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By 1891 Arkhipov was an active member of the Wanderers, a group of Russian representational artists who painted themes dealing with the inequities and injustices of life under Tsarist rule. During this time he painted plein air landscapes along the Volga River using muted colors to create a moody effect. In 1899 Arkhipov created one of his most famous paintings, The Laundresses (also titled The Washer-Women). The painting captures the spirit of oppression that was felt by most of the factory workers during this time. The colors are muted, as the scene epitomizes the hopelessness of these women’s existence. Around 1910 Arkhipov started painting a series of portraits of peasant women from his hometown region. In these paintings the figures are dressed in bright national costumes and painted with broad decisive strokes. From here forward the theme of peasant life would dominate his work for the rest of his life. His painting style began to change from his earlier detailed work to a more expressive and passionate style. As a fellow teacher I can almost picture Arkhipov's life by reading his paintings. I can see him rushing from the classroom to his studio, making the most with his time, he had already thought out each brushstroke before arriving to his studio. When you look at his work you can feel his confidence with each stroke. Arkhipov painted with thick paint letting colors from underneath come through. He used a strong value pattern to lead the viewer's eye around the picture plane. Unlike Grabar Arkhipov's technique is not soft and sensitive, but bold and assertive. Also, unlike Grabar's cold aloof work, Arkhipov's work is filled with the heart and soul of the Russian people. The Moscow branch of Russian Impressionism became known for its warm ochre colors, which I am sure came from Arkhipov's delicious warm palette. Arkhipov died before Stalin’s 1932 decree that marked the beginning of Soviet Realism, a style forced upon Russian artists where they had to work with themes based on “happy Soviet life.” One has to wonder if Soviet propaganda had any influence on Arkhipov’s work, especially since he taught in Moscow near the government Duma. During the last ten years of his life Arkhipov’s peasant paintings conveyed happy Russian people. The days of his gray muted paintings like The Laundresseswere gone forever.
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