art in Russia
While the reforms invoked by Tsar Alexander II promoted an idea of increased equality, in actuality immense poverty and social inequality was the overarching result. Serfs were freed from the bondage of service, yet they were left with little means for developing a successful livelihood. Those living in the countryside were sometimes able to eek a living off of the land, but city dwelling serfs had no such resources. During this time of transition, in 1870, the Artists’ Cooperative Society started the “Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions.” Their goal was two-fold: to make art accessible while promoting a greater understanding of the media, and to depict the diversity and daily realities of the Russian population, regardless of social and economic class. Rather than focusing their artistic attentions on the aristocracy and inaccessible images of Greek mythology, the Society depicted a profoundly humanistic view of the true Russian life, in all its beauty and hardship.
Another major subject of the Wanderers, which transcended social commentary, was their work depicting the Russian landscape. While these pieces encouraged national pride and understanding, they received less criticism than their populist counterparts. These pieces portrayed the beauty and diversity of a landscape that was often underappreciated. As a part of their education, prominent students of the Imperial Academy of Art often spent time in Western Europe learning the Renaissance style and painting the French and Italian landscapes. Rejecting this precedent, The Wanderers brought to light the subtle magnificence of Russian nature.