Friday, March 17, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Russian Artist Mikhail Vrubel

Mikhail Vrubel, Russian artist, was born this day in 1856. He painted during the art nouveau period and has been credited with introducing the art nouveau style to Russia. As well as painting in oils he was a skilled majolica craftsman, and talented in theatrical design.

Vrubel's life appears to have been rather wild, troubled and comparatively short (he died aged 54). He suffered mental disease brought on by syphilis, but left behind some superb work, sadly not as well-known in the USA as it deserves to be.

For a selection of his artwork, in large sized images, I recommend a visit to this website, at a piece headed
10 paintings from Russian artist that battled demons in art and life - author:Ksenia Isaeva, RBTH. From brief biographical detail there:

"Soviet art critic Nina Dmitrieva compared Vrubel’s creative life to a three-act drama with a prologue and an epilogue, with the transition between stages happening sharply and unexpectedly. The prologue would be his younger years spent studying and choosing his vocation.
The second act was his Moscow period, which began in 1890 with the famous painting “Demon Seated” and ended with the painting “Fallen Demon” (1901) and the artist’s hospitalization.
The third act was from 1903-1906. During these years, Vrubel battled mental illness and his physical and intellectual abilities were in decline. The epilogue was his final years until his death in 1910.
It is said that Mikhail Vrubel sold his soul to the devil. So, it is no coincidence, that all his problems and tragedies began when he was working on the “Fallen Demon” painting.
A son was born to the Vrubel family when “Fallen Demon” was being painted. He was a good boy – but he had a birth defect, a cleft lip. Vrubel himself started hallucinating. He was put into a mental clinic. That, however, was not the end of his misfortunes. A year later his son died. "
As syphylis progressed, Vrubel went blind. He died of pneumonia after deliberately exposing his body to the cold, and declining to fight for life. He died in the mental clinic.

This short video (less than 5 minutes) offers a quick look at a range of Vrubel's works.

I like many of his stylised paintings - I see echoes of Gustav Klimt in some of them, espsecially those portraying females.

Fascinated by Lermontov’s long poem, The Demon (1829-39), Vrubel repeatedly portrayed the image of the devil on canvas. These paintings became his most famous. Vrubel’s demon became symbolic of the artist’s own struggles with mental illness.

Vrubel's demons are rather dishy to my eye! But then, I guess that's how a demon manages to beguile and tempt ya - it'd be no use at all for a demon to have a face "like the back end of a 'bus" (as my Gran used to say).

 Flying Demon
 Tamara & Demon

 Sadko (Majolica ware)
Sadko is the principal character in a Russian medieval epic Bylina. He was an adventurer, merchant, and gusli musician from Novgorod. (More at Wikipedia)


Born on 17 March 1856 in Omsk, Russia. Chart set for 12 noon, time of birth unknown.

From Russkiy Mir foundation website

 Self portrait, 1885

A few pointers as to his personality:
An aspiring artist L. Kovalskiy from Kiev described his first encounter with 24-year-old Vrubel, who just came to start working on Kirillovskaya church: ..... The scene was more than exciting: against primitive hills of Kirillovskoye behind my back stood a fair, almost white young blonde man with a very notable head, small moustache, almost white. Not too tall, very balanced body type, dressed in black velvet suit, short underdrawers and half-boots. No one dressed like that in Kiev and I was impressed. It was a young Venetian man from the paintings of Tintoretto and Titian”.

From this article by S.E. Hecker, regarding his "Demon" paintings:

To understand these demons, one must know how the subject came to be such a fascination to Vrubel. Vrubel’s first major commissions as an artist were for the restorations of St. Kirill’s in Kiev. His participation here would lead to the development of a Byzantine style that would be seen in all of his subsequent work. During his stay in Kiev, Vrubel developed a tendency to drink too much, throw away money, and participated in numerous amorous escapades which led him to disappear without warning. This lack of self-discipline and loose manner of living created unusual patterns of thought and temperament bringing about extravagant behavior. Because of this behavior he committed numerous offenses against societal conventions and had lapses with reality, such as a belief in his father’s death, and a growing frequency of migraines. Despite this, his work never showed signs of it. Also, while in Kiev, he began a lifelong fascination with creating images akin to classic Russian folktales. More importantly, however, Kiev was the place in which Vrubel saw Anton Rubenstein’s opera The Demon for the first time, giving him his initial inspiration for the subject that would be a constant throughout his artistic career.

Alrighty then! Not far to search for indication of excess in his nature - Neptune (creativity and potential for addiction) conjunct Jupiter (excess) 8 degrees from natal Sun (self), all in Pisces ruled by Neptune. Potential for trouble comes via a square angle from Saturn in Gemini to these planets.

Mercury and Venus conjunct in Aquarius and in trine to Saturn were, possibly, redeeming features preventing Vrubel's immediate complete slide into darkness and incompetency. In fact, there's a Grand Trine -in Air (mental acuity)- a harmonious circuit linking Venus to Saturn and Mars.

A Yod (Finger of Fate) links the sextile between Saturn/Jupiter and Uranus, by two 150 degree angles to Mars, again, I think, drawing in a little Airy balance to the somewhat extreme and unexpected facets of his nature.

In the end, though, it would seem his penchant for excess eventually overcame the rest, leading to a too early demise.

Chiron ("The Wounded Healer") was in exact and challenging square aspect to Pluto (death and darkness)at Vrubel's birth; this could be seen as a link his frequent painting of demons used as somewhat of a healing aid.

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