Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898) is known in Russian landscape painting as a composer of hymns to the wealth and grandeur of Russian nature. Shishkin is attracted by the epic tranquility of the Russian forest, the vastness of ripe cornfields. Not only does he share with the spectator his admiration of the perfection of nature, but also his own view of it as the source of the welfare of the country and its people. Hence the profound national feeling of Shishkin’s landscapes, their measured composition and close links with the popular ideas about the beauty of one’s native land. Simultaneously Shishkin studied nature both as an artist and a naturalist. Pedantically accurate in communicating details and particulars, an expert in the anatomy of trees, of the structure of the soil, of the wild life of the fields and woods, Shishkin strove also to subordinate accuracy to the expressiveness of the whole.
Thus, his canvas the
Rye (1878), a hymn to the mighty forces of his native land, to the endless fields of splashing golden corn, is filled with a profound, even philosophical content.
is one of this artist's best canvasses. By embellishing it, Shishkin transfigured the actual landscape that inspired the painting. Nevertheless, the painter remained faithful to reality and accurately depicted the details of the landscape: the flowers, trees and grain. The proportionate enlargement of details and the combination of various subjects - of the field and the forest, which in reality rarely coexist - create an epic image of an abundant Russian nature. There is rarely a place for man in epic landscapes; in this painting, the travellers walking along the road are barely visible in the ripe rye, which is in fact taller than it would be in reality. The powerful pines with dark green branches extend broadly like legendary heroes with mythic strength, uniting the blue of the sky and the gold of the rye to create a majestic portrait of Russian nature.