Art & Faith: Mikhail Nesterov


      So recently I've been asked to not just make art, but to talk about art. Its a subject that fascinates me and captivates me every day, but I honestly am often at a loss for words a lot of the time when it comes to explaining it. That's why I like art-- it speaks for the heart when your words fail you.
   A few days ago I recorded a pod cast with Haley Stewart and Christy Isinger who host "Fountains of Carrots" about my art, and I've been asked to give a talk at church about faith and art next month. All of these things have my mind working, trying to figure out the tangle that is "art and faith", at least to me.
   I thought, perhaps, this would be a good topic to discuss with you all here on the blog too. You can help me work all this out before I get up in front of people and start giggling uncontrollably (my nervous tick, you should have seen our wedding...)
  To start off, I thought I'd share with you some paintings that I find completely captivating--- the work of Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov. He was considered a part of the Russian Symbolism movement and painted some amazing scenes that so wonderfully dove tail Russian folk culture with religious themes, saints, and worship.
   I find all of his work just captivating to the point of tears--- each piece is just perfection. The landscape--- the people--- the smallest little detail. I love his forests, his calm woodland animals, his benevolent angels, his beautiful nuns, his kindly old hermits. Here are a few of my favorite paintings by Nesterov....



This piece is called "Saint Russia" and I am just blown away by its epic detail, emotion and power. It's completely brilliant.




   This is one of Nesterov's most well known paintings--"The Vision of Young Bartholomew." According to THIS source, the story behind this piece is as follows:
"The plot of the painting is based on a Christian legend about a young boy who had problems reading. One day his father sends him to search for some runaway horses, and on his way the youth meets an ascetic. Bartholomew greets him, asks for his blessing and receives one. After that encounter, not only did Bartholomew learn how to read, but he also became a poet. He went down in history known as St. Sergius of Radonezh." 


    For me, Nesterov is a genius at combining rural life with ethereal faith and worship. All of his paintings are so powerful--- and part of their power is their earthiness. These are not angels in clouds or some other-worldly plain. These are people, usually peasants, in very real (though beautiful) settings, with real emotions and real life in their eyes. That is what really draws me to his work--- the scenes are believable and the pieces of faith at once 'everyday' and magical. He's an inspiration to me in a big way as I try to create pieces that combine that 'everyday' aspect with the divine. He is a master at creating the humble Holy moment, and I hope to create art in this similar vein. 
    Because we all know 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' And especially when it comes to explaining something as 'unexplainable' as faith...a picture is the only way to convey it. I think as I've honed my skills and my interests over the last few years, I've discovered that this is my motivation. To paint what's in my heart.

   I hope you enjoyed this little feature on Nesterov! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any favorite painters who capture your feelings about faith when words fail you? Please share!
~H

4 comments

  1. I love the Russian painters! Nesterov is fabulous. Also Alexander Ivanov and Vasily Vereshchagin. And have you seen Dmitri Belyukin's "Old New Church" and Dmitri Petrov's "Prayer of an Expectant Mother" (2005)? Both paintings feature icons prominently!

    Some of my other favorite artists with sacred themes are English: Marianne Stokes (Austrian-born English - love her St Elizabeth of Hungary) Eric Gill (wonderful graphic sense), and even William Blake (although his religious paintings are not at all earthy). The French painter Maurice Denis did some beautiful religious pieces. And even Salvador Dali painted some intensely religious works

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  2. Oh, I forgot to mention one of my favorite Russian Symbolists: Mikhail Vrubel. His religious paintings were so influenced by icons, I just love the power they hold. - nancyo

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  3. Nesterov is new to me but I like the subject matter and intricate details of his paintings.

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  4. Absolutely beautiful art. I can see how the themes inspire you, they are themes that are often present in your own beautiful work!

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Each and every comment is appreciated! Thanks for coming to visit me :) ~Heather

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