Alexey Makhrov, Introduction to V.V. Stasov, 'Mr Prakhov's Inaugural Lecture at the University' (1874) (Letter to the Editorial Board of St Petersburg News)

Copyright 2003; all rights reserved. Redistribution or republication of this text in any medium requires the consent of the author(s).

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The letter published by Stasov in the newspaper St Petersburg Gazette is an episode in the long debate between the supporters of critical realism and the advocates of the notion of 'art for art's sake', which took place in Russian culture in the middle and the second half of the nineteenth century. Stasov continued the tradition of Belinskii, Chernyshevskii and Dobroliubov and propagated an intimate relationship between art and the needs of the society; the mission of art was to serve social progress. Any deviations from this theory were labelled as expressions of the idea of 'art for art's sake' and fiercely attacked. Adrian Prakhov, editor of the art journal Pchela (St Petersburg, 1875 - 1878), did not subscribe to the ideological doctrine of the left wing intelligentsia and attempted in his inaugural lecture to approach art from the point of view of its inherent values rather than any requirements extraneous to its nature. He was not considered an ally by Stasov and Kramskoi, although they acknowledged his competence in art history.