Thursday, November 9, 2017

Breaking Ranks

Alexandr Bubnov, Morning on Kulikov Field, Tretyakov, 106x198 in. 1943-7
Like other social realists of his era, Russian artist Alexandr Bubnov extolled feats of arms from Russian history. The painting shows "the ranged Russian forces just before the decisive clash with the Tatars: in their eagerness to get at the enemy, some of the Russian troops are breaking ranks."*

Howard Pyle The Nation Makers, 1903
The similarity to Howard Pyle's painting of the Revolutionary War is striking, though I assume it's unlikely that Bubnov would have seen it, so perhaps it's coincidence. Realistic history painting hung on longer in Russia than it did in the USA. 
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* Quote above is from Social Realist Painting, Yale University Press, 1998.

4 comments:

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Nice juxtaposition of these two paintings! I love Howard Pyle but IMHO Bubnov's composition is much better: Pyle's feels cropped too tightly on the left...

Karen Robinson said...

Love Bubnov’s work! A coincidence that you posted these today as I had just been looking at work by Wilhelm Gause - can’t post an example on this comment, but I was looking at the Vienna Ball one - and puzzling over how you would even begin to render a piece with multiple figures. Bubnov doesn’t have as many people in this example as Gause, but even so...the question remains in my mind. How would you do it, James? Do you make a really detailed drawing, pick the focal person and kind of fan out from there? What if there isn’t really a focal person, the point being that there are LOADS of people...

timothy bollenbaugh said...

Mr. Gurney, I'd also appreciate your insight and information concerning Karen's excellent question.

bollent@wwu.edu

James Gurney said...

Karen, when you want to show a whole lot of figures in a scene, I think it's important to conceive of them as a mass, especially a tonal mass. Do that in the early stages of the picture, preferably in charcoal. Get that right by keeping it a little out of focus, and then you can begin to differentiate the individuals. You can see this done well in the work of Alphonse Mucha, Rembrandt, Joaquin Sorolla and others.