He gave his canvases a home to demons, or maybe it was the demons that captured him. But either way, it was Mikhail Vrubel who created the real demonic images of the inhabitants of the otherworld.
Everything is strange in Vrubel's work. He began his career as a professional artist with icon-paintings of the Cyril Church in Kiev. He, who was alive with demons, painted icons with the same obsession, creating Christ and the Mother of God and numerous saints in paint. This convulsive tossing from Christ to the demons of darkness will accompany Mikhail Vrubel throughout his life.
It is noteworthy that as a nature for the apostles from the fresco "The Descent of the Holy Spirit" Vrubel sketched the faces of patients from a psychiatric hospital. In the emaciated silhouettes, in the confused looks of the insane, he caught a certain forbidden knowledge, inaccessible to the "normal" and, therefore, limited mind. Vrubel believed that the insane knew something that the healthy did not, that they, cut off by insanity from all ordinary things, were capable of experiencing true spiritual enlightenment.
The building committee, which ordered Vrubel painting on the "Resurrection of Christ" wall of the northern aisle of the altar of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, the work of the artist did not take. The painting of the plafond on "The Fifth Day of Creation - the separation of water from the firmament" was not accepted either. Not good, according to customers, was the sketch of "Resurrection. Sketch of the Vladimirskiy Cathedral mural.
And when creative failures superimposed on personal problems, demonic began to thin snake trickle into the soul of an artist, tempting, disturbing, demanding their embodiment.
And then came Rubinstein's opera "The Demon". For Mikhail Vrubel, stunned by the marvelous voices of the singers and the very staging itself, it became a boundary through which he easily stepped over.
How to portray DEMON? Here is a review of one of the first Vrubel Demon: "The Demon seemed to me evil, sensual repulsive old woman. Misha says that the Demon is a spirit that combines a male and a female form. A spirit who is not so much evil as suffering and mourning, but at the same time a spirit of power and majesty.
Vrubel destroyed the sketch of the first Demon, dissatisfied with what he had done. Desperate to write the Demon in oil, he tried to portray it in sculpture, mold the demonic flesh with his hands. But one sculpture fell apart, the second seemed to the artist exaggerated.
It was only in May 1890 Vrubel suddenly felt the power to create DEMON. He longed to embody the luminous divinity of the Demon, the angel of God-born, but emasculated by emasculated Christian myth, longed to show the world of the Demon as a good, freed from sinlessness.
Vrubel worked like a man possessed. And the painted flesh came to life, filled with real power. In front of his eyes the Demon kept growing and growing, he kept coming closer and closer to the edge of the canvas, he filled the entire canvas, and Vrubel himself laced up new pieces. But the Demon has outgrown the enlarged canvas - the top of his head seems cut off.
"Demon Sitting" is an alien sitting at the edge of another universe, where beautiful and lifeless crystal flowers bloom. The dark face, the purple mouth, the black mass of hair, the red reflections in the eyes and behind the ear are signs of a demonic nature.
No one and never before Vrubel was able to combine so strikingly cold and warm planes of paint, as it was done in "The Demon sitting." Paint strokes, like the beads of a kaleidoscope, sparkle on the canvas, merging into three-dimensional figures. Vrubel opened the doors of the dead world with his brush.
The Demon appeared in Mikhail Vrubel's life ten years later. In 1901, Vrubel, who was married by that time to the actress Nadezhda Zabel, had a son Savva. The boy's face stood out for its blue and incredibly huge eyes. He was born with an ugly harelip. Blaming himself for the ugliness of his son, Vrubel began to change. The artist became thoughtful, absent-minded, intractable, he began to have attacks of wild aggression. All of his previous creative ideas suddenly faded. And only one image frantically called for action.
Vrubel once experimented with a photograph of the Caucasian mountains; he often flipped the card over and peered into an upside down world, as if searching for the edges of another reality. This reality flying downward was clearly outlined in the painting The Demon Prostrate.
Vrubel stubbornly tried to grasp the shaky image of infernal beauty. He painted smear after smear and, without waiting for the paint to dry, he covered the unsuccessful parts of the picture with pieces of newspaper, then painted directly on the newspapers - the surface turned out uneven, as if pitted, just as the Demon's reality should be.
The artist's mind was sinking inexorably into darkness. One day he reported that the Demon appeared to him in a dream and demanded that the canvas be called "ikone" (icon). "The beautiful defeated evil" must be worshipped as other images of martyrs are worshipped.
"The Demon Defeated" was sent to an exhibition. Vrubel followed. And even when the painting was already hanging on the wall, the artist right in front of the public made more and more corrections. The demon sucked all the strength of his victim, emptied his soul and plunged his mind into the darkness of madness. Mikhail Vrubel was placed in a psychiatric clinic.
Those were terrible months of chaos. Vrubel imagined himself to be Christ, then Pushkin, he was going to become governor-general of Moscow, turn into the Russian sovereign, become Skobelev or Freen. He heard choruses of voices, claimed to have lived in the Renaissance and painted the walls at the Vatican in company with Raphael and Michelangelo...
Vrubel did not leave the clinic for long. A few months later, his two-year-old son Savvushka died of croupous pneumonia. Enormous grief flooded his father entirely. Burnt mind could not withstand the disgusting merciless reality, and Vrubel himself asked his wife to put him back in a psychiatric clinic.
There, one excruciating hallucination was replaced by another: the artist saw enemies who wanted his death, he was stunned by a chorus of ghostly voices, accusing him of crimes. Vrubel fell into despair and screamed that he had expected NOTHING, or squirming in fits of rage. When the lull and enlightenment, Vrubel drew from nature.
In August 1904, Vrubel left the clinic. In the same year, created another famous work by Mikhail Vrubel "Six-winged Seraphim" (Azrael). Greenish face, on which blue ice crystals sparkle instead of eyes, deadly chiseled icy features, devoid of passion. And a glittering sword drawn... If it is an angel, it is the angel of death.
The artist who painted demons had to drink his bitter cup to the bottom. He began to gradually go blind. Half-blind he tried to paint, then sculpt. And then came the impenetrable darkness. The last years of his life Mikhail Vrubel spent in absolute darkness. At the clinic, he raved about the "sapphire" eyes, which someone should give him.
Mikhail's last words were: "Enough lying around, get ready, Nicholas, let's go to the Academy. Vrubel died on April 1, 1910. He crossed a thin line separating existence from non-existence, and who met him behind that last line - angels or demons - we do not know ...