Kuindzhi’s style is exemplified here by the minimalist composition and dramatic light, color, and clouds. The site has been identified as the river called the Dnipro in Ukrainian (Russian, Dniepr; Belarusian, Dnyapro), which runs south through the three countries to the Black Sea. The artist was born along the coast in Mariupol when the Ukrainian city was part of the Russian Empire. Kuindzhi, who was descended from Pontic Greeks from Crimea, spoke Greek, Crimean Tatar, Russian, and Ukrainian, a skill that served him well as he moved around the northern Black Sea and then to St. Petersburg. There he associated with the Peredvizhniki (sometimes translated as the Wanderers), a pioneering exhibition group, and was later an influential teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts.
In March 2022, the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, Ukraine, was destroyed in a Russian airstrike.
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Artist:Arkhyp Kuindzhi (Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi) (Ukrainian, born Russian Empire, Mariupol 1841–1910 St. Petersburg)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:53 x 74 in. (134.6 x 188 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1974
the artist (until d. 1910; bequeathed to Kuindzhi Society); Kuindzhi Society, Moscow (1910–1916/18; sold for 22,500 rubles to Dembovski); K. B. Dembovski (from 1916/18); Peter Tretyakov, New York (by 1967–74; sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, May 1, 1969, no. 339, bought in; sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, December 1, 1971, no. 221, bought in; and sale, Sotheby-Parke Bernet, New York, April 17, 1974, no. 197 to Spanierman for The Met)
New York. Gallery of Modern Art. "A Survey of Russian Painting: Fifteenth Century to the Present," June 14–September 17, 1967, unnumbered cat. (as "Sunset," lent by Peter Tretyakoff, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.
M[ikhail]. P[etrovich]. Nevedomskii and I [lia]. E[fimovich]. Repin. A.I. Kuindzhi. St. Petersburg, 1913, pp. 159, 164, 190, ill. between pp. 136–37 (color), as "Red Sunset"; date it 1905–8; list two sketches for this work.
M[ikhail]. P[etrovich]. Nevedomskii. Kuindzhi. Moscow, 1937, p. 62, ill. p. 91, notes that this picture typifies a new element of stylization and simplification of line apparent in the artist's work after 1880.
John E. Bowlt. "A Russian Luminist School? Arkhip Kuindzhi's Red Sunset on the Dnepr." Metropolitan Museum Journal 10 (1975), pp. 119, 128–29, fig. 1, calls it representative both of Kuindzhi's artistic career and the Russian luminist school; states that "the interchange of color and light . . . achieves an almost cosmic force, a grand tension between physical and abstract, matter and spirit, 'here' and 'there'," and associates this tension with Russian Modernism as a whole.
V[itale]. S[erafimovich]. Manin. Kuindzhi. Moscow, 1976, pp. 122–23, 126–27, 136, 189, 205, fig. 55 (color), mentions a study also dated 1905–8, in the Jdanovskii Regional Museum.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 178, ill.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 160, 265, no. 149, ill. (color and black and white).
Irina Shuvalova inArkhip Kuindzhi iz sobraniia Russkogo muzeia. St. Petersburg, 2007, p. 24.
John E. Bowlt. "A Russian Luminist School? Arkhip Kuindzhi's 'Red Sunset on the Dnieper'." Tretyakov Gallery Art Magazine 60 (2018), ill. (color) [https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/3-2018-60/russian-luminist-school-arkhip-kuindzhis-red-sunset-dnieper], reprints Bowlt 1975.
State Tretyakov Gallery. Arkhip Kuindzhi. Exh. cat., State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow, 2018, pp. 166, 350, 352, no. 78, ill. (color), states that the artist worked on the painting during the last years of his life and that the picture was exhibited at Kuindzhi's posthumous exhibitions of 1913 and 1914 in St. Petersburg and Moscow, respectively; reproduces one of the oil sketches for The Met's picture (no. 74; State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg).
Viktoria Paranyuk. "Painting Light Scientifically: Arkhip Kuindzhi's Intermedial Environment." Slavic Review 78 (Summer 2019), p. 460, as "Red Sunset on the Dnepr".
Sophia Kishkovsky. "Mariupol Museum Dedicated to 19th-century Artist Arkhip Kuindzhi Destroyed by Airstrike, According to Local Media." Art Newspaper (March 23, 2022), ill. (color) [https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2022/03/23/mariupol-museum-dedicated-to-19th-century-artist-arkhip-kuindzhi-destroyed-by-airstrike-according-to-local-media], notes that a sketch "Red Sunset" had been in the now destroyed Kuindzhi Museum in Mariupol but that it was removed prior to the bombing of the museum and its current whereabouts are unknown.
Michael Prodger. "How the Ukrainian Painter Arkhip Kuindzhi laid out the Spirituality in Nature before Russian Eyes." New Statesman (April 20, 2022) [https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/art-design/2022/04/how-the-ukrainian-painter-arkhip-kuindzhi-laid-out-the-spirituality-in-nature-before-russian-eyes], dates it 1905; states that the artist is "at his most luminous" in this picture.
Timothy Bella and Julian Duplain. "Russian Troops Looted Art Museums in Mariupol, City Council Says." Washington Post (April 30, 2022) [https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/30/ukraine-russia-art-mariupol/].
Konstantin Aksinha. "Ukraine's Cultural Casualties." Burlington Magazine 164 (July 2022), p. 640.
Melissa Rodman. "Visual Arts Interview: Oleksandra Kovalchuk on 'Saving Ukrainian Art'." Arts Fuse (August 2, 2022) [https://artsfuse.org/259746/], notes that the study for this painting that had been in Mariupol was stolen by Russian-backed separatists.
Robin Pogrebin. "Defending Ukraine's Heritage: Museums Relabel Art and Artists Long Described as Russian to Reflect Their Cultural Roots." New York Times (March 18, 2023), p. C2, ill. (color, installation shot).
Zachary Small. "Met Museum Trains 'Monuments Men' to Save Ukrainian Cultural Heritage." New York Times (June 13, 2023), ill. (color, installation view) [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/13/arts/design/met-museum-trains-monuments-men-ukraine.html].
Kuindzhi was a self-identified individual of Greek descent and a subject of the Russian Empire, who also had strong Ukrainian biographical and cultural ties during a period of growing Ukrainian national consciousness. His national identities are complex. The Department of European Paintings currently describes Kuindzhi as "Ukrainian, born Russian Empire," to reflect the dual, intersecting nationalities identified in scholarship on the artist. Scholars do not designate Kuindzhi as a Greek national, but rather as of Pontic Greek lineage. He was descended from Greeks who moved to Mariupol from the southern coast of Crimea in the eighteenth century. Greeks from Crimea are classed among the Pontic Greeks, who originated in what is now northeastern Turkey and migrated widely through the surrounding region.
On Kuindzhi’s national identities, see: Bowlt 1975 and 2018; Alina Yefimova, "New Discoveries. About the Life and Work of Arkhip Kuindzhi," Tretyakov Gallery Art Magazine 60 (2018) [https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/3-2018-60/new-discoveries-about-life-and-work-arkhip-kuindzhi]; Angelika Myshkina and Yelena Prasolova, "Arkhip Kuindzhi in St. Petersburg and Mariupol. Historical Locations Relating to the Artist," Tretyakov Gallery Art Magazine 60 (2018) [https://www.tretyakovgallerymagazine.com/articles/3-2018-60/arkhip-kuindzhi-st-petersburg-and-mariupol-historical-locations-relating-artist]; and Andrey Kurkov et al., Treasures of Ukraine: A Nation’s Cultural Heritage, London, 2022, p. 144.
There are at least two works that relate to this painting: an oil sketch (1890–1908; State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) and a study (1905–8, Jdanovskii Regional Museum) (see Manin 1976).
Kishkovsky 2022 noted that a sketch "Red Sunset" had been in the now destroyed Kuindzhi Museum in Mariupol but that it was removed prior to the bombing of the museum and its current whereabouts are unknown. By August 2022, however, Rodman's interview with Ukrainian art museum director Oleksandra Kovalchuk revealed that the study has been stolen from Mariupol by Russian-backed separatists.
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