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Heinrich Semiradsky was born in Poland, studied and worked in Russia, because of which, in all likelihood, he is equally recognized as a Polish and Russian artist. Antique and biblical subjects prevailed in the work. Owing to his commitment to past themes and bold visual techniques, Semiradsky’s work was criticized, sometimes the reason for his rejection was the inanimate and complex character of the master himself. Despite considerable merits and recognition of the audience, relations with the Academy of Arts and the Partnership of Russian painters were not easy. During the life of Semiradsky, many of his works with invariable enthusiasm were received by the public, but were subjected to the critical view of his colleagues.
For the first time, the artist presented the painting “Christ at Martha and Mary” to the audience at the exhibition of the Imperial Academy of Arts. The work had a contradictory but indelible impression. The plot of the story was taken from the New Testament. The picture captures the moment Jesus Christ visited the house of Martha and Mary. These girls are the sisters of Lazarus, the very one whom Christ had resurrected before their eyes by their supplication.
The painter masterly possessed the ability to form a special environment and its harmonious combination with the created action. Semiradsky was able to introduce a new and unusual sound into boring stamped poses and motives, with a fascinating and entertaining plot. The images of the sisters determine two faces of the Christian life: aspiring to the creation of good deeds and contemplating the inner world. Based on this, Mary listens and hears the feet of Jesus Christ. Martha, frozen on the steps with a jug in her hands, all in cares and vanity - her destiny is action.
The main role is assigned to the landscape. Jesus and Mary, brought to the fore, complement it, smoothly interweaving in the shimmering shadows of trees and bushes of the garden. People reflect in relaxed and smooth movements and gestures the midday bliss reigning around.
Sophisticated and unique technique of Semiradsky created vivid and magnificent paintings. Following the laws of European academism, the artist introduced picturesqueness, plein air effects, chamber idyll into it. He was the first to take the path of undermining the obsolete foundations of the academic system, bringing them to replace the spontaneity, fascination and entertaining subjects.
Monet's Water Lilies