Traditionalist, Conservative, and Christian - pushing back against the abomination that is "modern art". Happily free from Covid obsessions.
A profile of this vital institution, and an interview with Rector Ivan Glazunov on how his Christian faith (Orthodox) guides his work, the spiritual gifts Russia can give the world in these historic times, and about the Academy and what it strives to achieve.
62 images showing student life and art + videos
“I very much want there to be more practitioners of the old school of painting. This art, and a traditional worldview, which is primarily a Christian one, can save and protect the world, and postpone the end of our world.”
“We want to bring traditional-minded people together … unite traditionalists from around the world, and give more exposure to traditionalist ideas, and not just in Russia.”
“In order for salvation to occur – we have to bring God to man, and man to God.”
- Ivan Glazunov, Rector of the Ilya Glazunov Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture
Editor's Note: Nothing conveys the spirit of this academy better than images of the works of its students, and photos of its student life. Therefore we decided to try to feature as many images and videos as possible. Many of the pictures are hi-resolution, and are best viewed in detail on a computer screen, not on a phone. You can find much more on the Academy's Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram pages. Their Facebook page has the largest number of images.
Unless otherwise indicated, all of the paintings and sculptures shown in this article are the work of students.
I first visited the Glazunov Academy while writing a profile of its founder, the famous Russian painter Ilya Glazunov, in 2016, and was amazed by what I found there. Happily, this article allows me to return to this remarkable place, of which Glazunov was justly proud, regarding it as his most important achievement, which is saying a lot, due to his remarkable career in several fields.
A video profile of the Academy. You can find more videos about the Academy on their YouTube channel.
To feel the spirit of the place, it helps to get a sense of the extraordinary man behind it, which you can do by reading my 2016 profile of Glazunov. He was a true phenomenon in terms of what he achieved and the influence he had, which went far beyond being Russia’s most popular and beloved painter. He was one of these super-human Russian personalities who pop out at us from the pages of Russian literature and history, who have such an improbable and prodigious energy and life story, that it hardly seems possible.
Glazunov passed away in 2017, and his son Ivan, a long-time professor at the Academy has succeeded his father as rector, passing his fathers’ ideas to a new generation. We recently sat down for tea in a grand neoclassical drawing room in the academy, surrounded by old paintings, beautiful antique furniture, and icons, where he talked about the school, the miracle of classical painting surviving only in Russia, Russian history, his work as an artist, costume and antique collector, teacher, and much more. A transcript of the interview follows below.
A remarkable fact about Russia is that it inherited a handful of areas of human endeavor in which it is far ahead of the rest of the world, due to the fact that decade after decade, the Soviet Union poured huge resources into a sustained effort to maintain and build these fields, in a way that was just not possible in the free market West. Ballet is the obvious example, an art form in which no country can come close to Russia.
A November 2021 exhibit in Rome of paintings by graduates of the Academy. The exhibit also traveled to Genoa - Russian TV news report. You can find more videos about the Academy on their YouTube channel.
A ballet enthusiast friend once explained it to me, and I realized the same is true of several fields in Russia. He explained that to produce the level of dancers and choreographers which Russia produces, you need not a few professors, but generations of them. You need not a few good schools, but dozens of them scattered around the country, all with dedicated and serious professionals. He likened it to starting a navy from scratch. You can’t just do it in a few years by spending a lot of money. It takes decades, and sustained financial support. Generations are needed who are devoted to the craft, out of which then, gradually evolves a multi-generational, living tradition.
The exhibit in Genoa
In modern Russia, a number of such areas have survived. Ballet is one. A more quirky example is circus performers. The Cirque du Soleil is mostly made up of Russians. The reason is that for decades, the Soviet State maintained an enormous circus industry, which grew to be a much more professional and serious affair than the old-timey traveling tent circuses in the West. Sports is another area of which this is true. Classical music is another. Russian excellence in the theoretical sciences, math, and programming also follow the pattern. It’s quite a list.
The improbable story of how Russia rescued classical painting from extinction, and is now giving it back to the West.
Why classical drawing, painting, and sculpture survived in Russia, and why it died out in the Western European civilizations which created it, leaving Russia the only country able to teach it, is fascinating. Classical drawing and painting are painstaking and difficult techniques which take years to learn and perfect according to technical methods developed since the Renaissance. Think Leonardo da Vinci dissecting body parts to be able to draw them correctly.
Until WW1, every art student learned to draw this way. It is the only way one can make realistic drawings and paintings of the human body, of architecture, and nature. The first to rebel against this formalism were the impressionists in the last quarter of the 19th c., although they were still trained in the craft, and used many of its tools in their work. However it was unceremoniously abandoned in the revolutionary years after WW1, and considered hopelessly antiquated in the post WW2 age. Art academies plunged into modern art and the absence of any discipline, or grading system, embracing abstract art, and a preposterous succession of bizarre fashions driven by leftist art critics and academics and their revolutionary, cultural Marxist ideas, eventually killing art altogether, creating the aesthetic desert that is contemporary art. The slow death of art at the hands of woke idiocy foreshadows the same disease now creeping through the arteries of all parts of society.
Ironically, classical drawing survived in the most radically revolutionary country at the time, the Bolshevik USSR. In the early 30's, Stalin and his circle, having wrested power from the more radical Trotskyites, decided that the country needed an “official” style of art to convey revolutionary ideas to the masses in a realistic format they could understand. Cubism, all the rage in Europe at the time, just wouldn’t cut it. Russia at the time was a ferment of avant garde art, which was dominant in the heady post-revolution years. But Russia also had a grand tradition of realist classical academies in the Tsarist period. The Bolsheviks kept the techniques, re-purposing them to their political message, and Socialist Realism was born. This was to remain the painting style encouraged and taught by the state until the end of the USSR, although its dominance began to decline already in the early 70s. Thus classical drawing and painting was taught in academies across the USSR, and the human knowledge survived in the professorial class into post USSR Russia.
Socialist realism was built on a grand tradition of Russian realistic painting, which emerged in the 2nd half of the 19th century in a movement named “The Wanderers”. These painters mirrored the great Russian novels of the same era, in that they sought to realistically depict everyday life of Russian peasants and middle class, history, religious themes and legends, and great natural beauty, in entrancing detail, often on enormous canvases which can fill a whole museum wall. The paintings are delightful, and hugely popular throughout Communism, and to this day with the Russian public, who know many of them well. The best examples of these works now hang in the Tretyakov gallery in Moscow, and the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg, and there is nothing like it in the West. Wikipedia has a good article on The Wanderers with an online gallery where one can view the images in high definition. In many ways, it is this tradition that the works of graduates of the Glazunov academy seek to continue.
Some might say it is a miracle of sorts, and a deeply ironic one, that would allow for the resurrection of this traditional craft from the bosom of revolutionary communism.
The rebirth of a grand Tsarist academy
Ivan’s father, Ilya, born in 1930, a conservative spirit through and through, spent his life enamored of the past. He loved antiques, old churches, old buildings, and fought his whole life to stop or at least slow, their destruction, and later in life, to restore, what he could. Revolutionary zealots were in control during much of the Soviet period, as they are now in the woke West, and they wanted to destroy, rebuild, and reinvent everything – man, education, architecture, life itself, to eradicate God from everything. In the process they tore down thousands of delightful old buildings and churches, especially in Moscow. Glazunov Sr. was horrified as he watched this proceed inexorably throughout his lifetime, and eventually, in the 1960s, organized a civic movement called “Memory” to at least slow down the madness.
A 40 minute documentary film from 2013 about the Academy (in Russian), featuring interviews with Ivan's father, Ilya Glazunov.
As the Soviet Union declined in the 80s, he realized the precious drawing heritage that Russia possessed was in danger of disappearing as it had in the West, and using his unusual influence in the government, in 1987, he convinced the state to give a grand but run-down 18th c. palace on Myasnitskaya street next to the Chistii Prudi metro stop, a few blocks from the Kremlin, built for a Tsarist general. The palace was designed by the famous Russian architect, Vasily Bazhenov, one of two great Russian neoclassical architects. In the 19th c., the palace housed an important Russian art school of the time, The Imperial School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, where many of the empire’s greatest artists learned their craft, legends like Perov, Nesterov, Vasnetsov, Serov, Savrasov, and Levitan. Thus, 34 years ago, a new academy, which would continue these traditions from the days of the Tsars, was born.
From that year until his death 30 years later, Glazunov Sr. was the rector, a post he held simultaneously with several other equally impressive activities, any one of which would be a mind-numbing career on its own. He threw his heart into collecting a teaching staff, renovating the dilapidated old palace, teaching and mentoring, and urging his students to embrace realism. The academy has a very informative site in English, and for those seriously interested in the school, I very much recommend reading an excellent essay by Glazunov Sr. on why he founded the academy. From that essay:
“Today I am convinced that only he or she will become a true artist who, having absorbed the covenants of the school of high realism, will reflect the struggle of good and evil in the world, feeling the unfading beauty of harmony and the plan of God's peace.”
Glazunov, a profoundly Christian man, believed that you could only be a true artist if you could paint and draw realistically, because only through realism could you reflect the glory of God’s creation, and the battle between good and evil that defines our existence. In the essay, he quotes the great Russian painter Vasnetsov who explained his art as “a candle lit before the face of God.” Glazunov believed that modern, abstract art, was inherently atheistic, an insult to God, and he despised it.
And so it transpired, that the only country in the world which has academies and staffs dedicated to this art form, is Russia, and it has only two schools which teach it on a high level, the Glazunov Academy in Moscow, and the Repin Academy, in St. Petersburg. Great is the irony that the art schools of the country which produced the world’s greatest painters, Italy, have lost the ability to teach this technique. It literally died out with the professors and artists which the modern world had no use for. The same is true for the other great painting-producing countries, Holland, the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, even the US. If one attends art schools in these countries today, one is encouraged to come up with ever weirder “installations’, and students aren’t graded for fear of harming their tender artistic inner child. Not so in Russia.
True, some schools in Europe and the US are trying to teach realism, but it usually consists of a single professor, often brought from Russia, and a handful of students. These admirable efforts pale in comparison to the institutional heft of the Russian academies.
Glazunov Jr. has inherited many of his father’s interests. Primarily a painter (gallery)(Wikipedia), he has also painted the interiors of churches, and collects costumes and artistic items from everyday peasant and middle class life going back to 15th century Russia. Many of these items are in his offices at the Academy, and he enjoys showing them to visitors. In downtown Moscow there is a delightful small 16th century church opposite the Tchaikovsky Conservatory on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street, the church of the Small Ascension of our Lord (website). Glazunov spent years directing the interior restoration, painting much of it himself, pictures of which follow below. For the last 10 years, Glazunov has spent most of his time teaching and organizing the Glazunov academy. His wife Julia, and daughter, Olga, (a recent graduate), are also active in helping Ivan with his work.
For me, the true selling point of the academy, are the paintings of its graduates. As one walks through the halls, one realizes that almost every square inch of the walls is hung with the best thesis works, usually a painting, which they spend a whole year creating in their final year, in close mentorship with professors. Like many Russians, I am a huge fan of the great Russian realist painters of the 19th century, mentioned above, and with those works as a benchmark, I was delighted with the canvases on the walls at the academy. Here is an online selection of some of them. Like the 19th century works, then are often very large, and often depict historical scenes in rich detail. Here are a few examples:
About the Academy:
The Academy offers degrees in painting and drawing, sculpture, architecture, icon painting and restoration, art history, and painting restoration, and has a full faculty for each discipline. Courses are open to foreign citizens, and instruction is in Russian and English. The degree takes 5 years, with about 80 students in each class, for a total of approximately 400 students. Admission is highly competitive. Applicants have to submit examples of their work to a committee of professors for evaluation. Rector Glazunov personally approves each student.
Russian higher education suffers from admissions corruption, and the academy is committed to preventing this. Therefore, the names of the applicants are assigned a number, and the committee, and even Glazunov himself, doesn't know their names during evaluations. One can surmise that this commitment to admitting only talented students is genuine, as Glazunov Jr. works to preserve his father's legacy.
Annual tuition for Russians is about $6000 at current exchange rates, however for 90% of students, the government pays, regardless of economic need. The academy also has a dormitory, again at no charge, but many students prefer to rent inexpensively around town. There is a cafeteria with student-friendly prices. Foreign students are not eligible for government payment of tuition, and the academy has not yet established how much it would be for foreigners, but I was advised that it would not be in excess of $14,000, and likely somewhat less. Students are responsible for their own art supplies, which are widely available in Russia. Because most of them are domestically manufactured, prices are dramatically less expensive than in the West.
Cost of living
Living in Moscow is substantially cheaper than in Europe and the US, and for a student living inexpensively it is very affordable by Western standards. If one is sharing a flat with other students, a typical room costs about $350 per month. A ride on Moscow's fantastic metro / bus system, is 55 US cents (yes, you read that right). Monthly unlimited mobile phone service with full internet is about $10 / month.
Covid restrictions practically non-existent
Russia was closed to new foreign students when the Covid phenomenon struck, but reopened to students and tourists from most Western countries in June of 2021. In general, Russia has a much more relaxed attitude to anti-Covid measures than in Europe and US Cities. Masking and social distancing rules are in place, but they tend to be widely ignored, confirming the quip of the famous Russian satirist Saltikov-Schedrin, “The harshness of Russian laws is somewhat softened by the fact that one need not observe them.”
Left wing worldviews seem to accompany mask and vaccine fanaticism. It's safe to bet European and American art academies are a nightmare in this regard, likely frequently requiring vaccination, especially in Italy. There are no such requirements in Russia, and it is unlikely there ever will be, given strong popular resistance against such measures. The Glazunov academy is refreshingly free of such obsessions.
How to apply
The academy has a page on its English site with instructions for applying. Questions can be directed to the Rector's secretary, at email@example.com. I was assured that all messages are read and responded to. For follow-up, phone numbers are posted on the site.
The library, an architectural and bibliographic gem
The academy is justly proud of its library, unique in Russia, and needless to say, internationally. To begin with it is stunning, beautifully paneled in imported Italian oak, and lined with balconies of the same reaching the upper shelves. The two rooms were designed by Glazunov Sr. according to his memories of the library in the Repin academy in St Petersburg, where he studied. Warm and cozy, and one can imagine spending hours there pouring over rare prints and books, mostly unavailable online. Glazunov, as was his wont in everything he did, was obsessive about every detail, down to the green Victorian lampshades. In the turbulent years following collapse of the USSR, entire collections of rare books, both old and modern, were available for sale in Russia at reasonable cost. Understanding well the historic opportunity, and having a good use for them, Glazunov Sr. acquired thousands of volumes using his personal funds, donating them to the academy. The library has a collection of historic volumes which are maintained by professionals who visit from Russia's main museums, so that students and professors can continue to use them in their studies, which they are encouraged to do. This collection is not digitized, so physically turning the pages is the only way to access this priceless content.
In addition to research, the library is used as an exhibit space. Relatively empty in the mornings when I visited, it apparently fills up in the evenings and before exams. Student behavior is a worldwide phenomenon.
The personal attention to detail evident in the library is noticeable throughout the academy, in its lovingly restored grand rooms and halls, all personally overseen by Glazunov Sr., who also directed the restoration of the Kremlin palaces. The effect is that of a well-maintained grand home. More than once both students and staff commented on the atmosphere of a family, where everyone knows everyone, rather than an anonymous institution.
As I mentioned, every wall is covered with the works of students, so the entire building is a living museum. In addition to this, valuable museum pieces from the personal collections of Glazunov Jr. and Sr. are interspersed with student works, from which students practice making copies. The academy has a professional museum curator keeping track of it all, and the academy's extensive archives. Construction has begun on a modern exhibit space in the courtyard of the palace, which will allow for shows from academy's collection and visiting exhibits.
The academy also has a lovely 18th c. theater with seating for 200. There is a lively student theater group and choirs, focusing on folk music. The theater is also used for year end exams, with students presenting their large canvases on stage, with a packed room of professors critiquing, and students and family members in attendance.
A play about Dostoevsky from November 2021 put on by student actors connected with the Academy. You can find more videos about the Academy on their YouTube channel.
My interview with Glazunov Jr. follows below.
INTERVIEW with Ivan Glazunov:
Q: What can Russia teach the West in this time of political upheaval in the West?
While Russia existed for a long time before it adopted Christianity, it only became a great country, in terms of culture and political strength after it became Christian. Russia as a nation starts with its accepting of Christianity. Before then it was an amalgam of Slavic tribes, sometimes fighting the Romans, sometimes fighting each other.
Ivan Glazunov describing the Academy's work on a popular Christian TV station (Tsargrad)
Russia was always a European civilization. We received Christianity from Constantinople, but our ties are more with Europe than with Byzantium (now Turkey).. We had ties with England even before the Mongol invasions when English princesses married into our ruling families. We had relations with the French and German courts going back to the early Middle Ages.
You know, we have a lot of liberals who feel no genetic connection to old Russia, who want to change everything, a lot of atheists who feel no connection to historic Russia, who just want to make money and pursue their material interests. This is partly because of our Soviet history when the government actively fought against religion, and tried to convince everyone to be atheist.
Incidentally, we have a huge problem in Russia with abandoned cemeteries, probably no country in Europe even approaches it. The Soviet system successfully sought to break the connection with the past. We have a huge number of abandoned villages. Everyone wants to sit in an office and trade something.
We have a lot of problems, things which prevent us from rebuilding our pre-revolutionary civilization, which was an Orthodox Christian civilization which stretched from Poland to Japan, which brought Christianity to the peoples of Siberia and Central Asia, and by the way, never subjugated neighboring peoples, as, for example, the British did in their colonies, rather always offered them to join their Orthodox Christian world voluntarily, to their own benefit.
Q: Many Christian conservatives in the West look at Russia with admiration and hope. They see that conservative Christianity seems to be the ideology of the state, of the people in power, your top military people, your president. Can you explain that to a Western audience?
Honestly, I am not sure how sincere our leaders’ faith is.
It is quite popular now, including among young people, to admire the Soviet system, to admire Stalin, for example, I but don’t share this sentiment. I was a child during the end of the Soviet system, and remember it, and one great aspect of it was that some people, people like my father and mother, actively resisted it, They sympathized with historic, pre-revolutionary Russia, and tried to keep it alive in their attitudes and knowledge, their faith and their art.
Q: What is your impression of what is happening in American politics?
I’m no expert, and don’t really trust the news I get, but in general I get the feeling there is a great battle going on between non-Christian liberalism and a basically conservative, traditionalist Christian Protestant heritage. I think America was built as a conservative Protestant civilization, and this foundation is under assault from people who want to change it. That old America gave the world a great culture - literature, even painting, and your old films. Incidentally we study American painting in our academy, for example Whistler. Unfortunately Christianity is under assault everywhere in the world, it seems to me.
Q: Have you been to America?
No, I’ve really only traveled in connection with my international exhibits, and so far they have only been in Europe, in Italy and France. I’ve been to England visiting friends, and on beach vacations in Greece.
Q: Regarding this struggle between Christian traditionalists and atheist liberals in the US, do you think Russia has something to teach America in this regard?
Yes, very much so. Despite the extreme efforts by the enemies of Christianity to stamp it out here, featuring the worst kind of persecution imaginable - executions, torture, slave labor camps, and softer forms of indoctrination, there were always Russians who refused to give up their faith and preserved the traditions of Orthodox Christianity and the idea of a Russian national Christian civilization, passing them along to our age. Furthermore there were artists, writers, film makers - intellectuals in general, who thought in these terms, who resisted the Sovietization of thought and attitudes, and we entered our post Soviet phase with the heritage of their work and sacrifice. Perhaps our experience can be an inspiration to American conservative Christians.
Q: The USSR started out as utopian Marxist dictatorship with a truly Trotskyite global agenda, with the idea of destroying all nation states and creating world communism, yet under that last 8 years or so of Stalin’s rule, and under Brezhnev, it had Russian nationalist tendencies. When did things change, and why?
Yes, there was a degree of Russian nationalism in the postwar USSR, but it really was never very much, and I don’t think it was genuine on the part of the leadership. I think to the degree that the Soviet leadership did show nationalist tendencies, it was to placate the people who naturally desire it. It was more a tool for manipulation of the public than any genuine sentiment on the part of the leadership.
You know, during the civil war (1917 - 1922), it was the ethnic Russian inhabitants of what is now contemporary Russia, who suffered the most. One thing most people in the West don’t know is that in Tsarist times, there were three sub-categories of ethnic Russians. There were Great-Russians (Velikorossi),(What is now modern Russia and Eastern Ukraine), Little-Russians (Malorossi) (What is now central Ukraine), and White-Russians (Belorossi)(What is not Belarus). These were all one ethnic group, the same blood lines and genetics, but over Russia’s long history, they had experienced slightly different cultural influences, which made them slightly different, periods of time when they were politically separated from each other.
The Great-Russians weren’t called “Great” because they were considered better, rather that word reflected the fact that they were the most numerous. Little-Russians were the inhabitants of what is now Central and Western Ukraine. White-Russians were the inhabitants of what is now Belarus. For some periods Belarus was under the political control of Lithuania or Poland. Parts of central and Western Ukraine likewise were outside the control of the Russian empire at certain times. So one people, with slightly different cultural influences.
So back to what I was saying, it was the Great Russians who suffered the most during the civil war, and eventually, it became a political necessity to assuage their national sentiment, which happened to a degree after WW2. It was criticized at the time by the more pure Marxist internationalist wing of the country’s leadership as “Great-Russian chauvinism.”
Q: Would you describe Putin’s Russia, the government, as nationalistic?
Well, there is some of that, but not very much, from a governmental standpoint. The reason is that during Soviet times the USSR became a melting pot of different nationalities, and national identity was discouraged, everyone was to be hammered into a new, “Soviet Man”,and these non-Russian nationalities have remained all over Russia in our times (Armenians, Uzbeks, Koreans, Germans, Tatars, Azeris, Jews, Georgians, Chechens, Balts, etc. - ed.)
In our day, there is a degree of tension between various ethnic groups, whereas in Tsarist times, they were also part of the empire, and lived very peacefully side by side, retaining their national identities. Many of these peoples became literate thanks to the efforts of the Russian empire. All these various peoples lived peacefully together, and comprised an enormous country, the Russian empire, under the rule of a Russian Tsar.
Of course, today the government does a lot to support Russian culture, and Russian language. So that is something.
Q: Do you think monarchism might be revived in Russia?
Not at this time. A Monarch, (in Russian a Tsar, which is a Russianization of the Roman word ‘Ceasar’), takes his authority to rule from God, and is anointed by the church, and the people agree to be ruled by him because of their faith in that church, for example like in the Bible, in Old Testament Israel. The Soviets were so successful in destroying religiosity, a sense of the sacred, that I do not see a readiness today among the broader population to accept a ruler who depends on Christianity to rule.
Q: Tell us about the savage persecution of Christianity after the revolution. Your father painted some large canvases on this subject, what do you know about it?
Well my father actually saw the persecution of the church. He was born in 1930, and was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), during the siege. He was in his twenties when Khrushchev declared that soon Soviet people will see the last surviving priest in the USSR. He saw how churches were demolished. I only saw them in a dilapidated state, with trees growing where cupolas used to be. He saved icons from bonfires. Yes, hundreds of thousands of priests were shot or sent to camps where they often quickly died.
Q: Do you think there could be a similar persecution of Christians in the West, like what happened in Russia?
I think it’s possible. I don’t know American politics well enough to say anything really insightful. When we read about the Apocalypse, and prophecies of holy elders, we are told that there will be persecution of Christians, and I think this has already begun in a soft form. A slow wearing down of spirituality. People are discouraged from showing that they are Christians. The Christian understanding of family is being replaced. And the LGBT phenomenon is anti-Christian. Great culture, art, its all in the past. There is no more great literature, great music. And this is also a function of society abandoning Christianity.
Q: Do you have foreign students at your academy?
Not yet, but we are just in the process of creating a special program for foreign students, aimed at students from Europe and the US.
Russia is the only country which has preserved the teaching of classical drawing as it was taught in the 19th century. It’s a miracle that it survived. The only academies which teach it are this one, and the Repin Institute in St. Petersburg. This is truly a great treasure that Russia can now share with the West. There is a little bit of it in America too, but not nearly on the scale we have in Russia, in terms of academies, professors, and students. In Europe it is basically non-existent. Sometimes I think it is our predestination to pass this school on to Western civilization.
We’ve thought about opening branches of the academy in America and Europe, in which we would send Russian professors to teach students there. We are working with an academy in Turin about doing precisely this, but Covid disrupted things.
We would like to bring classical drawing and painting back to America and Europe. We would like to see it flourish there, and have more influence in contemporary art, more than it has today. There is definitely a lot of interest on the part of young people in both America and Europe.They want to study and learn, to be able to draw and paint like Sargent and Whistler (US), or Zorn (Sweden), Frank Craig (UK), one of my favorites. These were great artists from not that long ago, and 99% of contemporary artists can no longer paint like that. They don’t know how. It’s a lost art.
Q: Please explain, what exactly is classical drawing and painting? When did it flourish and when did it die out
So all artists were trained in this discipline up until about 1914. The first people to rebel against it were the impressionists, but you can say that they were still on our side of the barricades. It is in post-impressionism that you have a complete absence of classical methods. The two world wars killed so many students, artists, and professors, so their ranks were decimated by that. Then there was the declaration of human rights which stated that students should decide for themselves how to express themselves. Grades were abolished in art schools so as not to hurt a sensitive young artist’s feelings. This is still standard practice in all contemporary art schools in the West, but not in our academy.
You know, an artistic tradition like that, the academies, the professors, the art consumers, the critics, the exhibits, this can all be destroyed really within a matter of years, and then reviving it takes decades and a lot of effort and expense. You can’t just start it up in a few years, because you need the older generation teaching the younger generation, and the establishment of academies, and the appearance of enough young people to be interested, so you are talking decades, not years. It is a miracle that it survived in Russia, thanks to the USSR’s promotion of socialist realism in painting.
Russia today has the resources in terms of instructors, artists, and professors, to revive these traditions in the West.
Q: Do you have a final message you would like to share with our readers?
I very much want there to be more practitioners of the old school of painting. This art, and a traditional worldview, which for me, is primarily a Christian one, can save and protect the world, and postpone the end of our world.
Westerners should understand that Russians don’t think of ourselves as foreign to Europe. Dostoevsky wrote that every stone in Europe is sacred for us, and that it true. We think of European culture as our home, as Russia is.
At the same time we understand that we are part of the Orthodox Christian world, and this is no less important for those of us who want to preserve traditional values. Unfortunately this is not important for a lot of people, but I think more people will eventually wake up and realize how important it is. People remember about God when cataclysm strikes.
We want to bring traditional-minded people together. We are constructing an exhibit hall in our complex, and we intend to have exhibits there, not only of the work of our own artists, but artists from Europe and America, and of historic paintings. My wish is that these exhibits will unite traditionalists from around the world, and give more exposure to traditionalist ideas, not just in Russia.
Traditional art, from ancient times to the early 20th century, gives man food for his soul, it connects him to the creator. Even pre-Christian art does this. Art brings people, individuals and nationalities together, gives them something to share.
Q: Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I would have to say that ultimately I am an optimist because I believe in the possibility of salvation of the soul. Man instinctively wants salvation, and God made a covenant with us to open up a new life, which we can’t even imagine.
In order for that to happen we have to bring God to man, and man to God.
END OF INTERVIEW
The Academy provided us with so many interesting images of the creations of their students. What would not fit in the text, follows below:
St. Elizabeth Romanov