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«I do not find in the twelfth and thirteenth century Russian pictures any like transfiguration. They display an elevated sense of dignity. They are entitled to find a harmonious place in the midst of a rich religious ceremonial; but they do not stir the heart. They possess great decorative value. They are often distinguished by excellence of what nowadays is called an «architectural» quality — that is to say, that in line and mass and colour they are well composed; but they seldom touch the heart. With the coming of Rublëv all this changes. A new spirit was abroad, which affected fourteenth century Russian artists, and especially those of the Novgorod school. We can observe them feeling their way to something that was not Byzantine. They began to be Russian, to look with Russian eyes and to design with Russian ideals. Rublëv incarnated this new ideal. It is evident that his advance was accepted with pleasure by the class or group that employed him. He rose into eminence. He was given large commissions; notably he was responsible for painting the great Iconostasis in the Troitse-Sergieva Lavra. That large assemblage of panels has been painted over by crude restorers; but one of them, which has been carefully cleaned, displays the beautiful «Old Testament Trinity» to which reference has already been made. It shows us the highest level of Russian achievement in dealing
The influence of Rublëv was powerful with his contemporaries and endured even after he had been removed. Russian art remained what he had made it for nearly a century. Thus it came to pass that the pictures of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries possess a peculiar charm. They stand out from the general stream of Icon painting as a group apart. It is much to be wished that at least a few paintings of this group should find a permanent home in some public gallery in this country».
(Sir Martin Conway, The History of Russian Icon-Painting, in «Masterpieces of Russian Painting», London, 1930, pp 31–32).
«The act of artistic creation must thus have been for these Russian artists more like that which takes place in the spirit of a musical composer than in that of the Western artist. Like the musical composer, the Russian artist stretched and moulded the inherited material to fit the peculiar stresses of his personal feeling. And, indeed, there is something akin to music in the directness and immediacy of these Russian artist's communications. Certainly the artists of the great period of the fifteenth century, men like Rublëv and Dionysius, seem able to realize quite new, and altogether unforeseen discoveries of silhouette expressed in harmonies of a new and strangely ethereal intensity of colour. Though the actual forms of Rublëv's «Trinity» may be all derived from Byzantine originals, they have taken on a quite new meaning; a more tensely concentrated emotion seems to have imposed these rhythms and inspired these unearthly blues and ivory whites.
Colour naturally plays an immense role in this art, where plastic values are reduced to a minimum and where pure insensibly modulated tints are spread over large unmodelled areas. It is by that and by the rhythmic sequences of silhouettes upon ivory or silvered golden grounds that these intimations of a world of abstract and supernatural beauty are imposed on our imaginations.
Here, then, is an art which in its main characters is singularly free from all the mechanism of representation, purified like music of all but its direct appeals to the spirit».
(Roger Fry, Russian Icon-Painting from a Western-European Point of View, ibid., pp. 36–38).
«There is a certain satisfaction in noting that, coming to this art as we do without previous knowledge, without traditional reverences and predilections, we almost immediately pick out those pictures which Russians have always held in most esteem. After a short stay in the galleries of the exhibition it becomes clear to one that Rublëv's was, if not the greatest, by far the most persuasive and outstanding personality. Two of his masterpieces were seen in the exhibition. One, «the Trinity», in a copy — but a copy of such extraordinary perfection that one felt that little had been lost — is based on the story of the three men who came to Abraham. It has the authentic quality of a real vision, and a vision of celestial radiance, in its exquisitely melodious colour
(Ibid., p. 56).
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