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From Peasants to Czars: A Portrait of 19th Century Russia Brian Healey Wednesday 15 April 2020

Up until the early 19th century Russian painting consisted almost entirely of academic styles and subject matter dominated by the west, Paris in particular. Artists such as Alexey Venetsianov, encouraged by Czar Nicholas I’s promotion of ‘national trends’ began to change the focus towards more home grown themes, such as the status of the Russian peasant. Already by mid century the class system and village structure, dominated by landowner and the orthodox church was under more critical scrutiny, led by artists such as Vasily Perov, but it wasn’t until the pioneering work of the group known as 'The Wanderers' that Russian society was put more fully under the microscope. By then the serfs had been liberated, in many cases ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of their new found freedom, as were their masters who suddenly found themselves with vast estates and a much reduced workforce. This lecture reveals the fascinating insight into this moving story afforded by the paintings of more than a dozen superb artists, yet whose work is still relatively unknown in the West.