Common project of Museum of Russian Impressionism and The State Tretyakov Gallery—the exhibition “Nikolay Mescherin. Away from Vanity”—reveals to the public for the first time after a long period of abandon a talented and unique artist of the beginning of the 20th century. The participant of the biggest exhibition alliance in Russia “Union of Russian artists”, Nikolay Vasilievich Mescherin together with such prominent masters as Konstantin Korovin, Boris Kustodiev and Igor Grabar set a vector of development of impressionistic movement in the local art school at the turn of the century.
Organizing an exposition of Russian art as a part of Autumn Salon in Paris in 1906, Sergey Dyaghilev chose five paintings by Nikolay Mescherin for the show. This exhibition named “Two centuries of Russian art and sculpture” was assessed by contemporaries as “international art event”. The exhibition took place in 12 halls of the Grand Palais and included 750 objects by 103 masters/ It demonstrated all steps of development of Russian art: from ancient icons to modern tendencies of the beginning of the century. Participation of Nikolay Mescherin in Paris Salon, without any doubts, shows high appraisal of his artwork.
Nikolay Vasilievich Mescherin was born in Moscow patriarchal family of merchants. His father, Vasiliy Efremovich Mescherin, was a merchant of the 1st guild and a founder of Danilovskaya textile manufacture—one of the largest weaving productions in Russia. According to the long-standing tradition, as the oldest son and a heritor, Nikolay Mescherin had to run the factory after his father’s death. But Mescherin-son had neither propensity nor interest to complicated financial and manufacturing mechanism. He was more interested in art: photography and painting. At that time representatives of well-known merchant dynasties quite frequently became art patrons and collectors but few decided to paint themselves.
Nikolay Mescherin found an asylum from vanity of a big city in their family country estateDugino. Surrounding cozy villages, interminable meadows and forests became his workshop under the sky. Landscape was a genre which was primarily appraised by Nikolay Mescherin. All of us keep in our childhood memories of nature such as snowy forests, lilac spring park alleys, meadows full of bright summer flowers and groves covered by gold and purpure of autumn. They return to us in adulthood by accident. Light fragrance, landscape behind the window, filmed image or found photo remind us about moments of freedom and happiness, joy and excitement. They take us back to merely forgotten world of childhood with no troubles attached. Nikolay Mescherin kept such memories about 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. These photos dated 1886–1887 demonstrate the artist’s interest to opportunities of photography to depict immediately the fast changing in the mood of the surrounding nature. Later, turning to painting, Mescherin was looking for the beauty and poetry of snowy villages, endless meadows and changeable sky. Classic clarity of scene construction combined with colorful freedom became characterizing traits of plein-air painting in mature period of Mescherin’s artwork.
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 exposition became possible mostly due to Nikolay Gagman’s research. He not only kept 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 combined the artist’s paintings spread round Russia in state museums from Astrakhan to Irkutsk and those which had settled in private collections.
Next to 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 Podolsk region in the picturesque loop of river Pakhra. There was a comfortable workshop for artists who visited it and local carriage driver took them to plein-air at any time of day or night. In hospitable Dugino everything was for leisure—and creative activities. Paintings executed in the estate and its surroundings inspired us and let us make a unique atmosphere—that world away from vanity which was so precious for Nikolay Mescherin.