Galina GERASIMOVA, (c)
by Galina GERASIMOVA, "Battle of Borodino" Panoramic Museum (Moscow)
The year 2006 marked the 150th jubilee of Franz A. Roubeaux (1856 - 1928), the author of the "Battle of Borodino" panoramic picture, one of the most widely known in the world for the harmonious combination of its artistic perfection and historical realism.
Yiewers always show great interest in such works of art, for they represent a unique genre - the combination of painting and objective composition rousing one's imagination and opening new vistas for appreciation of beauty. At present there are about 40 operating panoramic museums: in the United States, Canada, Australia, Iraq, China, Korea and in European countries, including three of them in Russia-"Battle of Volochayevka"(Khabarovsk), "Battle of Stalingrad" (Volgograd) and "Battle of Borodino" (Moscow)*.
The prominent artist and teacher Pavel Chistyakov, who highly valued Roubeaux' creative work, described works of this kind as "a strong and beautiful art of the future". It was precisely these words that served as the title of the project implemented by our group. The project included an exhibition of painting and documents, preparation of its catalogue and an international conference timed to coincide with the jubilee date. The forum was attended by the directors and leading employees of the world's major museums, art historians from Belgium, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the United States and Ukraine. The subjects discussed included panoramic and dioramic painting in the past, in our days and in the future; the history of painting battle scenes in the 18th-early 21 st centuries; Franz Roubeaux' life, creative work, pedagogical and public activity, with the results of the latest research presented.
* See: A. Monakhov, G. Gerasimova, "For the Honor of Russia", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2004. - Ed.
Apart from our own exhibits, put on display were the relics supplied by the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the State Archives of the Russian Federation and also by collector Igor Nak. The purpose of the exhibition of this collection of rarities was to show Roubeaux in the context of the main trends in the Russian culture of the early 20th century and also to show the significance of his creative work in our days.
For the visitors to gain an insight both in the creative method and the personality of the painter of battle scenes in their organic unity, we discarded the idea of separating the permanent and jubilee exhibits. It was their artistic solution that had drawn them closer together, for that was the incarnation of the process of creation of the "Battle of Borodino" panoramic picture - the fundamental principle of the museum as such. The fact is that in order to produce such works, the painter requires special premises, entirely different from his usual studio. So, a model of such a pavilion with a vast canvas was mounted in the exhibition hall, one part of which represented the finished fragment of the picture, the other part-only an outline of the future picture and certain spots as if waiting for the master's baish.
The panoramic painter's work is unthinkable without a fundamental preparatory stage including the choice of all necessary objects, painting of studies and drawing of sketches. By looking at those sketches, that are sometimes quite grotesque, one can "peep in" at the painter's creative laboratory. And you will tally feel the atmosphere of his life by looking through his colleagues' letters, his students' recollections, documents associated with the process of creation of major works and photos of the period. From the material at hand we produced "essays" of sorts devoted to several subjects. True, they were sometimes rather conditional and seemed to continue the previous story, such as biographic "sketches",
Roubeaux and Caucasia, the painter's first panoramic pictures, his work on " Battle of Borodino" and his activity at the Imperial Academy of Arts.
Franz Roubeaux was born in Odessa on June 15, 1856, into the family of a French bookseller, who had moved to Russia. His mother was the owner of a fashion house. As a boy he displayed great interest in painting, and it was only natural that he was admitted to the Odessa Drawing School in 1865. Next, he studied at the Bavarian Royal Academy of Arts in Munich (Germany), at the department of painting of battle scenes headed by Prof. Joseph Brandt. The gifted young man completed technical class studies of the 1879/1880 term of the academic year with flying colors. The exhibits on display include the illustrated monograph describing Roubeaux' life and including documents that was put out in Zurich in 1993 (a gift of the painter's granddaughter Silvia to our museum).
In the period of his studies abroad the student maintained contacts with Russia: every year during holidays he traveled in Central Asia, Ukraine and Caucasia. Numerous drawings and pictures appeared as a result of those travels, in particular, "Zaporozhye Cossacks' attack in the steppe", "In the
Taurian Guberniya" are among the exhibits. It should be noted that Franz Roubeaux devoted special attention to Caucasia in his creative work owing to his sincere interest and painter's intuition, not to simple curiosity or striving for something "exotic". In 1885 he set about painting a series of pictures for the Military Historical Museum in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia). One of them "Capture of Akhulgo on August 22, 1839" served as the basis of his first panoramic picture "Assault of the Akhulgo Aul" ("Conquest of Caucasia"). Our exhibits also include sketches for both above-mentioned paintings.
The newspapers of the period noted: "A foreigner by parents and Russian by the place ofbirth and his initial education, the painter] has made a thorough study of our south. Mr. Roubeaux is especially successful in representation of Caucasian types, he seems to be closely bound up with them." Indeed, owing to his excellent knowledge of history, people, their everyday life and Russia's nature, he painted astonishingly colorful and expressive pictures. And as a brilliant animalist he conveyed the beauty and rhythmical movements of animals. He resorted to various methods in his work - he used watercolors and gouache and painted in oil on wood.
The series of paintings for the Tiflis museum are devoted to the same subjects as those painted in the 1880s-1890s. They include "Living Bridge, an episode of Colonel Karyagin's campaign in Mukhrat in 1805", that was first put on display at the spring exhibition of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1898. The painting was based on real events that took place in the period of the 1804 - 1813 Russo-Persian War. A small unit of 350 infantrymen, with the patron battalion of the 17th regiment of chasseurs as its core, was retreating under the pressure of Abbas-Mirza's 30,000-strong army. The Russian unit met with an insurmountable obstacle in the form of a gully, for it was impossible for their guns to cross it. They had neither time nor materials to build a bridge. Then, soldier Gavrila Sidorov was the first to lie down on the gully bottom by saying: "The gun is the soldier's lady, one should help it." Ten more soldiers followed him. So, the guns were hauled across the soldiers' prostrate bodies used as a bridge. As ill luck would have it, Sidorov's head was crushed in the process and he died on the spot.
The "Living Bridge" produced an exceptionally strong impression on Emperor Nicholas II and he gave orders for the picture to be bought right at the exhibition for the Winter Palace (it was taken for our collection from the Hermitage in 1974). Experts stressed its high artistic value but, on the other hand, pointed to the painter's certain inaccuracies of military-historical nature. The painter took into account their remarks and subsequently he took pains to verify thoroughly such details. It was not accidental that his contemporaries stressed that Roubeaux "does not strive for fanciful effects, he is always true to nature and reality..."
Indeed, his pictures of battle scenes stand out not only for their professional perfection but also for their content. He attained historical authenticity due to preparations for paint-
ing them in close contact with specialists in the field. For instance, during his work on " Defense of Sevastopol" (1902 - 1904), Roubeaux constantly turned for advice to A. Zayonchkovsky, a prominent military historian (one of the letters to him has been put on display at the exhibition). Zayonchkovsky's descendants still keep, in particular, Roubeaux' drawings "A dance lesson..." and 'A Berlin swallow", also displayed at the jubilee exhibition.
Roubeaux had started working on his " Battle of Borodino" panoramic picture long before signing a contract on painting it (March 1911). On his first visit to the Borodino battlefield on April 1, 1910, he was accompanied by his consultant V. Afanasyev and the grandnephew of Pyotr Bagration, a hero of the 1812 Patriotic War. The picturesque drawing, then made by the painter, has been also put on display.
In 1912 the visitors to the exhibition, mounted in the Historical Museum in commemoration of the centenary of the victory in the 1812 Patriotic War, could see the sketch of the panoramic picture (a part of the documentary section of our exhibition is devoted to it). However, it was on displayjust for a few days, for soon after it was purchased by Grand Prince Nikolai Mikhailovich. Four fragments of this sketch, that have been preserved, have been among the exhibits put on view at the Borodino State Military Historical Museum Reserve (Moscow Region) since 2002.
Roubeaux' activity was both fmitful (he painted a total of 200 pictures) and highly variegated. His fame as a master painter served as the ground for his election in 1903 as a professor of the battle scenes painting class of the Higher Art School in St. Petersburg, and as an acting member of the Imperial Academy of Arts-seven years later. The great master llya Repin wrote on that occasion: "AH of us know well this merited worker of art: owing to his exceptional contribution to all Russian exhibitions held abroad - in Munich and as the head of the workshop of painting of battle scenes at the Imperial Academy of Arts and, finally, as a repeatedly elected member of various commissions..."
Indeed, for many years on end Roubeaux made voluntary contribution to the organization of international exhibitions and always "seriously took to heart the Russian artists' interests". His works were on many occasions put on display abroad, in particular, in Munich, the city where he spent a considerable part of his life, for it was here that he and his family lived until his death. The photo of his family standing near their house is among those displayed at the exhibition. Those photos were presented as a gift to our museum by the painter's granddaughter.
It should be pointed out that the painter's contemporaries had difficulty in determining Roubeaux' nationality: in Russia he was referred to as a Munich artist, as a German or as an artist working in Tiflis, and so on, while in Bavaria they believed that he was French. That is why as soon as World War I (1914 - 1918) broke out, with Germany and France transformed into hostile camps, he was thrown into prison. To spare himself from further trouble, Franz Roubeaux applied for German citizenship. However, this is what he wrote in this connection: " I was born and lived for over twenty-two years in Russia where I received my education. I always devote my pictures to Russian life and Russian battle scenes, so, I should be regarded as a Russian painter."
Опубликовано на Порталусе 01 октября 2018 года
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