oil on board
Painted in 1917, the year of Revolution, this serene snowscape by Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva is a breathtaking homage to the artist's greatest muse: St. Petersburg. In the foreground, workers are shown on the embankments of the Neva clearing snow. The background opens out to a wide vista and characteristic tonally-contrasted sky, where shadows reign, cast by the slanting northern sunlight. The majestic architectural forms of The Admiralty, St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Senate and Synod can be made out, nestled against and in juxtaposition to the unfilled spaces of the river Neva and wide expanse of the sky.
Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva is best-known for such landscapes (figs. 1 and 2 for other winter views of St. Petersburg) and city vistas; the subject of St. Petersburg was perhaps her most enduring love, poignant when one considers that despite travelling widely overseas, she felt compelled to remain in her hometown throughout the Leningrad siege of 1941-44 and continued to produce small drawings and engravings during this painful time when one million Leningraders lost their lives from famine or disease during the blockade.
Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva was firmly allied to the World of Art movement throughout its existence. She was often found at Benois's home with the small core of initial members, Lanceray, Ober, Bakst, Somov, Nouvel and Nurok, and joined the group in 1900, exhibiting with them until 1927. Like fellow painter Alexander Benois, the "historical landscape" was her main genre, and both were captivated by the charms of St. Petersburg. She revived the value of the woodcut, which had previously been used as a means of reproducing paintings or drawings. Depicting city architecture was her main focus; primarily that of St. Petersburg but also Venice, in both cases seeking to convey the majestic glory of former times. "In truth the St. Petersburg of the World of Art is above all the St. Petersburg of Ostroumova-Lebedeva" (The World of Art Movement in early 20th-century Russia, Leningrad, 1991, p. 96.)
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