The Russian Academy of Arts

The Academy

The Russian Academy of Arts, founded in 1947, is the backbone of the Soviet/Russian artistic academic system. The Academy, composed of around 100 members and 150 corresponding members, oversees the art academies and institutes in Russia, the most notable being the Repin Institute in St. Petersburg and the Surikov Institute in Moscow, and dictates for them one unified curriculum.

Members of the Academy

There are tens of thousands of artists throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union, but only around 100 may hold the prestigious title of academician, which the members of the Academy of Arts are called. These academicians have proven themselves not only as outstanding artists but also as influential individuals in the Russian art world. They are the most famous contemporary artists of Russia. Several of the artists we represent at the Robert Garren Gallery are academicians, and are quite famous artists throughout Russia and around the world.

Students of the Academy

Students attending one of Russia’s academies of art must go through years of intense study and training to obtain their degrees. Most people are familiar with the intense focus and study that Russian musicians, ballet dancers, gymnasts, etc., go through to become what many consider the best in the world at what they do. Russian artists are no different. Art education in Russia usually takes up most of the artist’s young life. Generally, an aspiring artist first studies drawing and composition at the elementary level. This is followed by the study of art in high school and college, which in turn is followed by studying art at one of the academies.

To gain entrance to an academy of art, the prospective student must show a portfolio of drawings, paintings, sculpture, or compositions to a committee which will then select students based on their artistic abilities to sit for a week or more of entrance exams in competitive drawing and painting. Approximately one student in five who takes these exams will gain admittance to the academy.

An artist’s time at an academy consist of six years of intense study of art. An academy student spends six days a week for eight hours a day in classes, with a minimum of five hours a day spent painting and drawing from live models or still life. The first two years are spent on technical exercises – hours of drawing hands, for instance, in ten different positions. Third year students progress to a more elevated level of drawing and painting, working in better studios under a team of major professors who monitor their work. The obligatory summer program (praktika) sends first and second year students to northern Russia or the Black Sea to paint landscapes, while third year students work from the major museums copying old masters’ work. Fourth year students may choose a project for their summer program, and fifth year students must lay the foundations for their diploma projects (doing research, making sketches and studies), which are the means to obtaining their master’s degree.

Sixth year students, called diplomniki, are given private studios, where they spend their year working on their diploma projects. The students are encouraged to reflect their Russian culture and heritage in these projects, often painting historical pieces, or paintings depicting peasant life or folk motifs. Students from other countries are encouraged to reflect their own heritages. At the end of the year, the students defend their diploma projects before a panel of ten to twenty people comprised of their teachers, rectors of the Institutes and members of the Academy of Arts. The students are graded on their projects and awarded their diplomas. The diploma projects themselves remain at the institute unless the students can manage to smuggle them out. “The White Goat” by Arsen Kurbanov is one example of a diploma project we have available at the Robert Garren Gallery. Most of the artists we represent have been trained at one of the Academies of Art. This intense training produces exceptional fine artists.