We have been discussing the influence of the Peredvizhniki at some of our recent Tondo meetings. This was a cooperative group of Russian artists called the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions or “the Wanderers” who were formed in 1870 in protest at the academic restrictions of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts.
Rather than continue to paint in the Classical or Romantic style, the Wanderers set out to depict life as it really was in Russia at the time. Their subjects would include the struggles of the common people, paintings of the countryside and everyday life in Russia.
Nowadays, these ideas mightn’t seem very radical but at that time, freedom of expression was severely curtailed in Russia. The Wanderers believed that they had a special responsibility to effect change in the country.
I wondered how relevant was art to ordinary people in Ireland today. When we talked of how fired by enthusiasm and filled with hope those Wanderers were, I couldn’t help thinking that the artists of today were missing something… Does anyone think that we have a ‘responsibility to effect change’ these days? Maybe if we did, we would start making art that was relevant, art that moved people, art that challenged, art that inspired.
The Tondo art group is going to do something on Culture Night this year, something inspired by the ideas of the Peredvizhniki !