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Vasilii Polenov’s Architectural Projects

Between the Neo-Russian Style and National Romanticism

Elena Kashtanova

Abstract

Vasilii Polenov can be described as one of the most “architectural” Russian artists of the late nineteenth century. In his sketches and paintings of the Gospel cycle, his historical works, theatrical scenery, and landscape paintings, the artist could not imagine realizing the main themes of his work without reference to architecture. Polenov’s architectural work can be divided into three types: church projects—such as those at Abramtsevo, the school at the Kologriv monastery in Kostroma province, and the Church of the Holy Trinity in Bekhovo in Tula province; manor architecture in the style of Scandinavian Art Nouveau at the estate he founded on the banks of the Oka River near Tula; and his only urban project—the House of Theatrical Education in Moscow. Polenov pursued the Neo-Russian style with particular alacrity in the sphere of church architecture, which is the focus of this essay, for it was here that the artist offered his own original interpretation of the national theme.

Karina Pronitcheva

Abstract

The article is dedicated to objects in precious metal made after Viktor Vasnetsov’s designs at the turn of the twentieth century. It discusses several creations known to be by Vasnetsov, and others which are likely to be attributable to him. The collaboration between Vasnetsov and Russian silversmiths such as Postnikov, Ovchinnikov, and Fabergé is analyzed on the basis of letters preserved in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Viktor Vasnetsov Museum in Moscow, and newspaper reports of the period. The following artworks are discussed in detail, with special attention paid to the history of their creation: two presentational dishes of 1896, one for the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II and one for the “All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition” of Nizhnii Novgorod, the khorugv (religious banner) for the coffin of Emperor Alexander III, the presentational dish of 1902 for French President Emile Loubet, the bronze and enamel iconostasis for the Cathedral of St. George in the town of Gus-Khrustalnyi, and the so-called “Ivan Kalita” bowl.

Viktor Vasnetsov’s New Icons

From Abramtsevo to the Paris “Exposition Universelle” of 1900

Wendy Salmond

Abstract

This essay examines Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov’s search for a new kind of prayer icon in the closing decades of the nineteenth century: a hybrid of icon and painting that would reconcile Russia’s historic contradictions and launch a renaissance of national culture and faith. Beginning with his icons for the Spas nerukotvornyi [Savior Not Made by Human Hands] Church at Abramtsevo in 1880-81, for two decades Vasnetsov was hailed as an innovator, the four icons he sent to the Paris “Exposition Universelle” of 1900 marking the culmination of his vision. After 1900, his religious painting polarized elite Russian society and was bitterly attacked in advanced art circles. Yet Vasnetsov’s new icons were increasingly linked with popular culture and the many copies made of them in the late Imperial period suggest that his hybrid image spoke to a generation seeking a resolution to the dilemma of how modern Orthodox worshippers should pray.

Musya Glants

Abstract

I recount the hardship of returning from evacuation to a Riga ravaged by war—and of citizens who were the victim of a constant, inner duality, i.e. of the contradiction between the external conventions of Soviet reality and the inner falsity of Bolshevik ideology. I describe how difficult it was for young people to overcome the nagging moral deterioration of the regime and then the complex process of spiritual liberation in the wake of destalinization.

Musya Glants

Abstract

A new life began with my enrolment in the Ph.D. program at Leningrad State University. I describe the intellectual milieu of that moment as well as the ideological and material impediments to normal social and private life—fraught with injustice and the constant struggle between spiritual uprightness and political humiliation.

Musya Glants

Abstract

A growing dissatisfaction with second-rate status, i.e. with the ideological stigma of being Jewish, brought many personal changes. For my husband and me, for example, the decision to move to Siberia, where, thanks to geographical remoteness, the rules were less stringent, granted us a respite and a chance to overcome the boundaries of national and ethnic inequality.

War

Musya Glants

Abstract

When Germany declared war on the Soviet Union, for me, a child, the world turned upside down to become an alien condition of cruelty and death, hunger and fear. Evacuated, our family faced the War far away from Riga, our hometown, in Uzbekistan—with its strange and unfamiliar landscapes, exotic people, and very different lifestyle. Normal life ended long before the outbreak of World War II.

Andrei Sarabyanov

Mikhail Allenov

Abstract

Aleksandr Ivanov visited Alexander Herzen in London in 1857. By that year, Alexander ii’s plans to abolish serfdom had been already announced, prompting Herzen to call the tsar a “liberator” in one of his articles of 1858. In this context, Ivanov’s painting The Appearance of Christ before the People mirrored, to some degree, the current situation, and this influenced the artist’s decision to bring the painting to Russia.

Between East and West

Reconsidering Mikhail Vrubel’s “Nativist” Aesthetics

Maria Taroutina

Abstract

Taking cue from Dmitry Sarabyanov’s seminal publications on the Stil Modern and turn-of-the-century Russian visual culture, the present article resituates Mikhail Vrubel’s œuvre “between East and West” by demonstrating that the artist moved beyond the narrowly circumscribed nationalist agenda typically attributed to the work he produced at the Abramtsevo and Talashkino artistic colonies. In addition to indigenous sources, Vrubel also assimilated a number of external artistic influences such as Jugendstil, medieval Gothic and Renaissance ceramics, Japanese and Chinese porcelain, and Egyptian and Assyrian art. Through a close analysis of Vrubel’s orientalist paintings, as well as his cycle of folkloric works such as Mikula Selyaninovich and the Volga (1896), I demonstrate that his aesthetic program crossed multiple boundaries: geographical, temporal, material, and institutional. Through a complex renegotiation of the global and the local, the past and the present, and the traditional and contemporary, Vrubel arrived at a strikingly modernist visual syntax, which paved the way for an entire generation of avant-garde artists such as Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Liubov Popova, Vladimir Tatlin, and Naum Gabo, among others. Using Vrubel as a case study, this article thus proposes to rethink the opposing binary categories of avant-gardism and revivalism, historicism and innovation, Orientalism and Occidentalism, regionalism and cosmopolitanism, as they have been applied to the trajectory of modern Russian art—a set of ostensibly fixed dichotomies that Dmitry Sarabyanov had repeatedly and successfully challenged in his own work.