Valentin Serov’s Late Œuvre in the Context of Western and Eastern Art | Tanja Malycheva, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster/Moscow State University
It is not a coincidence that Valentin Serov’s contemporaries saw in him one of the major renovators of Russian art around 1900. Along with Konstantin Korovin and Mikhail Vrubel he was the first to challenge the social realism of the Peredvizhniki movement as well as the academic approach to art without fully breaking up with classical traditions. In each portrait the artist paid particular attention to iconography, colour and brushwork, adjusting them in accordance with his sitter’s personality, grasping for the metaphysics of soul. At the same time he transformed his works into complex dialogues between a classical past and a modernistic present. At first, it was a dialogue between Russian and Western art but in the first decade of the new century Serov also turned his attention to the Eastern tradition. To illustrate this I will present the portrait of Henrietta Hirschman (1907) which shows clear connection to Velázquez as well as to Ingres and Manet and that of Ida Rubinstein (1909) which was apparently influenced by Asian banner paintings and ancient stone reliefs.
Sleeping Beauty: A Western European Immigrant to Russian Culture | Ludmila Piters-Hofmann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
At the beginning of the 20th century Viktor Vasnetsov (1848–1926) started to work on his cycle Поэма семи сказок (The Poem of Seven Fairy Tales). This self-imposed task included seven monumental paintings depicting popular Russian folk tales. Yet, among the famous Russian fairy tale characters such as Баба Яга (Baba Yaga) and Кащей Бессмертный (Kashchei the Immortal), there is a 214 x 452 cm sized canvas that centers on the Спящая царевна (Sleeping Tsarevna, 1900–1926), a character originally from Western Europe. This work will be focusing on the depths of the impact of Western traditions on this at first glance Russian painting.
Sleeping Beauty is a European fairy tale and one of the best known today. The story of the princess, who is cursed by an evil fairy and will fall into a deep sleep of 100 years to be awakened by a prince was published by Charles Perrault (1628–1703) as La belle au bois dormant (The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood) in the second half of the 16th century. Although traces of early French and Catalan versions can be already found in the 13th century, the most recognized version is part of the first edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales, 1812) by the Grimm Brothers (Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859)).
In the first half on the 19th century “she” began to permeate Russian culture, when Vasily Tchukovsky (1783–1852) used Perrault’s and the Grimm Brothers’ versions as templates for his poem Спящая царевна (The Sleeping Tsarevna) of 1832. Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) then composed the ballet Спящая красавица (The Sleeping Beauty) in 1889, also based on the same sources with an emphasis on Perrault. The ballet premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890 and in January 1899 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and was a success: by the beginning of the 20th century, it had become one of the most popular ballets in Russia.
Following the visual language and characterization outlined by Tchukovsky’s poem and the productions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Vasnetsov was responding to the character’s cultural popularity and was helping to further make this “Western European immigrant” part of the Russian fairy tale canon. Besides he amalgamated European motifs of sleeping/ dead characters and Russian imagery in his composition. Therefore the Спящая царевна has “immigrated” from Europe, not only on the level of background, but also on the level of appearance.
Choreographing Otherness: The Ballets Russes and the Body between France and Russia | Lauren Bird, Queen’s University, Kingston
French critics describe the 1909 arrival of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris as an overnight invasion – a sudden explosion of exotic colour and Oriental excess that penetrated into the aesthetic of the fashionable tout Paris. These novel stage designs and costumes have been items of fascination for both critics and scholars, while contemporary discussions of choreography and the body have, from the perspective of art historians, been largely unattended to. This paper examines the dialogue generated around the spectacle of Russian bodies and proposes a deeper connection between choreography and the aesthetic of the troupe’s 1909-1914 period. While French culture was by this time intimately familiar with colonial spectacles, the dancers of Diaghilev’s company were, by breaking with the stiff classicism of traditional ballet, lauded with the ability to rejuvenate this originally French art form. The tension between the virility of foreign bodies and the perceived degeneration of French ones, stilted by culture, thus played out on stage, in the writing of critics, and in fashionable periodicals. While the creation and reception of a Russian “Other” by the Ballets Russes has been well-documented in its visual forms, this paper intends to examine how the evocation of savagery, primitivism, and barbarism was used to not only legitimize and heroicize the work of the Ballets Russes, but to emphasize their physical abilities as dancers.
The Fate of a Flinck: Repetition, Replication, and Remembrance in the Reuse of a “Rembrandt” in Russia | Lilit Sadoyan, University of California, Santa Barbara
The curiosity and intrigue surrounding Govaert Flinck’s Lady with a Plume (1636) is not just evident in the debate of its recent re-attribution, but manifest in the myriad replicated and reproduced versions of the painting. The most unusual case of re-appropriation evolves out of the use of the image on a 19th century Russian porcelain vase produced in the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg. At the time that Flinck’s painting arrived in Russia, it had been thought to be by Rembrandt for at least a hundred years, thus proving to be an optimal selection to be reproduced on a porcelain vase. The painted copy is almost a life-size, one-to-one transcription of the work. The factory frequently reproduced paintings on vases that came almost always from the Imperial collection, so how the painting in question, then in private hands, would have become available to the artists working in the factory needs resolution. This paper presents original research in the provenance of the painting while in Russia and the circumstances behind the commission of the monumental porcelain vase that features the painting. As the audience changed, in what ways might have the perception of the painting changed? What does the materiality of the porcelain object tell us about the Russian context in which it was created and displayed? Finally, what were the ways in which the material entity was used to serve its beholder? The central concern is to address the issue of repetition, replication, reproduction, and reuse of the image as it manifests in the vase, which itself becomes an amalgamation of disparate decorative elements and media, making a reference to various historical moments.
An Inspirational Milieu: Saint Petersburg Cosmopolitan Collections of Old Masters | Fabio Franz, University of Warwick
Dealers, curators, collectors, connoisseurs, patrons and academics enriched, pauperized and sometimes protected with smokescreens the most important Russian collections of Western Old Masters. This paper focuses on the provenance, the conservation history and the fortuna of some selected Italian, Flemish and Spanish paintings and statues that were placed in Saint Petersburg between 1850 and 1917. Thus, these case studies might help modern scholars to shade new light on how Old Masters were the pillar of the cultural bridges between West and the late Tsarist Empire.
This work concentrates on linking archival information, scientific bibliograhy and material data regarding some most famous and richest art galleries of Saint Petersburg, as the one formed by the Princes Kotchubey, the Counts Stroganoff, Nesselrode and Buturlin, the magnates Naryshkin and the general Lazareff. This research provides also a detailed analysis of the latest studies on the formation, the evolution and the dispersal (inside and outside the former Russian Empire) of the majestic Gallery of the Dukes of Leuchtenberg, who were the French-Bavarian-Russian heirs of Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy during the Napoleonic Era. In addition, the core of this paper is underlining of the role that ‘otherness’ had as a source of inspiration and innovation for Saint Petersburg artists, collectors, patrons and dealers between 1850 and 1917. Some case studies of non-Orthodox connoisseurs (Waagen, Cavalcaselle, Berenson, Sirén) and dealers (NK, Noe, Trotti, Wertheimer) related to the then capital of the most important Orthodox empire are here put in comparison with the most important collections of Catholic or Protestant Old Masters – and, in general, with the then considerably Protestant intelligentsia and bourgeoisie – of Saint Petersburg. In addition, some newly-found information on some selected figures of artists, as F. D. Bruni, N. D. Bykoff, and I. I. Shishkin, might help modern researchers to achieve a broader and more systematic comprehension of the role that Western culture had in 1860s Saint Petersburg artistic milieu. Moreover, this paper suggests some original reflections on the role that Russian art magazines and exhibitions played in the critical fortuna and in the exportation to Western Europe, USA and Latin America of some masterpieces once that had been placed in Saint Petersburg. Finally, a reflection on the Alba Madonna by Raphael may act as a paradigm of the present state of research conducted internationally among museum teams and academic scholars.
The results of this paper can finally help art historian, experts at art market and historians to fill in some blanks concerning their investigations and dialogue with scholars of Russian and Western – visual culture.
Kazimir Malevich and the Influence of the French Avant-Garde in Russian Art Collections | Mira Kozhanova, Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris/Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
In the early 20th century, Russian art collectors played a pivotal role in promoting modern West-European art in Russia. They were very well informed about the French art world and were in direct contact with Parisian art dealers. It was the merit of those collections that the Russian audience – and first and foremost Russian avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich – got acquainted with the influential works of Monet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Derain, Picasso and others all of whom were previously unknown in Russia.
The talk examines the role and the nature of the collaboration between the Russian collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov with French art dealers such as Ambroise Vollard or Paul Durand-Ruel in order to establish which particular works of the French avant-garde were acquired and under which conditions. On the basis of these findings the talk furthermore examines the role of these collaborations for the development of art in Russia.
It is well known that the Russian avant-garde was influenced by Cubism which, of course, had been considerably shaped by Picasso and Braque. However, on the basis of a series of Drawings after Picasso prepared by Malevich around 1912, it can be shown that there was a direct link between his work and the one of the French artist. In light of this connection, it is to argue that it was the direct reception of Picasso’s works in the private collection of Shchukin that led Malevich to his Cubistic costume designs for the Futurist opera Victory over the Sun (1913). As this work, according to Malevich himself, marked the birth of the Black Square – which is the starting point of his quest for nonobjective art – the Russian collection makes apparent the constitutive role of French Cubism for Suprematism. Thus, this exemplary case study demonstrates that through their selection and presentation of modern West-European art, the Russian collectors had huge impact on the Russian avant-garde artists who in turn changed the course of the Western art development in the 20th century.
Orientalism(s) in Two Empires: Comparing Vasily Vereshchagin and Osman Hamdi Bey | Fatma Coskuner, Koç University, Istanbul
As a result of the nineteenth-century changing imperial paradigm that focused on nationalist modernization, the reform and disciplining of “backward” peripheries of multi-ethnic and multi-religious states led to the birth of Orientalism in the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Due to the focus on Great Britain’s and France’s Orientalist legacy, however, the Orientalism(s) of these Eastern empires have been neglected. This paper therefore addresses a gap by considering the relation between metageography and Orientalism in art, by looking at the works of the Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin (1842 – 1904) and the Ottoman painter Osman Hamdi Bey (1842 – 1910). In discussing how Russian and Ottoman discourses were founded on the opposionality of (their own) East and West, I intend to critically engage with the ways through which both empires and their colonized subjects perceived and constituted themselves.
Tracking how geographical boundaries are framed as provisional and discursive, the paper will explore how the paintings of Vereshchagin and Osman Hamdi Bey successfully created a Russian and Ottoman Orient, respectively. Their paintings’ “mystical” atmosphere of the East, the representations of traditional architectural details, and their “timeless” depictions open up another intriguing dimension of nineteenth-century Orientalist art. I believe, the comparison between two important artists from the empires within the context of nineteenth-century art open a new door for Ottoman and Russian cultural relations.
Existentialism in the USSR and Vadim Sidur’s Sculptures of the 1960s | Hoon Suk Lee, Moscow State University
Existentialism after World War II is interconnected with appearance of the new trends of art, not only in the Western world, but also in East Asia and in the Soviet bloc. Such world-wide sphere of influence of existentialism is associated with a similar ontological experience of individuals from different countries in the war period, pre-war and post-war period. Therefore, the study of existentialism and its correlation to art is important for the understanding of the value of art of the postwar period as panhuman value in the contemporary world.
However, in the Russian art history studies, theme about correlation between existentialism and visual arts in the post-war Soviet Union is not enough explored. Underestimated influence of existentialism in the Soviet culture, which was caused by permeated understanding of its ideological isolation from the West, may serve to reason of insufficiency of the study. Meanwhile, in the 50-60-ies, in the philosophical studies and literature studies in the Soviet Union, existentialism was quite deeply
studied (basically for criticizing) and that serve as an indirect evidence of its impact on the post-war period Soviet culture. Especially the duality of Soviet life and the existence of Soviet unofficial culture allow us to expect about the possibility of the relationship between existentialism and the Soviet unofficial art.
Vadim Sidur (1924-1986) and Oh Jong-wook (1934-1996) were outstanding sculptors of Soviet unofficial art and a South Korean contemporary art. The main theme of their sculpture in the 60s was a man and his suffering in the world, which is often found in the works of European artists whose works are considered to be closely linked with existentialism. A devastating war and a sharp social change in the countries has a significant impact on the work of sculptors, which were completely isolated from each other, but equally concerned about the meaning of human being. Research on the relationship of their work with existentialism can serve as a key to understanding the post-war Soviet unofficial art in the context of world art.
Painting at a Distance: Russian Artists Abroad from the Age of Catherine the Great | Dr. Rosalind Polly Blakesley, University of Cambridge
Throughout the history of imperial Russia, painters were sent to western Europe to study its artistic heritage and develop their careers. There, they worked both individually and as part of new communities and social networks, and often devised forms of pictorial and aesthetic expression that differed radically from contemporary practice at home. Excavating the evidence of this vibrant intercultural exchange is vital to any understanding of painting in imperial Russia, for it shaped individual as well as collective identities, and played a major part in how specialist and popular audiences construed a Russian school. This lecture will examine the structures that were put in place to send Russian artists abroad, before focusing on a history painter and a genre painter in late eighteenth-century Paris, and on the case of Orest Kiprensky in Italy in the early decades of the nineteenth century. These examples reveal ways in which the development of national and international artistic identities was co-dependent, as encounters with other cultures shaped artists’ ideas of who they did and did not want to be.
First Encounters: The Spread of Russian Constructivism in the West and the Role of Émigré Hungarian Avant-Garde in Vienna (1919–1924) | Merse Pál Szeredi, Kassák Museum/Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
The paper examines the role of the émigré Hungarian avant-garde artists in the spread of knowledge on contemporary Russian art in the West during the early 1920s. Although generally not represented in the main discourse of the art historical narrative on Constructivism, after comprehensive examination of the sources one can find that Vienna played a quite distinguished role in the cultural exchange between post-revolution Russian and Western avant-garde art. My purpose is to demonstrate the international relations and artistic exchange of the Viennese avant-garde including the former ‘Activist’ group led by Lajos Kassák – living in Viennese exile after the fall of the Hungarian Communist Republic – between 1919 and 1924. The analyses of the traces of artistic interactions could as well shed light to the historical and ideological aspects of the early reception of Constructivism. The paper focuses on the radical change of artistic language of the Viennese avant-garde towards constructive abstraction in 1920, i. e. the theory of the ‘Bildarchitektur’ of Lajos Kassák, László Moholy-Nagy and Sándor Bortnyik as well as the ‘Kinetism’ of Franz Čižek and Erika Giovanna Klien. The possible ways of exchange – including exhibitions before and after the first official introduction of Constructivism in the Galerie van Diemen Berlin – appearances of Russian art in contemporary publications and periodicals – Kassák’s MA and Uitz’s Egység in particular – as well as the cases of personal interactions, reports of travels from and to Moscow and Vitebsk, including Konstantin Umansky, Béla Uitz and Alfréd Kemény will also be examined. The cultural exchange can be analysed on different levels with direct and indirect argumentation, all of which lead to the conclusion: one could speak not only about webs of artistic exchange but more “first encounters“ of the Western art with Constructivism in 1920s Vienna.
Anatole Kopp: The Communist Utopia of a French Modernist | Olga Yakushenko, European University Institute, Florence
In the given talk I offer the analysis of the oeuvre of Anatole Kopp (1915-1990), a French historian of architecture who was the first to introduce the Soviet avant-garde architecture to the history of International Modern movement and one of the first Western authors to write about Soviet architecture of the 1920s. In my research I claim that the initial impetus of Soviet studies in the Western architectural history was political, not aesthetic. Being a devoted communist, Kopp considered the Soviet avant-garde as a possible model for French architects and a solution for both the crisis of the Western modernist architecture and housing crisis. I believe that the case of Kopp shows how closely architecture is intertwined with politics in certain epochs and how subjective may be its historical interpretations.
Cinematism & Formalism: Sergei Eisenstein as Art Historian | Hanin Hannouch, IMT, Lucca
Although Sergei Eisenstein has usually been studied as a film theorist and director, his life-long passion for art history is worth examining. In 1928, while studying French author Emile Zola, he described the writings of latter as directors’ “cue sheets” and this mention marks the debut of “cinematism”; a filmic quality in artworks predating film that would become part of the aesthetic practices of cinema.
In my presentation, I will contextualize the start of cinematism in 1928-1929 and examine how it is indebted to Russian formalism and to Eisenstein’s involvement in the movement: If formalism in literature is the study of “literariness”, then art history for Eisenstein is the study of “cinemaness”.
Mark Antokolsky and Naum Aronson: Russian Sculpture and the West in the 19th Century | Nicolas Laurent, Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre
Among the deepest issues for an artist in the 19th century appeared the question of mobility. As any artist’s concerned, this question is one of those they had to wonder about very early in their career. They had, indeed, to determinate where they wanted to study, where they wanted to practise their art, where they wanted to exhibit their works. For a painter, the 19th century European artistic map offered many places to go, and in this respect Russia was not an exception. For instance, the artists had many opportunities to study art in the biggest cities of the Empire, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, and even Kiev, Odessa or, later, Saratov. Exhibiting one’s work in several cities was for them quite easy, what is shown by the success of the Wanderers’ exhibitions from the 1870s.
Nevertheless, even this national mobility was not as easy from a sculptor’s point of view. Very few sculptors were involved in the Wanderers’ movement. Only Saint-Petersburg and Moscow could allow a sculptor to get a complete professional formation, in the Imperial Academy and the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture of Moscow. Despite the high quality of some of the professors of these institutions, Russia could not avoid frequent departures of its better artists abroad, as to complete their professional abilities : in Rome or Munich for a few of them, or moreoften in Paris.
But the exhibition of sculptures remained the biggest issue for them : living abroad almost meant to renounce to exhibit one’s work in Russia. The hope of a personal exhibition in Russia appears during many years in Antokolsky’s (1840-1902) correspondance. This sculptor, arrived in Paris in 1877 after a few-years stay in Rome, had a difficult relationship with his fatherland, but he managed to exhibit and sell his most important works there. For years, he became a bridge between Russia and France, by helping the just-arrived young Russian sculptors in Paris and founding, with Bogolyubov, the Russian Society for Artists’ Mutual Assistance.
This attention to the young Russian sculptors wishing to had the opportunity to learn sculpture or to work in Paris was the common point between Antokolsky and his youngest colleague Naum Aronson (1872-1943), who settled in Paris in 1891 : he is the one who allowed Chaykov and Kavaleridze to join him in Paris. Then, we can consider Antokolsky and Aronson as important links between Russian and French sculpture in the end of the 19th century. Their destinies are also quite similar : both were born in Vilno, both are Jew, and settled in Paris early in their life. Above all, they tried all their life to exhibit their works in several countries, not only in France and in Russia, but in Germany too – and they both were successfull in that way, acclaimed by critics and inductees by official artistic authorities, everywhere but in Russia. We could finally affirm that these two artist illustrate, each in his own way, the famous saying “No man is a prophet in his own country“.
Exiled Russian and Ukrainian Artists in Prague During the Interwar Period: The Case of the Collection of Jirí Karásek of Lvovice | Jakub Hauser, Charles University/Museum of Czech Literature, Prague
In the early 1920s, interwar Prague became one of the most important centers for exiles from prewar Russia. Thanks to official support (known as the Russian Action) from the Czechoslovak government, the émigré community was able to establish several important research institutions (most notably the Archaeological Institute of N. P. Kondakov) and both Russian and Ukrainian universities.
Czechoslovakia also became home to a significant number of visual artists: for some it was only temporary asylum before further emigration to Western countries, while others settled down and mostly assimilated with the local milieu. Contemporary research shows that many of the exile artists had an important impact on the local art scene. Its art production did not (and does not) belong to the canon of the Czech art history, but shows how multilayered the cultural scene was.
Apart from the art collections of the Slavic Institute and the Russian Cultural-Historical Museum in Zbraslav (situated in the suburbs of Prague) there was only one publicly accessible collection that focused particularly on the art of the exile community. The poet and collector Jiří Karásek of Lvovice with his concept of a Slavic gallery made the art of artists exiled from Russia a significant part of his collection and also organized several short-term exhibitions of Russian artists, who had settled in Prague.
This paper will try to answer the question about the role exile artists played in the local art scene, and specifically in the Slavic Gallery of Jiří Karásek of Lvovice. Even though Serge Mako, one of the most notable artist of Prague’s Russian exile community, came up with radical statements about an utterly new approach in artistic production, embodied in a program of his group “The Scythians,” which underlined the supposed exoticism of the “nomad“ artists from the East, the art achievements of the local émigré artists were in most cases rather non-progressive. This enabled Jiří Karásek of Lvovice, with his rather conservative taste, to consider his collection of Russian art as one that was representative of the contemporary art made by the Russian exile community.
Ilya Kabakov: Is Russian Post-Avant-Garde Art a Post-Utopian Phenomenon? | Olga Keller, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen
To explore Russian post-modernism – or Russian post-utopianism, as Boris Groys titled the artistic practice of Moscow Conceptualism – requires and presupposes a clarification of the notion of Russian modernism and modernist utopianism as such.
Art theorists are constructing and discussing various concepts of “modernity”: a Western (capitalist) one, a Soviet (communist, non-capitalist) one, a utopian one, and others.
As integral part of art history of the 20th century, Russian modernism for a long time has been associated with Russian historical Avant-Garde as well as with their precursors, furthermore with aesthetics of non-objective abstraction – in general terms: with artistic styles preceding the figurative and mimetic methods of Soviet Socialist Realism. It seems that some periods of Russian and/or Soviet modernityperfectly fit the master narrative of 20th century art. Other historical episodes are, more or less, a blind spot.
Resulting consequences of missing consensus among these conflicting notions of “modernism” and “modernity” strongly coin today’s art critical perception of subsequent, post-modernist (post-utopian?), and post-Soviet artistic production. Even if the prefix “Post-“ implies a reflexive “No” with regard to the inherited cultural legacy, critical evaluation of respective artistic positions keeps deeply ambivalent.
Kabakov’s holistic approach to assess Russian-Soviet modernity focuses both, the art of the Avant-Garde as well as Socialist Realism equally, but contrary to the weave of established art historical narrative.
Two Belarusian Artists Abroad: The work of Natalya Zaloznaya and Sergey Rimashevskiy | Klawa Koppenol, RKD, The Hague
The object of my presentation is to discuss the work of Natalya Zaloznaya and Sergey Rimashevsky, two Belarusian painters, and its reception abroad. The artists are represented in the Netherlands by Galerie Lilja Zakirova in Heusden aan de Maas. Both were trained at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts in Minsk during Soviet times. Commencing from a similar starting point – a classic training where the emphasis was on the mastering of technique – the artists have developed their own, very divergent styles. On the basis of their artistic practice and reception in – mainly – The Netherlands, I would like to illustrate how artists from one cultural sphere penetrate into another, how they try to obtain a position within that other sphere, and how their experiences abroad are perceived within the art scene of their home country.