Moonlight Night on Dneper.
1880. Oil on paper. 105 x 144.
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Kuindzhi had a keenly appreciative eye. Legends were told about his striking ability to grasp the subtlest nuances of colour. However, the sensitivity of the eye itself would not provide an artistic effect, were it not combined with the perfect command of the harmony of colours and tones.
In 1880 Kuindzhi completed the painting Moonlit Night on the Dneper. It was exhibited together with the Birch Grove in a dark room, with the directed ray of an artificial illuminant effectively emphasizing the depth of space. Kuindzhi used the property of warm colours to be brightened by artificial light and of cold colours to be absorbed by it. The exhibition was a great success. Kuindzhi became an idol of the public. The plastic innovation of the picture was in producing an extremely convincing illusion of light. The effect was attained by means of numerous glazings, light and colour contrasts, and the use of complementary colours.
Translated from Russian by Natasha Levitan
From «When Time Stops»
During nights when in the fog light
Stars in sky are weaving time,
I am catching threads of minutes
In eternal shawl of mine.
I am catching these tight moments,
While material is swirled
From all things in forms and colors
From all those in sounds of words…
The Moonlit Night on the Dneper portrayed not so much a concrete view as an infinite heavenly space-the universe. From that time onwards Kuindzhi's art was characterized by a contemplative, philosophic perception of the world, permeating one with a feeling of a grandeur of life. Unlike his previous works in which reality took quite definite forms, now he began to look for new dimensions. He now sought to render not the dramatic states of nature and not even its beautiful physical appearances, but something more significant and eternal-a sense of the universe as a palpitating organic unity of nature and mankind. The solemn phosphorescent colours of the Moonlit Night on the Dneper evoke lofty feelings, arouse meditations about the earthly life and the celestial world, solemnly restful in its slow movement. The «romantic languor» present in the picture suggests a comparison with Kuindzhi's German predecessor Caspar David Friedrich.
There is an hour, at night, of cosmic silence.
And at that hour of miracles and visions
The vital chariot of the universe
Flies through the vault of heaven with abandon.
Then, like chaos, o'er the waters night doth thicken;
Forgetfulness, like Atlas, presses on the land;
And naught but god-sent vatic dreams
Disturb the muse's virgin soul.