I see you every time I close my eyes for you are the darkness, the appearance of black in this constant colour space…
Out of all the demonian scenes painted by Mikhail Vrubel inspired by his admiration of Mikhail Lermontov's beautiful poem 'Demon' , which was set in the Caucasian mountains, 'Seated Demon' , executed in 1980, is my favorite one. I sincerely believe that such scene, showing a power in its most sentimental moment, hasnever been represented as marvelously as in Vrubel's painting. An image of the titanic struggle within the tormented human soul has left an indelible imprint on my mind. The whole composition is dominated by a beautiful and melancholic figure of Demon, whose pose, huge muscular body, strong hands, shoulders and absolutely perfect face bring the profound sense of sadness. For some reason you pity this almighty spirit, whose gaze is directed in to the infinity of the heavens rays and deep inhuman sorrow seems to bow his powerful frame. In a letter to his father, Vrubel wrote “The spirit, which is not so much evil as suffering and vulnerable, yet withal a powerful and noble being.” Indeed, the artist manages to create using sweeping, energetic and masterful brushstrokes, an absolutely new character, neither a demon nor an angel but a tortured soul wandering the earth, hopeless and troubled. The feeling of defeat emanates from this picture. He is no longer entertained by ruling this world of ours, watching negligible people making the same mistakes over and over again. He is tired of bringing evil to those, who accept it without even thinking of fighting, to those, who have that evil on their own. He dwells in infinite isolation, his immortality and unlimited power a worthless burden. “Alone in all the universe, Abandoned, without love or hope! ...".
I think this work also reflects the artist's own tragedy. Mikhail Vrubel was mentally ill but you cannot really see pathological manifestations of the disease in his Seated Demon, although the painting was produced during the physiological beginning of his ailment; maybe only an increase in the compositional expression and mystical depth of spiritual character. Mikhail Vrubel was seriously ill as a man, but deeply healthy as an artist, and this is another miracle. His psychopathology was transferred into art, the creation of ideas and forms. I believe that Thomas Mann's thoughts about Dostoevsky and Nietzsche could also be applied to Vrubel. He once said that nature's phenomena cannot be cured or protected… “the patient whose mental disorder has turned him into a genius.”
Tamara and Demon, 1890-91. Illustration for the Demon by Mikhael Lermontov. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Fallen Demon, 1902. Oil on tempera, 139 by 387 cm. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Seated Demon. Fragment
Flying Demon, 1890-91 Illustration for the Demon by Mikhael Lermontov.
Seated Demon, 1980. Oil on canvas, 114 by 211 cm. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
I see you every time I close my eyes for you are the darkness, the appearance of black in this constant colour space