Igor Grabar – author of the best winter landscapes

I.E. Grabar in Dugino. Photo from 1913.
I.E. Grabar in Dugino. Photo from 1913.

Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar (born March 25, 1871 – died May 16, 1960) is a famous Russian and Soviet painter of the first half of the 20th century. The work of Igor Grabar belongs to the traditions of Russian impressionism and post-impressionism. Among the paintings of this author there are many portraits and still lifes, but his original winter landscapes are especially famous. The artist also became famous as a brilliant restorer, art critic, educator and reformer of the Tretyakov Gallery.

Moscow street. Tverskaya (Petrovka is the old name).
Moscow street. Tverskaya (Petrovka is the old name).

Biography of Igor Grabar

Igor Grabar was born in Budapest on March 25, 1871. His parents were Slavophiles and were active in public life. Political persecution forced them to move to Russia. The nine-year-old son became a student at a gymnasium in the provincial town of Yegoryevsk, where his father got a job as a teacher. At the gymnasium, the boy, keen on drawing, received his first painting lessons. In 1981, he continued his studies at the Tsarevich Nicholas Lyceum in Moscow, where he lived as a poor scholarship student among wealthy children. The same drawing, to which the future artist devoted every minute of his free time, helped him cope with the difficult period.

Girl in a toy store. 1890s
Girl in a toy store. 1890s.
Old man model. Etude. 1891.
Old man model. Etude. 1891.

Igor Grabar graduated from the Lyceum with a gold medal and began studying law at St. Petersburg University. Despite the boredom, he graduated from this department on time, and during his studies he worked part-time as an illustrator for the Niva magazine and wrote reviews of art exhibitions. Determined to become a professional painter, in 1894 he began his studies at the Imperial Academy, where he studied with Ilya Repin.

Academic education at that time disappointed young artists, so two years later Grabar left for Munich to study at the private school of Anton Azbe and take an architect’s course. He was accompanied by two classmates – Alexey Yavlensky and Marianna Verevkina. Quite quickly, Igor Grabar demonstrated such outstanding success that he became first an assistant and then an equal partner of Azhbe. But in 1901 he decided to return to Russia.

Nanny with a child. 1892.
Nanny with a child. 1892.
Happy holiday of Christ's Resurrection! 1894.
Happy holiday of Christ’s Resurrection! 1894.

Immediately after his return, the painter began to actively exhibit with the World of Arts and other associations. His works were warmly received by critics and quickly found buyers. International fame soon came. Period from 1903 to 1907 is considered the most fruitful in the work of this artist. It was then that many of his most famous works were created.

Subsequently, there was a decline in painting, as Grabar switched to editorial and educational activities. He took part in the creation of the multi-volume History of Russian Art, where he published valuable information about ancient Russian architecture. From 1913 to 1925 he headed the Tretyakov Gallery, which he significantly transformed. Under him, the halls were expanded, previously haphazardly exhibited paintings were hung according to monographic and historical principles, a catalog was compiled with detailed descriptions of thousands of exhibits, numerous masterpieces were restored and attributed.

Yakunchikov factory in Nara. 1901.
Yakunchikov factory in Nara. 1901.

After the revolution, Igor Grabar received several responsible positions, in particular, he distributed nationalized works of fine art. During the period of Stalinist repressions, he left all posts and retired, returning to painting. In the war and post-war years, the artist again found himself in demand: he assessed the losses of museums as a result of hostilities, restored Andrei Rublev’s “Trinity” icon, and edited “The History of Russian Art.”

The painter spent the later years of his life at his dacha in Abramtsevo. He died on May 16, 1960 at the age of 89. Igor Grabar was happily married to Valentina Meshcherina, who died a year earlier. Their children, Olga and Mstislav, chose professions far from art: biochemist and mathematician.

Balustrade. 1901.
Balustrade. 1901.
Corner of the estate (Ray of the sun). 1901.
Corner of the estate (Ray of the sun). 1901.
Golden leaves. 1901.
Golden leaves. 1901.
Winter landscape. 1901.
Winter landscape. 1901.
September snow. 1903.
September snow. 1903.
Autumn landscape with a church. 1903.
Autumn landscape with a church. 1903.
Igor Grabar New dacha. 1903.
New dacha. 1903.
Igor Grabar February blue. 1904.
February blue. 1904.
Igor Grabar Frost. 1904.
Frost. 1904.
Igor Grabar Path in the estate. 1904.
Path in the estate. 1904.
Igor Grabar Pavilion in Kuzminki. 1904.
Pavilion in Kuzminki. 1904.
Igor Grabar Fading day. 1904.
Fading day. 1904.
Igor Grabar On a sleigh through the village. 1905.
On a sleigh through the village. 1905.
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