Repairing the railroad painting

Konstantin Savitsky: Repairing the Railroad, 1874

Women talking painting

Albert Edelfelt: Women Outside the Church at Rukolaht, 1887

All of the pictures are selected for their relevance to activity theory, expansive learning theory, or simply because I like them.  Many depict people at work or talking or learning.  They originate from Finland (where expansive learning theory was born) or Russia (where Vygotsky, Leont’ev and Luria did their formative work on activity theory).  The banner picture, Women outside the church at Rukolaht is one of my favourites. It’s a picture of gossip really.

The Finnish paintings date from the flowering of 19th century landscape painting known as ‘the Golden Age.’  The Russian paintings are painted by a group known as the Peredvizhniki or the Wanderers.

The Peredvizhniki were a group of artists who formed a co-operative in protest at academic restrictions in Russia in 1863.  They specialised in paintings of the Russian landscape and people which showed a revolutionary lightness and use of colour.


Barge Haulers on the Volga, Illya Repin, 1870-73

Ilya Repin: Barge Haulers on the Volga, 1870-73

Group of workers mowing a field in Russia

Gregory Myasoyedov: Busy Time for the Mowers, 1887

The Rooks have Returned by Alexei Savrasov, 1871

Alexei Savrasov: The Rooks have Returned, 1871


The Wanderers as an artistic movement supported liberal and humanitarian causes, and often portrayed both the dignity and suffering of Russian workers through their art.  In my opinion, a forgotten treasure, there are some exceptional painters in this group, and some fine and beautiful canvases.  Having been to Russia and eastern Finland, I feel they evoke the openness and beauty of that landscape very well.  





  • all