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Russian Paintings

For centuries, Russian art was dominated by religious imagery. This changed with the rule of Peter the Great, who imported the Age of Enlightenment into Russia. This included bringing in European artists to paint and decorate the new capital, St. Petersburg. Catherine the Great grew the new Imperial Academy of the Arts into a vital career training ground for Russian artists.

Russia’s avant-garde art tradition was very important in the formation of modern art. Artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and El Lissitzky figure prominently in modern art history lectures. Suprematism and Constructivism are two major movements of the Russian avant-garde; and Russian had its own Futurism movement as well.

Today, Russia has an energetic contemporary art scene as artists rekindle their artistic expression following the end of the oppressive Soviet regime. In auctions, “Russian art” generally refers to 19th century Russian art, which has a distinct group of collectors from other European art of the 19th century.

Quick Facts

  • On June 6, 2011, Christie’s London sold a museum-quality oil painting by Ilya Repin, "A Parisian Café," 1875, for £4.5 million
  • On June 24, 2015, Sotheby’s London sold "Suprematism, 18th Construction," by Kazimir Malevich, 1915, for £21.4 million
  • On May 19, 2011, Phillips sold a photomontage portrait of Hans (Jean) Arp made in 1924 by El Lissitzky for £55,250

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