Splendor of Rural Russia on Show at Tretyakov

MTSidorov at the opening of the exhibit.
Even as the frost and winds of winter begin to swirl into the city, inside the Tretyakov Gallery all is blue sky and sunbeams. One entire hall of the museum is filled with children running in fields and peasants collecting potatoes and hay, some of the central images of the works of artist Valentin Sidorov, whose depictions of Russian rural life will warm exhibitgoers until Dec. 14.

Sidorov's Moscow solo show marks the artist's 80th birthday and brings together all the stages of his creative work, which is united by a single subject: the Russian countryside. The simple beauty of the idyllic setting is rendered over and over in the painter's 100-plus works on display.

"He is a very discerning person," said Natalia Alexandrova, head of the Tretyakov Gallery's contemporary painting department. "His landscapes are always recognizable."

"Few painters living in Moscow can depict the Russian countryside this way," she added.

All the scenes portrayed in Sidorov's paintings come from the childhood he spent with his grandmother in the northwestern Russian province of Tver, whose natural splendor also inspired such masters of Russian landscape painting as Alexei Venetsianov and Isaak Levitan. Unlike many Soviet artists, Sidorov never painted official pictures ordered by the government, instead continuing to capture the pastoral vistas that so captivated him.


Tretyakov Gallery
Idyllic landscapes, such as those near the village of Korovino where the artist grew up, have always been his focus.
"People should live in a close dialogue with nature," Sidorov said at the opening of his exhibition. "I always recall my grandmother, who said one should see with the heart."

Despite keeping his distance from the former government establishment, the artist has been embraced by the state over the past two decades, chairing the Russian Artists' Union since 1987 and being awarded several national prizes. Funds provided by these honors even allowed him to construct a chapel in the village of Korovino where he created many of his works.

One section of the Tretyakov exhibit is devoted exclusively to some of the earliest of those paintings, which were created in the 1940s and 50s and are for the most part smaller than his later pieces. Some of those beginning works, a series of which are on display for the first time, were done on rags and even bandages, the artist said.

Sidorov's work has been featured on its own before, traveling to a dozen cities in Russia and Eurasia since 2004 in the form of a personal exhibition titled "On the Warm Earth," the name of one of his most famous paintings. The Tretyakov show, however, seeks not only to honor his lifetime of artistic contributions but also to recall him in the context of his era.

"At this exhibition, we tried to find the place of artists of the 60s in the modern world," Alexandrova said.

Sidorov, for one, does not forget that rocky past. Answering journalists' questions about the influence of a financial crisis on the life of Russian artists, he struck a note of optimism even in admitting that the crisis would affect them too. "We will live through it," he said. "We still remember times much worse."

The exhibition of paintings by Valentin Sidorov will run until Dec. 14 in the Inzhenerny Korpus of the Tretyakov Gallery, 12 Lavrushinsky Pereulok. M. Tretyakovskaya. 8 (499) 230-7788, 951-1362, 238-1378. /www.tretyakovgallery.ru.