October has been an exciting month for aficionados of Russian art in London. There have been several exhibitions around town, and one Saturday when the family was working away at chocolate, I visited them one by one.
Arriving at Waterloo, I nipped over the bridge to Somerset House where – at the Courtauld Gallery – were displayed several artworks from the famous Jack of Diamonds exhibition of St Petersburg, an iconic moment in the Russian avant-garde. All the power-names from the period were on show, including Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova. Besides this exhibition, there was their permanent display to take a look at. In the modernist section I found a couple of Alexej Jawlenskys and Wassily Kandinskys.
Next on the list was at the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho. Titled Primrose, this was a display of Russian photography from its very early days through the twentieth century. Our old favourite Prokudin-Gorsky was, of course, present, but there were family portraits and landscapes and re-touched and overpainted ethnographic studies and socialist realism and abstractions by a vast number of shutterbugs across the decades. The gallery itself was rammed – it was the last day of the exhibition – and the ventilation could barely keep up. I left as soon as I could after a quick run-through.
I then walked over to St Petersburg Gallery, which is quickly becoming a favourite go-to site for its displays of Russian art. This time around they had a set of Russian portraiture of the 18th-20th centuries. I was the only one around, and so was able to wander around at my leisure. There were some repeat paintings from previous displays (including Vladimir Baranov-Rossine’s self-portraits) and some that I had seen elsewhere. There was also a remarkable set of sculptures by an artist I had seen before but not particularly paid attention to – David Yakerson. I ought to do some research into this man.
Finally, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, there was a grand display of Russian avant-garde theatre design. Name-checks galore – Eisenstein, Goncharova, Tatlin, Malevich, Rodchenko. No photography allowed here, although I did see some surreptitious camera phone activity.
I’ll post further details and images over the next few days…