CREES Brown Bag. “Russian Silences: The Venetsianov School of Painting (1820-1850) and the Ecology of Perception.”
Thomas Newlin, associate professor of Russian language and literature, Oberlin College. Sponsor: CREES.
The tranquil and resolutely eventless landscapes and domestic interiors of Aleksei Venetsianov (1780-1848) and his serf pupils provide a unique window into the nature of artistic perception and the artistic perception of nature in the second quarter of the nineteenth century in Russia. The meditative, understated vision of the natural world put forth by Venetsianov and his pupils had roots in a religious tradition of silence and contemplation. The essential modesty and restraint of these canvases makes them extremely intriguing from both an ecological and an existential standpoint. The best works of this school bespeak a deep preoccupation with the underlying interconnectedness of all of life, human and non-human, but can also seem profoundly solitary; infused with light, they at the same time hint in a distinctly modern way at the underlying shadows in nature and human nature.
Professor Newlin teaches Russian language courses, as well as a range of literature courses in translation. His scholarly interests focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian literature and history, Russian visual culture, and the history of ecological ideas in Russia. He is author of The Voice in the Garden: Andrei Bolotov and the Anxieties of Russian Pastoral (Northwestern, 2001), and is currently writing a book that explores the ways nineteenth-century Russian writers, artists, and scientists looked at and represented the natural world.