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  • Slavic and Eurasian Studies x

Dmitry Vladimirovich Sarabyanov’s Speech to the First Congress of the Union of Artists

Introduction by Elena Borisovna Murina (Translated and annotated by Jane A. Sharp)

Elena Borisovna Murina and Jane A. Sharp

East and West, Past and Present

The Manifold Iconographic Code in Valentin Serov’s Portrait of Ida Rubinstein (1910)

Tanja Malycheva


Valentin Serov’s (1865-1911) nude depiction of Ida Rubinstein, created in Paris in 1910, is one of the most striking examples of how the artist processed various Eastern and Western iconographic codes and subsequently found his own unique portrait formula.

Exhibiting Russia

Revising, Reframing, and Reinterpreting the Russian Avant-Garde

Roann Barris


Although we have some first-hand accounts of visits by American drama critics and theater directors to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, with one or two exceptions we do not know much about how American visual artists gained first-hand knowledge of the works of the Russian avant-garde at this time. Tracing the surprisingly rich history of American exhibitions of Russian art in the first half of the twentieth century, this paper examines the influence of Berlin and Vienna in shaping American exhibitions and also shows how curatorial decisions often determined which artists were associated with which movements, even when these associations would later be contradicted by historical facts. Indeed, style may be said to have played a subservient role as curators strove to associate the avant-garde with spirituality or to gain public support for starving Russian artists. Nevertheless, these exhibitions did bring significant works to the attention of American artists and the American public, revealing the significance of certain artists as well as collectors and curators in shaping the American understanding of the Russian avant-garde.

Jakub Hauser


Through several examples of the representation of Russian art in the milieu of interwar Czechoslovakia, the article shows the specificity of the local Russian cultural community which was exiled there following the October Revolution and the ensuing civil war. It examines the community’s international contacts and the role its strong institutional background played in establishing several art collections—most importantly at the Slavonic Institute and the Russian Cultural-Historical Museum in Prague—as it attempted to capture and preserve for the future the art production of Russian artists abroad. It also looks at a remarkable artistic strategy used by The Scythians artist group, which was based on an alleged otherness and even exoticism of the Russian artists residing in Prague and drew on the ideology of Eurasianism promoted in the Russian exiled community of the period.

Ada Raev


The article describes German sculptor Georg Kolbe’s two direct engagements with Russia and its culture in the early twentieth century. The first, brief but fruitful, encounter, in 1912, the same year that Kolbe’s bronze sculpture Tänzerin (Female Dancer) was purchased by the National Gallery, was with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, who had returned for a second visit to Berlin. Kolbe received Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina in his studio; photographs and drawings of the two star dancers served as inspiration for works such as Tänzer (Dancer) and the Heinrich Heine monument in Frankfurt am Main, and also strengthened Kolbe’s interest in modern dance. The second opportunity came in 1932, when Kolbe, as a successful and established sculptor, was invited to tour the Soviet Union. In 1933, Kolbe published a brief account of his travels under the title “In einem anderen Land” (In another country); his observations, enriched with picturesque details, convey a feeling of empathy for the host country and its inhabitants. Only once does Kolbe admit to a certain discomfort with regard to the atmosphere in the Stalinist Soviet Union.

An Inspirational Milieu

St. Petersburg Cosmopolitan Collections of Old Masters

Fabio Franz


This paper focuses on the provenance, conservation history, and critical fortuna of some selected Western European paintings that were placed in Saint Petersburg between 1850 and 1917. In my research, I link archival information with scientific bibliography and material data for three purposes: Firstly, I compare the two stays in Russia, in 1861 and 1862, by the German expert Gustav Friedrich Waagen with the 1865 visit to St. Petersburg of the Italian connoisseur Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Secondly, I investigate Cavalcaselle’s alleged meeting with the Russian expert Fedor Antonovich Bruni regarding the technique, fruition, and state of conservation of the paintings Saint Sebastian Barbarigo by Titian, Apollo and Marsyas Litta by Bronzino, and Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John, now attributed to Pontormo. Thirdly, I explore to what extend Duke of Leuchtenberg’s art gallery, Nikolai Dmitrievich Bykov’s collection, and some other private collections, among them those of Princess Kotchubey, Counts Buturlin and Stroganov, and Armenian general Lazarev, were accessible to Western scholars. The research results will enable art historians, curators, and restorers to fill in some blanks in the provenance research and conservation history of these Western masterpieces that used to enrich the Saint Petersburg art scene before the October Revolution.

Ivan Puni and the Flight of Forms

From St. Petersburg to Berlin

Christina Lodder


In February 1921, Ivan Puni organized an exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. Orchestrating small-scale individual works with letters and numbers (cut from paper as if they were separate visual components in a painting), he used the wall as an enormous canvas in order to create a large pictorial composition, transforming the entire space into an avant-garde Gesamtkunstwerk. This paper examines this installation in terms of pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary artistic theory and practice, including zaum, alogism, suprematism, Kazimir Malevich’s display at the Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0.10 (Zero-Ten), suprematist decorations for the revolutionary festivals, and Puni’s work in running the agit-prop department at the Vitebsk Art School in 1919. Above all, this essay will argue that the synthesis of the arts that Puni created in Berlin in 1921 was particularly indebted to his experience of the way in which the revolutionary decorations had created totally new, potentially socialist environments. Yet while assimilating and to some extent replicating this experience, Puni’s 1921 display could also be seen as a protest against communism—acting as a powerful declaration of individualism against the collective, as well as an emphatic statement concerning the importance of art, the enduring value of aesthetic values, and the crucial necessity of maintaining the freedom of art, and its independence from all external pressures.

Yulian Khalturin


The article presents the results of researching works by Kazimir Malevich in the Stedelijk Museum and Khardzhiev-Chaga Foundation, Amsterdam. The materials, including a list of pigments and detailed analysis of the specific peculiarities of certain paintings, were culled on the basis of various technical investigations. Malevich’s personality also serves as a subject of research inasmuch as the analysis of the material aspects of his creativity and his painterly process are related to an understanding of his way of thinking, conceptualizing, and his temperament.

John E. Bowlt and Nicoletta Misler


The article treats of the early land-art or Artifacts (often incorporating snow and ice) produced by Moscow artists Frantsisko Infante and Nonna Goriunova, especially with regard to the notions of landscape, reflectivity, play, infinity, and fluidity or limbo.