Alexey Kondratyevich Savrasov is one of the Russia’s most remarkable landscape painters, the originator of the so-called ‘mood landscape’. Savrasov was born into the family of a merchant. He began to draw early; in 1838 he enrolled as a student at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture (graduated in 1850), and immediately began to specialize in landscape painting. His efforts of the 1850s reveal the difficult process he was going through trying to overcome the academic tradition in depicting landscape. The Russian public liked his lyrical landscapes like
View of the Kremlin from the Krimsky Bridge in Inclement Weather (1851) and gradually he made his name.
In 1852, the artist traveled to the Ukraine where he produced a series of views of its rolling steppes The Steppe in Daytime (1852), which reflect the various aspects of his favorite subject, wide-open spaces. By the invitation of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, the President of the Russian Academy of Arts, who commissioned several works from Savrasov, he moved to the shores of the Gulf of Finland in the neighborhood of St. Petersburg. Though the scenery there was alien to his spirit, he was able to find some innovations never seen in academic landscape painting before. In 1854, for his pictures Seashore in the Neighborhood of Oranienbaum and View in the Neighborhood of Oranienbaum (1854) he was awarded the title of Fellow of the Academy. In 1857, Savrasov became a teacher in the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture, from which he had graduated. His best disciples Isaac Levitan and Constantin Korovin always remembered their teacher with admiration and gratefulness.
In the 1860s, he traveled to England and Switzerland. His introduction to English landscape painting was most influential. The best works of the period include View of the Swiss Alps from Interlaken (1862), Rustic View (1867), Rafts (1868).
The Rooks Have Come (1871) is considered by many critics to be the highest point in Savrasov’s artistic career. Using a common, even trivial, episode of birds returning home, and an extremely simple landscape, Savrasov managed to show very emotionally the transition of nature from winter to spring. It was a new type of lyrical landscape painting, called later by critics ‘the mood landscape’. The picture made his name famous.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s there were many good landscapes, though early spring in the countryside remained the favorite subject of the artist. The most notable are A Winter Road (1870s), Country Road (1873), View of the Moscow Kremlin. Spring (1873), Spring Thaw. Yaroslavl. (1874), Rainbow (1875), A Provincial Cottage. Spring. (1878), Landscape with a Rainbow (1881), Sea of Mud (1894). The misfortunes in his personal life, may be dissatisfaction with his artistic career were the reason of his tragedy – he became an alcoholic. All attempts of his relatives and friends to help him were in vain. The last years of his life Savrasov led the life of a pauper, wandering from shelter to shelter. Only the doorkeeper of the School of Painting and Pavel Tretyakov (the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery) were present at his funeral.
Savrasov by F. Maltseva. Russian Painters of the XIX century. Moscow. 1989.
Alexey Savrasov by F. Maltseva. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1977.
1851. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
1852. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
1854. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
1862. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.