MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People

Vladimir Stasov

Authors: Pavel Yudin and Mark Rosenthal
Written: 1954
First published: 1954 in A Short Philosophical Dictionary, fifth edition
Source: https://filslov.ru/431-stasov-vladimir-vasilevich.html
Translated by: Anton P.

Vladimir Stasov

Stasov Vladimir Vasilievich (1824-1906) – an outstanding Russian theorist and art historian, art and music critic. Graduated from the School of Law. From 1857 he worked at the Public Library in St. Petersburg. Being a follower of the materialist aesthetics of Belinsky and Chernyshevsky, Stasov was an ardent champion of the advanced, democratic trend in Russian art, a consistent propagandist of the Russian national realistic school. Following Chernyshevsky, Stasov sees in art a reflection of reality and demands from a work of art that it reflect and explain life and pass judgment on everything that has become obsolete, reactionary, and slows down the movement forward.

An outstanding ideologist of critical realism, Stasov considered art a powerful social force in the struggle for the democratic reorganization of society. Resolutely and sharply opposing cosmopolitanism in art, he consistently fought for the nationality of art and the development of Russian national art. He emphasized that art, which is not rooted in the life of the people, is powerless. According to Stasov, the development of his own, national art school, close to the interests and needs of the broad masses, is the only way to the flourishing of art. He sharply criticizes art which is far from the people, divorced from the burning issues of our time, the so-called art for art.

As an art critic, Stasov played a huge role in strengthening democracy and realism in art; supported leading artists (The Itinerants, including Repin, Kramskoi, Savitsky, Perov, Makovsky, Shishkin, Serov), leading composers (The Mighty Handful of Mussorgsky, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov), V.V. Stasov fought backwardness, reaction in art and aesthetics, smashed academicism and aestheticism, consistently exposed the formalism and decadence of the late 19th and early 20th-century Western European and Russian art.

Not adhering to consistently revolutionary democratic views, sometimes paying tribute to liberalism, Stasov failed to show the real historical reasons for the decline of bourgeois art, failed to understand that only a socialist revolution can provide art with unlimited opportunities for development. But under the conditions of that time, the activities of V.V. Stasov had progressive significance. The main works of Stasov: Twenty-five years of Russian art (1882-1883), The brakes of the new Russian art (1885), Essays on art in Europe in the XIX century (1901).