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Ivan Shishkin's Morning in the Pine-tree Forest, painted in 1889, is a serene vision of the Russian countryside captured before the ravages of the early-twentieth century. Currently housed at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the canvas is in fact the product of the labours of both Shishkin and his friend and fellow painter Konstantin Savitsky, who supplied the figurative reproductions of the bears. Surprisingly the famed art collector Pavel Tretyakov whose collection would become one of the canonical estates in Russian art, erased Savitsky's name from the canvas believing the composition to reflect only Shishkin's style. Indeed, the painting has been deemed one of the most popular with Russians in a recent poll, and has been the subject of countless reproductions for souvenirs and internal advertisements embodying a 'lost' Russia. Painted in the forests of Estonia where the painter liked to sojourn in summer, the arrival of the canvas coincided with a period of 'Russification' of the Estonian lands to counter an upsurge in bids for national autonomy.
A member and proponent of the Peredvizhniki, a group whose dismissal of the conservative and restrictive concerns of the Academy led to their forming an independent cooperative of artists for exhibitions, Shishkin's style was characterised by a tendency towards sparsely populated landscapes, setting up a warm relationship between the viewer and with the accommodating expanse of the vast Russian lands. Indeed, landscape paintings flourished in the Peredvizhniki group, suffusing their visions with intense, brooding, and graceful atmospheres. Previously ignored as the site of agriculture and the lands of the peasants, after the works of Shishkin, the Russian countryside was celebrated in the popular mindset. Drawing attention to the beauty of their seemingly endless and varied country, Shishkin's Morning in the Pine-tree Forest is comparable to Turner's The Fighting Temeraire in it's mythic and nation-making appeal.