Vasily Polenov, one of the members of the Peredvizhniki, produced many artworks that gained him the credibility of often being “one of the best Russian landscape painters.” One thing that particularly stands out about Polenov is that while he may have produced a large amount of works about Russia itself, he also produced many based on his journeys and from outside of Russia itself, having notably travelled to Palestine and many other areas in the middle east and the mediterranean. Polenov was someone who wanted to see all of the beauty in the world, and in turn, helped him able to understand and portray the beauty of Russia even more.
(The Parthenon, Temple of Athena Pallas)
Realism was a genre of painting that was also behind the populist movement in Russia, oftentimes highlighting the working class culture of the country. However, Polenov was someone who tended to focus more on nature itself rather than people; something very observable from just a glance at his collected works. Whether this was done due to his skills of painting people versus landscape, or his personal preference of what he wanted to base his works on is unknown.
One thing that struck me as rather interesting that while he was a member of the Peredvizhniki, Polenov also received the diploma of a lawyer, and helped create theater architecture as well among several other things. He was not just a painter, but a man who truly tried to dabble in many other thing as well. Polenov also happened to have come from a well off family s well, which explains his ability to have been able to participate in art. His father was a senior officer in the imperial army, and his mother was an amateur painter herself.
While realism does focus on more than just the simple painting of the people themselves, highlighting more into their lives and experiences, Polenov certainly took a dive into portraying Russia as a beautiful place, contrary to what many other outsiders believed. Polenov helped shape that Russia was more than just dirt roads and white skies, but a land of character, embodied in all forms of nature, from it’s landscape, to it’s flora and fauna, and to it’s people.