Forbidden Art: 6 paintings that at various times became victims of censorship
Censorship of art acted not only in Soviet times. In the time of tsarist Russia, works by fairly well-known artists fell under the ban. The reason for the refusal to demonstrate a work of art could be simply a truthful depiction of events or, on the contrary, their unusual interpretation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that censorship affected real masterpieces of art.
The idea of writing a historical picture originated with the artist in 1881 under the influence of two events: the assassination of Alexander II and the music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Revenge”. Two years later, the artist saw bullfighting in Spain and was completely discouraged by the sight of blood.
Then direct work on the painting itself was begun, which was completed after 4 years. The painting was appreciated by critics and artists, but Tsar Alexander III, on the contrary, caused such discontent that he immediately forbade it to be shown to anyone. For three months, the artist Alexei Bogolyubov sought to lift the ban. In the end, the work of Ilya Repin was allowed to exhibitions.
Two paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky are not too eager to show today, they did not enjoy the favor of the rulers in tsarist Russia. During the famine of 1892-1893 in the Volga region and in the south of Russia, ordinary Americans tried to help ordinary people.
They collected food and on five ships sent it to Russia. This is not to say that the country’s leadership welcomed the collection of aid for Russia, but they certainly could not forbid their citizens to do good deeds. It was this event that formed the basis of the plot of two paintings by the famous marine painter, which were banned in Russia. Emperor’s particular discontent was caused by the “Distribution of Food”, where a peasant in a food cart waving the American flag. As a result, Aivazovsky presented them to the Washington Gallery.
The painting of Nicholas Ge, depicting Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ, caused outrage and a ban on showing by the Holy Synod. It’s all about the play of light and stereotypes of thinking. Contrary to tradition, in the rays of sunlight, the artist depicted not Jesus, but Pontius Pilate. Moreover, Jesus looks very exhausted and small compared to Pilate. Some colleagues of Nikolai Ge took the picture critically. Patron Tretyakov at first refused to purchase it for his gallery, but later changed his mind under the influence of Leo Tolstoy.
A lot of paintings by Ukrainian artists, including Vasily Silvestrov’s painting “Pogrom,” in the first half of the 20th century fell not only under the ban, but could be destroyed. Until 1937, paintings were collected only to simply burn them. And here we were not talking about the skill of the artist or the controversy of the plot. The main problem was the personality of the artist. Many authors were repressed, some went to camps, others were shot.
It was assumed that the canvas by Ilya Glazunov will become the main exhibit of the exhibition of the Union of Artists. However, instead of the grand opening of the exhibition, a real scandal erupted. The commission, which was nothing more than a censorship body, demanded to immediately remove the picture from the exhibition.
However, the artist went on the principle and categorically refused to follow the instructions of the censors. Fortunately, his authority at that time was already so high that Glazunov was not exiled to camps, but only ordered to go to remote corners of the Soviet Union and paint portraits of production leaders, BAM builders, workers and collective farmers.