Mikhail Vrubel

Mikhail Vrubel an artist who saw angels and demons

Mikhail Vrubel, The Snow Maiden, 1895
The Snow Maiden, 1895

Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel is one of the most significant Russian painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who created not only pictorial masterpieces in various genres, but also graphic works, sculptures, scenery and costumes for the theater. Amazing skill, tragedy, rebellious spirit and rare talent make Mikhail Vrubel a great artist. The richest inner world, inaccessible to other people, is revealed in his works.

Mikhail Vrubel, Water Lilies
Water Lilies

Artist’s studies

Because of his father’s service, the family often moved: the future artist studied in different cities. In 1874, he began to study law, but soon left the university. Mikhail Vrubel, to the displeasure of his father, enters the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. Later, he studies with Pavel Chistyakov, an outstanding teacher. Then he met Ilya Repin, who advised him to start working with nature on his own. The artist does a lot of watercolor painting, painting 10-15 hours a day. When in 1884 the archaeologist Adrian Prakhov asked Chistyakov for a student to work in the St. Cyril Church (Kyiv), he advised Mikhail Vrubel.

Italy. Scenes from ancient life. Sketch of a theater curtain. Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel
Italy. Scenes from ancient life. Sketch of a theater curtain. Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel

First works

The talented painter creates murals and paints the face of an angel for St. Sophia Cathedral. After a trip to Venice and the creation of several icons, he receives an offer to participate in the restoration of the Vladimir Church. But his work causes bewilderment among customers and soon Mikhail Alexandrovich is suspended from work.

The artist returns to Moscow, where he suffers from lack of money, until he meets the patron Savva Morozov. He drew illustrations for the work of Mikhail Lermontov “The Demon”, completely immersed in work. His series of paintings “Demon” became a textbook for the Art Nouveau style at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Mikhail Vrubel, Hansel and Gretel, 1896
Hansel and Gretel, 1896
Parting of the Sea King and Princess Volkhova
Parting of the Sea King and Princess Volkhova

The last years of the artist’s life

Emotional stress leads to a mental breakdown, and in 1902 Mikhail Vrubel goes to the capital’s hospital, where doctors diagnose a serious illness. A year later, the painter’s health improved, and he moved to Kiev. But here a new shock occurs his son dies. Mikhail Alexandrovich again finds himself in a clinic, where, in short hours of enlightenment, he creates real masterpieces.

The progressive disease causes blindness. The artist spent the last few years of his life in St. Petersburg, in a psychiatric hospital.

Mikhail Vrubel. Painting Six-Winged Seraphim, 1904
Mikhail Vrubel. Painting Six-Winged Seraphim, 1904

Glory came to Mikhail Vrubel when he was already seriously ill. He was awarded the honorary title of academician, and in 1906, at an exhibition in Paris, a whole room was assigned to the painter’s work.

At the exhibition “World of Art” for the first time the painting “Demon Defeated” was exhibited. She caused a sensation, but Mikhail Aleksandrovich was dissatisfied with his work all the time. Every morning he came and repainted the lips, eyes, nose of the Demon. Sometimes the face became terrible, sometimes unhappy.

The Alexander Sloboda
The Alexander Sloboda