Abramtsevo – an artists’ colony

This estate was founded in the 1750s and into the ownership of Sergei Askakov, a writer, in 1853 by which time the main house had been constructed.

His books about nature were attractive to many people. Many of his writings were inspired by life on this estate.

The Aksakovs were a talented family, in particular his son, Konstantin was a well-known public figure and an ideologue of Slavophilism – a large movement of the 1830-50s which asserted that Russia should follow its own way of development over against the widespread reforms of Peter the Great who wanted to move Russian society and culture in a more western European way and appearance.

They fought against the foreign influences being imposed on Russian society (all the things we not go to St Petersburg to see) and called for a revival of natural culture. They were opponents of servitude, speaking in favour of the peasantry and censuring the gentry for their homage to the West. The Akaskov family supported these ideas and welcomed the adherents of this movement to their estate at Abramtsevo which was visited by their friends who were artists, actors, writers such as Nikolai Gogol. Basically it was a hippy colony of the mid-1800s.

In 1870 the estate was sold to Savva Mamontov and his wife, who venerated the memory of the former owners, dedicating a room retaining some of their original furniture and photos in their memory.

[Savva Mamontov by Vrubel 1897]

The Mamontovs were merchants and played a significant role in the in the history of Russian culture and industrial development including railways, and were great supporters of the artists and talented people. Mamontov created an artistic circle centred at Abramtsevo and uniting many who became the great artistic names of that period of rhe Russian arts scene – Polenov, Vrubel, Serv, Korovin, the Vanetsov brothers, Reppin, Ostroukhov, whose works weresaw I many ballers in Moscow and St Petersburg. All were united by the wish to incorporate the Russian life – nature, people, folk tales – into their creative work. In this way the spirit of Slavophilism was continued.

Buildings on the site were constructed with the assistance of these artistic visitors, in traditional form – timber with moss-filled joints and in a typical Russian style rather than with western influences.

Abramtsevo became a unique creative laboratory where artists could work in different fields of art – architecture, theatre scenery, ceramics, woodcarving,theatre. Plays, including ‘The Snow Maiden’ by Ostrovski, were staged in an extension to the main house,

Buildings included the ‘Hut on Chicken Legs’ , a play area for the children.

The ceramics workshop was much admired by Mamontov and there will be a separate blog post on that aspect.

The Saviour Church was also constructed and many of the Mamontov family members are buried there.

The ceramic ‘Icon of Christ of Edessa’ above the entry door (below) is by Vasily Polenov.

In 1918 the estate was confiscated by the State.

One comment

  1. Delightful emphasis on green in architecture – if the painting is of Abramtsevo he is not unlike our blessed verger

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