Title: Comparison And Contrast Of Renaissance Art To Neoclassicism Art

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Title: Comparison and Contrast of Renaissance Art to Neoclassicism Art

Comparison and Contrast of Renaissance Art to Neoclassicism Art

Russian Art & Architecture

From icons and onion domes to suprematism and Stalin baroque, Russian art and architecture seems to many visitors to Russia to be the rather baffling array of exotic forms and alien sensibilities. Without any sense of rich tradition of Russian culture, an appreciation of country's enormous artistic wealth becomes the game of historical anecdote--" church where so-and-so took refuge from what's-his-name"--or the meaningless collection of aesthetic baubles--"I like blue domes best." In fact, Russian art and architecture are not nearly so difficult to understand as many people think, and knowing even the little bit about why they look way they do and what they mean brings to life culture and personality of entire country. (Rosenblum and Janson 2002)


The tradition of icon painting was inherited by Russians from Byzantium, where it began as an offshoot of mosaic and fresco tradition of early Byzantine churches. During 8th and 9th centuries, iconoclasm controversy in Orthodox church called into question whether religious images were the legitimate practice or sacrilegious idolatry. Although use of images wasn't banned, it did prompt the thorough appreciation of difference between art intended to depict reality and art designed for spiritual contemplation. (Watkin 2005)

That difference is one of reasons that artistic style of icons can seem so invariant. Certain kinds of balance and harmony became established as reflections of divinity, and as such they invited careful reproduction and subtle refinement rather than striking novelty. Although this philosophy resulted in the comparatively slow evolution of style, icon painting evolved considerably over centuries. During 14th century in particular, icon painting in Russia took on the much greater degree of subjectivity and personal expression. The most notable figure in this change was Andrey Rublyov, whose works can be viewed in both Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. (Irwin 2001)

Unlike pictorial tradition that westerners have become accustomed to, Russian icon tradition is not about representation of physical space or appearance. Icons are images intended to aid contemplative prayer, and in that sense they're more concerned with conveying meditative harmony than with laying out the realistic scene. Rather than sizing up figure in an icon by judging its distortion level, take the look at way lines that compose figure are arranged and balanced, way they move your eye around. If you get sense that figures are the little haunting, that's good. They weren't painted to be charming but to inspire reflection and self-examination. If you feel as if you have to stand and appreciate every icon you see, you aren't going to enjoy any of them. Try instead to take the little more time with just one or two, not examining their every detail but simply enjoying the few moments of thought as your eye takes its own course.

The best collections of icons are to be found in Tretyakov Gallery and Russian Museum, ...
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