I think this one deserves a thread on its own by now.
The official sites..
Thanks to Lena for all the info she gives on the school in the realism and construction thread. I have put together some of the info she gave below.
How to apply to the preperation course?
I am very glad that I've generated interest here to the Repin Academy.
I think those of you who are interested in the prep course for this October, should all get in touch with each other at least by email. It would be much easier for you guys if you have some friends made before going there.
If anyone has not read Jim's blog, just google it James Sondow blog "Stranger in a Strange Land".
This will give you an idea about living in Petersburg, it's not so easy, and I would consider how serious you are about all this before going there.
Back to the details. I am getting a lot of emails with the same questions regarding deadlines and logistics for the prep course. So, I'd just write here important information
1. Ivan Isakovich is the guy who deals with international students. I will give you his phone number when you are ready to submit your portfolios. But, I will also call him personally about everyone who is applying. He does not speak English, but his daughter does, so she usually translates the phone calls. She is also an Art History professor at the Academy.
2. Deadline. Classes at the academy for everyone begin in October, like around the 8th.
3. You need time to get your visa processed by the Russian Embassy in your country. I would allow 2 months for that.
4. Your first step is to get a CD with your work, a photocopy of your passport and your address and mail it to Ivan Isakovich. I will find out where exactly to mail it.
5. Once they look at your CD, they will issue you an official invitation. It takes them a month to do it since they have to go through their Immigration Services (like our American State Department).
6. Once you get your invitation from them, you go to the Embassy in your country and apply for a student visa.
7. I don't remember what other paperwork you need for your visa, you dont need a medical exam. The embassy will tell you all that stuff.
8. As of today the prep course costs 6000 euros, covers October through June.
9. Entrance exams after the prep course begin in July, that is if you decide to try to get into the 6 year degree program.
10. Living arrangements. Most international students (except for the Chinese) rent apartments and share. You can rent something very close to the academy enough for 2-3 people for around $1000 - $1500 a month. Jim has a 4 room apartment shared by 3 of them for $1500, so they pay $500 each. This is right next to the academy, an expensive part of the city. You can rent cheaper in other parts of the city.
11. Dormitories are also available, 2 subway stops from the Academy, cost is $200 a month, a shared room for 2 students. Don't know how nice they are, but I was told by Ivan Isakovich that a British girl did not want to live there. For the same money, you can rent a room in a private apartment, probably a little nicer.
12. If any of you guys get together, you can definitely get something nice and pay about the same as the dormitory.
13. Joining the course later in the year. It is possible, but you will have less time to prepare for the exams. Those who have joined in February (the beginning of the second semester) had to go through the whole next year to be ready for the exams, so they ended up doing 1,5 years of prep course instead of 1 year. But, people retake the prep course anyway, I know quite a few of even my Russian friends, so it's not the end of the world.
I don't know what else you want to know. Feel free to send me private emails, but first read my posts here, so I don't have to repeat myself all the time.
14. I still strongly suggest that you guys participate in our summer workshop or at least visit Petersburg and see the academy before making your decision.
15. Last year I had 4 students form America interested, the Academy got them invitations, but they never came, changed their mind, or money issues or whatever. I really don't want to waste everyone's time at the academy with these invitations, so please think twice.
16. Someone asked me if the Academy is fully accredited by the Russian Ministry of Education. Yes, absolutely. And, as far as I know, in the United States, you automatically get a Master of Fine Arts degree having the Repin Academy degree, don't know about Europe, but assume it's the same.
There is a word they use "zarisovka", which means "drawing that captures a moment", but it could be as simple as a tree stump.
Basically, Repin Academy students are required to keep sketchbooks, and they have to show the sketches especially from the summer practice. There are specific assignments during the summer practice which is two months, June and July. In addition to landscape painting, they are required to have graphic sketches (any graphic material like pencil, charcoal, ink, watercolor etc) of hills, trees, clouds, individual leaves, sea waves etc. The idea is that you make almost a dictionary for yourself of every part of landscape.
The first summer they go to a picturesque area between Moscow and Petersburg (former family estate of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin). The second summer is in the Krimea on the Black Sea (marine landscapes and tropical environment). The third summer they stay in the city and copy at the Hermitage or the Russian Museum, and I don't know what they do the 4th and 5th year summers. But summer semester is part of the academic year, that's why their official summer break is only two months, August and September.
In September there is a big show - grading for the work done at the summer practice.
Composition is probably the most important subject at the Repin Academy. I will try to post a few things I did there, very primitive though, but you can see how they go about it.
Like someone said before, the goal is to avoid sameness. If one tree goes this way, the other goes the other way and etc. Also leading the eye around. They start from small abstract shaped black and white sketches, 2d, I'd say, then they introduce light, mid-town and dark, as simple as that. Within the black and white sketch you need to trace the movement pattern of the lights, midtowns and darks.
The four courners of the painting should all be different, and so on and so forth.
The progress is from black and white tiny sketches to bigger ones, to color sketches and then to what is called the "cartoon", which is a colored compositional larger size sketch.
On painting at the academy
They are not as concerned with the smoothness of the work, since they mostly treat it as excercises, not pieces suited for sale in a commercial gallery (Florence Academy focus).
The monumental department produces much smoother work, since it is meant to be flat and decorative (this Ovcharenko example is typical).
Also, when you work with color it takes 10 times longer to produce a smooth or "finished" painting then when you work with imaginary colors (Florence Academy) or limited pallette (brown-grey paintings, even like Bougerou). And in most cases, you do sacrifice some of the drawing, it's very hard to observe both color and tone and structure, all at the same time.
Also, as you can see, their setups always include backgrounds, sometimes very complicated interior or still life. Florence Academy people usually paint a figure or portrait without any context, sort of a cutout, so yes, they can spend more time on just a figure.
Answering your specific question about schedule. There is no such thing about learning drawing first and then painting in Russia. Children ages 9 begin doing both at the same time, and compositional work out of their head too. By the time these students enter the Repin Academy, they'd be considered professional painters here in America, since they've graduated a 3 year art college or specialized art school in most cases. By the time they are at Repin, they would have been painting for 7-9 years.
The typical daily class schedule at the Repin Academy (actually the same holds for Mukhina) is 2 hours of long pose drawing in the morning, 3 hours of long pose painting in the afternoon, then for first and second year students lecture classes (anatomy, art history and others), then back to another class of drawing (called afternoon long pose), and then evening short sketches (called evening short poses). Then they have to do compositional homework after that. The first and second year students don't get much sleep, they stay in class into the midnight. It gets easier the 3rd-5th year, since they don't have as many lecture classes, almost all just drawing and painting or sculpture (for sculptors).
As far as choosing a "master", they don't refer to teachers like that, everyone is considered an eternal student in a way, that's how professors talk about themselves too. Nobody pretends like he's mastered anything.
But after the second year, they enter this or that studio, monumental is one of them. Basically, they apply to the studio of their choice, but the decision is made by the professors based on their grades. The monumental takes all A students (meaning the best one), but some of the best ones dont want to go there because of its style, so they can go to one of the other 2-3 studios. Basically, there are two monumental studios and three easel studios. Each studio has two professors, one for drawing and one for painting.
Here are Repin studies for a large painting. This is exactly what Repin students try to do. Through color and tone they sculpto the form. This is all treated like a learning process rather than a finished commercial piece, that's why the roughness.
by the way, late Titian also became much more rough and painterly than in his earlier work, and so did Rembrandt.
The Repin Academy vs ..
As far as anatomy is concerned, for one thing, Repin people probably have more time allowed for it.
May be their approach is from the outside in. Like the first year when they draw portraits only, they'd draw a bust from a live model (usually an old bony man) and next to it would draw an ecorche and a skeleton of a bust. The second year, they'd draw the whole figure on one page from front and back and next to it draw a skeleton and ecorche in the same position. Instead of blindly copying the surface, they'd be looking for the so-called bony landmarks on the surface of human flesh.
What I mean is that they'd be drawing the surface but with understanding of what lies beneath it and makes certain indentations or projections on the surface. But, they won't be drawing actual bones on the human being (more like the see-through Mukhina approach).
One of my friend, a first year Repin student, had a question during her mid-term test to draw a jaw of an old man and a jaw of a baby. This is what she had to do from memory at the exam.
I will try to find those first and second year drawings to illustrate.
I guess one thing that they don't like at Repin is oversimplification of construction. If in Mukhina they might start with 5 planes, at the Academy they'd have all the 15 planes in a foot, for example.
And then, the main difference of course, would be tone, Repin would have much more tonal gradations, from the darkest darks to the lightest lights, which again, is not required at Mukhina, since they are not trained to be portrait painters.
Personally, I don't have a bias for or against these systems, and both of them have tonns of construction (as opposed to any American or European atelier).
The bottomline is that I think it comes to individual talent. I've seen plenty of terrible work at both Mukhina and Repin, and I saw some outstanding work in both academies.
About being "tone-deaf" not being able to distinguish values.
Some artists say that tone is the most difficult thing in art, even harder than color.
If you have a classroom full of students and you ask them to define color, you would usually have a consensus. If you ask a group of students to say what is darker and what is lighter in your object, you'd have a discussion. I don't mean your obvious darkest darks and lightest lights, but the very slight tone variations.
In fact, Repin was known to be a genius when it came to value especially in color.
Sometimes you have to take a black and white photo of your object to distinguish the subtleties of tone.
As far as how strict they are at the Repin Academy drawing the exact cast shadows and etc, yes, they are pretty strict.
They are not as literal when it comes to a live object, like when they draw portraits. Basically, they set up a pose and if the model moves a little bit, they are not very slavish following its every move. Sometimes, there are so many people in the studio and the model is so hard to see, that they work a lot from memory, sometimes from the person's canvas who is in front of them (I've done that myself).
When it comes down to it, the best of these guys really know the figure inside out in any position and movement. I've seen my teachers draw the exact character, proportions and movement of the model after looking at him or her for just a very short moment, and mostly looking at the sheet of paper in front of them. Their visual memory is very developed, plus most of them are naturally talented people (that's why they got into this academy to begin with). This applies mostly to the best students and teachers, there are plenty of mediocre (relative to their peers, of course) students there as well.
Also, when I watched upper-level students draw quick poses, like 10-12 minutes sketches, you really see who has memorized all this stuff, and who simply copies the nature, it all comes through in the quick poses.
About studying in St Petersburg.
I have told people here that life there is not a smooth ride. But in a way, it makes it easier to study art, because there aren't that many things to distract you from it and everyone is really serious about it. Like my friend says, "Art aint a joke there".
However, I would not want to discourage those who might be interested in studying there. It is still one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Petersburg that is), and it has the Hermitage Museum and the Russian Museum, a whole bunch of other palaces rivaling Versaille, great ballet, opera, symphony and dramatical arts. Beautiful young girls, by the way! And, I don't think studying there is that expensive. For what you get there it is much cheaper than any American or European art college or even an atelier.
There are dormitories at the academy, they are cheap, but the conditions aren't great, very crowded rooms. Also, I think they are hard to get into, but you can ask once you decide to go. Commercial rents are not bad right now. Our american students are sharing a large 3 bedroom apartment right near the academy for about $1000, so each pays about $300 a month. Because of the crisis ruble is much lower now than a year ago. If you are willing to live on the outskirts of the city, you can probably get your own place for about $500 a month, may be less.
Getting into the Repin Academy
1. Passing entrance exams.
Entrance Exams take place every year in July and last for about one month. I will concentrate here on the painters's exams, since probably this is what this forum is about. So I will omit Sculpture and Architecture.
Those applying for easel painting have to complete the following assignments: Portrait and Figure Drawing, Potrait and Figure Painting and two compositions (one on a given subject one on your own). Each assignment is given about 16-20 hours. Illustration students are allowed to use watercolor instead of oil and restoration students have to make an old master copy instead of composition.
Even to be allowed to take the exams applicants have to have a high school diploma and a portfolio of figurative work from life (not from photographs). The admission committee selects perhaps 500 students to take the exams. These students are competing for about 150 seats. Most of the Russian students come from three year art colleges or from specialized art schools (like the academy has its own boarding schools for children). Those two girls whose work I've posted both completed 3 year colleges. For one of them it was her third attempt (the first year she was not even allowed to take the exams) and for the other girl was a second attempt (she came from a better college).
These girls are Russian citizens who compete among themselves. Their education is completely free of charge, and they even get free painting supplies once they are accepted.
For the foreign students it's a little bit different. Foreign students are competing only among themselves. Foreign students do pay for their education at the academy (about $5,000 per year), but they have fewer seats than the Russians. Like in each group of say 10 students there would be 3 foreigners. So, in some way the competition among the foreigners is tougher, but also their level is not as high as among the Russians, so it is good that they compete only with each other.
How can foreign students be allowed to take entrance exams?
How can foreign students be allowed to take entrance exams?
A few years ago the Academy started a preparation course for the perspective academy applicants. This is the course that I took myself even though I was not going to apply to the academy because of my family situation. My friends whose exam work I've posted were also taking this course even though they already graduated from an art college.
The Russians and international students are split into separate groups. There are much more international students taking the preparation courses, so their groups are somewhat larger, up to 30 students per class. Their schedule consists of 2 hours of drawing and 3 hours of painting five days a week from October to June. They finish right before the entrance exams. The first month they work on casts and still life settings, and then it's all portrait and figure. Last year tuition was 500 euros a month, it's probably the same this year.
To get into the prep course you need to send a CD with images of your work. They are not too strict about accepting students into the prep course, since this is their money-making group. But, every few months the committee of the academy professors comes and grades the work. If you get two bad grades (which are 2s) you can be expelled. Also, it is a good opportunity for the applicants to expose themselves to the committee and get noticed, since these are the same people who grade at the exams. In addition to drawing and painting, students work on composition (theme-based). This is mostly homework which is brought to class and then presented for grading. Composition is probably the most important part of the exam because it really shows the applicant's personality and all of his technical skills since it's done without any models or props (all from memory).
Currently the majority of the prep course international students are from China and Korea. There is a handful of europeans. That is why europeans and americans might be given some preferential treatment just because right now they are a minority among foreign students.
I welcome any of your questions and I can help you to make the connection with the foreign students administrator. He does not speak English so I have served initially as an intemediary.
Like I said before, currently two of the Bridgeview students from New York are the academy students (both have done the prep course), and the third one from California is joining the prep course this year (conceptart connection).
I forgot to mention. The prep course also includes 3 hours of Russian every day.
They don't care very much how good your Russian is if your art skills are good at the exam. Many chinese and korean students who have been there for 6-7 years and have graduated speak very bad.
The actual degree program at the academy is 6 years, the 6th year is the diploma project (multi-figure composition).
Teaching style at the academy
I'll post more work and info on this school so hold on
At the prep course they have a Chinese interpreter since most of the students speak Chinese, not much help for Europeans and Americans. The teachers don't speak much. Basically they go from student to student and correct their drawings and paintings. They do all of the teaching by drawing a diagram in the corner of your sheet. Actually this is how they teach the Russian students as well. It is so clear that no need for words, believe me. Also, some younger teachers do speak some limited English.
The teaching style at the academy is personal critique only. They go from person to person correcting everyone's work. Believe me, they work really hard. In Russia in general there is no such thing as lecturing, unless it's a lecture-type of class like art history or perspective study. It is all totally hands on. Also, they always bring the examples from the Fund of the best work done before you as demonstrations. These examples are very specific, like if your setup with a female figure is in the blue color harmony scheme, they will hang a painting of a similar or even the same model in the same color scheme.