Mikhail Vrubel played an important role in the revival of half-forgotten forms and genres of visual art that had been pushed to the background by easel painting. In the 1890s he made monumental works for the mansions of wealthy Muscovites, including five panels on themes of Goethe’s for the home of Alexei Morozov, four panels called ‘Times of the Day’ for Sergei Morozov, the monumental compositions Mikula Selyaninovich and Princess of Dreams for the Nizhny Novgorod exhibition of 1896, Bogatyr, a ceiling painting and curtain for Savva Mamontov’s private opera, and sketches for the unrealized painting Thirty-Three Bogatyrs, commissioned by Alexei Morozov. As proponent of the ideas of Art Nouveau, the artist in these works fully displayed an organic sense of style. Personifying beauty and the poetic in his painting, Vrubel imbued the spacious environment of the mansions with the pure, sublime ideal that was lacking in everyday life. The artist’s academic training was the source of his search for a «grand style», for the sublimely beautiful that was charged with «awakening from the pettiness of the everyday».
In the 1890s Vrubel stopped using models and started painted from his imagination. He deftly ornamented his live observations of nature, using his brush to transform them into beautiful decorations, into something magical and fantastic. Flowers occupy a leading role in Vrubel’s works. Beginning in the mid-1880s, they became the artist’s favorite subject. He looked carefully into the complex construction of the flower, creating pencil studies. Then flowers began to appear in his compositions: Resurrection, Demon (Seated), as well as panels on the theme of Faust. As always in Art Nouveau, Vrubel gave plants a special, symbolic meaning. Displaying an interest in the philosophy of nature, the artist embodied the faith of its practitioners to endow nature with the possibility of influencing man’s soul.
Vrubel’s painting on these decorative panels is material; it enables us to feel the substance of the subject. It also displays Vrubel’s characteristic technique his unique, individual style, based on the mastery of the pliant, sculptural line that fragments the form’s surface into sharp, spiny facets, making his subjects resemble crystallized forms.
Some works of the summer of 1904 were done with particular inspiration. These include a large, colored drawing, Campanulas. The complex graphic patterns and their special relations capture the powerful life force of stems and buds. The drama of the artist’s study of perfect natural form brings these works close to drawings by the artists of the Renaissance.
Vrubel Regional Art Museum in Omsk