Andrei Nikolaievich Schilder (St. Petersburg 1861 - St. Petersburg 1919)

A Wooded Landscape

signed in Cyrillic ‘A. Schilder’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
43.5 x 73.5 cm (17¼ x 29 in)


Andrei Nikolaievich Schilder’s use of light filtering through branches adds a wild beauty to his many paintings of forests and landscapes. A Wooded Landscape is enlivened by the sunlight catching the leaves and water below. The fine detail and vivid colour recalls the work of his teacher Ivan Shishkin, Old Lime-trees being a comparable example. The influence of the great Russian landscape and forest painter is particularly prominent in A Wooded Landscape. Schilder’s strong feeling for the lines and forms of trees is a clear reflection of his mentor’s shimmering forests. Pine trees and snow-covered landscapes dominate his oeuvre as they did Shishkin’s.

Shishkin, dubbed the ‘knight of the forest’, used skill and patience to depict Russia’s many birch forests, meadows and lakes. He went out daily to the countryside, often working en plein air. Both he and Schilder had ample subject matter, accessing the vast forests which cover large expanses of Russia, extending in an uninterrupted mass from its western borders to the Pacific coast. Both Shishkin and Schilder created a great body of work on the subject. When the young Shishkin travelled throughout Europe on a bursary visiting Düsseldorf, which was then an outstanding centre for landscape painters, he dreamt of Russia: ‘even in my sleep I see the endless vastness of the Russian soil, the golden rye, the rivers and the forests, and the immeasurable Russian horizons.’

Returning home, he became one of the founders of the artistic group named the Peredvizhniki or ‘The Wanderers’ in 1870. They broke with the ‘foreign’ neo-Classical tradition taught at the Imperial Academy of the Arts in St. Petersburg, and instead focused on Russian themes. They painted portraits of Russians, domestic landscapes, genre pieces, religious and historical scenes, and organised their own travelling exhibitions. Just as other countries were seeking means of articulating national identity during the second half of the nineteenth century, so was Russia: in the vast Russian landscape, artists found a means of presenting a specifically Russian subject, with Schilder following in this vein.

Like Shishkin, Schilder strove for an accurate rendering of the endless variety of forms in the plant world, but his best work is far from being a simple exercise in recording botanical detail. Instead, his work portrays the majesty of the landscape, the changing atmosphere of the seasons, and the varying qualities of light. Contemporary to a changing generation of Russian artists, Schilder’s work often adopts symbolic and romantic qualities, where figures are overshadowed in scale by the oppressive and giant landscape. One is reminded of romantic Russian fairytales and the more sinister qualities of the forest which is contrasted with the light and airy atmosphere of A Wooded Landscape.