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St Petersburg. The Izmailovsky regiment

St Petersburg. The Izmailovsky Regiment

Artist: Dobuzhinsky, Mstislav Valerianovich (1875-1957)
Place of Publication: St Petersburg
Publisher: Community of St. Eugenia
Date of Publication: 1909
Technique: Colour half-tone
Size: 9 х 14,1 cm
From the Series:Exhibition of the Union of Russian Artists
Part of: Postcards Collection

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky is a notable graphic artist, illustrator and gifted scenographer. Cityscapes, especially, urban views of St Petersburg were the major themes for his works. At the turn of the twentieth century, when much was done in Saint Petersburg toward celebrating 200 years of the city, the artist joined the World of Art, an artistic group which aimed at reviving interest in the baroque and classical St Petersburg of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Dobuzhinsky was distinguished from other members of this artistic movement: "…I took a strong concern in the seamy side of urban life …, I painted the city, its nooks, and, although, I admired grand spots of St Petersburg but felt no desire for depicting them". Dobuzhinsky's city is the place of "grimaces and curious things". His works employ bold color combinations and contrasting compositions. They produce the image of the city as a living organism which collect together the past and the present, the prose and the poetry.
Many Dobuzhinsky's works were reproduced on picture postcards by the publishing house of the Community of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Eugenia, a subsection of the St. Petersburg Committee of the Red Cross. This publishing company was regarded as the best and largest in Russia. The Community of St. Eugenia shared ideas of the World of Art association and widely promoted works of members of the group.

Dobuzhinsky represents a view of the Izmailovsky regiment settlement in his postcard. The Izmailovsky regiment of Imperial guards was located at the city's outskirts, beyond the Fontanka Riva. Since 1731, the central avenue of this district was Izmaylovskiy Prospekt, situated between the banks of the Fontanka Riva and the Obvodny Canal. Streets branching away from the avenue were named after numbers of military companies settled them. The regiment settlement was built up with officer houses of the same type. The Trinity Cathedral became the regimental church, constructed on Izmaylovskiy Prospekt between 1828 and 1835 to a design by Vasily Stasov. Its bright-blue domes adorned with gold stars can be seen on the postcards.
Dobuzhinsky's heritage includes works that show a man opposed to the mystical, huge industrial city or even oppressed by it. The artist, as his contemporaries, worried about the growing mechanization of life. However, he was not an utter pessimist: "I think that we should not be afraid of machines, but curb them". In the postcard, against a background of the architectural scenery of the early twentieth century, a remarkable meeting of two forms of urban transport took place: in 1909, an electric tram already competed with a horse tramway. The passenger horse-drawn tram appeared in the city in 1863. In 1906, 32 regular horsecar routes operated in Saint Petersburg; the total length of that routes was 150 km. The city's first electric tram line opened in 1907. During the next ten years, the electric trams gradually replaced horse power. Finally, in 1917, it was determined to close all horsecar lines "because of starvation of horses and unavoidable difficulties for feed".

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