On June 23, 2018, the exhibition "Italian Impressions of the Polenovs" will be opened at the Fachwerk Exhibition Hall. Vassily Polenov Fine Arts Museum and National Park will present its major summer display – the works by Vassily Polenov and his gifted sister Elena Polenova.
Historical painter, landscape painter, portraitist, master of genre and still life, theater artist, architect and even composer - Vassily Polenov’s diversity had no limits. Whether he was painting the interiors of the Moscow Kremlin or the ancient ruins, or talking about the Christ’s life - his creativity radiated peace and harmony, tranquility and warmth, which one can particularly feel in the South. No doubt, it was Italy’s influence in his life.
Already in his childhood Polenov had a chance to see the best examples of Italian culture in the books, thanks to the library of the educated family. But for the first time he traveled to Europe only at the age of 28, after he graduated from the Imperial Academy of Arts with a golden medal and was awarded with a European grand tour. In 1872 the young artist visited Italy: lots of new impressions, ateliers of famous artists, great architecture and monuments. He traveled to Venice, Florence and Naples. For many reasons his stay in Rome predetermined his further creative life path. There he met the famous philanthropist Savva Mamontov and then became a part of his artistic circle. It was in Rome that he experienced his first strong feeling - to Masha Obolensky, and her early death was a push to create a painting entitled "The sick girl."
Each time, when the artist started a new significant work, he always found himself in Rome, searching for the inspiration.
Once again Polenov visited Italy in 1883-1884, looking for the models and landscapes for his "Christ and the Sinner woman". During that Italian journey the artist elaborated the topic and created many sketches.
In autumn of 1894 - beginning of the winter of 1895 Polenov traveled to Italy again: at that time he was working on the Gospel cycle "Life of Christ", and it was to that series that he dedicated the rest of his amazing career. Here, in the South, he found necessary elements (models and landscapes). He brought back with him a lot of reproductions and photographs, which might help him in his further work.
In other words Polenov's art was connected to Italy in many ways – directly and indirectly.
Also Italy made a great impression on his younger sister Elena, who was also an artist and visited her brother in Rome in 1895, three years before her premature death.
Elena Polenova was one of the first Russian women who received professional artistic education. The exhibition presents an album she made during her travels around Italy. Her watercolors - thin, elegant, and in a la prima feeling and technique – are a vivid testimony of the artist's gift. The significance of her art in Russian and world cultures is yet to be appreciated.