Mikhail Konstantinovich Klodt (born December 30, 1832 – died May 16, 1902) is an outstanding Russian landscape painter of the 19th century, whose biography is imbued with serious attention to people from the people, their needs and suffering. The creativity of the genius Mikhail Klodt is characterized by the spirituality of the Russian nature, which was conveyed in the scrupulous realism of the image and the excellent skill of compositional solutions. The master’s paintings, for all their detail, demonstrate a holistic image of the immense Russia.
Mikhail Konstantinovich Klodt – a descendant of the ancient baronial family Klodt von Jürgensburg (German Clodt von Jürgensburg) – was born on December 30, 1832. The aristocratic family highly appreciated the arts and crafts. The creative atmosphere in the house was part of everyday life. The father of the future painter, Major General of Artillery, was engaged in wood engraving in his free time, and his uncle was a fairly famous sculptor at that time. Mikhail Klodt, as the family chronicler notes, in childhood was distinguished by an unsociable character.
Love for painting manifested itself in the Mountain Cadet Corps, where the young man was determined by his parents. It was only thanks to the drawing teacher that Mikhail decided on the choice of his life path. In 1851, Klodt entered the Imperial Academy of Arts. After completing his studies as a medalist, the painter got the opportunity to develop his skills abroad. But foreign species did not bring any new ideas or inspiration, and a year later he turns to an educational institution with a request for permission to return to his homeland.
Upon arrival in Russia, Mikhail Klodt wrote a number of romantic works dedicated to the nature abroad. Truthfully and piercingly, they convey air, space, light, and close connection with living nature. Lyrical landscapes, created in a classic style of realism, allowed viewers to immerse themselves in the charm of unfamiliar places. The masterpieces forever entered the history of Russian landscape, brought the author wide public recognition and the honorary title of academician.
By the end of the 1860s, Mikhail Klodt was an established landscape painter with his own unique painting style.
His works are characterized by amazing serenity, strict composition, detailed drawing of the smallest objects. The presence of human figures on canvases animates and elevates nature.
Since 1870, the artist worked on the board of the democratically-minded Association of Traveling Exhibitions, the purpose of which was to acquaint the inhabitants of the province with academic painting. Klodt’s works were a huge success. One of them, “On arable land”, directly from the exposition, was acquired by a philanthropist and entrepreneur Pavel Tretyakov for his personal collection.
Klodt viewed creativity as a mirror that reflects the acceptance of the surrounding world as it is. Since 1873, having received a position at the Academy of Painting, he passed on his knowledge and ideas to his students. The master was engaged in teaching activities, traveled through the Russian outback and created magnificent rural landscapes.
The works of Mikhail Klodt were among the greatest paintings of world art and were repeatedly presented to the public at international exhibitions organized in European capitals. In recent years, the master’s health has deteriorated. The inability to sell his creations drove the artist below the poverty line. On May 16, 1902, he passed away, leaving his descendants a rich artistic legacy.
The most famous paintings
The master’s works contain an aspiration to show the extraordinary depth of the countryside, brightened up by the presence of living beings. The most famous paintings by Mikhail Klodt, which recreated the divine greatness of the world:
- “View in the Zagezal estate near Riga” (1858) is an original graduation work that attracts attention with bright colors. The ugly stockyard and the hard everyday life of the shepherd girls are depicted with photographic accuracy and make us rethink everyday life.
- “Oak Grove” (1863) – mighty trees on the outskirts of a poor village, personifying the strong connection of all living things in the world. The combination of shades of blue and green gives the plot a sense of universal harmony.
- “Cows at a Watering Hole” (1879) is a realistic depiction of domestic animals that creates the effect of presence. A serene state, corresponding to the mood of a warm summer day, is conveyed to the audience.
- The Volga near Simbirsk (1881) is a composition based on the contrast between the dark greenery of the foreground and the light sky. The symbol of freedom, space and greatness of the human spirit is a wide, mighty river.
Subtle observation allowed Mikhail Klodt to reflect the atmosphere of the time. Turning a part of nature into a stage for living nature, the artist truly captured the era.