October: perfect for lovers and artists

Most young people in Russia do not have their own “place”, so October is seen as the perfect month for romantic lovers. It gets dark early, sunsets are often sexy, bushes still have enough leaves to provide privacy, and the outside temperature motivates people to hug, embrace, and, ultimately, make certain rhythmic movements that are known to have a warming-up side effect.

Let me show you October in Moscow to prove the point, and then we’ll have a look at this time of year not through my lens, but through the eyes of Russian artists.

The sunsets:

The bushes, sort of:

The temperature:

A proof that I was not on a romantic date while doing the shots, but walking the dog:

The red arch you can see in one of the pics is a bridge. The egg-shaped structure hanging beneath its apex was built with the idea of setting up a restaurant there. Let’s get a bit closer to it:

It turned out it was impossible, for restaurants required toilets which architects hadn’t thought of designing. Thus, the egg has been hanging there empty and forlorn since the bridge was built, burning tons of money in electricity bills for de-icing each winter. It is Russia, after all. We don’t plan long-term, preferring to enjoy a bright moment when it presents itself and to wait out a bad spell. We know a rotten spell can take a few generations to wait out, so we are good at stocking up patience.

This is why Russians love their autumns even though they do not necessarily enjoy them. Autumns are about getting ready to wait out winters. When the going gets tough, Russians take out their warm clothes. There is a lot of fatalism in this, as well as common sense wisdom. Anti-fur activists are warned against staging protests in Russia. No, they are not going to be beaten up (unless they’re also gay), but they are very likely to convert into anti-fur pessimists with a few fingers frostbitten off. One day I will be showcasing the winter theme in Russian art to dispel any doubt about it.

I wrote about the difficulty of painting late Autumn before, saying there that painters prefer nature when it still has some leaves to cover its nakedness. While mid-October, the Golden Autumn, may seem easier to paint, artists often find it difficult to catch its spirit. This time of year may have different meanings for different people, of course. Here are some of them:

  • celebration of a life well-lived, in full understanding of the impending death by winter
  • beauty of the age when wisdom descends on you regardless of whether you want it or not; a valid justification for those who want to cut their spending on anti-age creams and face-lifts.
  • another proof that any life must be focused on creating beauty before dying (very popular among artists)
  • seasonal argument to emigrate to Australia

Look at these fine examples of Octobers by Russians and think of which of them you like most. Tell me which ones are your favourites in the comments and I will discuss them in a greater detail in my next post. Let’s have some Autumn fun!

Ivan Shishkin. Autumn. Park in Pavlovsk. 1888. Oil on canvas. The Art Museum, Lugansk, Ukraine.
Isaak Levitan, Golden Autumn, 1895. Oil on canvas. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Vasily Polenov, the Golden Autumn, 1890s. Oil on Canvas
Vasily Polenov, the Golden Autumn, 1893. Oil on Canvas
Ivan Shishkin, the Golden Autumn, 1888. Oil on canvas
Ivan Shishkin, the Golden Autumn, 1888. Oil on canvas

And the last, not so iconic image:

Isaak Brodsky, Fallen Leaves, 1915, Oil on canvas
Isaak Brodsky, Fallen Leaves, 1915, Oil on canvas

So, which one brings to life your own idea of October?


    1. Thank you! I see that you’ve read a lot of my posts ) I don’t know if you’ve seen my analysis of the Golden Autumn by Levitan. As it is the first painting in your post, you may like it: https://artmoscow.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/complicated-simplicity/

      I though long and hard about including Levitan’s painting that comes last in your post, but somehow decided not to use it there. I need to re-read myself to remember why. There’s a nagging thought now that I wanted to make something of a stand-alone type of post about it )

  1. Brodsky seems having a dialogue with autumn instead of just being an observer. The leaves are entering his privacy, send by autumn to find out what’s inside his soul.

  2. Aside from the “..certain rhythmic movements..”.. For me it’s Brodsky.
    It does tell more than one story,,

    1. Don’t be.
      Levitan was a genius, Brodsky was a talented artist (who sold his soul, eventually). Levitan is out now: his painting is, in fact, way more interesting. But Brodsky’s life is much more educational. I’ll have it published within days )

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