Kalevala In New Light

Vitaly Dobrynin is one of the most famous painters in the Karelian Republic, Russia. He studied in Herzen´s Institute in Leningrad, and his works are found in, for example,  Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow and Museum of Russian Art, St. Petersburg. In his 60th anniversary he was given the title ”Artist of the People”. He has also been appointed ”The Man of the Year” in Karelia.

Vitaly Dobrynin. Self portrait

Dobrynin was born in 1954 in a Karelian family in Uhtua town, during the Soviet period re-named to Kalevala, after the famous epic. He has been inspired by Kalevala, and of course he is not the first one. The best-known Kalevala-painter is Akseli Gallen-Kallela, the master of ”Golden Age” in Finnish art.

Most of the Kalevala poetry was collected from the Viena region, where people spoke the Viena dialect of Karelian language – quite close to Finnish. Elias Lönnrot translated the material to Finnish, although it´s not so easy for a modern Finn to read Kalevala. Finally, in 2015 Kalevala was published in Viena Karelian. It was illustrated by Dobrynin and translated by Raisa Remšujeva, whose mother Santra Remšujeva (1914-2010) in Vuokkiniemi, Viena, was often called ”The Last of the Kalevala Singers”. Kalevala has now been translated to more than sixty languages.

Vitaly Dobrynin, Village Selga, 1990. 

Dobrynin´s decorative style is an interesting mixture of mysticism, hippienism, fantasy and eroticism. He uses folk-art motives like symbols from Sámi shaman drums – Viena has also Sámi roots. From the Russian art history comes to mind Mihail Vrubel (1856-1910) and Lithuanian Mikalojos Čiurlionis (1875-1911). Dobrynin is a National Romantic in the same way some Soviet-Estonian artists were in the 1970´s and 80´s. Maybe the most famous of them was Kaljo Põllu (1934-2010), who used Finno-Ugrian mythology in his art. Estonian artists were worried about their culture´s future and often found inspiration from old legends and folk-art. Dobryinin has been working with Viena Karelian villages. Many of them were shut down by officials as ”non-perspective” during the Soviet-era.


The Karelian edition of Kalevala, 2015

Info: About Vitaly Dobrynin

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