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Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel (March 17, 1856 – April 14, 1910) is usually regarded among the Russian painters of the Symbolist movement and of Art Nouveau. In reality, he deliberately stood aloof from contemporary art trends, so that the origin of his unusual manner should be sought in Late Byzantine and Early Renaissance painting.
Vrubel is generally considered the greatest of the Russian Symbolist painters. The departure from realistic naturalism in Russian painting that began with Mikhail Nesterov's enigmatic painting The Visitation realized it's full expression in the work of Vrubel. His unique style and great talent are evident in his self portrait in pencil from 1904-1905.
In 1890, Vrubel painted a series of black and white watercolor illustrations for Mikhail Lermontov's romantic poem The Demon. Later that year Vrubel exhibited a large oil painting called The Seated Demon in Moscow. The painting caused a great deal of controversy. At first the work was condemned by conservative critics. Some even called it ugly. But later art patron Savva Mamontov praised Vrubel's genius and commissioned him do some paintings for his private opera house. The scandal made Vrubel famous.
Like Lermontov's Demon, Vrubel had his Tamara as well. In 1896, he fell in love with the famous opera singer Nadezhda Zabela and they were married. She sang the parts of the Snowbird, the Swan Princess, and the Princess Volkhova in Rimsky-Korsakov's operas. Vrubel designed stage sets and beautiful costumes for her. She was his fairy tale princess. He painted his beautiful portrait of her as the Swan Princess during this happy period.
Sadly, Vrubel's fate would be as tragic as that of Lermontov's Demon. In 1901, he suffered a nervous breakdown at an exhibition of the painting Demon Downcast, and was taken to a mental clinic where he was hospitalized....