Multifaceted character of the Sacred Sea, individual perception of original and unique images of Baikal world is well represented in a variety of artistic creations.
Apparently, some of the first artistic works depicting Baikal belong to two masters - travelers who by coincidence made the same trips accompanying the embassies or expeditions to China. One of them, A.E. Martynov, was a Russian landscapist, for whom loving nature was one of the main incentives for creativity. At the beginning of 19th century he created the magnificent paintings: “Baikal” and “Siberian view of the Selenga River”. After his trip to China he published the album "Picturesque journey from Moscow to the Chinese border”, which includes the images of Lake Baikal and Irkutsk. The second painter, Vasiliev T.A., on his way to China created a series of paintings, where belong "View of Lake Baikal", "Nikolsk jetty at the Angara mouth" and others.
The 19th century upon the whole was a remarkable time in terms of paintings depicting Siberia and Lake Baikal because exactly at that time Decembrist painters were residing here. N.A. Bestuzhev was especially talented among them in this sphere, and though he did not leave any canvases featuring Lake Baikal, yet he had a lot of watercolors which portrayed Siberian beauties, for example: "Chita. Garden. At the commandant's flat", "River Chita - the place Decembrists swim in", "Buryat yurts on the way from Chita to Petrovsky zavod", "General view of Petrovsky zavod", etc. It is known that brothers Bestuzhev during their movement from Petrovsky zavod to Selenginsk visited Baikal and its coastal villages. Bestuzhev M. writes about this: "...We arrived at Chertovkina village located at the mouth of the Selenga, in the midst of fishing omul period. Here we stayed for two weeks while our comrades set off across the sea (Baikal - A.K.) to Irkutsk. N. Bestuzhev sent a letter to his relatives, which said that he was moving from Petrovsky zavod, from the village of Posolskoye on August 10, 1839. I assume that during the two weeks the artist paid some attention to the landscape of Lake Baikal. N.A. Bestuzhev lived in Irkutsk from the end of 1841 to October 1842, earning money by painting the portraits of wealthy people. Naturally, he visited Baikal at that time and he might have left the memory of Baikal in his sketches and drawings. But, unfortunately, landscape sketches of this period were either lost or not found. In the 30-40's of the 19th century Baikal attracted the admiration of such artists as the Englishman T. W. Atkinson and the Polish exile L. Nemirovsky.
The latter created a landscape depicting the famous Baikal Gates. This is what the book by A. Giller "Description of the Transbaikalia region and Siberia" (1867, in Polish) says about the picture: "The beauty of Baikal shores brought several artists there. I saw the landscape by Leopold Nemirovsky, who did an oil-painting depicting the place called Baikal Gates. A cliff stands out of the lake in the middle of it, like a column, and is connected to the shore as a natural bridge. The cliff does look like a gate, and you can sail underneath. The landscape by Nemirovsky depicts the night, the moonlight being reflected in the lake and making the cliffs gleam with dim light, the boat with people is going toward the gate" (citation from 136, sec. 633).
At the beginning of the 20th century the pictures of the artist V.D. Vuchichevich-Sibirskiy, from Tomsk, were popular among both Siberians and art lovers of Central Russia. His exhibitions (in 1914 - in St. Petersburg, later – in Irkutsk) displayed more than 100 paintings, including thirty-three landscapes potraying the pearl of the severe land - Baikal. His canvases “Baikal is frowning", "Autumn noise of Lake Baikal", "Baikal cliff” and others not only aroused the excitement of art connoisseurs at the exhibitions, they were also reproduced in such popular magazines as "Niva", "Sun of Russia" and others. In 1919, he was tortured and killed by Kolchak followers not far from Shcheglovsk (now Kemerovo).
In the Irkutsk Regional Art Museum one can see the paintings by such famous artists as D. P. Shterenberg ("Shore. Khuzhir settlement at Baikal”) and K.I. Pomerantsev ("Sea"). The latter (1911) shows a low horizon of Lake Baikal being the background for the nude female figure. He created a series of paintings and drawings on Baikal theme: "Sunrise at Lake Baikal", "Cabin at Baikal ", "Legend of Lake Baikal” and others. Pomerantsev was thinking of painting a series of pictures on the themes from the song "Glorious sea, sacred Baikal”. Several studies and sketches from that series survived: “The railway station cabin at Lake Baikal", "Small Sea", " Baikal Song ("I have risen, feeling freedom...").
At the beginning of the 20th century N. Ladeyschikov contributed quite a few works to the landscape paintings of Lake Baikal. Coming from the Urals, he fell in life-long love with the lake from the youngest age: "During my first visit to Irkutsk, I had a strong irresistible desire to see Baikal because I knew a lot about this mysterious lake. Finally, I was lucky enough to see Baikal for the first time. Great impressions. I was especially struck by the transparency of Baikal water, by its gentle beautiful greenish-blue hues..."
Some famous paintings were done by N. Ladeyschikov: "Ice-breaker Baikal" (1906), “Baikal shallows" (1910), “Baikal waves" (1910), "Breakers at Listvinichnoe village", etc.
Baikal and Siberian taiga were favorite themes of the artist B.I. Lebedinsky. The artist’s albums were titled like this and published in different variations, formats and techniques. In one of these albums, called "Baikal", the text accompanying the lithographs published in the book was written by the author together with the Baikal reseacher, professor M.M. Kozhov. The collaboration of the artist and the scientist added up to the description of unique Baikal not only impressive colorful images, but also literary inspiration. Here is one of the examples of such fruitful cooperation: "Baikal is unusually changeable – at times calm and smooth like the surface of a mirror, sometimes rough and menacing.
With menace and foam
The waves are a-rolling,
Furious, frowns with anger
These words are from one of the songs which is glorifying Baikal. Menacing and scary is Baikal, when Sarma - always sudden, unusually strong, gusty wind - blows ... When Sarma is blowing, Baikal resembles a boiling cauldron. Every living being hurries to find some shelter, even a seagull - the bird of the sea - hides in the rocks. At this time Baikal is frightening!
But soon the wind stops blowing, clouds drift apart, huge waves calm down and the sun begins to shine - Baikal is quiet and calm now, water gently wallowing, the waves monotonously breaking at the shore, mirror-like water surface shimmers with all the colors of the rainbow under the bright sun.
Wonderful is the morning at Baikal when the first rays of the rising sun are coming from behind high mountains. The colors of the sky are changing rapidly from soft and delicate to bright and rich, and water, now dark, almost black, now bright-blue, sparkles and shines in a huge bowl of the lake.
It is difficult to grasp and to describe the rich palette of Baikal colors”. There are some psychological difficulties in the perception of unique diversity of Baikal water hues, especially after it has been kept captive by ice and snow. "During white colorless winters the tints of Baikal water accumulate, “mature” and ”ripen”. Only a very skillful artist could define all the names for the hues of Baikal water, but he could hardly convey them on the canvas. The artist’s brush is able to capture a very short moment of nature and to depict it in a static form for us. The color of Baikal water is life of Baikal by itself, it can not be reduced to one, no matter how striking, moment. That is why the most talented painting will be only a photograph of the moment, which, joining other thousand beautiful moments, will reflect the essence of Baikal”.
This can explain the fact that a lot of artists and writers, while attempting to vividly portray the images of Lake Baikal in all their diversity and dynamism, fail to do it. N. Ladeyschikov, telling about his talk to one of the "visiting" artists, gives the following example: "And when I asked the artist why he had so few pictures of Baikal painted from nature, he admitted that he would not be able to portray Baikal the way it is.
To be able to do it, you must be born and to have lived all your life at its shores. "You see - he said to me - your lake has some amazing ability to change every minute, and may be even every second. You have prepared to paint, you have chosen appropriate background – and here you go! - the wind blows, and ... the colors you intended to depict just disappear! I think it needs some other means of representation. Neither a brush nor a pencil can keep pace with it, at least, of a visiting artist".
N. Ladeyschikov, thinking about the local artists questions himself why in their paintings Baikal rarely appears in joyous splendor most characteristic of it, in the full intensity of its bright and pure. Ladeyschikov is of the opinion that the lake had its Aivazovsky. It was B.I. Lebedinsky. But in his paintings too the Sacred Sea is presented as a masterpiece of art, and its changeable charm, if devoid of movement, slips away, like a deceptive mirage. There is something in the questions that he asks: "Perhaps to portray Baikal "alive", the way it is, is impossible for a man? May be it is not even worth trying to reproduce on canvas its colors and movement? May be one should try to do another thing: to penetrate into the essence of its character, to catch something that is hidden deep from the superficious eye and constitues a living core of his rebellious and fickle nature?"
To name some paintings by popular Irkutsk artists of the second half of 20th – the beginning of 21th century, they are: V.S. Rogal’s "Sun of Baikal" (1984) and "Baikal - Siberian gold, E.S. Simonov’s "Near Olkhon”, V.V. Chevelev’s "Stars over Baikal" (1997), G.V. Shikhalev’s "Baikal forget-me-nots" (2004) and "Road to Baikal. A sacred place" (2002), I.E. Yushkov’s "Winter at Baikal" (1966), "Baikal. Morning" (1970-1974), A.M. Muraviov’s "Winds of Baikal", "Seagull ", A.A. Muraviov’s "Khuzhir", etc.
On the "Buryat side" Lake Baikal also had its Aivazovskys. Alexander Kazanskiy is probably one of the first among them. He graduated from the Moscow Surikov Art Institute and introduced his understanding of the sacred sea image in many pictures. In his paintings "Dawn at Lake Baikal", "Kurbulik cape. Baikal”, “Lake Baikal. Small Sea", "Shaman", "Island Olkhon" and others he skillfully portrayed foamy waves of Baikal, greenish- yellow and ash-gray cliffs and trees at the coast, and much more. In portraiture he got noticed due to expressiveness and significance of his work "Fishermen of Lake Baikal.” The image of the lake has become a leading theme in B. T. Taisaev’s art. He is attracted by a changeable state of the water element, being emotional and dramatic in "Storm" and majestic, solemn in "Baikal".
Many painters portrayed Baikal, its nature and heroic places around it: People's Artist of Buryatia Genghis Shonhorov ("Baikal", "We are building BAM"), Vladimir Pospelov (“Baikal Fairy Tale”, "Mirages of Baikal”) S. Khanhorov ("Spring at Baikal, "Eagles of Olkhon”) Alla Tsybikova (“Nizhneangarsk. Landscape with Boat") and other artists. Svetlana Rinchinova, who mastered a difficult art of tapestries made of horsehair, created an impressive tapestry "Baikal". Doctor of Art, professor Voronov N.K. said at the exhibition of the artistss-1989 that “Baikal” was a real decoration of the whole exhibition, and that it deserved to become "an exhibition of one piece of art". Her tapestry “Sacred Baikal", created in 1994, was an excellent thing too. Illustrations of other artistic pieces inspired by the lake can be found on the colored supplementary sheets in the book. Reflecting the beauty, grandeur and influence of Lake Baikal on our inner world, artists, writers, poets and musicians change for the better our environmental consciousness.
A few words should be said about the people who describe and defend Baikal with other artistic means. In cinema the image of the Sacred Sea is first of all associated with the name of the Russian talented director S. Gerasimov who created the unique film "Near the Lake." Though the film, due to the Soviet ideology at that time, did not tell exactly who is gulty of Baikal’ s sufferings, yet it makes people think not only about the beauty of the Siberian Pearl, but it also urges people to contribute personally to the protection of the lake. Many directors of the Soviet Union created films about the nature of Baikal. Having appeared in the 30-s of the 20th century, East Siberian newsreel studio had been giving much attention to Lake Baikal and the people living on its shores since then. At the end of 20th century the studio was the place for such creative people to work, as: cameramen G. Landin, A. Sidler (special correspondent for Buryatia), Yu. Kostomarov, S. Markov, director L. Cherepanova and others. They created original and highly artistic films about the lake, its flora and fauna: "The Coast of Brown Bears," "From Siberia to Siberia”, and a number of others.
The people who were shooting documentaries at that time were enthusiastic and devoted to their job, they behaved according to the following rules: "Three days without sleep, three days-walk to get a few shots...". They managed to create such original, non-conventional images of Baikal that they were admired not only by the Russian audience but also by foreign colleagues, Americans in particular. The latters noted the high-class mastership of the script-writers, directors and cameramen. Documentaries in the period of perestroika (80 – 90-s), when the studio was headed by the respected and popular in Baikal region journalist Alexander Golovanov, acquired a special ecological Baikal pathos. These traditions are still being kept and are serving for the benefit of the Sacred Sea.
Images of Baikal began to be captured on photographs since the time photography appeared in people's lives. Today it is impossible to enumerate all the people whose pictures showed the beauty of Siberian nature in Russian and foreign cities and towns all over the world. One of the first albums with color images was published in the early 60's: album entitled "Baikal" with the subtitle, packed with meaning - "Multi-colored album with a brief description of the Siberian Pearl of nature and the national pride of the USSR - Lake Baikal (by G.I. Galaziy and E.N. Novoselova, photoes by A.G. Bushkin and L. N. Tyumina). The text and the pictures of the album were presented in four languages: Russian, English, French and German. Before and after this period V.A. Bryanskiy, A. Imitkhenov, V. Lamakin, S.Volkov, O. Gusev and many other authors, whose works are included into the bibliography of this book, put their own black-and-white and color photos into their books. On both shores of Lake Baikal the albums and photoes of N. Grabowski, G. Yeger, A. Knyazev, P. Malinowski, L. Monchinskiy, K. Mikhalkin, A. Freidberg and other photographers are well-known. Their original, impressive, inspiring images of the blue eye of Siberia has become the important heritage for lovers of natural beauty around the world. Unfortunately, we know very little of foreign directors, photographers, TV people and other artists who are in love with Lake Baikal and who are transmitting it to the hearts and souls of their countries’ people, but I hope that we will get acquainted with them very soon.
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