Monday, June 20, 2011

The Russians.
"Not just a pretty face".
Portrait of Unknown Woman (1883)
Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy
Here we have an amazing example of a kramskoy portrait, and clicking on the image will reveal the mastery of technique and purpose bringing all his skills to bear on a the likeness of this unknown young woman in 1883.  A tumultuous time in history with extreme class differences. For me It's not just a beautifully done portrait of a woman warming her hands as she rides by in her carriage, although on the surface of things, quite evident. The cold winter street scape behind her done in lightly contrasted colors to her dark ultramarine blue velvety outfit and elegant hat, exemplifying prominence and stature. Obviously a woman of some considerable wealth and position. The viewer is us, possibly on the street walking as she rides by. We catch her glance as if in a moment. Her expression is of gentile superiority reminding us of our place below her glance. What is truly profound in this portrait by Kramskoy, even through creating a beautifully flattering portrait, he possibly felt compelled to say more than just satisfy a commercial necessity we all know full well as working artists. But with this simple painting he makes a timeless statement expressing all the disparity of class and position. Across the spectrum of viewers it might be what one reads into a great work of art or clues to the thoughts and purpose of the visionary. Take you pick, either way, for me, she's not just a pretty face.  

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