Thursday, 18 October 2012

Mikhail Nesterov and Taking the Veil

'Taking the Veil' (1897-98) by Mikhail Nesterov; State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

I had never heard of Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov, born on 31 May 1862 and died on 18 October 1942, but he was a major representative of religious Symbolism. He was born into a merchant family and received an orthodox education. He studied art in Moscow, and joined a group of artists called Peredvizhniki, The Wanderers. He first tried his hand at historical paintings and everyday life scenes but became increasingly interested in religious themes. He was more influenced by French Symbolism, and in particular by the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage, than by old Russian icon painting. The landscape plays an important role in Nesterov's paintings, and there's a lyrical connection between his figures and their surroundings. I chose today's painting because it has such a Pre-Raphaelite quality. A group of nuns are taking part in a procession to accompany a novice who's about to take the veil, with in the background the Volga countryside. Nesterov was doing a cycle of paintings on the fate of Russian women and was inspired by the writings of Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov. I love this painting more the longer I look at it. Just by watching the solemnn faces, I can almost imagine myself clicking the play button on this image, and the procession will go on and beautiful music is being heard.

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