ST.PETERSBURG ACADEMY YEARS
Brodsky was lucky to be enrolled into the studio of the impressionist painter Jan Ciągliński (Polish by nationality) and Ilya Repin, one of the most prominent realist painters at the time.
The Academy represented a melting pot of new ideas then. Ciągliński was one of the founders of the World of Arts society, which was grounded in the principle that all art had to do was to reflect the personality of the artist. Repin was one of the founders of the Itinerants who believed art should improve the society by addressing its sores and be done in a way that common people (not just a bunch of decadent intellectuals) would be able to experience, appreciate, and grow spiritually. Very different, I say. Still, the two professors not just coexisted peacefully teaching the same students, but were fond of each other. Repin was sending clients to Ciągliński when he had his hands full or, on the occasion of painting Chopin’s portrait, when he was sure Ciągliński would do a better job.
Ciągliński was an unorthodox professor, who tried to marry music and painting, finding common harmonies and similar compositional logic. He would play piano to his students while they were working on sketching a model in his studio (that’s why Repin thought Chopin’s portrait should be done by the Pole).
Brodsky would sponge-absorb a lot from both of them. So, before we see the first painting by Brodsky, I suggest we walk through Repin’s and Ciągliński’s galleries.
Repin somehow managed to be both a merciless critic of the Russian society, and an “official” painter who received major Royal and government commissions. What is important to understand though, is that even when he painted the Czar, he tried not to venture too far from the truth. You won’t see everyone’s happy in the Royal Reception, which is a painting respectful of the Czar, but truthful of the people who stand around him.
Ciągliński (below) was not a great artist himself, but he was a genius mentor. He would come back to St.Petersburg from one of his exotic trips to Middle East or Africa, invite friends and students to his studio, show them oil sketches he did in those faraway places, accompanying each sketch by an exciting story, and then he’d do a few tracks of Chopin or Beethoven, playing piano for his guests.
Click on Page 3 at the bottom to finally see some Brodsky!