Mikhail Vasilevich  Nesterov - Hayricks by the River
Hayricks by the River
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Mikhail Vasilevich Nesterov (Ufa, now in Bashkirskaya Republic of Russia 1862 - Moscow 1942)

Mikhail Nesterov was a Russian painter (1862-1942). From 1877 to 1881 and again from 1884 to 1886 he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the Realist painters Vasily Perov and Illarion Pryanishnikov. Between 1881 and 1884 he worked under Pavel Chistyakov (1832–1919) at the Academy of Arts, St Petersburg. At the estate of Savva Mamontov at Abramtsevo he met the most influential painters of the period, then at the epicentre of the development of Russian Art Nouveau. Nesterov sought to combine this style with a deep Orthodox belief; however, in his desire to revive religious art he was influenced more by French Symbolism, particularly by Bastien-Lepage, than by old Russian icon painting. All of Nesterov’s canvases are marked by a lyrical synthesis between the figures and their landscape surroundings, as in Hermit (1888–9; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.), which shows the stooped figure of an old man against a northern landscape of stunted trees and still water. The large oil painting Vision of Young Bartholomew (1889–90; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.) depicts the legend of the childhood of the Russian saint Sergey of Radonezh. A monk appears to the young Bartholomew (the future St Sergius) and prophesies a glorious future for him. The simplified outlines and muted colours of the Abramtsevo landscape recall the works of the French artist Puvis de Chavannes, which Nesterov saw on a trip to Paris in 1889.
In the 1880s–90s Nesterov executed many wall paintings for churches, for example those that decorated the new church of St Vladimir in Kiev, which had been built in the old Byzantine style in 1882. After 1900 he painted many of the famous figures of his day including the writer Lev Tolstoy (1907; Moscow, Tolstoy Mus.) and the physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1935; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.). Nesterov continued to paint portraits of prominent figures, including the sculptor Vera Mukhina (1940; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.). Nesterov shows the sculptor at work on a plaster model, which she moulds through her sheer physical energy. The composition, on a diagonal, reinforces the effect of energy and is quite different from that of the portrait of the scientist Pavlov, who is shown in profile in a horizontal format that emphasizes the quiet processes of contemplation. Nesterov’s most ambitious and large-scale pre-revolutionary painting was In Rus [The Heart of the People] (1916; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.), an attempt to present a generalized image of Russia on the eve of threatening and irreversible changes.