Yakov Romas studied in Moscow at Prechistensky Practical Institute under Nikolay Krymov in 1922–1924 and later graduated from the Higher Art and Technical Institute, where his teachers were Sergey Gerasimov and Pyotr Konchalovsky.During World War II the artist served as a political commissar at the battle cruiser “Maxim Gorky”. During that time, he created one of his most famous paintings, “Winter Salvos of the Baltic”.
After the war Yakov Romas switched his focus to fine art, with river and maritime scenes occupying a special place among his landscapes. Together with artists Aleksey Gritsay, Vladimir Meshkov and Georgy Savitsky he travelled extensively along the Volga and Kama rivers. These travels inspired “On the Raft” where he successfully united the image of an idyllic and eternal Russian landscape with elements of the genre painting that was so popular in the Soviet Art of 1940s–1950s.
“On the Raft” is the artist’s breakthrough work: prior to the outbreak of war he was involved in decorative art. For this work in 1948 Romas awarded the Stalin Prize. This picture is presented in the Institute of Russian Realist Art (the original is kept in the State Tretyakov gallery) was written specially for the offic of Vasily Stalin.
The artist presents everyday work as an idyllic scene from the serene life of the tranquil rafters. The painting’s characters set the table, getting ready for dinner, fresh chowder is apparently boiling in the pot. Romas invites the spectator to enjoy the beauty of nature and the open expanses of the Volga. The river curve flows into the distance, adding an important subtext — it points the way to the journey that awaits our heroes. Romas himself explained the themes of his painting as follows: “The sergeant has returned from the front line to his peaceful work and is telling the rafters about the military campaign that recently finished. The raftflows on down the river to restore those places destroyed in the battles”. However, the idyll of people at dinner is deceptive.The raftsmen’s work can be extremely dangerous: they have to jump from one raft to another on the swift currents of the river, dislodging congestion and steering around rapids. In some regions rafting remains the only way to transport large quantities of wood, and here it is impossible for rafters to proceed without encountering difficulties.
Paintings featured in this exhibition:
"Russia on the Road.1920-1990" - Palazzo delle Esposizioni - Rome, Italy (29.09.2015 - 28.12.2015);
"Россия в пути. Самолётом, поездом, автомобилем" - The Institute of Russian Realist Art - Moscow, Russia (21.01.2016 - 23.05.2016).