; stat’i, retsenzii, vyskazyvaniia. Moscow: Moskva Izd-vo Akademii khudozhestv SSSR, 1950. Chernyshevskii, Nikolai. What Is to Be Done? Translated by Michael R. Katz. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989. Clark, Timothy J. The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. Clark, Timothy J. Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. Clawson, Mary Ann. Constructing Brotherhood: Class, Gender, and Fraternalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Clements, Barbara Evans. A History of Women in Russia: From Earliest Times to the Present. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012. Clements, Barbara Evans, Barbara Alpern Engel, and Christine D. Worobec. Russia’s Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. Clements, Barbara Evans, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey, eds. Russian Masculinities in History and Culture. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002. Connell, R. W. Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987.

Selected Bibliography


Connell, R. W. Masculinities. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995. Crow, Thomas. Emulation: David, Drouais, and Girodet in the Art of Revolutionary France. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Dianina, Katia. “The Making of an Artist as National Hero: The Great Karl Briullov and His Critical Fortunes.” Slavic Review 77, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 122–50. Dixon, Simon. The Modernisation of Russia, 1676–1825. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Donaldson, Mike. “What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?” Theory and Society 22, no. 5 (October 1993): 643–57. Dudink, Stefan, Karen Hagemann, and Josh Tosh, eds. Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Duncan, Carol. “Fallen Fathers: Images of Authority in Pre-Revolutionary French Art.” Art History 4, no. 2 (June 1981): 186–202. Elliott, David, ed. Photography in Russia: 1840–1940. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. Engel, Barbara Alpern. “St. Petersburg Prostitutes in the Late Nineteenth Century: A Personal and Social Profile.” The Russian Review 48, no. 1 (January 1989): 21–44. Engelstein, Laura. The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-deSiècle Russia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992. Fëdorov-Davydov, Aleksei. Russkoe iskusstvo promyshlennogo kapitalizma. Moscow: GAKhN, 1929. Forth, Christopher E. Masculinity in the Modern West: Gender, Civilization and the Body. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Freeze, Gregory L. “Bringing Order to the Russian Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 1760–1860.” The Journal of Modern History 62, no. 4 (December 1990): 709–46. Friedman, Rebecca. Masculinity, Autocracy, and the Russian University: 1804–1863. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Galkinoi, N. G., and M. N. Grigorevoi. Perepiska P. M. Tretiakova i V. V. Stasova 1874–1897. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1949. Gilmore, David. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Goldberg, Herb. The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege. New York: Nash, 1976. Goldshtein, S. N. Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, zhizn i tvorchestvo. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1965. Gorshkov, Boris B. Peasants in Russia from Serfdom to Stalin: Accommodation, Survival, Resistance. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. Grabar, I. E. Repin. Moscow, 1963. Grabar, I. E. Istoriia russkogo iskusstva. Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1965.


Selected Bibliography

Gray, Rosalind P. Russian Genre Painting in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. Grigsby, Darcy Grimaldo. Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. Groys, Boris. “Russia and the West: The Quest for Russian National Identity.” Studies in Soviet Thought 43, no. 3 (May 1992): 185–98. Halperin, David M. “How to Do the History of Male Sexuality.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 6, no. 1 (2000): 87–123. Hartley, Janet M. Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008. Healey, Dan. Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Henry, Peter, Vladimir Porudominsky, and Mikhail Girshman, eds. Vsevolod Garshin at the Turn of the Century: An International Symposium in Three Volumes. Oxford: Northgate Press, 2000. Herlihy, Patricia. The Alcoholic Empire: Vodka and Politics in Late Imperial Russia. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Herzog, Dagmar. Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Ivanov, Aleksandr Andreevich. Aleksandr Ivanov v pis’makh, dokumentakh, vospominaniakh. Edited by I. A. Vinogradov. Moscow: Izdatelskii dom XXI vek— Soglasie, 2001. Ivanov, Aleksandr Andreevich. Aleksandr Ivanov. Moscow: Palace Editions, 2006. Ivanov, Andrei Ivanovich. Pis’ma A. I. Ivanova k synu. Russkii Khudozhestvennyi arkhiv, 1892–93. Jackson, David. The Wanderers and Critical Realism in Nineteenth-Century Russian Painting. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. Karpova, Tatiana. Pavel Fedotov: teatr zhizni. Moscow: Gosudarstvennaia Tretiakovksaia galereia, 2015. Kelly, Catriona. Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Kim, Jongwoo Jeremy. Painted Men in Britain, 1868–1918: Royal Academicians and Masculinites. Surrey: Ashgate, 2012. Kramskoi, Ivan. Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: ego zhizn, perepiska, i khudozhestvennokriticheskiia stati, 1837–1887. Edited by Aleksei Suvorin. St. Petersburg, 1888. Kramskoi, Ivan. Perepiska I. N. Kramskogo. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1954. Kramskoi, Ivan. Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi. Pis’ma. Edited by S. N. Goldshtein. Moscow: Isskustvo, 1965. Leonteva, Galina. Karl Pavlovich Briullov. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1986. Leonteva, Galina. Karl Briullov: The Painter of Russian Romanticism. Bournemouth, England: Parkstone Aurora, 1996.

Selected Bibliography


Leshchinskii, Iakov. Fedotov: khudozhnik i poet. Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Isskustvo, 1946. Lubin, David M. Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994. Mashkovtsev, Nikolai. Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi: 1837–1887. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Iskusstvo, 1945. Mashkovtsev, Nikolai. K. P. Briullov v pis’makh, dokumentakh i vospominaniiakh sovremennikov. Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii khudozhestv SSSR, 1961. Mendelsohn, Ezra, and Marshall S. Shatz, eds. Imperial Russia, 1700–1917: State, Society, Opposition, Essays in Honor of Marc Raeff. DeKalb, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1988. Merck, Mandy, ed. The Sexual Subject: Screen Reader in Sexuality. New York: Routledge, 1992. Mironov, Boris Nikolaevich, with Ben Eklof. The Social History of Imperial Russia, 1700–1917. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000. Morowitz, Laura, and William Vaughan, eds. Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2000. Nye, Robert A. Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1998. Parker, Fan, and Stephen Jan Parker. Russia on Canvas: Ilya Repin. University Park and London: Pennsylvania University Press, 1980. Patyk, Lynn Ellen. Written in Blood: Revolutionary Terrorism and Russian Literary Culture, 1861–1881. Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017. Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. Translated by Richard Bienvenu. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. Perry, Gillian. Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994. Poggioli, Renato. The Theory of the Avant-Garde. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968. Prorokova, S. A. Repin. Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1960. Punina, Irina Nikolaevna. Peterburgskaia Artel’ khudozhnikov. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1966. Pushkareva, Natalia. Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century. Translated by Eve Levin. New York: Routledge, 2016. Ransel, David L., ed. The Family in Imperial Russia: New Lines of Historical Research. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1978. Repin, Ilia. Dalekoe blizkoe. Moscow: Iskusstva, 1964. Repin, Ilia. I. Repin: Izbrannye Pis’ma. 1867–1930. Edited by I. A. Brodskii. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Iskusstvo, 1969. Roosevelt, Priscilla. Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.


Selected Bibliography

Rosslyn, Wendy, and Alessandra Tosi, eds. Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012. Samu, Margaret. “The Female Nude in Nineteenth-Century Russian Art: A Study in Assimilation and Resistance.” PhD diss., New York University, 2010. Sarabyanov, Dmitrii. Ilya Repin. Translated by Xenia Danko. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955. Sarabyanov, Dmitrii. Russkaia zhivopis XIX veka sredi evropeiskikh shkol. Moscow: Sov. khudozhnik, 1980. Sarabyanov, Dmitrii. Pavel Andreevich Fedotov. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1985. Saunders, David. Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform, 1801–1881. London: Longman, 1992. Schönle, Andreas, Andrei Zorin, and Alexei Evstratov, eds. The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825: Public Role and Subjective Self. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Shklovksii, Viktor. Povest’ o khudozhnike Fedotove. Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Detskoi Literaturi, 1960. Shoemaker, Robert, and Mary Vincent, eds. Gender and History in Western Europe. London: Arnold, 1998. Sirotkina, Irina. Diagnosing Literary Genius: A Cultural History of Psychiatry in Russia, 1880–1930. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. Smith, Terry, ed. In Visible Touch: Modernism and Masculinity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Stasov, Vladimir. Izbrannye sochineniia v trekh tomakh: zhivopis’, skul’ptura, muzyka. Moscow: Gos. Izd-vo Iskusstvo, 1952. Stavrou, Theofanis George, ed. Art and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Russia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. Steinberg, Mark, and Valeria Sobol, eds. Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. Steiner, Evgeny. “Pursuing Independence: Kramskoi and the Peredvizhniki vs. the Academy of Arts.” The Russian Review 70 (April 2011): 252–71. Sternin, Grigori, and Jelena Kirillina. Ilya Repin. New York: Parkstone Press, 2013. Therborn, Göran. European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945–2000. London: SAGE Publications, 1995. Tolson, Andrew. The Limits of Masculinity: Male Identity and the Liberated Woman. New York: Harper and Row, 1977. Tsomakion, Anna. I. N. Kramskoi: ego zhizn’ i khudozhestvennaia deiatel’nost’, 1837– 1887: biograficheskii ocherk. St. Petersburg: Tip. Obshchestvennaia polʹza, 1891.

Selected Bibliography


Valkenier, Elizabeth. Russian Realist Art. The State and Society: The Peredvizhniki and Their Tradition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Valkenier, Elizabeth. Ilya Repin and the World of Russian Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. Valkenier, Elizabeth, and Wendy Salmond. Russian Realist Painting. The Peredvizhniki: An Anthology. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, 2008. Vinitsky, Ilya. Vasily Zhukovsky’s Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2015. von Geldern, James, and Louise McReynolds. Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Tales, Songs, Plays, Movies, Jokes, Ads, and Images from Russian Urban Life, 1779–1917. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998. Wortman, Richard S. Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy from Peter the Great to the Abdication of Nicholas II. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013. Zagianskaia, Galina. Peizazhi Aleksandra Ivanova: problema zhivopisnogo metoda khudozhnika. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1976. Zagianskaia, Galina. Pavel Andreevich Fedotov. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1977. Zherve, I. Pavel Andreevich Fedotov. Biograficheskii ocherk: k 50-letiiu so dnia ego konchiny. Voennyi sbornik, 1902. Zotov, Aleksei, Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov: 1806–1858. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1945.

Index Note: Italic page numbers refer to illustrations; page numbers followed by n. and a number refer to information contained in a note. abstinence 132 abuse (see also domestic) 37–40, 61 n.26, 73, 128 académie 107–13, 119–21, 136, 141 n.34, 258 two-figure 111–13 Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg (Imperial Academy of the Three Most Distinguished Arts) 2, 22, 40, 52, 55, 62 n.37, 72, 92, 105–6, 113, 133, 138–9, 147–50, 154–7, 167–8, 187, 251 n.87 and age 33–5, 67 boarding school 34–5 and competition 75, 147–50 evening classes at 67, 74–5, 87, 94 n.37 examinations 107 exhibitions at 89–90, 168 Gold Medal 40, 52, 147–9, 179 n.18 life-drawing classes and training at 5, 14, 33–7, 58–9, 104–6, 111–15, 136, 148–9, 154–6, 187 and medals 111 and neoclassical rhetoric 119 petitions to 147–50 preparatory school 33 president of 92, 133, 138 professor at 33 and study abroad 114, 126, 148, 164, 175, 198 and the Revolt of the Fourteen 147–50, 153, 156–7, 159, 176 training at 5, 14, 34–7, 58–9, 104, 154–7, 168 and uniforms 33–4, 47, 129 vozrasty (stages) 106 and women 194 addiction 19, 237, 245 adultery 198, 200

advertisements 158, 163, 166–7, 210 advice literature 22, 37, 72, 196 affectation 157, 164–5 alcoholism (see also drinking) 19, 236–7, 239 Alexander I, tsar of Russia 1, 4, 10, 25 n.23, 27 n.45 Alexander II, tsar of Russia 14, 20, 165, 221, 244 Alexander III, tsar of Russia 223 alienation 13, 91, 223 America 138, 164, 187, 201–2, 230 androgyny 105, 116, 120–1, 125, 138, 156, 240 antiquity 105, 120–1, 125 anxiety 10, 18, 132, 153, 190, 214, 230, 239, 244 appearance 7, 9, 10, 71–2, 234 baldness 42, 88, 91, 224 biceps 69, 107, 113, 115, 151 broad shoulders/chest 48, 108, 190, 199, 233–4 brow line 57, 78, 113, 117, 172, 224 buttocks 123, 136 cheekbones 48, 117 ears 37, 68, 116, 157, 199, 225 effeminacy 121–2, 129–31, 197 eyebrows 48, 207 eyelashes 207, 228 fingernails 58 haircut and hairstyle 39, 71, 199 hairline 68 hands 33, 42, 57–9, 65 n.100, 75, 78, 90–1, 103, 113, 115, 130–1, 134, 136, 151, 161, 199, 212, 224 jawline 5, 33, 69, 78, 117, 199, 204, 234, 242 limpness 42, 58 lips 5, 33,48, 57, 78, 107, 116–7, 129–30, 170, 199, 204, 225, 237, 242

Index melancholy 197, 228, 233, 253 muscles 41, 69, 107, 115–17, 121, 136 pectorals 69, 117, 121 phallicism 69, 72, 94, 104, 130 posture 71, 75, 95 n.38, 208, 237 pubic hair 136 skin 42, 49, 57–8,103, 136, 185, 204, 207, 224, 230, 233–4, 242 teeth 90, 170, 199, 200 whiskers 71 wrinkles 42, 187 Apollo Belvedere 121 apprentice 24 n.9, 39, 128, 154 Arakcheev, Aleksei 3–6, 25 n.23, 26 n.34 aristocracy 13, 76, 127 army 1, 4–5, 10, 22, 27 n.42, 76 Artel of Artists 16, 150–78 communal gatherings 155–8, 167–70, 178 exhibition 166 photograph of 151 publicity (see also advertisements) 168 assassination 20, 221–2, 225, 244 asylum (see also psychiatric clinic) 92, 230 authority (see also patriarchy) 51, 155 challenges to 10 over women 39–40 religious 193 of the tsar 38, 224 autocracy 12, 38, 82 devotion to the 3–4, 9, 71 opposition to the 138 of Tsar Nicholas I 14, 138 Bagration, Pëtr 58 barracks 72, 79–80, 83, 88, 91 bars (see also alcoholism) 200 bathhouse 128 battle 3, 152 beau idéal 105 beauty 5, 48, 119, 121, 124–5, 152, 170, 180 n.54, 207–8, 228, 233–5, 237 behavior 46, 53, 73, 82, 88, 196, 215 ideal male 4, 8, 10, 12–14, 28 n.53, 35–9, 240 indecent 128, 196, 198 manuals (see also domestic handbooks) 35, 37–8, 196–7 of role models 72


Belinskii, Vissarion 253, 256 Bëm, Elizaveta 215 Benois, Alexandre 37, 55, 126, 241 Berg, Grigorii 3 Berlin 196 Bible 38, 132, 137, 144 n.97, 240 biography 22, 72 blood 73, 103, 149, 222–6, 240, 242–5, 254 bloodlines 202, 214 Russian 80 body (see appearance) bomb 221–2, 240, 244–5 boredom 13, 45, 72, 84–5, 226 bread 34, 72, 161, 210 breadwinner (see masculinity) Briullov, Alexander (brother of Karl) 45–6, 55, 62 n.46 Briullov, Karl 33–59 The Last Day of Pompeii, 41–7, 52, Plate 1.1 letters 41–6, 51, 53, 56, 58 photograph of 15 Self-Portrait (1813–16) 33–5, 34 Self-Portrait (1830–33, Pushkin Museum) 48–52, 49 Self-Portrait (1830–33, State Russian Museum) 50–2, 50 Self-Portrait (1833, Uffizi Gallery) 48–52, 57, Plate 1.2 Self-Portrait (1848) 56–9, 57, 59, Plate 1.3 Two Models 111 Briullov, Pavel (father of Karl) 51 bureaucracy 71, 138 Cadet school 70–2, 92, 236–8 Caldoni, Vittoria 116 Camuccini, Vincenzo 123–4, 131, 139 cardplaying (see also gambling) 73–4, 79–82, 88, 91, 200 carriage 76, 197, 207–8, 210, 221–2 case study 21–2, 153 castration 245 Catherine II, empress of Russia (“the Great”) 34, 70 censorship (see painting) Cézanne, Paul 138 Chaadaev, Pëtr 1 character types 13–14, 85, 230



Chernyshëv, Alexander 5–6, 26, n.34 Chernyshevskii, Nikolai 139, 145 n.121, 153, 165, 182 n.76, 256 What Is to Be Done? 153, 165 children 12, 35–9, 41, 44–5, 53–8, 70, 89, 91, 115–16, 122, 185, 209, 214–15, 226–8, 235 illegitimate 248 n.27 rearing 196–206, 248 n.21 cigars and cigarettes 75, 85, 90, 161 class (see social class and estates in Russia) clothing 95 n.48, 129, 137, 222 black 57, 157, 204, 233 brooch 185 collar 6, 33, 48, 69, 157, 189–90, 199, 204 corset 56 cuffs 163 and dishabille 79 dressing gown 88, 236 epaulettes 69, 76, 83, 95 n.51, 237 European style 37, 180 n.51 fashionable 6–7, 48, 90, 187 frock coat 81, 160, 163, 229, 233 gorget 3 hat 85, 129, 134, 185, 212 jacket 6, 33, 69, 75, 129, 163, 174, 199–200, 225, 233 medals 1, 6 overcoat 7, 169 parasol 185 ring 45, 204 saber/sword 72, 75, 78, 94 n.24, 222, 237 shako 75, 77, 95 n.39 shawl 161, 185 shirt 163, 174, 199, 229, 237 Swiss waist 187 tie 163, 174 undergarments 35 and undressing 79, 113, 137 uniforms 1, 6, 10, 35, 39, 47, 67, 69, 73, 75–8, 85, 92, 95 n.39, 129, 237 veil 204 well-dressed 7, 48, 106 cognac 236, 239 commission (see painting) commodity (see modernism and modernity) composite figure 117–18, 134–5, 138

contemporaneity 223 contemporary life 137, 221–5, 231, 235, 244, 246, 250 n.63 Courbet, Gustave 256 Crimean War 138 critics and criticism 2, 22, 39, 89, 120, 123–4, 138–9, 166, 182 n.76, 201, 207–8, 210–11, 214, 222–3, 239, 256 dandy (see also clothing) 6, 13 David, Jacques-Louis 42, 122 Belisarius Begging for Alms 42 Death of Bara 122 Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons 42 Davidov, Denis 3, 25 n.20 Dawe, George 1–7, 23 n.3 Portrait of Aleksei Arakcheev 4 Portrait of Alexander Chernyshëv 6 Portrait of Pëtr Kikin 7 debt 46, 90, 98 n.96, 209 Decembrist Rebellion (1825) 10–12, 20, 27 n.46, 30 n.68 decency 165, 198, 206, 214 Delacroix, Eugène 63 n.61, 119, 141 n.34 depression 19, 51, 230–1, 234, 237, 239, 245, 249 n.39 desire (see also sexual identity) 15, 55, 87–8, 117, 119, 132, 135, 137–8, 164, 170, 174, 227, 239–40, 246, 254 conflicting desires 22–3, 82, 152, 226 and fantasies 177 for freedom 153 same-sex (see also homoeroticism) 104–6, 125, 137–8 destitution 69, 88, 133 diminutive 62 n.50, 196, 217 n.22 discipline (see also punishment) 5, 10, 35, 37–40, 59, 62 n.34, 73, 202 dishabille (see clothing) disillusion 13, 138–9, 253 dissent 10, 138 divorce 198, 200 Dmitriev, Ivan (critic) 148 Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, Nikolai 159–63, 168–9, 171–3 photograph of 151 portrait of 173

Index Birthday Address Presented to ArtelMember Aleksei Korzukhin 162 A Thursday at the Artel 169 Dobroliubov, Nikolai 145 n.124, 165 domestic culture and life 18, 40, 88, 192, 194, 200–2, 214, 254 abuse 37–9, 194, 201 disagreements 175, 227 handbooks 37 Domostroi 37–8 Dostoevsky, Fëdor 97 n.81, 219 n.57, 239 drawing (see also sketch) 20, 36, 54, 72, 77–8, 81–2, 96 n.63, 131, 150, 168–70, 215 classes 75, 107, 155, 194–6 copies 37, 121 from life 110–8, 124–5, 137, 169–70 paper 106 pencil 33, 53, 58, 65 n.99, 78, 155, 188 portraits 67 self-portraits 65 n.99 skills 34 Dresden 41, 116, 196 drinking and drunkenness (see also alcoholism) 82, 88, 96 n.64, 97 n.68, 197–8, 236–9 Druzhinin, Alexander 78, 80, 83, 95 n.49 Eakins, Thomas 138 education (see also university system) 35, 37–9, 92, 125, 161, 168, 197, 200–1, 257 effeminacy (see appearance) Elizabeth I, empress of Russia 128 emancipation of serfs (see also serfdom) 221 embodiment 23, 69, 137, 250 n.63, 256–7 empathy 215 engraving 2, 37, 107 Enlightenment thought 10, 35, 168 ennui (see boredom) ephebe 119, 120–2, 124, 141 n.50 epicene 121 espionage 5 estate system (see social class and estates in Russia) estrangement (see also disillusion) 13 exhaustion 51, 57, 89, 237 exhibitions (see Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg) expenses 76, 92, 150, 166, 226, 247–8 n.21


facial hair (see hair) family 22, 39, 41–2, 45, 70, 76, 158–9, 163, 170, 194, 198, 215, 227, 254 of artists 51, 104 life 200–1 lineage 2 man 206 providing for (see also breadwinner) 82, 88–9, 91–2, 167, 200, 203, 209–10, 226 sentimental 201–2 ties 56, 193 Fantin-Latour, Henri 152 A Studio in the Batignolles Quarter 152 fashion (see clothing) father 14, 34, 36–47, 51–2, 54, 56, 58–9, 62 n.34, 67, 69–70, 76, 80, 82–3, 89–90, 104, 106–7, 121, 126–7, 131–2, 167, 170, 185, 194, 197–204, 206, 212–15, 224–5, 235, 244, 257 batiushka 44–5, 60 n.29, 62 n.49 father-commander 12 fatherland 52, 71 figure 170 papen’ka 43–4 Fedotov, Pavel 14, 55, 62 n.49, 67–92 Avalanche of Regulations 77–8, 77 The Choosy Bride 89 The Fresh Cavalier 89 Friday—A Dangerous Day 81–2, 81 The Gamblers 90–2, Plate 2.1 How People Sit Down and Sit 86 How People Walk 84 journal of 73–5, 78–80, 82, 87, 94 n.29, 96 n.53 letters 67, 76, 87, 89–91, 95 n.48, 97 n.83, 98 n.87, 98 n.96 The Major’s Courtship 89 Pavel Fedotov and his Comrades in the Finnish Life Guards Regiment 79–80, 79 Pavel Fedotov Riding Horseback to Pargolovo from Studies 74–5, 74 Portrait of R. M. Lermantov 67–9, 68, 72 photograph of 16 female beauty 169–70 body 138

272 characteristics 121–2 collective 153 models 116–17, 124, 141 n.34 peasants 208 sexuality 255 students 215 terrorists 244–5 weakness 161 Figner, Vera 39 flâneur 13 Foucault, Michel 4 France 4, 152, 208, 254 and French art 152, 256 and the French Revolution (1789) 20, 42, 105, 113, 122, 152 and travel to 203 fraternité 152 Gagarin, Prince Grigorii 47, 52–3, 150 gambling (see also cardplaying) 80, 82, 88, 198 Garshin, Vsevolod 19, 228–41, 244–5 gaze 5, 11, 33, 36, 46–50, 57–9, 68, 103, 107, 113–14, 129, 136, 157, 185, 190, 198, 202, 212–13, 234–5 averted 187, 204 soliciting 208 gender 12–13, 23, 38, 71, 159, 161, 166, 215, 246 ambiguity 119, 122, 130, 138, 141 n.34 binaries 138 comportment 8 constructs 28 n.53 deviance 106, 208, 243 difference 161 ideals 9, 226, 239 identity 255 mixing 116–19, 121–2, 135, 141 n.34 norms 8, 13, 21, 25 n.19, 40, 51, 69–70, 92, 119, 137, 240 order 20, 244–5 paradigms 114 performance 54, 138 politics 40, 193 relations 22, 259 n.10 roles 25 n.25, 28 n.53, 193 standards 14, 69 studies 105, 254–5, 256–7 values 5, 177, 240

Index Girodet, Anne-Louis 43, 113 God 103, 114–15, 127, 132, 133, 137 devotion to 38–40, 43 Gogol, Nikolai 97 n.81, 126 Goncharov, Ivan 29 n.62, 85, 97 n.81, 145 n.121 Goya, Francisco 119 Grand Armée 9 hair (see also appearance) 5, 39, 68, 71, 199 mustache 5, 71, 78, 85 sideburns 5 headaches (see also illness) 90 Hellenism 125, 127 hermaphrodite (see also gender) 130 Herzen, Alexander 253–4, 257–8 history 1–2, 9, 12, 21, 56, 175, 231 art 105–6, 181 n.63, 206, 252 n.93, 254–7 historiography 125 interpretive history 23 of masculinity 10–11, 255–6 painting 104, 149, 221–5, 240, 258 and periodization 30 Russian 10, 55 social history 257 Holy Synod 193, 223 homoeroticism 105–6, 125, 138 homosexuality 105–6, 125–6, 128–9, 142 n.65, 169 codes for 129 and depravity 125–9 subculture 129 homosociality 16–7, 80, 153, 164, 169, 178 Honorable Mirror of Youth 35, 37 household 37, 43, 51, 54, 128, 201, 226 hygiene 72, 88, 132, 174, 208 mental 230 hysteria 230 icon painting 154 iconostasis 2, 24 n.13 icon painting 154 illness (see also venereal disease) 46, 51, 53, 58, 132, 139, 203, 236 mental 230–4 Imperial Academy of Arts (see Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg) Imperial Guard 14, 70, 80, 92

Index impotence (see also illness) 91, 198, 200 income (see expenses) industrialization 13 injury (see also wound) 19, 94, n.24, 225, 240, 245 inspiration 41, 48, 53, 85, 107, 153, 175, 204–7, 222, 231, 244 intelligentsia 13, 138, 230 interiors 90, 168, 187 Iordan, Fëdor 106 Ivanov, Alexander 14–15, 44, 103–39, 177, 240, 242, 245–6 Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing 103–6, 104, 114–24, 123, 135–9, Plate 3.1 Appearance of Christ to the People 116–17, 133–9, 134 Boy Playing a Pipe 115 Boys’ Heads 116–19, 117 Four Nude Boys 135–7, 135 journal of 103, 132, 137 letters 56, 62 n.49, 65 n.96, 118, 122, 124, 126, 128, 131, 133, 142 n.70 Naked Boy 117–19, 118 photograph of 17 Self-Portrait 129–31, Plate 3.2 Seven Boys in Light Clothes and Draperies 133–5, 133 Sitting Model 107–11, 109 Sitting Model Clasping His Head in His Hand 107–11, 108 Torso of Apollo 120–2, 120 Two Nude Models 112–14, 112 Young Model with a Staff in His Left Hand 108–11, 110 Jesus Christ 116–17, 167, 176–7, 203, 241 journals and diaries 22, 73–5, 78–80, 82, 87, 94 n.29, 96 n.53, 103, 132, 137, 165 Karakozov, Dmitrii 221 Kikin, Pëtr 6–7, 7, 45, 56 Kramskaia, Sofia (daughter of Ivan) 187, 194, 204–5, 212–14 portrait of 205, 213 Kramskaia, Sofia (wife of Ivan) 186–94, 196, 198–201, 203–6 photograph of 192


portrait of 188, Plate 5.1, Plate 5.2, Plate 5.4 Kramskoi, Ivan 17–18, 139, 147–78, 185–215, 223–5, 240–6 as a teacher 195–6, 215 Artist’s Family 194, Plate 5.2 Cathedral of Christ the Savior 167 Christ in the Wilderness 176–7, 176, 241 Corner at the Artel of Artists 159–61, 160 Herodias 240–5, 243, Plate 6.4 Interior 187 journal of 165 Kramskoi Painting a Portrait of His Daughter 212–15, 213 Laughter (Hail, King of the Jews) 203, 241 letters 153, 163, 166, 196–8, 201–3, 206–11, 214–15, 241 photograph of 18, 151, 192 Portrait of Alexander Morozov 190, 191 Portrait of Bogdan Venig 156–7, 156 Portrait of Mark Kramskoi 198–200, 199, Plate 5.3 Portrait of Nikolai DmitrievOrenburgskii 172–5, 173 Portrait of Nikolai Koshelev 171–2, 171 Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia (1863) 187–90, 188 Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia (1879) 203–4, Plate 5.4 Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, the Artist’s Daughter 204, 205 Self-Portrait (1867) 172–5, 174 Unknown Woman 206–12, 211 Woman Reading (Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia) 185–7, Plate 5.1 Lakhtin, Mikhail 230 letters 41–6, 51, 53, 56, 58, 62 n.49, 65 n.96, 67, 76, 87, 89–91, 95 n.48, 97 n.83, 98 n.87, 98 n.96, 118, 122, 124, 126, 128, 131, 133, 142 n.70, 153, 163, 166, 196–8, 201–3, 206–11, 214–15, 241 salutation 44 valediction 44, 197, 215 Lermantov, Rostislav 67–9, 72, 74, 78



Lermontov, Mikhail 13 Levitskii, Sergei (photographer) 189, 216 n.8 lithography 2, 89 love 42, 45, 47, 52, 56, 87–8, 111, 125, 137, 147, 155, 172, 177, 202, 204, 246 affair 5, 53–4, 248 n.27 romantic 201, 227 lust (see desire) madness 90–1, 230–1 malaise (see also depression) 13 male authority 40 beauty 121, 152, 228–30, 237 behavior 12, 14, 28 n.53, 240 body 119–21, 244 bonding 80, 159–61, 177 citizens 72 comportment and conduct 8, 246 degeneration 235 environments 127 exemplars 11 features (see also appearance) 234 friends 74 gender identity 4, 192, 254, 256 model 107–14, 116–17, 135–9, 190 nude 15 peasants 208, 216 n.11 physical dominance 38 sex roles 25 n.25, 28 n.53, 106, 153, 227 traits 3, 5, 10, 69, 71, 80 weakness 235, 239 Manet, Édouard 208 marketplace 87, 164, 166, 210–11 marriage 5, 54, 58, 70, 87–8, 126, 142 n.65, 185, 187, 190, 193–4, 201, 215, 216 n.11, 227 and divorce 54, 200 proposal 92 and separation 200, 228, 235 Marxist art history 181 n.63 masculine affection 37, 44–5, 48, 53, 55–6, 113, 121, 125, 151, 170, 172, 177, 188, 196, 202 aggression 80, 82 appearance (see appearance) archetypes 13, 54, 152

attributes/traits (see also appearance) 3, 5, 10, 69, 71, 80 authority (see authority) autonomy 51 composure 224 comradery 75, 78–82, 150, 155, 157 cooperation 16, 152, 154, 167, 177 dissatisfaction 23, 92, 192 duty 3, 9, 35, 39–40, 42–3, 88 effeminacy (see appearance) features (see also appearance) 234 gender norms 8, 13, 21, 25 n.19, 40, 51, 69–70, 92, 119, 137, 240 gentleman 48, 63 n.61, 85, 90, 237 honor 10, 42, 53, 83, 139, 147–8, 174 independence 8, 114, 147, 158, 201 intimacy 104–6, 119, 151, 155, 164, 221 jawline (see appearance) morality/ethics 42, 71–2, 159, 165, 196, 198, 236 musculature (see appearance) paternalism 11 physical qualities (see also appearance) 38, 48, 51, 69, 78, 90–1, 234–6, 244–5 power 10–2, 23, 39, 42, 53–4, 56, 72, 143 n.80, 150, 177, 192–3, 211, 243–4, 256 privilege 29 n.59, 159 purpose 13, 33, 80, 83–5, 88, 148, 155 responsibility 46–7, 78, 82, 175, 254 rivalry 62 n.37, 167, 170 self-fashioning 58, 71 social prescriptions 8, 12, 35–7, 50, 78, 82, 85, 91, 139, 254 sociability/social graces 6, 9, 69, 82, 85, 106, 161, 168 spectrum 12, 22, 152, 193, 246 virility 48, 51, 56, 69, 82 masculinity and abstinence 132, 227 and achievement 9, 12, 54, 69, 80, 138, 222 and artificiality 164–5 and attachment 34, 45, 52, 78, 172 and authenticity 55, 164 and bachelorhood 52, 88, 169 and biology 5, 25 n.25, 159 and bravery/courage 3, 9, 25 n.19, 36, 42, 212

Index and breadwinning 69, 80, 82, 88–9, 91–2, 166–7, 200, 209–10, 215, 226 and brotherhood 51, 153, 157, 159, 166, 168, 170, 177–8 and character 54, 197, 204 and childcare 196–206, 248 n.21 and childishness 116, 175, 237–9 and class 11, 13, 22, 38–9, 54–5, 71, 85, 88, 97 n.80, 154, 161, 181 n.63, 201–2, 256 and collectivism 16, 55, 147, 150–3, 161–4, 167, 170, 175–6 and communal living 158–9, 163, 166–7, 175 and competition 75, 147–50, 164 and confidence 36, 197 conflict within 22–3, 28 n.53, 70, 82, 166, 170, 177, 226, 246, 254–5 and conformity 70, 113, 240 and connection 104, 107, 113, 129, 136, 154, 172, 227 continuum of 106 crisis of 13, 54, 192, 259 n.10 and debility 19, 224–5, 235–9 and decency 165, 198, 206, 214 and depravity 125–9 and discipline 5, 10, 35, 37–40, 59, 62 n.34, 73, 202 and ego (see also rational egoism) 46 and envy 106 exemplars of 11 and extra-marital affairs 5, 53–4, 98, n.86, 227, 248 n.27 and failure 20, 36, 46, 54–5, 58, 71, 92, 98 n.102, 132, 166, 177, 253 and fashion 6–7, 48, 90, 187 and fear 3, 23, 38, 44–5, 55, 69, 80, 82, 98 n.96, 128, 132, 196, 200, 208–9, 214, 228, 254 and feelings 12, 42, 81, 83, 87, 125–6, 164–5, 172, 197, 203, 206, 214, 241 fetishized 122–3 and financial struggle 69–70, 88–9, 133 and fraternalism 150, 153, 159, 170 and freedom 38, 45, 75, 127, 148, 153–4, 197, 210 and friendship 3, 8, 44, 47, 51–2, 58, 67, 69, 74, 78, 80, 83–4, 87–92, 126, 131–2, 155, 157–8, 164–5, 171–2,

275 198, 223, 227–8, 231–4, 236, 240, 245–6 and hazing 236 hegemonic 40, 59, 61 n.31, 62 n.34, 159 and heroism 2–3, 9, 11, 13, 23, 42, 85, 119, 149, 152, 223, 225, 239, 244 heteronormative 105, 117, 126, 139, 169–70 ideal 2–5, 8–11, 22, 25 n.26, 36, 54–5, 70–2, 78, 80, 83–5, 88, 91–2, 119, 121, 124, 152, 167, 177, 200–1, 226, 228, 236, 239–40, 245 ideologies of 9, 40, 50, 87, 164, 167, 226, 246, 255 and income 76, 95 n.49, 163, 166–7, 209, 226, 247 n.21 and individuality 55, 152, 165–6 and introspection 69 and loneliness 45, 87–8, 158, 202 and manhood 3, 8–11, 14, 23, 25 n.19, 36, 54, 68, 78, 85, 88, 91, 130, 166, 237, 254–5 and manual labor 83, 85, 87, 161, 201, 210, 233–4 and mentorship 36, 55–8, 122, 194–6 and modesty 197, 229, 233 normative 8, 13, 25 n.19 and obedience 4, 14, 36, 39, 72, 95 n.39, 200 and obligation 39–43, 47, 51, 88, 127, 159, 203 and oppression (see also abuse) 14, 28 n.53, 43, 76, 78 and order/neatness 3, 5, 9, 11, 14, 71–2, 237, and perversity 137 and phallicism (see appearance) and posture (see appearance) and precision 10, 14, 35, 93 n.5, 172, 188, 233 and pressure 28 n.53, 70, 78, 82, 203, 255, 257 and productivity 55, 69, 84–5, 158 progressive 201, 206, 215 and respect 35–6, 42, 44, 54, 71–2, 148, 150, 172, 175–6, 197, 201, 203, 207, 215 and rigor 14, 35, 37 and risk 69, 80, 82–3, 235



and role models 72 and self-control/self-regulation 36, 71, 91, 95 n.39, 128, 137, 224 and self-doubt 80, 169, 176, 242 and self-interest 165 and servility 148 and sexual deviance 106, 128, 208 and social position 36, 39, 42, 148, 154–5, 159, 201, 209 and social pressure (see hegemonic masculinity) and solitude 45, 87–8, 132–3, 158, 202 and sorrow 45, 103, 149, 197, 200, 230, 233 and strength 8, 26 n.38, 39, 80, 84, 103, 131–2, 152, 155, 158, 164, 166, 169, 177, 197, 231, 240, 245 and stress 113 and temptation 127–8, 132, 137, 198, 215 and the male role 25 n.25, 28 n.53, 106, 153, 227 typologies of 13 and vulnerability 42, 168–9, 202, 225, 234–5, 239–40, 245–6 and work/labor 83, 85, 87, 138, 158, 161, 201, 210, 233–4 masturbation (see also sex) 128 maulstick 212 melancholy 197, 228, 233, 253 mental breakdown 92, 230 Miasoedov, Grigorii 228 Michelangelo 43, 114 migration 54, 208–9 military action 3 colonies 5 education 39, 71–2 elite 42 exercises 10 hierarchy/ranks 75–6, 148 ideals 14, 152 mutiny 10 officers 69, 77 regulations 128 service 70, 79, 92, 236 uniforms (see clothing) Military Gallery 1–12, 23, 56, 58, 67 miniature 4, 25 n.23

misogyny 214 models 91, 116, 122, 132, 212, 228 female 116–17, 124, 169–70, 177, 227 male 107–14, 135–7, 140 n.18, 231 modernism and modernity 9, 12–14, 20, 23, 91–2, 117, 119, 138, 159, 164, 193, 197–8, 206–7, 211, 223, 225–6, 230, 239, 245–6, 253–4, 256–8 and capitalism 164, 211 and commodities 181 n.63, 209–11 and contemporaneity 223 money 46, 76–7, 80, 83, 88, 89, 98 n.96–7,132, 138, 144 n.107, 150, 163–4, 166–7, 180 n.54, 181 n.63, 209, 226, 248 n.21 mortality 119, 235 infant 203, 218 n.44 Moscow 27 n.42, 41, 52, 70, 76, 80, 83, 89, 139, 154, 157, 167, 177, 194, 196, 208, 218 n.44, 222–3, 226, 230, 247 n.9 Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture 194 Moscow Society for the Encouragement of Artists (see Society for the Encouragement of Artists) motherhood and mothers 41–2, 44–5, 51, 62 n.50, 104, 187, 193–4, 197, 201, 204 Mukhin, Nikolai 230 musculature (see appearance) Musorgsky, Modest 19, 235–40, 244–5, 250 n.63 photograph of 238 portrait of Plate 6.3 mythology 121–2, 125, 149 Nabis 180 n.54 Naples 44–5 Napoleon I, emperor of the French 1, 5, 8–10, 12, 20, 33, 70 Napoleon III, emperor of the French 221 Nazarenes 126, 142 n.64, 159 neoclassicism 20, 105, 119, 124, 152 neurasthenia (see also depression) 13, 230 Nevskii Prospekt 129, 207, 211 Nicholas I, tsar of Russia 5, 10, 12, 14, 36, 38, 40, 51, 53, 71, 73, 76, 80, 89, 95 n.39, 113–14, 128, 138

Index Nizhny-Novgorod 166 nobility 1, 3, 9, 10, 37, 39, 53, 75–6, 79 nude (see painting) Oedipal hierarchy 170 officers 4–5, 14, 67, 69, 71–3, 75–6, 78, 80–2, 85, 87–8, 92, 227, 237 Official Nationality 12, 38, 40, 43 Orthodoxy (see Russian Orthodox Church) painting brush 47, 53, 58–9, 129, 155, 172, 195, 212, 214 brushstrokes 2, 74, 84, 199, 233–4 and censorship 89, 246, n.2 and color palette 63 n.61, 123, 185, 200 commissions 1–2, 8, 43, 89, 132, 157–8, 163, 165, 167, 177, 182 n.72, 209, 212, 227 composition 47, 79, 90, 111, 114, 133, 148, 172, 188, 194, 210, 212 copy 37, 121 easel 169–70, 195, 212 and expressivity 47, 116, 190, 204, 233–4 genre 41, 55, 124, 190, 206 history 104, 149, 221–3, 225, 240, 258 and idealization 68–9, 223, 256 and immediacy 50, 58–9, 104, 137 motif 106, 188 narrative 41, 46, 120–2, 161 naturalism 69, 97 n.81, 116, 233 nudity 15, 103, 107–8, 113–4, 117–19, 124–5, 135–7, 140 n.18 oil 20, 67, 69, 172 palette 83, 170, 195 prices 89, 138, 210 reproductions 223 sauce 20, 155–7, 172, 187–8, 190, 198 studio 41, 58, 122, 124, 137, 158, 228 subject matter 20, 41, 90, 96 n.63, 104–5, 114, 124, 127–8, 138, 147–9, 206, 209, 213, 221–2, 223, 241, 244 and the ordinary 41, 124, 127 tools 46–8, 130 unfinished 48–51, 90, 130–5, 212, 241–5, 252 n.93 watercolor 20, 49–50, 53, 59, 67, 69, 78, 82, 90, 93 n.5, 110, 155, 188, 194–5, 204


Paris 5, 9, 27 n.42, 45, 52, 127, 196–8, 202–4, 207–8, 214, 221 passion 172, 204, 206, 222, 253 passport 200 patriarchy 8, 13, 19, 28 n.53, 29 n.59, 36–9, 42–3, 51, 69, 113, 153, 159, 170, 193–4, 201–2, 206, 224, 227, 244 Patriotic War 9–12, 20, 33, 70 Paul I, tsar of Russia 27 pencil (see drawing) penis 116–17 People’s Will 221–2 Peredvizhniki 177–8, 218 n.52, 221–2, 240 periodization 20, 29 n.67 Perovskaia, Sofia 244 Peter I, tsar of Russia (“the Great”) 3, 37, 75, 128 Petrashevskii circle 89, 95 n.48 phallic object (see also appearance) 69, 72, 94 n.24, 104, 130, 135 photography 23, 152, 157, 172, 257 assistant 154, 187 itinerant 154, 187 portrait 189–90, 237 retouching 187 studio 187, 190 pipe 103–4, 115–16, 123, 130, 133 Pisarev, Dmitrii 165, 182 n.76 playboy 36, 127 plein air painting 106, 134, 136 Pobedonostsev, Konstantin 223, 225, 240 poetry 2–3, 6, 13, 22, 39, 53, 72, 89, 98 n.92, 180 n.49, 201–2 portraiture 12, 14, 18–19, 53, 55, 67–9, 72, 74, 78, 121, 155–7, 170–5, 190–1, 193, 206–9, 212–13, 215, 221, 228, 231, 233–40, 250 n.63 commissions 43, 58, 89, 150, 212, 227 family 185–90, 194, 198–205 group 78–9, 151–2 idealization 68–9, 223, 256 military 1–8, 10 self 33–6, 46–51, 56–9, 63 n.54, 74–5, 129–31, 134–5, 173–5, 212–13, 215, 258 poverty (see also destitution) 23, 88, 92, 132, 137, 230, 239 prayer 1, 35, 78, 132, 196, 198 Pre-Raphaelites 159 press (see critics and criticism)



pride 9, 52, 70, 176, 202, 210 printmaking (see engraving) prostitution 18, 193, 198, 207–11 provinces 128, 154, 177, 216 n.11 psychiatric clinic (see also asylum) 230, 236 psychiatrist 61 n.32, 230–1 public sphere 2, 12, 18, 69, 85, 89, 105, 159, 168, 192, 244 punishment 5, 35, 71, 78, 128 capital 3, 10, 27 n.47, 222 domestic abuse (see domestic) exile 10, 198 hanging 10, 222 hard labor 10, 143 n.78 torture 5–6 Pushkin, Alexander 2, 13, 39 rank 75–6, 85, 88–9, 147–8, 174 rape 198 Raphael 41, 43, 116 rational egoism 165 realism 17, 20, 69, 124, 221, 223, 225, 235, 239, 240, 256–7 rebellion 10–12, 20, 40, 125, 150, 154, 244 reform 9, 38–40, 152–3, 161, 201 religious values 37–9, 198, 201, 239 Repin, Ilia 17, 19, 148, 158–9, 167–70, 175, 177, 218 n.52, 221–41, 244–6, 256 photograph of 19 Barge Haulers on the Volga 236 Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581 221–31, 224, 235, 240, 245, Plate 6.1 Portrait of M. P. Musorgsky 235–40, 244, 245, 250 n.63, Plate 6.3 Portrait of Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin 231–7, 232, 239–41, 244–5, Plate 6.2 Vsevolod Garshin, Study for “Ivan the Terrible and His Son, Ivan 228–30, 229 Repina, Vera (wife of Ilia) 226–8, 231 reputation 36, 52, 54, 196 retirement 7, 67, 80, 83, 85, 89, 92 Revolt of the Fourteen 147–51, 156, 185 revolution 20, 42, 89, 105, 122, 127, 152, 154, 181 n.63, 225, 243–4, 253 rigor mortis 243

romanticism 20, 49, 68–9, 84, 138, 161, 228 Rome 41, 43–4, 46, 52–3, 58, 104, 114, 119, 122, 126–7, 131, 248 n.26 rubles 76–7, 80, 89, 98 n.97, 138, 144 n.107, 163, 167, 209, 226, 248 n.21 Russian Orthodox Church 2–3, 12, 24 n.13, 37–8, 128, 198 Russo-Turkish War 228 sadism 240, 243 Salon exhibitions in Paris 8, 42, 52, 122, 208 salon gatherings 227 Samoilova, Iulia 53, 64 n.77 sculpture 107, 119, 121, 157 seduction 82, 137 self-portraiture (see portraiture) sensory experience 165 serfs and serfdom (see also emancipation of serfs) 5, 12, 14, 24 n.9, 39, 85, 216 n.11, 221 servant 5, 12, 26 n.31, 128, 168, 201, 227 sex 87, 121, 127, 198, 227 anal 106, 125–9, 143 n.80, 198 and flirting 74, 170 kissing 53, 197 and longing 105, 117, 119, 137 oral 128, 143 n.78, 198 sexual identity 14–15, 105–6, 113, 125–9, 137, 168–9, 246, 254 Shmelkov, Pëtr 194–5 sibling 10, 33–6, 40–2, 44–6, 51, 55, 58, 105, 170, 230 Sikorskii, Ivan 230 sketch (see also drawing) 34, 58, 65 n.96, 74, 81–2, 85, 88, 91, 107, 114–17, 119, 121, 125, 155, 158–9, 162–3, 168, 170, 172, 206, 228 Slavophiles 7 sleep 35, 73–4, 84, 161, 194, 228, 233 smoking (see also cigars and cigarettes) 75, 90, 159, 161, 170 sobriety 239 social class and estates (soslovie) in Russia 11, 13, 22, 38–9, 54–5, 71, 85, 88, 97 n.80, 148, 154, 161, 181 n.63, 201–2, 256 social degeneration 230–1, 235, 237, 239

Index social reform (see reform) Society for the Encouragement of Artists 7, 24 n.9, 41, 45, 62 n.37, 104, 114, 121, 132, 140, 194 reports to 114, 126–7 sodomy (see also sex) 128, 198 soldier 4–5, 10, 26 n.29, 69–71, 73, 80, 203, 228 sons (see also father) 12, 14, 36, 38–47, 50–1, 55–6, 58, 76, 121, 127–8, 131, 142 n.74, 154, 166, 187, 193, 197–203, 221–6, 228, 235, 244, 253 soul 53, 84, 87, 125, 132, 149, 172, 204, 234 Stasov, Vladimir 154, 204, 206, 211, 227, 236–7, 240, 247 n.9, 248 n.26 St. Petersburg 1, 16, 18, 33–4, 58, 67, 72, 89, 104, 129, 138, 143 n.81, 147–8, 150, 154, 157–8, 167, 177, 185, 189, 193, 194–5, 201, 207, 210, 218 n.53, 222, 225–7, 230, 233, 236, 244–5 St. Petersburg Drawing School for Auditors 194–5, 214 students 24 n.7, 34–6, 47, 55–6, 58, 65 n.89, 71, 75, 106–7, 129, 147–9, 153–8, 168, 187, 194–6, 215, 251 n.87 studio (see painting) study abroad 114, 126, 148, 164, 175, 198 sublime 124 suicide 19, 230, 245 superfluous man 13–14, 20, 29 n.62, 85, 97 n.77 surveillance 10 Suvorin, Aleksei 223 syphilis (see also venereal disease) 280 Table of Ranks 75, 147–8 talent 33–4, 52, 89, 98 n.92, 214–15 tendentiousness 223 Thorvaldsen, Bertel 122–3, 131 Timm, Emilia 54 Tolstoy, Lev 239 torture (see punishment) transvestitism 127 Tretiakov, Pavel 198, 201, 203, 209–11, 223, 227, 245, 247 n.9, 247 n.21 truth 231, 235, 245, 256–8


tsar 1–5, 10, 12, 20, 27 n.42, 37–8, 40, 43, 51, 71–3, 80, 89, 92, 128, 138, 165, 221–6, 240, 244–5 tsar-batiushka 12, 29 n.60 tsar-liberator 221 Turgenev, Ivan 13, 52, 145 n.121 uniforms (see clothing) university system 5, 72, 154 utopia 104, 139, 159 Uvarov, Sergei 38 Vasilev, Fëdor 241 Vasil’evskii Island 72, 158 venereal disease (see also illness) 208 Vereshchagin, Vasilii 201, 217 n.30 vodka 3, 236 war 2, 6, 9–10, 23, 70, 72, 138, 228 War of 1812 (see Patriotic War) watercolor (see painting) Winckelmann, Johann-Joachim 119–21 wine 197, 236 Winter Palace 1, 76, 139 women (see also female) 5, 12–13, 18, 23, 38–9, 41–2, 46, 52–5, 69, 73–4, 88, 121, 127, 158, 161, 163, 168, 190, 192–6, 200, 206–11, 214–15, 222, 235, 254–7 as artists 194–6, 214–15 and clothing (see also clothing) 187 difficulties with 125–6, 227 and education 161, 194–5, 200 and equality 201 evil of 87 exclusion of 159, 163 identification with 209–15 influence of 159 and liberation 161 manners of 130 modern 196–8, 206–7 and modesty 187 and obedience 38–9, 200–1 oppression of 28 n.53, 38–9 and passivity/submission 136, 161 and prostitution 18, 193, 198, 207–11 radicals 243–4 respect for 201 respectable/virtuous 53, 83, 207



and rights 192–6, 200, 214 serf 5, 12, 39, and the “woman question” 161, 180 n.49 Western 196–8, 206–8 wound (see also injury) 3, 6, 221–2, 224–5, 228, 235, 240, 244–5

Yermolov, Aleksei 3, 5 Zasulich, Vera 244 Zhukovskii, Vasilii 201–2

Plate 0.1  Grigorii Chernetsov, Perspective View of the War Gallery of 1812 in the Winter Palace, 1829; oil on canvas, 121 × 92 cm., The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Plate 1.1  Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 1830–3; oil on canvas, 456.5 × 651 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

Plate 1.2  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait (painted for the Uffizi Gallery, Florence), c. 1833 (unfinished); oil on panel, 56.5 × 43 cm., © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2019

Plate 1.3  Karl Briullov, Self-Portrait, 1848; oil on canvas, 64.1 × 54 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 2.1  Pavel Fedotov, The Gamblers, 1852 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 60.5 × 70.2 cm., The Kiev National Museum of Art, Kiev

Plate 3.1  Alexander Ivanov, Apollo, Hyacinthus, and Cypress, Playing Music and Singing, 1831–4 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 101 × 138.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 3.2  Alexander Ivanov, Self-Portrait, 1828; oil on paper, 43.3 × 33.2 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 5.1  Ivan Kramskoi, Woman Reading (Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia), not before 1866; oil on canvas, 64.5 × 56 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 5.2  Ivan Kramskoi, The Artist’s Family, 1866; sepia and ceruse on paper, 30.6 × 31 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 5.3  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Mark Kramskoi, the Artist’s Son, 1875; sauce, Italian pencil, and ceruse on paper, 62 × 42 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 5.4  Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaia, the Artist’s Wife, 1879; oil on canvas, 95 × 77 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 5.5  Ivan Kramskoi, Unknown Woman, 1883; oil on canvas, 76.1 × 102.3 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 6.1  Ilia Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581, 1885; oil on canvas, 199.5 × 254 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 6.2  Ilia Repin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin (detail), 1884; oil on canvas, 88.9 × 69.2 cm., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972, Author’s photograph, 2016

Plate 6.3  Ilia Repin, Portrait of M. P. Musorgsky, 1881; oil on canvas, 71.8 × 58.5 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Plate 6.4  Ivan Kramskoi, Herodias, 1884–6 (unfinished); oil on canvas, 142 × 118 cm., The State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow