Petrov-Vodkin Kuzma – “1918 in Petrograd”

The canvas “1918 in Petrograd” by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin has an unspoken second name: “Petrograd Madonna”. In the work, you can very clearly see the features of icon painting, but clearly in a new reading and rethinking of the artist.

In the picture we see a woman feeding a child. Since the cityscape is depicted in a distant perspective, and we see the balcony railings behind the woman, we understand that she is standing on the balcony of the city house. Her features are severe, restrained, calm, sadness and fatigue are visible in her eyes. The woman was painted by the artist in the icon-painting style, therefore, as in the icons, her gaze is turned to the viewer. Hair, as in all images of the Virgin Mary, is tucked away under a headscarf. Since Kuzma Sergeevich perceived the revolution in Russia as a great and grandiose event, many objects and things have a double meaning. For example, a scarlet cape on the shoulder can be interpreted as a symbol of the victory of life over death in an icon, or it can also be interpreted as a symbol of revolution. The blue house in the background is considered a symbol of hope for a brighter future, but it can be seen that the windows in this building are broken or covered with cobwebs, which evokes feelings of sadness and despondency. Queues on the street, as you know, 1918 was a hungry and difficult year, also bring a special dissonance to the image of the mother.

Many art historians are inclined to believe that the image of a young woman in the canvas “1918 in Petrograd” is a transition from the image of the Mother of God to the image of the Motherland-Mother. The canvas as a whole tells us that despite all the complexity of time and epoch, life goes on and there is still hope for the future, most likely not cloudless.

Year of painting: 1920.

Dimensions of the painting: 73 x 92 cm.

Material: canvas.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: genre painting.

Style: symbolism.

Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

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