Period: 1815–1848

Alexei Venetsianov was more than just the creator of a school and teacher of many artists. His influence on the changes in Russian art was truly enormous. Exhibitions of works by Venetsianov and his students in St Petersburg led to a new fashion for depicting urban life. Artists began to increasingly paint interiors – those of their own studios, homes, the Hermitage and the Academy of Arts.

Echoes of Biedermeier and its extolling of private life could be seen in this craze of Russian artists. Yet there was also a natural requirement for the creation of themes, motifs and genres which the Academy of Arts had up until then disregarded. The interest of literature and music in the world of the common man and the middle and lower classes began to increasingly penetrate the fine arts.

Many of Vasily Tropinin’s portraits of this time depict those same members of the urban middle classes of the 1820s–40s. They echo the Russian romances and portray people from that same environment in which this musical genre was so popular.

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