The exhibition “Nikolay Mescherin. Away from Vanity” is the shared work of the Museum of Russian Impressionism and The State Tretyakov Gallery. The exhibition reveals to the public for the first time in many years the work of this talented and unique artist from the beginning of the 20th century. Nikolay Vasilievich Mescherin was a participant in the biggest exhibition alliance in Russia, “Union of Russian Artists”. Along with such prominent masters as Konstantin Korovin, Boris Kustodiev, and Igor Grabar, Mescherin worked to develop the Impressionism movement in the local art school at the turn of the century.
Sergei Diaghilev chose five paintings by Nikolay Mescherin as part of the Autumn Salon in Paris in 1906. This exhibition was called “Two Centuries of Russian Art and Sculpture” and was called by contemporaries as an“international art event”. The exhibition took place in 12 halls of the Grand Palais and included 750 objects by 103 masters. It demonstrated the steps of development of Russian art: from ancient icons to the modern tendencies of the beginning of the century. The participation of Nikolay Mescherin in Paris Salon shows high appraisal of his artwork.
Nikolay Vasilievich Mescherin was born in Moscow to a patriarchal family of merchants. His father, Vasiliy Efremovich Mescherin, was a merchant in the first guild and a founder of the Danilovskaya textile manufacture, one of the largest weaving productions in Russia. According to long-standing tradition, as the oldest son and heir, Nikolay Mescherin had to run the factory after his father’s death. But Mescherin-son had neither talent nor interest in complicated finances and manufacturing mechanisms. He was more interested in art, photography, and painting. At that time, representatives of well-known merchant dynasties frequently became art patrons and collectors, but few decided to paint themselves.
Nikolay Mescherin found an escape from big city vanity in their family country estate, Dugino. Surrounded by cozy villages, interminable meadows, and forests was his workshop under the sky. Nikolay Mescherin primarily painted landscapes. All of us have childhood memories of nature such as snowy forests, lilac spring park alleys, meadows full of bright summer flowers, and groves covered by the gold and purple of autumn. These memories return to us in adulthood by accident. A light fragrance, landscape viewed from a window, filmed image or found photo remind us about moments of freedom and happiness, joy and excitement. They take us back to a forgotten world of trouble-free childhood. Nikolay Mescherin showed such memories of well-known places and favorite parts of nature in his artworks.
He came to the world of painting through photography. Author’s prints signed by Nikolay Mescherin from the Collection of Manuscript Department of the State Tretyakov Gallery are exhibited for the first time here. These photos, dated 1886–1887, demonstrate the artist’s interest in opportunities of photography to depict the fast-changing surrounding nature. Later, turning to painting, Mescherin looked to the beauty and poetry of snowy villages, endless meadows, and changeable sky. Characterizing traits of Mescherin’s mature, plein-air period are clear scene construction and unrestrained colors.
An essential part of the exhibition “Nikolay Mescherin. Away from Vanity” is selected paintings given to the Tretyakov Gallery in 2007 by Nikolay Aleksandrovich Gagman, an art historian, employee of Russian Art Scientific and Restoration Centre named after Igor. Grabar. . The basis of this collection is the works bought by his father from Nikolay Mescherin’s widow—Lidia Ivanovna Goryacheva-Mescherina—in the 1920s. The exhibition became possible mostly due to Nikolay Gagman’s research. He not only kept up the collection but also became the leading researcher of Mescherin’s heritage and personality. In the catalogue for the first solo exhibition of Nikolay Mescherin’s works, he writes about both the artist’s paintings in state museums from Astrakhan to Irkutsk, as well as those in private collections.
Along with Nikolay Mescherin’s paintings and photographs, there are works of artists who worked in Mescherin’s country estate Dugino. Isaak Levitan, Igor Grabar, Vasiliy Perepletchikov, Aleksey Stepanov, Manuil Aladgalov, Aleksey Korin, Apollinariy Vasnetsov liked visiting this place. It became the so-called “Barbizon”, located 28 kilometers away from Moscow in the Podolsk region in the picturesque loop of the river Pakhra. There was a comfortable workshop for artists who visited it, and a local carriage driver took them to paint plein-air at any time of day or night. In hospitable Dugino, everything was for leisure and creative activities. Paintings made at the estate and its surroundings inspire us and let us create a unique world—that world away from vanity, which was so precious for Nikolay Mescherin.