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Karl Bryullov

Aug - 20 - 2013

Self-Portrait, painted when he was ill, is a kind of autobiography of the artist.(1848)

Karl Pavlovich Bryullov(12 December 1799 – 11 June 1852), known by his friends as “Karl the Great” or the “Tzar of Painting,” was the first Russian painter of international standing. He is often regarded as the founder of Russian Romanticism.
Karl Bryullov was the son of the academician of ornamental sculpture Pavel Bryullov. He was born in St. Petersburg and at the age of nine he became a pupil at the Academy of Arts, where his older brothers was already enrolled. His great grandfather, grandfather, father and two elder brothers, Fyodor and Aleksandr, were all artists.From 1809 – 1821 Bryullov studied at the Academy under the artists Andrey Ivanov, Aleksey Yegorov and Vasily Shebuev.
His talent and heritage told immediately and Brulloff advanced much faster than his fellow students. At the time, education in the academy was based on the principles of Classicism, and Brullof’s early works reflect this clearly. However, the political and social changes that the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars had perpetrated in Europe were beginning to manifest themselves in fashions and artistic tastes. This was the beginning of the Romantic movement in both art and literature. One of Bryullov’s early paintings, Narcissus (1819), while composed in accordance with Classical principles in every re-gard, was unorthodox in its finishing because the painter sought inspiration for the work in nature – something that would become characteristic of the Romantics.
However, it would be some time before Briulloff would break from the constraints of Classicism completely. His graduation work Three Angels Appear to Abraham near the Oaks of Mamre, while executed with technical brilliance, is otherwise quite conventional: the model work of a model student. Briulloff received a gold medal for it.
In 1822, Karl, along with his brother Alexander, was sent to Europe to study art there, as pensioners of the newly-created Society for the Promotion of Artists. True to his Classical education, Brulloff frowned upon anything that went against Classical ideals, expressing this disdain in letters that he wrote home. The two artists travelled through Germany, Austria, Venice and Florence, eventually arriving in Rome. Just like his Romantic contemporaries, Bruloff found the city irresistable.
In August 1822 Karl and his brother Alexander set off to Italy as beneficiaries of the newly founded Society for the Encouragement of the Artists. The road to Rome took them via Riga, Berlin, Dresden, Venice, Padua and Bologna. The artists had been warned by special instructions against the revolutionary feelings that were ripening in Russia and had seized France and Italy, and also against becoming too keen on the ‘low genre’, i. e. genre painting. In addition, they were instructed as to which of the theorists had to be followed: the list included Leonardo da Vinci, Vazari, Raphael, Winkelmann, Mengs and Visconti.
In total, Brulloff spent a total of 13 years in Italy, studying the art of antiquity, copying the works of old masters in the museums and making a lot of drawings in the streets of Rome. He painted portraits, both ceremonial and intimate ones, and created a series of genre scenes of everyday Roman life. The most important of his genre works was Italian Midday (1827).
Bryullov’s work in Rome commenced with a study of Raphael’s Vatican frescos and antique sculptures. What appealed to him in the work of the great painters of the past—Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt—was their verisimilitude. ‘The first thing I acquired on the trip,’ he wrote to his elder brother Fyodor, ‘was a realisation of the promtlessness of mannerism.’

The Last Day of Pompeii

The Last Day of Pompeii, 1830-1833

In 1827, Brulloff visited the excavation site of Pompeii, a town destroyed and buried under a layer of ash during an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D. Brulloff was greatly impressed when he saw the town, perfectly preserved under the ash. The cataclysm had been so sudden, that life had simply stopped, as if frozen in time. Six years would pass between the conception of the idea and its materialization. After the first sketches had been done, Brulloff began studying the artifacts found in the excavations and historical documents, such as the letters of Pliny the Younger, who was an eye-witness of the event. It is believed that the young man persuading his mother to come with him in the right part of the picture is Pliny himself. His best-known work, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830–1833), is a vast composition compared by Pushkin and Gogol to the best works of Rubens and Van Dyck. It created a sensation in Italy and established Briullov as one of the finest European painters of his day. After completing this work, he triumphantly returned to the Russian capital, where he made many friends among the aristocracy and intellectual elite and obtained a high post in the Imperial Academy of Arts.
While teaching at the academy (1836–1848) he developed a portrait style which combined a neoclassical simplicity with a romantic tendency that fused well, and his penchant for realism was satisfied with an intriguing level of psychological penetration. While he was working on the plafond of St Isaac’s Cathedral, his health suddenly deteriorated. Following advice of his doctors, Briullov left Russia for Madeira in 1849 and spent the last three years of his life in Italy. He died in the village of Manziana near Rome and is buried at the Cimitero degli Inglesi there.

Resources on the Internet

The artist’s works
A small biography of the English-language Wikipedia
The extensive biography of the artist’s works
Pictorial works
Detailed biography.The discussion of the artist’s works.The artist’s works

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