Old Ladoga and Belsk rural settlement


Alexander Sheltunov. Old Ladoga, 1977

Old Ladoga. 1977


There were a lot of creative summer houses in Russia such as, I. E. Repin “Academicheskaya”, “Cheluskinskaya”, “Hot Spring”, “Senege”, in Listvyanka settlement at the Baikal, “Staraya Ladoga” and others. Above listed creative summer houses were meeting places with creative atmosphere for people from the whole huge country. These places concept can be characterized briefly and figuratively as “The area where the artist’s life becomes art.” The artists gained knowledge and magnificent creative fund. A lot of young painters were the part of the Artists’ Union Creative Houses and subsequently they became eminent famous masters.

Mikhail Grigorievitch Roiter was a working leader of the group in “Staraya Ladoga” where Alexander was allocated. Mr. Roiter was a graphic artist and a book illustrator. He focused on a watercolor technique at the end of the 70s. It goes without saying famous master’s creativity had a certain influence on the young artist’s establishment. Undoubtedly, Sheltunov changed a great deal after that trip. He had not just learned how to bend the technique to his will and his idea. Moreover, he learned to foresee the final result which was preceded by a great preparatory work. There have been several dozens of albums, notebooks, just sheet of papers left. The artist made location sketches and then compiled the compositions. It was “Staraya Ladoga” where his basic art quality became apparent such as the ability to think figuratively, get rid of odds, to focus on the most important stuff and to preserve his soul and nature state. Ladoga landscapes are strict and clean not only from compositional point but from the manner of painting. Restrained color gamma relates the winter condition of the Northern Nature. Sheltunov always had an amazing sense of place and time.


Alexander Sheltunov. Old Ladoga, 1977

Old Ladoga. 1977


He was carried away by the location sketches, watercolor studies of these amazingly beautiful places which are completely different from the Siberian ones. He even discovered the way to soften frozen brushes with wine but not with water. He brought with him several dozens of completed canvases, a lot of studies and sketches from that trip. However, he got back to “Staraya Ladoga” theme many times later. As it has a restrained beauty of nature and a captivating Russian antiquity.

There were that very places he started his “historical” landscapes series. But as for Siberian historical ones, they only appeared in his creativity in 1978 due to his trip to the old reserved rural settlement which is called Belsk. Belsk is located on a picturesque confluence of the Bolshaya Belaya and the Malaya Belaya rivers in Irkutsk oblast. The rural settlement was built by the Kozaks in 1691. It has Belsk stronghold keep, Sretenskaya church which was built in 1788, the house where Decembrist P. F. Gromnitsky lived from 1836 to 1851.

A. Sheltunov, A. Kostovsky, L. Gimov, all these artists had a rest and worked in summer with their families in Belsk. Sasha worked very hard as always. The landscapes, which were painted that dry and warm summer, were exceptionally harmonious. But dilapidated tower and tilted houses crowned his works. Needless to say that ruins have their own charm and always evoke a poetical frame. But outgoing Russian antiquity fascinated the artist and aroused the interest. That time canvases are color and compositionally restrained. Little bit later in the 80s, using his old studies and sketches, he painted several dozens of watercolors devoted to Belsk. In comparison with the initial watercolors made on location the later ones did not change dramatically as they had the same ideological meaning, the same artistic methods of graphic arts and painting merits’ combination in watercolor and the same emotionally-psychological condition.

In the 90s and the 2000s Sheltunov painted Belsk again. That time he was already working in two different techniques watercolor and oil. The color gamut was being changed i. e. he changes restrained colors into bright almost open ones, the compositions in his works were getting more sophisticated. However, the frame of mind and soul condition were still tense and anxious in all his works.

He was deeply touched by the old Russian landscapes either in the North or in Siberia: “Ice Drift”, “The Old Tower”, “Inclement Weather”, “The Silence on the Volhova River”, “On the Keep”, “The Tower against the Thundercloud Background”, “The Horse before the Precipice”. And again in each work he highlighted the necessity to preserve this strong greatness, to ennoble and to revive amazing nooks of nature and stuff created by human which unfortunately have come to a complete decay and preserved in artists’ works only.

The text writer: Iraida Fedchina