Alexey Makhrov, Introduction to V.V. Stasov, 'False art and false artists'

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 title of the article 'False Art and False Artists' clearly indicates that Stasov was in no doubt about what true art and true artists were or should be. Stasov's beliefs in the democratic ideals of the 1860s had not changed in 1905 and this essay sums up the essence of his views on art. The pretext for writing this diatribe against the decadents must have been the publication of a declaration entitled 'The Voice of Artists' in the St Petersburg newspapers Rus', Syn Otechestva and Novaia zhizn' on 12 November 1905. Written by Mstislav Dobuzhinskii, it was also signed by Konstantin Somov, Aleksandr Benua and Evgenii Lansere, all of whom were key members of the World of Art group. While welcoming the revolution, these artists advocated the rescue of beauty from utilitarianism and proposed an alliance of all those who would contribute to the creation of a harmonious coexistence of art, beauty and life. Apart from the reforms of the Academy and museums, Dobuzhinskii and his associates saw it as their duty to establish 'a connection and mutual understanding' between the artist and the people. For Stasov, such claims must have sounded like a blasphemy, since it was precisely this close relationship between art and the people that he had been tirelessly advocating for the past forty years, whilst simultaneously trying to destroy the notion of art as the pursuit of beauty. The social change for which he and the intelligentsia, brought up on the ideals of the Sixties, had been passionately craving seemed to be taking place, and he saw no place for the adherents of the concept of 'beauty' in the new social order created by the revolution.