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Olga's Gallery


Arkhip Kuinji

(1842 - 1910)
            The Russian landscape painter Arkhip Ivanovich Kuinji was born in 1842 in the town of Mariupol on the Azov Sea in the South of Russia. Kuinji was of Greek descent – during the reign of Catherine II his ancestors, together with other Greek refugees, settled near the Azov Sea.
            Kuinji lacked a formal education, but his eminent gift helped him attain a notable success in art. He evidently was allowed to attend classes at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, had training in the workshop of the famous marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky, visited the classes of the Society of Art Lovers. In 1868, having passed exams in general education and special subjects at the Academy of Arts, Kuinji received a diploma of a freelance artist for his independent work. His earlier paintings Autumn Weather (1870), Lake Ladoga (1870) and On the Valaam Island (1873) brought him first recognition.
            In 1873, Kuinji traveled around Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria and thoroughly studied the works of great masters. On his return, however, he creates works which were absolutely unlike those he had seen in European museums.
            His Ukrainian Night (1876) opened a new romantic stage in his work. He used special light effects to paint nature and achieved such astonishing results, that people, who saw the picture for the first time at an exhibition, tried to check its back, if there was any special source of light. Exhibited at the Paris World Fair in 1878 The Ukranian Night attracted the attention of the eminent French critics.
            Kuinji developed a new vision in his next painting A Birch Grove (1879). It is both realistic and conventionalized; it looks as a condensed essence of reality. In 1880, he completed Moonlit Night on Dnieper (1880). The picture was a great success. Kuinji became an idol of the public. But he was not understood by his colleagues who saw in his art only illusory color effects, did not support his romantic searching. Probably it was the reason  of his withdrawal from all exhibitions and public arrangements. He worked hard in his studio, experimenting much, but only his close friends saw his works.
            In 1894, he accepted an invitation to become a professor of the Academy. He was very fond of teaching and his students admired him. Among Kuinji’s pupils were several prominent artists such as N. Rerikh, K. Bogaevskiy, A. Rilov, V. Purvit and others. Unfortunately his career of a professor did not last long, he was dismissed for supporting students in their protests against authorities. But he continued to teach his students privately, and then paid for their trip around Europe. Later he presented the Academy with a big sum of money, the interest from which was to be used for awards to young painters.
In 1909, he founded The Kuinji Society, an independent association of painters, to which he left all his pictures and property. The next year he died.
     The other well-known works of Kuinji are A Birch Grove (1879), with one of its late versions A Birch Grove (1901), The North (1879),  After a Rain (1879), Sea. The Crimea. (1898-1908), Elbrus in the Evening. (1898-1908), Sunset (1890-1895), Rainbow (1900-1905), Night Grazing (1905-1908).

Bibliography:
Kuinji and His School. Leningrad. 1987.
Kuinji. Russian Painters of the XIX century. by V. Minin. Moscow. 1990.
Paintings of the 18th-early 20th centuries from the Reserves of the Russian Museum. by K. Mikhailova and G. Smirnov. Leningrad. 1982.

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