Yuri Vasnetsov's memories brought to life.
Understanding Yuri Vasnetsov means understanding his art. His memories shine through his work and help us to appreciate how his paintings and illustrations capture his experiences of growing up. My dear mother and Yuri’s granddaughter, Natalia, and I have put together a collection of Vasnetsov’s cherished memories and images, taken from Natalia’s memories and also from Unknown Yuri Vasnetsov (Krasnyj Parohod Publishing House, Moscow 2011)
"I was a lively boy, brimming with life, I could never sit still.
I loved all sorts of hand crafting; I made things from clay, metal, wood."
"I loved book-binding. At first, I made everything I needed myself from scratch, even made a binding bench from an old chair. Father saw my efforts and gave me a full set of binding equipment: instruments, binding bench, vice."
"I made my own fish tank from glass and putty, got some fish from the pond and river, added little shells and planted pond weed."
"I learnt how to make shoes. I watched our local shoemaker at craft - sometimes through the window, other times by standing right behind him - watching, observing. I got myself shoemaking instruments, had shoe blocks for Mother and Father, for my sisters, too. I sewed on my first soles so well that we barely managed to get them off later. I made pairs of shoes for my sisters as presents and even made my own boxes to put them in. Later when I studied at the Academy of Arts I would often mend my friends' shoes - I mastered the craft perfectly."
Perhaps this was when Grandfather’s passion for shoes and boots first started. I’ve always loved the striking red boots in many of his illustrations…
"In summer we went to the village to stay with Grandfather and Grandmother, all the family, one by one on horses. Grandfather had a great imagination and was an excellent crafter. He made his own pond and bred fish; there were rabbits, turkeys, chickens and little chicks running all over the yard."
"I remember childhood so well, as if it were all happening right now... I can see a big poplar tree, I can hear its leaves rustling, I can see rooks in it, a lot of rooks! So exciting! That's where I got the rooks from for my illustrations. I remember the garden by the church, poplars with trunks like the trunks of aspens - slightly green... Spring time... Rooks arriving... Beautiful lime trees in blossom by our house! What a scent!"
"Traditionally there was a big celebration for Christmas*. Mother would bring out all the decorations. The firtree was brought in from the cold - what a scent! At school the tree was up to the ceiling! New Year's celebration! Decorations, little flags with golden and silver edging - red, green, blue; the number of the year in gold. All the toys and decorations were lovingly made by local peasants with such care and attention. I helped with making garlands from my first year at school."
*Later, during the Soviet times Christmas was not celebrated in Russia.
"Later it became a tradition to be chosen to host a dance, like being a dancing conductor. I'd run around organising and announcing different dances, and I had to start the dance first, too. The host would wear a big bow on the left shoulder. Big bow! I loved a purple one."
"I remember everything as if it were happening now!"
"That's real art! And we are still running, looking for something..."
"I still live and breathe on what I saw and remember in my childhood. I am happy I didn't travel anywhere - just revisited Vyatka. An artist should stay with their thoughts. The main value is in being yourself, with your own views, with your own reflection of life, with your own life, your own twist."