Pavel Pyasetsky and the Trans-Siberian

I’m reading Christian Wolmar’s To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World’s Greatest Railroad, which I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in railways and Russian history. By 1900, the Trans-Siberian railway was taking on passengers across the country, but Western observers continued to hold it in contempt. To counter that view and to demonstrate its equality among European railways, the Russian government commissioned the magnate in charge of the Orient Express to come up with an attractive display at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. Nagelmackers arranged for four carriages to be built and equipped specially for the exhibition – the very acme of luxury and design. Visitors would pay to sit in a carriage for a meal, and:

…the real treat was the exhibit designed by Pawel Pyasetsky, who was specially commissioned by the railway to demonstrate the ‘experience’ of travelling on the Trans-Siberian. To give a sense of movement to the ‘passengers’ tucking into their three-course meals, the artist devised an elaborate arrangement outside the windows of the dining car to give the feeling of a virtual train ride. A moving panorama was created by means of an elaborate series of belts moving along at varying speeds. The front one travelled rapidly, carrying mundane features such as sand and rocks, while the next, slightly slower, had plants such as shrubs and brush. Behind that, there was a third, again somewhat slower, showing distant scenery while the fourth, which rolled along the slowest of all, was Pyasetsky’s masterpiece, a set of watercolours on lengthy scrolls, with scenes that he had sketched on trips along sections of the railway that had been completed early.

The watercolours included scenes from the cities of Moscow, Omsk, Irkutsk and Beijing and the idea was to give viewers the impression that they had journeyed along the whole railway. The show actually lasted forty-five minutes and there were nine separate scrolls with a total length of around 900 metres.

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Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant Garde 4

Q: With which museums did you have the most effective relationships while working on the Encyclopedia?

A: We worked with an enormous number of museums, but mainly with the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, where the Costaki collection is; we received lots of slides. But in fact we collaborated with many regional museums, after all the avant-garde in 1919-20 had spread across all of Russia. There was an ideological programme to establish contemporary art museums. I’ve been working on the subject for many years and can say that nearly a thousand works were transported out of Moscow to provincial towns, wherever there were some sort of art schools. Kandinsky, Malevich and lesser artists were taken to around 40 towns. In later years, about 30% were lost, while the remainder were preserved in museums, and we obtained reproductions from them.

Q: In the beginning of the interview, you said you were thinking of publishing one volume. Now there will be three. I’ve held the first two in my hands, and they are pretty heavy, and more importantly expensive. Truly the Encyclopedia is a seminal work of exceptional importance, but who can buy it for 22 thousand rubles? Libraries?

A: Of course we’d like libraries to have these books. There is an idea to find money to make additional copies – for libraries and museums. With the majority of museums we have had agreements and we’ll give them copies. For them, our book is very important. Several collectors have also written to me, saying that the Encyclopedia has helped them understand some things, and find attributions for works in their collections.

Q: How is it so expensive? Because of the illustrations?

A: No, not just that. We paid honorariums to the authors and museums for the rights. The cost of all the work is not small.

Q: Can we expect that in the Non/fiction exhibition the books will be a bit cheaper?

A: Certainly. There will be the lowest price at which the books can be bought, and there will also be a student discount for those with student IDs. After all, we are humanitarians.

Q: The budget always affects the final result, whether it’s big or small. Did your funding change during your work?

A: The budget kept climbing all the time, and I’m very grateful to our sponsors who took care of all the costs and never argued with me. The number of authors kept rising; we also had a powerful editorial team: a literary editor, a producer, a proofreader. All of them read it. Though I still to this day find various errors in the final book. But as an old-time worker in the industry, I understand that these are unavoidable. In one place, the photographs of two women artists are mixed up. I hope that after the third volume comes out, we can make an online version of the Encyclopedia and a website dedicated to it.

Q: An electronic version can be expanded, broadened, and importantly – constantly updated. That is, in the future, do you plan to continue working on the text?

A: Of course, there is work for the future, but I don’t know for how far in the future. The site could go beyond the Encyclopedia, there could be articles on major artists, including Malevich and Kandinsky.

But first, the third volume needs to come out, which in fact is the most difficult. If in the first two books everything is clear – the alphabet and the last name determine the location of the artist, then in the last tome it’s not even clear what title to give to some articles. For example, everybody knows the (ГСХМ) State Independent Artists’ Studios, which were established under the Stroganov school and the Moscow school of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. These were transformed into a completely different status, new teachers appeared there who taught the avant-garde. These studios then expanded to a dozen and a half other towns – Tver, Novgorod, Vitebsk, and they were all called differently: ГСХМ, СГХМ, ГОСХУМ. In Soviet times, they loved abbreviations, but there was no uniformity among them. And how to bring them all into a single view, I still haven’t decided. The third volume will also contain articles on exhibitions, journals, publishers, or even about some artistic cafe. We’ll design it differently, with pictures not appearing stand-alone, but rather within the text. This will make the design more difficult, but there’s no alternative.

Q: Do you think that in the first two volumes you have been able to achieve a stylistic coherence, an encyclopedic uniformity?

A: We tried to do so, though there isn’t such a rigidity here as in other encyclopedias where everything is specified: write this way and no other. As our theme is art, not physics, not an exact science, we decided to allow our authors some freedom in language. One of our principles was to allow an authorial point of view. We welcomed this, and when it was missing, we had to add it ourselves. Rakitin and I wrote 150 articles each, and edited many others.

Q: What would you consider your greatest achievement in the Encyclopedia?

A: I think we have revived names that had been forgotten by everyone. This is the main thing. About famous artists, it’s always possible to find something, but about those who established the backdrop, there’s almost nothing. Malevich, for instance, had eighty students in Vitebsk, and we wrote articles about all for whom we were able to find some information. We found, maybe, twenty people. Of course, among his students were Chashnik and Suetin, but there were also complete unknowns – for example, the Finnish artist Ahola-Valio.

Undoubtedly, with the release of the Encyclopedia we also have plans to promote and popularise the Russian avant-garde, because it is not well-known in our country. Many artistic types like to brag, “I don’t like the avant-garde! Anyone can paint like that, anybody can paint the Black Square.” You understand that this is the favourite excuse of everyone who understands nothing about art. Well, be the first to paint it, then! Invent it! There is much for the Russian to be proud of; they only need to know more about the time.

Black suprematist square, by Kazimir Malevich. (1915).

Q: The avant-garde is such a diverse phenomenon, it has many different faces. You have combined them into one publication, and more importantly – showed the real faces of an enormous number of avant-garde artists. Did some general image develop?

A: When you leaf through the book, you see hundreds of people who perished tragically, because it was a terrible time, the Civil war, the terror… There was an incredibly talented artist, Semashkevich, who was executed in 1937, his paintings confiscated and lost somewhere in the Lubyanka. We found around ten works of art, and yet he had been extraordinarily prolific.

Many people died tragically, many abandoned the avant-garde because life forced them to: they couldn’t feed their families, they couldn’t survive solely on their art, they had to change job. But still they wouldn’t be part of the crowd, they were engaged in art because they loved it. It’s a slice of an entire era: everything that happened in the country in those years has been reflected in the art. And that’s why the multifaceted avant-garde is so striking. I think we were able to demonstrate it – and that’s also and important achievement of our Encyclopedia.

[Translated loosely from Tatyana Yershova, «Мы вытащили имена, о которых все забыли»: Как искусство русского авангарда собрали в энциклопедию. Lenta.ru, Nov 28, 2013.]

Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant Garde 3

Q: Besides Malevich, who else has appeared for the first time in the pages of your publication?

A: We have examples of graphic artists hitherto unknown. About 10 to 15 works by unknown artists. Anna Zherebtsova, for example. Who here knows about Anna Zherebtsova? She was a Russian artist who lived in Paris. We only had a short biography, which I had dug up somewhere, and a single painting – and we published them.

Q: Ideally, each work must undergo a thorough examination for inclusion in this publication. Nevertheless, it is technically difficult to do so. Would you say you are responsible for every illustration published here? I ask you this question not as an art expert, but rather as a publisher, to whom in fact can be sent all sorts of pictures.

A: Indeed I should bear responsibility, and I have to say that I do bear it, although I cannot guarantee all 100%  of the material. This is because I received several items from authors in Ukraine, Belarus, and regional museums. Some articles I haven’t even seen in real life – I’ve only come across reproductions. And I hope that everything sent to me from museums is authentic. If not, is it possible to trust anybody? After all, if a museum sends you a slide, it means there is a guarantee, that is you can go to the museum and see the original. Rakitin and I regularly held meetings to decide which items to include and which not. And when our opinions coincided, which happened most of the time, we would agree to publish. If we had arguments, we wouldn’t.

Q: There are quite a lot of stories about suspicious works from the avant-garde. Is this is a real opportunity in the fight against counterfeiting?

A: To be honest, I don’t see any opportunity, and there are lots and lots of such stories. The most prominent event – Goncharova’s story, when in 2010 and 2011, there came out two books. The first was a monumental monograph Goncharova by the English art-historian Anthony Parton, a well-respected professor. I counted 70 suspicious works in it. I won’t say that these are counterfeits, but they are suspicious because until then they had not appeared anywhere. I can understand finding one or two pieces, as I did with Malevich, but 70? That’s suspicious. The following year, a catalog-raisonné of Goncharova came out in France – of all her works accomplished in Russia. There we counted 400 works which had suddenly appeared; nobody knew about these before and now there they were. How can one fight this? We conducted several interviews with the Tretyakov Gallery, discussed with journalists together with the famous collector [Pyotr] Aven. He collects Goncharova, and it was painful for him to see all this. The Tretyakovka got ready to write to the publisher that they had placed pictures from the Tretyakov along with suspicious works. This is the only way to fight, but to say for sure that these works were fakes, we can’t do that, we haven’t seen them. To do this, you need to examine each picture, conduct chemical tests, X-ray analyses. Who is going to do this? And will they be given the works to examine? No, of course, never.

Q: In your view, how do auction houses function as filters?

A: To a very small extent. Auction houses always state that they are not responsible for the work. This is their main principle. Of course, when a Goncharova is under the hammer, they take the opinion of experts, but there are also different experts. If the expertise is provided by the one who produced the catalogue, then the Goncharova would always be in order. But 400 works! This catalogue achieved the absurd. Goncharova has a Futuristic painting from 1913 – Cyclist – in which a cyclist pedals along a street. In a Futuristic manner, she depicted many legs, conveying in this way a sense of motion. All this is against a background of shops with signs Hats, Silk, and so on. This is very characteristic of her, and she had just one such work. In the catalogue-raisonné, there appears a cyclist who rides in the opposite direction, also against a background of shops, then a motorcyclist who travels first in one direction, then in the other, and then some other fellow on a scooter. Also against a backdrop of shops. And all these are Goncharova, you understand? Surprisingly, the catalogue, which should contain information about the origin of the works, exhibitions, previous owners, contains no such thing. It says ‘private collection’, and that’s it. But as far as I know, these were stopped, the works don’t appear at auctions, because there was a scandal, and a scandal always appears to work as a filter.

Cyclist, by Natalia Goncharova. (1913).

[Translated loosely from Tatyana Yershova, «Мы вытащили имена, о которых все забыли»: Как искусство русского авангарда собрали в энциклопедию. Lenta.ru, Nov 28, 2013.]

Further reading:

  1. Sylvia Hochfield, “Protecting Goncharova’s Legacy“, ARTNews, January 7, 2011.
  2. Dr. Anthony Parton’s Response to the Tretiakov Gallery, June 2011.

Art Roundup – January 2015

Happy new year, folks. What does 2015 offer for the aficionado of art from the erstwhile Russian and Soviet empires?

a) Well, the Melnikov house in Moscow has been opened to the public. Tickets sold out for the first opening in a matter of days, but the next batch of tickets will be released on 12 January 2015 at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture for those wanting to see the experimental house in February and March. As with all these things, you snooze, you lose.

b) You can grab a set of short courses on Russian art at the Watts gallery, Guildford, England, starting 12 January 2015.

c) The Louvre in Paris is said to open a gallery dedicated to Russian art in 2015. I could only find a press release from a few years ago, so do keep a lookout.

d) Oh, wow, wow, wow. The Kunstforum in Vienna will hold a tremendously exciting exhibition titled Love in Times of Revolution, featuring artistic couples of the avant-garde. It starts in October 2015 – damn, that’s a long wait.

Have an excellent 2015!

Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant Garde 2

Photo: Global Expert and Service Team

Q: You worked with nearly 170 authors. Did you ever encounter a situation where for some artist or group of artists you were unable to find a specialist?

A: No, not really. The large number of authors came about organically, almost snowballing in the process. At first we planned only one volume, but then realised that we had to write about this and that, and so on. Some artists were recommended by the authors themselves. Let’s say Irina Arskaya from the Russian Museum was engaged with the Union of Youth; she herself suggested that I add a range of artists on whom she had information and photographs and examples of their work. Naturally I agreed, because I was unfamiliar with many of them. In this way, the Encyclopedia grew to three volumes, and we were soon forced to start excluding some of the ideas of our authors. In fact, there was no deficit of specialists in the researches, and I must add that the most valuable of them turned out to be attached to museums. It was also useful that our work coincided with the preparation of the general catalogue of the Tretyakov Gallery, which is now being readied for publication. We worked with some of the authors from the Tretyakov.

Q: You and your authors found a lot of archival material during your searches. Are there any obvious lacunae in the archives? Perhaps some periods of the avant-garde are sparsely covered, or because of emigration of the artists, a lot has been lost?

A: Certainly there are lacunae, and they mostly fall within the earlier period of the avant-garde, the pre-Revolutionary period, that is before 1917. Not even 1917, but rather before 1915. The avant-garde of that period was only forming, and in the background of everything else – the Wanderers, the Union of Russian Artists, symbolism, Vrubel, Repin, Serov – it appeared as a marginal activity. There is very little material on these marginal avant-gardists, and we need to seek it piecemeal. We know about many of the works of the time only because of publications in journals, such as Ogonyok, which came out from the beginning of the century. In them we might find portraits of the artists, and sometimes of their works. And then we discovered that the works themselves no longer exist: they disappeared in the Civil war, in the Revolution, or somewhere else. This is the most difficult period, because everything else is copiously documented, in the 1920s, things were more civilised. And when the avant-garde emerged from its sidelined position and transformed into an important, coherent style, then it began to leave a large amount of information and material.

Q: The Avant-Garde being one of the brightest periods of Russian art and firmly established in the world of art, often attracts speculation. There are regular discussions on the authenticity of a painting, and the appearance of ‘new’ works. Because of this, the selection of illustrative material and its expertise is paramount – on what basis did you choose the works that you wanted to show?

A: Of course, our main objective was to show the major works of an artist. To take Malevich: the goal was to show paintings from all his periods, from impressionism (he began as an impressionist) to realism. In his last years, he attempted to paint realistic portraits. In the middle of his journey was suprematism. Accordingly, we had to take a painting from each of his phases. The second objective – the paintings should still be in museums, which is why works from museum collections dominate in the book, nearly 80 or 90% of the total number of illustrations. From private collections come the remaining 10%, but these collections have been completely authenticated, with names and times. Therefore we have no irregular works, and we sometimes had to reject some works so that unnecessary questions would not be raised.

Q: Nevertheless, there are works presented in your Encyclopedia that have not been seen in major journals. Some works have appeared for the first time.

A: Yes, Malevich, for example.

Suprematism of the Spirit, by Malevich. (1919-20).

Q: You refer to the picture Suprematism of the Spirit (1919-1920) from a private collection?

A: Yes, this has been confirmed as a Malevich, in my opinion, by attributions by art historians, among whom are such famous specialists as Charlotte Douglas, who lives in America. She is the president of the New York Malevich society.

Q: Under the title of Suprematism of the Spirit, we are aware of other items, including paintings from the Khardzhiev collection which surfaced in 1997 and fell into the Khardzhiev-Chaga collection at the Stedelijk Museum separately from the main part of the collection. What is all that about?

A: That’s an entirely different matter. The theme Suprematism of the Spirit was very important to Malevich in the years 1919-20, when he was in Vitebsk. I think that this picture is from there, when he decided that painting was no longer necessary to him. At that moment he created suprematism, discovered the main thing in painting – white on white – and understood that painting was pretty much dead. He occupied himself with theory and created various forms, such as Suprematism of the Spirit, for his students. Malevich has several Suprematisms – one with Khardzhiev, the work in our Encyclopedia which was once published in German catalogues, and there even is a lithograph, it was produced in 1920 in the Unovis almanac. This almanac came out as a limited run, and only two or three copies have reached us in the shape of manuscripts, where printed texts were cut up with scissors and pasted into an album with large pages, in which appear colour reproductions. One example is stored at the Tretyakovka, while the others are in some private collections in France.

[Translated loosely from Tatyana Yershova, «Мы вытащили имена, о которых все забыли»: Как искусство русского авангарда собрали в энциклопедию. Lenta.ru, Nov 28, 2013.]

Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant Garde 1

In the autumn of 2013, a seminal publication of art study came out – two volumes of the Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant-Garde, in which over a thousand artists connected with the great art movement are detailed. The editors, Andrei Sarabyanov and Vasily Rakitin, worked on it over ten years, with the contributions of around 170 authors.

The encyclopedia, published by Global Expert and Service Team, was premiered at the State Tretyakov Gallery, while a second presentation occurred at the International Non-Fiction Book Fair [in the Central House of Artists] in Moscow. Lenta.ru met Andrei Sarabyanov, director of the RA publishing house, before the events, and talked to him about the preparation of the encyclopedia, counterfeit art, and the issue of trust for museums. Sarabyanov explained why in the encyclopedia the second rank of artists is more important than Malevich, and why the avant-garde needs to be promoted.

Andrei Sarabyanov

Q: I have heard that you worked over ten years on the encyclopedia. Could you explain how much of the time was spent on its preparation, and what parts of the work were the most difficult, and most intensive?

A: All the work extended over considerable periods of time, because to gather the material – biographies of the artists, other participants, illustrations – the effort involved is, of course, long and hard. The history of the encyclopedia is nearly 25 years, but the work on this particular edition took 2-and-a-half years. Everything that had been gathered earlier had been gathered in an accidental fashion. Let’s say I’m researching some particular aspect of the avant-garde and I access the archives. There I might study one theme and find an interesting fact in the biography of some artist completely unconnected with my research, but I’d still copy it and photograph it. And this went on over many years. And since I often worked in the archives, I’d end up copying all sorts of material .

I could say the same about my colleague Vasily Ivanovich Rakitin, who also worked in the archives. In truth, we moved in different directions. He is older than me by about 10 years and had started on the Russian avant-garde earlier, even while a student. He was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Georgy Dionisovich Kostaki, whom he assisted in the creation of the famous avant-garde collection. Rakitin was key to the enterprise because, although young, he was already quite knowledgeable, while Kostaki at the time was still not as immersed in the Russian avant-garde. Rakitin would advise him where to go, to which relatives, guided him towards who owned which painting. Then Rakitin began to work in the archives especially those attached to private and family collections. I was occupied with the state archives, because by the time I began with art research, there were few works left in private collections. The avant-garde was already in state hands. And so we gathered our material, but each worked independently.

Vasily Rakitin.

Q: When you decided upon an encyclopedia, was the format immediately apparent – that there was such a wide scope across time and geography for the Russian avant-garde?

A: Ten years ago, we both had the idea in parallel that we needed to make such a book. The format, though, was not immediately apparent. Still, as we gathered material, the scope of the chronology and geography expanded, not because we desired it but because the material demanded it. It was clear that the avant-garde did not begin with the Blue Rose, but much earlier, and ended not in 1932, but much later, and its geography was wide – not just Russia, but the Caucasus and the Baltic.

Q: That is clear, but surely the inclusion of Matisse and Picasso in the text raises some questions?

A: I included them – and I say ‘I’ because it was indeed I who included them – because both of them had an immense impact on Russian art. Nobody else comes close. It may appear somewhat self-indulgent and somewhat arbitrary: here is the Russian avant-garde, and suddenly there are Picasso and Matisse; but note that their biographies are written from the perspective of their impact on the Russian avant-garde. This is not a biography of Matisse in its pure form; it is Matisse and Russian art; likewise, it’s not a biography of Picasso, there’s nothing in it about Guernica. We could even have included Braque in the encyclopedia. There’s another thing, though: we will publish a third volume which will have essays on Fauvism and Cezannism, and the influence of French art on the Russian, and these questions will be addressed more fully there. After the publication of the final book, the names of Picasso and Matisse won’t be thrown in accusation at us; it’s possible that their inclusion in the text will appear more correct than it does so now.

Q: During the writing of the essays, were the authors given any parameters to follow, in order to provide a uniform format to the biographies? What difficulties arose here?

A: There were lots of problems, but the main issue was to make the articles cohere with each other in terms of length. At first, obviously, we wanted the article on Malevich to occupy more space than some less famous artist. But it became clear that everybody knows everything about Malevich, there are hundreds of books and essays on him, while the ‘lighter-weight’ artists covered in the encyclopedia would be appearing in print almost for the first time. And then we understood that we had to do the opposite: maybe write less on Malevich than about some artist from the group ‘Union of  Youth’.

Q: It seemed to me at first that more could have been written about Goncharova. Then it became clear that the length of an article was not an indicator of the artist’s position in some hierarchy.

A: True, we could have written much more on Goncharova, but there’s already so much written on her, and for us it was more important to include material about those remaining unknown. When else would they be written about? And we had detailed stories based on archival materials on a great many artists. There is some dissonance in the length of biographies, but we attempted to establish a hierarchy by means of illustrations. We devoted a column and a half to Malevich’s pictures, and likewise for Goncharova and the other greats – but for the ‘light-weight’ artists we gathered fewer works. If the artist had one famous painting, we showed that; if she had three, then we showed three.

Q: Very good. But whom have you ‘revealed’ in your Encyclopedia? On which forgotten or little-known artist were you able to find information?

A: Sofia Baudouin de Courtenay, the daughter of a famous philologist of the time, was an absolute revelation. We knew of her, of course, but very little. Yulia Obolenskaya is also a discovery. In all there are about twenty new names.

[Translated loosely from Tatyana Yershova, «Мы вытащили имена, о которых все забыли»: Как искусство русского авангарда собрали в энциклопедию. Lenta.ru, Nov 28, 2013.]

Varvara Bubnova

I came across Bubnova on LiveJournal, and was then happily directed onto sundry museum sites and the Wikipedia. Varvara Bubnova was born in 1886 and died in 1983, and was one of a small set of Russian emigre artists that headed not west, but east – to Japan. She spent  35 years in that country, till 1958. A puppet to politics, she found herself declared an undesirable alien in Japan in 1936, while during the war years, she was stripped of her Soviet citizenship for ‘allying with the enemy’. Evidently her citizenship was restored to her, because she was allowed to return to the USSR, spending time in Sukhumi, before settling in St Petersburg, where she spent the last years of her life.

Bubnova was one of the artists who participated in the famed Donkey’s Tail and Jack of Diamonds exhibitions in 1913, along with the likes of Tatlin, Malevich, Goncharova, Rozanova, Burliuk and Larionov.

Bubnova trained as an archaeologist and ethnographer, concentrating on the primitive art of ancient Russia and the northern peoples of Siberia. In Japan, she developed her mastery of lithography and book illustration. She also participated in exhibitions of the Japanese avant-garde, including six solo exhibitions during every decade of her sojourn in Japan.

In the botanical gardens.

In the botanical gardens.

Green room.

Green room.

Sukhumi surroundings. (1964).

Sukhumi surroundings. (1964).

Bench. (1963)

Bench. (1963)

A teacher and student of music. (1970).

A teacher and student of music. (1970).

In memory of Anna Akhmatova. (1965-66).

In memory of Anna Akhmatova. (1965-66).

Conversation. (1969).

Conversation. (1969).

Self-portrait. (1962).

Self-portrait. (1962).

A grieving woman. (1932).

A grieving woman. (1932).

Road. (1932).

Road. (1932).

From a series of landscapes. (1930s).

From a series of landscapes. (1930s).

Orchard. (1930s).

Orchard. (1930s).

Art Roundup – December 2014

Nearly the end of the year, folks, and time for yet another roundup of Russian and related art.

  1. In the Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow, there is an exhibition of the works of priestly artist and missionary Alexander Men’. It runs till December 16.
  2. At the Yasnaya Polyana Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy is an exhibition “The Unknown Mashkov“, which runs till December 9.
  3. In Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Oil Painting is an exhibition of the works from the Melnikov School in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. Titled “The Distant Transparent“, this continues till December 15.
  4. Barcelona’s La Pedrera hosts an exhibition of the constructivist Lazar (El) Lissitzky. Titled “El Lissitzky. The Experience of Totality“, it ends Jan 18, 2015.
  5. Till December 7 at the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, NJ, is an exhibition of the Ukrainian circus artiste and artist Irene Koval.
  6. If you are interested in contemporary works of art from Central Asia, a good place to see what’s happening is the ENE Central Asian Art site. Ene means ‘mother’ in Turkmen and it is a Singapore-based organisation. Check out their gallery here.
  7. And there is an exhibition of Armenian dolls in Yerevan – traditional or French-inspired or Soviet-approved – you can find quite a collection. At the Yerevan Historical Museum, this runs to the end of the year.
  8. Georgian art flowered in the 1950s after the death of Stalin, and the works of Kalandadze, Nizharadze, Bandzeladze, Tsutskiridze and others can be seen at the Georgian National Museum‘s exhibition “Post-Stalin Liberalisation in Georgian Painting“, running in Tbilisi.
  9. If we do Armenian and Georgian, then surely we must do Azerbaijani as well – equal favour to these historic rivals, I say! Baku’s Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition titled “Stone”, featuring the sculptures of the Azerbaijani artist Huseyn Hagverdi.

And that’s it for the roundups of the year!

Still A Gallery Tour

Part 2 of paintings displayed at the St Petersburg Gallery, London, in their Russian portraiture exhibition.

Nudes (two-sided painting), by David Shterenberg. (1907-09).

Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, by Mikhail Larionov. (1915).

Portrait of S.A. Lobatchev, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Nude female models, by Ilya Mashkov. (1908).

Two ladies, by Natalia Goncharova. (1907).

Woman with head bandage, by Alexej Jawlensky. (1909).

Alexei Savrasov – Landscape Artist

Savrasov, by Volkov.

Savrasov, by I. Volkov. (1884).

Alexei Kondratyevich Savrasov was born May 12, 1830 to a merchant family in Moscow. From early age, his talent at art were evident, and he was already producing landscapes for sale as an adolescent. Against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to join the family business, he started at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture in 1844.

The early landscapes of Savrasov were in the tradition of the academy. In A View of Moscow from the Sparrow Hills (1848) and A View of the Kremlin in Inclement Weather (1851) one can observe the external influence of Romanticism. However, Savrasov’s keen powers of observation and sincerity of emotion manifest themselves in these landscapes. Over time, the artist devoted himself to a study of the character of the Russian landscape, and sought to convey the beauty of his native land.

Savrasov was one of the members of the art collective ‘The Wanderers’ (1870). Many of his works which were exhibited along with his fellow Wanderers were painted by him in the Volga region. Savrasov also travelled in Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, but he much preferred the region between Yaroslavl and Kostroma. In 1871, on the Volga, he created a number of studies for the best of his works including the paintings Pechersk monastery near Nizhny Novgorod, and The Rooks Have Arrived – which have become the most popular Russian landscapes, a symbol of the country.

The Rooks Have Arrived, by Alexei Savrasov

The Rooks Have Arrived, by Alexei Savrasov

Besides his artworks Savrasov fruitfully engaged himself in teaching activities. He led the landscape painting class at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, and among his students were Konstantin Korovin and Isaak Levitan.

By the late 1870s, the artist was ill, and his art reflected his decline. His last decade of life was spent in deep distress. He died on September 26, 1897 in Moscow. Isaak Levitan wrote: One of the most profound Russian landscape artists is no more. From Savrasov emerged a lyricism in landscape art and a boundless love for his native land. Truly, the late Savrasov created the Russian landscape, and this, his undoubted merit, will never be forgotten in the field of Russian art.

The Pechersk Monastery near Nizhny Novgorod.

The Pechersk Monastery near Nizhny Novgorod.

A view of the Kremlin in inclement weather.

A view of the Kremlin in inclement weather.

[Translated rather loosely from 9 октября — день памяти известного русского живописца-пейзажиста Алексея Саврасова.]