Posts Tagged ‘Russian Revolution

09
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd December 2016 – 12th March 2017

 

My apologies to readers of Art Blart, but my postings will be short of comment in the next month or so as I try to take as much rest as possible. I have bad hands which is preventing me from using the keyboard. At the moment I am using dictation software to do the writing for me. I will keep the blog going as much as possible because it is my form of therapy for my mental health.

Which brings me to this posting, another slice of the brilliance of the European inter-war avant-garde, this time from Russia. Design, intense colouration (or lack of it), and complexity of form are hallmarks of this “new, militant art.” Photomontage, form and propaganda go hand in hand with this New Vision. The photograph and the cinema were social and essential elements of this new world order.

Perspective shifted. Pictorial planes fractured. Points of view pictured the unusual: from below, from above, with few vanishing points contained within the image or photomontage. Films had no sound and often no story and no actors. They were experimental intersections of man, machinery, and the world. Art was exciting and revolutionary. For me, Aleksandr Rodchenko is the star of the show. You only have to look at images such as Mother, Pioneer with Bugle, Pioneer girl, and the two photographs titled Dive (1934, below) – both with a sense of weightlessness and perspectival difference – to understand the genius of this artist.

It is indeed a telling indictment that such creativity, in both Russia and Germany (and by default, the rest of Europe), was snuffed out by two dictators who imposed on art a (usually masculine) utopian purity which stifled any hint of militant subversion and originality.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

We are breaking with the past, because we cannot accept its hypotheses. We ourselves are creating our own hypotheses anew and only upon them … can we build our new life and new world view.

.
Lyubov Popova

 

 

Various artists. 'Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards)' 1912

 

Various artists with Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Nikolai Rogovin, Vladimir Tatlin
Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards)
1912

 

 

For the hundredth anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci explains how artists such as Malevich, Rodchenko, and Vertov attempted to revolutionise Russian society through new means of artistic production – and how the styles developed by the Russian Avant-Garde still affect how we look at art today.

 

Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962) 'Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest' 1913

 

Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962)
Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest
1913
Oil on canvas
21 1/2 x 19 1/2″ (54.6 x 49.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Olga Rozanova (Russian, 1886-1918) 'The Factory and the Bridge' 1913

 

Olga Rozanova (Russian, 1886-1918)
The Factory and the Bridge
1913
Oil on canvas
32 3/4 x 24 1/4″ (83.2 x 61.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935) 'Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying' 1915

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935)
Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying
1915
Oil on canvas
22 7/8 x 19″ (58.1 x 48.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquisition confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange)

 

Lyubov Popova (Russian, 1889-1924) 'Untitled' c. 1916-17

 

Lyubov Popova (Russian, 1889-1924)
Untitled
c. 1916-17
Gouache on board
19 1/2 x 15 1/2″ (49.5 x 39.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Kazimir Malevich. 'Suprematist Composition: White on White' 1918

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935)
Suprematist Composition: White on White
1918
Oil on canvas
31 1/4 x 31 1/4″ (79.4 x 79.4 cm)
1935 Acquisition confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange)

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. ' Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black)' 1918

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black)
1918
Oil on canvas
32 1/4 x 31 1/4″ (81.9 x 79.4 cm)
Gift of the artist, through Jay Leyda

 

 

This work belongs to a series of eight black paintings Rodchenko made in direct response to a group of white paintings of the same year by the older and more established artist Kazimir Malevich. Malevich relied on a severely reduced palette of whites to suggest a floating form in an infinite spatial expanse; Rodchenko moved toward eliminating colour completely in order to focus instead on the material quality of the paintings surface. “Where the black works are winning is in the fact that they have no colour, they are strong through painting …,” declared artist Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko’s wife. “Nothing besides painting exists.” Both series were first shown in Moscow in April 1919, in the 10th State Exhibition: Non-Objective Art and Suprematism. The black works were received with enthusiasm and helped establish Rodchenko as a leader of the Russian avant-garde. (MoMA gallery label 2015)

 

Jean Pougny (Ivan Puni) (Russian, born Finland. 1892-1956) 'Flight of Forms' 1919

 

Jean Pougny (Ivan Puni) (Russian, born Finland. 1892-1956)
Flight of Forms
1919
Gouache and pencil on paper
51 1/8 x 51 1/2″ (129.7 x 130.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

A new art was needed, armed by technology and chemistry, an art that stood side by side with socialist industry, a new, militant art, which could organize the will of the masses.

.
Gustav Klutsis

 

 

In the first decades after the 1917 Revolution, a central focus of the nascent Soviet Union was the modernisation of its vast territories. Through a series of comprehensive economic development plans, the socialist state attempted to institute rapid industrialisation, collectivise agriculture, achieve nationwide literacy, and update the infrastructure of towns and cities. Artists, often working in official capacities, captured these aspirations in a variety of projects, many of which were propagandistic.

Some turned to agitational photomontage, in which photographs and images culled from mass media were spliced together to create ideologically charged designs for posters, book covers, advertisements, and postcards. Artists also made illustrations for children’s books that feature didactic tales aimed at rallying the next generation of Soviet citizens. Architects were tasked with reconceiving domestic and civic spaces in order to advance a communal way of life, reflected in studies for buildings and triumphant photographs of construction. While much of this work celebrates Soviet might and ingenuity, Joseph Stalin’s repressive regime began to reign in the activities of artists and other cultural producers in the 1920s, terminating this period of utopian innovation in the early 1930s with the declaration of Socialist Realism as the official Soviet style.

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Proun 1 D' 1920

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Proun 1 D
1920
One from a portfolio of eleven lithographs
Composition: 8 7/16 x 10 9/16″ (21.5 x 26.9 cm); sheet: 13 1/2 x 17 5/8″ (34.3 x 44.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Vincent d’Aquila and Harry Soviak Bequest, by exchange, Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books Fund, Orentreich Family Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Endowment, Mrs. Sash A. Spencer, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Peter H. Friedland, Maud I. Welles, Deborah Wye Endowment Fund, Riva Castlemen Endowment Fund, Lily Auchincloss Fund, Monroe Wheeler Fund, and John M. Shapiro
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Proun 19D' 1920 or 1921

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Proun 19D
1920 or 1921
Gesso, oil, varnish, crayon, colored papers, sandpaper, graph paper, cardboard, metallic paint, and metal foil on plywood
38 3/8 x 38 1/4″ (97.5 x 97.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katherine S. Dreier Bequest

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Spatial Construction no. 12' c. 1920

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Spatial Construction no. 12
c. 1920
Plywood, open construction partially painted with aluminum paint, and wire
24 x 33 x 18 1/2″ (61 x 83.7 x 47 cm)
Acquisition made possible through the extraordinary efforts of George and Zinaida Costakis, and through the Nate B. and Frances Spingold, Matthew H. and Erna Futter, and Enid A. Haupt Funds

 

 

The nesting ovals that compose this construction were measured out on a single sheet of aluminium-painted plywood, precisely cut, then rotated and suspended to make a three-dimensional object suggestive of planetary orbits. It was made at a time of both civic turmoil and great possibility in Russia, when Rodchenko and his fellow Constructivist artists sought to apply aesthetic ideals to everyday materials. They hoped their approach to art would help create a new language for the Communist state. Reflecting back on this time, Rodchenko said, “We created a new understanding of beauty, and enlarged the concept of art.”

 

Nikolai Suetin (Russian, 1897-1954) 'Teapot' c. 1923

 

Nikolai Suetin (Russian, 1897-1954)
Teapot
c. 1923
Porcelain with overglaze painted decoration
5 1/2 x 4 1/2″ (14 x 11.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Estée and Joseph Lauder Design Fund

 

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

 

Installation views of A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017
© 2016 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Robert Gerhardt

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art presents A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde, an exhibition that brings together 260 works from MoMA’s collection, tracing the arc of a period of artistic innovation between 1912 and 1935. The exhibition will be on view December 3, 2016 – March 12, 2017. Planned in anticipation of the centennial year of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the exhibition highlights breakthrough developments in the conception of Suprematism and Constructivism, as well as in avant-garde poetry, theater, photography, and film, by such figures as Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Lyubov Popova, Alexandr Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, and Dziga Vertov, among others. The exhibition features a rich cross-section of works across several mediums – opening with displays of pioneering non-objective paintings, prints, and drawings from the years leading up to and immediately following the Revolution, followed by a suite of galleries featuring photography, film, graphic design, and utilitarian objects, a transition that reflects the shift of avant-garde production in the 1920s. Made in response to changing social and political conditions, these works probe and suggest the myriad ways that a revolution can manifest itself in an object. A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, Department of Photography, and Sarah Suzuki, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; with Hillary Reder, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

A series of works by artists including Natalia Goncharova and her husband and artistic collaborator Mikhail Larionov open the exhibition. Goncharova and Larionov sought to combine Western European developments such as Cubism and Futurism with a distinctly Russian character, drawing on history, folklore, and religious motifs for inspiration. One outgrowth of their efforts was Rayonism, an abstract style that derived its name from the use of dynamic rays of contrasting colour, exemplified in Goncharova’s Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest (1913). A hallmark of this period was a fertile collaboration between painters and poets that resulted in illustrated books, also on view in the exhibition. These collaborations rejected fine-art book traditions in favour of small, distinctly handmade volumes, such as the rare book Worldbackwards (1912), shown in an astonishing four variations, each with a unique, collaged cover.

Radical new efforts in painting and poetry are also featured, such as an unpublished, uncut sheet from poets Aleksei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov’s Te li le (1914), with images by Olga Rozanova. The sheet features a poetic language conceived in 1913 by the pair called Zaum (“transrational,” “beyonsense,” or “transreason”), which frees letters and words from specific meanings, instead emphasising their aural and visual qualities. Painters likewise sought to push their medium to its limits, dismissing the strictures of realism and rationality in favour of advancing new abstract forms. The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10 (zeroten), held in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in December 1915, highlighted two new models of abstraction. One, developed by Vladimir Tatlin, focused on a group of nonrepresentational Counter-Reliefs (“reliefs with a particular pronounced tension”). An example can be found in the exhibition in the exceedingly rare Brochure for Tatlin’s counter-reliefs exhibited at 0.10 (1915). The other, proposed by Kazimir Malevich, unveiled a radically new mode of abstract painting that abandoned reference to the outside world in favour of coloured geometric shapes floating against white backgrounds. Because this new style claimed supremacy over the forms of nature, Malevich called it Suprematism. The exhibition includes Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying (1915), which was featured in 0.10, and Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918), which ranks among the most iconoclastic paintings of its day.

While Suprematism’s focus on pure form had a spiritual bent, the adherents of Constructivism privileged the creation of utilitarian objects with orderly, geometric designs. In 1918, Rodchenko made Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black), one of a series of eight black paintings he conceived in direct response to the group of white paintings by Malevich. By eliminating colour almost completely, Rodchenko underscored the material quality of the painting’s surface. Around this time, he also produced a series of “spatial constructions” focused on kineticism, marking a significant leap from his exploration of the painted surface to three-dimensional objects. 5 x 5 = 25: An Exhibition of Painting (1921), a brochure for an exhibition of the same title, typed by Varvara Stepanova, features contributions from Rodchenko, Lyubov Popova, Alexandra Exter, and Aleksandr Vesnin. Held in Moscow at the All-Russian Union of Poets in September 1921, the exhibition featured five works by each of the five participants, and was the Constructivist group’s last presentation of painting.

Between 1919 and 1927 El Lissitzky produced a large body of paintings, prints, and drawings that he referred to as Proun, an acronym for “Project for the Affirmation of the New” in Russian. A particular highlight is the portfolio Proun (1920), made during Lissitzky’s short but prolific period working at the art school in Vitebsk, alongside Malevich. Lissitzky asserted Proun is “the station on the way to the construction of a new form,” and in these lithographs, he arranges geometric forms in dynamic, overlapping relationships to create imagined spaces. It will be the first time this rare portfolio, acquired in 2013, will be on view. New developments in theater are surveyed through the example of Alexandra Exter, an artist deeply engaged with theatrical design and production, including several examples of her innovative set designs and costumes for the science-fiction film Aelita (1924). These are shown alongside prints from Lissitzky’s portfolio Victory Over the Sun, which he made after seeing a 1920 restaging of the seminal Cubo-Futurist opera of the same name, and features characters from the production transformed into “electromechanical” figurines.

As the 1920s progressed, photography and film surpassed painting and sculpture as the chosen medium for the avant-garde, moving works from the studio to the public sphere. The exhibition includes an in-depth look at Soviet avant-garde cinema, in a gallery that features clips from seminal films by Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov, highlighting a variety of strategies in montage, including disjunctive cutting, extreme close-ups, unusual angles, and image superimposition. At this time, Lissitzky began to describe his work as fotopis (painting with photographs), a neologism that first appeared in the title of a maquette for a mural version of Record (1926), a photomontage included in the show. After turning away from painting, Rodchenko also found new means to build networks of communication – in photographs and book design. He collaborated with the progressive writers Nikolai Aseev, Osip Brik, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Sergei Tret’iakov on covers and layouts for the journal Novyi LEF (1927-28), a complete run of which is on view. Eschewing the conventional belly-button view in his photographs, Rodchenko’s pictures of this era – such as Mother (1924), Assembling for a Demonstration (1928-30), and Pioneer Girl (1930) – favour dynamic camera angles. Advocating for a cinematic, fractured representation of his subjects, Rodchenko also tried his hand at film, designing inter-titles for Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Pravda newsreel series.

The ideology of the Revolution touched all aspects of daily life, from economy to education. The most significant artists of the day, in accordance with state orders, were soon applying avant-garde tactics to create propagandistic work that would be easily comprehensible to the Soviet public at large. The final gallery of the exhibition contains this kind of material, including children’s books created by Vladimir Lebedev and Samuil Marshak, whose book designs balanced sophistication and accessibility, drawing on Cubism and Suprematism, with stories that nourished the intellectual and visual imagination. Also on view are film posters, by the brothers Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, which feature radical uses of typography and colour, underscoring the relationship between graphic arts and the burgeoning Soviet cinema. The Constructivist architect Iakov Chernikov applied his ideas to imagine a future reflecting the avant-garde culture of the new Soviet Union. His Architectural Fantasies: 101 Compositions in Color, 101 Architectural Miniatures (1933) featured here, however, never had a chance to materialise. Joseph Stalin’s repressive regime effectively put an end to Constructivism and other avant-garde activities in the cultural sphere by the mid-1930s.

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Announcer (Ansager)' 1923

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Announcer (Ansager) from Figurines: The Three-Dimensional Design of the Electro-Mechanical Show “Victory over the Sun” (Figurinen, die plastische Gestaltung der elektro-mechanischen Schau “Sieg über die Sonne”)
1920-21, published 1923
One from a portfolio of ten lithographs
Composition (irreg.): 13 3/4 x 11 7/8″ (35 x 30.2 cm); sheet: 21 x 18″ (53.3 x 45.7 cm)
Purchase

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'The Globetrotter' 1923

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
The Globetrotter from Figurines: Plastic Representations of the Electro-Mechanical Production Entitled “Victory over the Sun” (Figurinen, die plastische Gestaltung der elektro-mechanischen Schau “Sieg über die Sonne”)
1920-21, published 1923
One from a portfolio of ten lithographs
Composition (irreg.): 14 3/16 x 10 1/4″ (36 x 26 cm); sheet: 21 x 17 7/8″ (53.3 x 45.4cm)
Purchase

 

Alexandra Exter. 'Construction' 1922-23

 

Alexandra Exter
Construction
1922-23
Oil on canvas
35 1/8 x 35 3/8″ (89.2 x 89.9 cm)
The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) 'Pro eto. Ei i mne' (About This. To Her and to Me) "Pro eto" by Vladimir Mayakovsky 1923

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pro eto. Ei i mne (About This. To Her and to Me)
“Pro eto” by Vladimir Mayakovsky
1923
Book with letterpress cover and illustrations
Overall (closed): 9 1/16 x 6 1/8 x 1/8″ (23 x 15.5 x 0.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

 

Yakov Protozanov
Aelita Queen of Mars
NTSC
1924

 

Alexandra Exter "Guardian of Energy" 1924

 

Alexandra Exter
“Guardian of Energy” (costume design for the film “Aelita” by Yakov Protozanov)
1924
Ink, gouache, and pencil on paper
21 1/4 x 14 1/4″ (54 x 36.2 cm)
The J. M. Kaplan Fund, Inc.

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Mother' 1924

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Mother
1924
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 x 6 1/2″ (22.5 x 16.5 cm)
Gift of the Rodchenko family
© 2017 Aleksandr Rodchenko/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Record' 1926

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Record
1926
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 8 13/16″ (26.7 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Self-Portrait' 1924

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Self-Portrait
1924
Gelatin silver print
5 1/2 x 3 1/2″ (13.9 x 8.9 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

The essence of New Vision photography is pointedly expressed in this picture, commonly known as The Constructor, which puts the act of seeing at center stage. Lissitzky’s hand, holding a compass, is superimposed on a shot of his head that explicitly highlights his eye: insight, it expresses, is passed through the eye and transmitted to the hand, and through it to the tools of production. Devised from six different exposures, the picture merges Lissitzky’s personae as photographer (eye) and constructor of images (hand) into a single likeness. Contesting the idea that straight photography provides a single, unmediated truth, Lissitzky held instead that montage, with its layering of one meaning over another, impels the viewer to reconsider the world. It thus marks a conceptual shift in the understanding of what a picture can be.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012–April 29, 2013

 

 

The (painted) picture fell apart together with the old world which it had created for itself. The new world will not need little pictures. If it needs a mirror, it has the photograph and the cinema.

.
El Lissitzky

 

 

By the mid-1920s, leading figures of the Soviet vanguard extolled photography, theater, and film as quintessential mediums of the future. Eager to answer Lenin’s call to build a new Soviet mass culture in the wake of the Revolution, artists embraced performative and lens-based mediums for their democratising potential. They also seized the opportunity presented by stage and costume design to realise Constructivist principles in real space.

Film, one of the most experimental mediums of these years, wielded a profound influence on Soviet visual culture, particularly graphic design and photography, as well as on international cinema. Dziga Vertov redefined still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the camera lens creates a novel perception of the world. Aleksandr Rodchenko was likewise inspired by photography’s ability to energise audiences with its thrilling images of a transformed reality, which he shaped with distinctive strategies: unconventional camera angles, radical foreshortening, and close-ups. Rodchenko’s commitment to mass communication is also manifest in his engagement with the illustrated press, exemplified by his cover and layout designs for the avant-garde journal Novyi Lef.

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) Cover design for 'Novyi LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts', no. 1 1928

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Cover design for Novyi LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts, no. 1
1928
Letterpress
Page: 9 1/16 x 6″ (23 x 15.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Novyi LEF. Zhurnal levogo fronta iskusstv' (New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts), no. 7 1927

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Novyi LEF. Zhurnal levogo fronta iskusstv (New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts), no. 7
1927
Journal with letterpress cover and illustrations
Page: 8 15/16 x 5 15/16″ (22.7 x 15.1 cm)
Publisher: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, Moscow
Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

 

Sergei Eisenstein (Russian, 1898-1948)
Potemkin
1925
35mm film (black and white and hand-colored, silent)
75 min.
Acquired from Reichsfilmarchiv

 

 

Vsevolod Pudovkin (Russian, 1893-1953)
Mat (Mother)
1926
35mm film (black and white, silent)
90 min.
Acquired from N.I.S., Soyuzintorkino, Moscow 1985

 

 

Mother (1926) [film based on Maxim Gorky’s famous novel]

In this film, the mother of Pavel Vlasov is drawn into the revolutionary conflict when her husband and son find themselves on opposite sides during a worker’s strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son’s ideology in order to try, in vain, to save his life. He is arrested, tried in what amounts to a judicial farce, and sentenced to heavy labor in a prison camp. During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with him and his ideology and joins the revolutionaries. In the climax of the movie, the mother and hundreds of others march to the prison in order to free the prisoners, who are aware of the plan and have planned their escape. Ultimately, the troops of the Tsar suppress the uprising, killing both mother and son in the final scenes.

 

 

Esther Shub (Ukrainian, 1894-1959)
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty
1927
35mm film (black and white, silent)

 

Gustav Klutsis (Russian, born Latvia) 'Memorial to Fallen Leaders' 1927

 

Gustav Klutsis (Russian, born Latvia)
Memorial to Fallen Leaders
1927
Cover with lithographed photomontage illustrations on front and back
13 1/2 x 10 1/4″ (34.3 x 26 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation
© 2016 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Vladimir Stenberg (Russian, 1899-1982) and Georgii Stenberg (Russian, 1900-1933) 'Symphony of a Big City' 1928

 

Vladimir Stenberg (Russian, 1899-1982) and Georgii Stenberg (Russian, 1900-1933)
Symphony of a Big City
1928
Lithograph
41 x 27 1/4″ (104 x 69 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Marshall Cogan Purchase Fund

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Untitled' 1927

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Untitled
1927
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 5 13/16″ (22.1 x 14.8 cm)
Gift of the Rodchenko family

 

Semyon Fridlyand. 'In the Gallery' 1927

 

Semyon Fridlyand
In the Gallery
1927
Gelatin silver print
8 9/16 x 6 5/8″ (21.7 x 16.8 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Harold Edgerton, by exchange

 

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954)
The Man with the Movie Camera
1929
35mm film (black and white, silent)
Acquired on exchange with Gosfilmofund

 

 

Man with a Movie Camera is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no story and no actors by Soviet-Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova. Vertov’s feature film, produced by the film studio VUFKU, presents urban life in the Soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa. From dawn to dusk Soviet citizens are shown at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. To the extent that it can be said to have “characters,” they are the cameramen of the title, the film editor, and the modern Soviet Union they discover and present in the film.

This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and self-reflexive visuals (at one point it features a split-screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

In the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound poll, film critics voted Man with a Movie Camera the 8th best film ever made. In 2014 Sight & Sound also named it the best documentary of all time.

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954) 'The Man with the Movie Camera' 1929

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954)
The Man with the Movie Camera
1929
35mm film (black and white, silent)
Acquired on exchange with Gosfilmofund

 

 

Alexander Dovzhenko (Russian, born Russia (Chernigov province) 1894-1956)
Zemlya (Earth)
1930
35mm film (black and white, silent)
62 min.
Acquired from Gosfilmofond

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) 'Pioneer with a Bugle' 1930

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pioneer with a Bugle
1930
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 1/16″ (23.5 x 18 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Rodchenko Family

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Pioneer Girl' 1930

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pioneer Girl
1930
Gelatin silver print
19 1/2 x 14 9/16″ (49.6 x 37 cm)
Gift of Alex Lachmann and friends of the Rodchenko family

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Assembling for a Demonstration' 1928-30

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Assembling for a Demonstration
1928-30
Gelatin silver print
19 1/2 x 13 7/8″ (49.5 x 35.3 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John Spencer Fund

 

Iakov Chernikhov. 'Arkhitekturnye Fantazii' before 1933 Letterpress

 

Iakov Chernikhov
Arkhitekturnye Fantazii
before 1933
Letterpress
12 x 8 7/8″ (30.5 x 22.5 cm)
Arthur A. Cohen Purchase Fund

 

 

In his introduction to Architectural Fantasies: 101 Compositions, Iakov Chernikov’s sixth and final volume on design theory, he defended the significance of visionary paper architecture: “Not without reason, however, have great thinkers of all times accorded vast importance to fantasy, as being the forerunner of any kind of progress. To look one-sidedly at the idea of fantasy and not to consider its positive role in all fields of culture and art-this is to make a great mistake.” For Chernikov the fantasy drawing offered the architect an effective means of liberating himself from convention and imagining a future reflecting the avant-garde culture of the new Soviet Union.

As a Constructivist, and like contemporaries such as Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky, Chernikov was possessed by the powers of abstraction and geometry. This is reflected in the phrase Combination of curvilinear and rectilinear forms along principles of design, the rather perfunctory subtitle for Complex Architectural Invention (composition no. 49 from Architectural Fantasies): this is a formal composition based on line (curved or straight), plane, surface, body, and volume. The excitement and brilliance of Chernikov’s fantasy lie in his dynamic handling of diagonal lines, ellipses, and bright colors, presented in a dizzying axonometric view. The imagery, unabashedly industrial in character yet devoid of any context or program, is remarkably fresh and pregnant with possibility.

In producing his Architectural Fantasies Chernikov was interested not only in self-discovery but in inspiring his viewers. The seeds of his fantasies, however, never had a chance to germinate in the Soviet Union: Stalin’s repressive regime, which effectively put an end to Constructivism in the 1930s, favored a banal architecture based on monumental classicism and Social Realism. The potential of Architectural Fantasies lay dormant until Chernikov and other Constructivist architects were “rediscovered” in the 1980s, inspiring a new generation of architects worldwide in a movement that was labeled “deconstructivist.”

Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 78-79

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 3/4 x 9 5/16″ (29.9 x 23.6 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 11/16 x 9 3/8″ (29.7 x 23.8 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

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24
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars’ at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City

Exhibition dates: 20th June – 27th September 2015

 

Even after nearly six years of making this website, I still get a thrill bringing you the next posting.

And what a posting it is.

Even as their countrymen lay starving in the cities and dying on the fields of battle in World War One, the Romanov’s still kept spending. Oh how the once mighty fell in a heap of their own making. But sometimes you just need a bit of dynastic, debauched (and beautiful) bling to brighten your capitalist day … and to remind you that nothing lasts forever and karma will always have its way.

As a t-shirt in an op-shop that I saw today said, “Workers … possess the power.” And that is why governments, tyrants and despotic royalty will always be afraid of them.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov. 'The Holy Virgin of Kazan, Saint Prince Aleksandr Nevskii, Saint Mary Magdalene' 1891

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov (1830-1888)
The Holy Virgin of Kazan, Saint Prince Aleksandr Nevskii, Saint Mary Magdalene
1891
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt.
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov (1830-1888), Russian jeweller, silversmith, goldsmith, enameller, merchant, industrialist. Hallmark: П.О. or П.Овчинниковъ in a rectangle. Trained in his brother’s workshop and opened a factory in Moscow, where he revived the art of enamelling and worked in the Neo-Russian style. Official purveyor to Tsar Alexander III, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and King Christian IX of Denmark. Awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Order of the Iron Crown. Member of the Moscow City Duma.

Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Яросла́вич Не́вский; pronounced [ɐlʲɪˈksandr jɪrɐˈslavʲɪtɕ ˈnʲɛfskʲɪj] Ukrainian: Олександр Ярославович Не́вський); 13 May 1221 – 14 November 1263) served as Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most difficult times in Kievan Rus’ history.

Commonly regarded as a key figure of medieval Rus’, Alexander – the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest – rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over German and Swedish invaders while agreeing to pay tribute to the powerful Golden Horde. He was proclaimed as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church by Metropolite Macarius in 1547. Popular polls rank Alexander Nevsky as the greatest Russian hero in history.

 

Russian. 'Imperial Diamond Brooch' 1890–1910

 

Russian
Imperial Diamond Brooch
1890-1910
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Russian. 'Crown Brooch' 1890-1910

 

Russian
Crown Brooch
1890-1910
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Elephant Box' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Elephant Box
before 1899
Nephrite, ivory, gold, rubies, diamonds
3.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (9.53 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Upon the death of Hiskias Pendin in 1882, Carl Fabergé took sole responsibility for running the company. Carl was awarded the title Master Goldsmith, which permitted him to use his own hallmark in addition to that of the firm. Carl Fabergé’s reputation was so high that the normal three-day examination was waived. For several years, Carl Faberge’s main assistant in the designing of jewellery was his younger brother, Agathon Faberge (1862-1895), who had also trained in Dresden.

Carl and Agathon were a sensation at the Pan-Russian Exhibition held in Moscow in 1882. Carl was awarded a gold medal and the St. Stanisias Medal. One of the Fabergé pieces displayed was a replica of a 4th-century BC gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure in the Hermitage. The Tsar declared that he could not distinguish the Fabergé’s work from the original and ordered that objects by the House of Fabergé should be displayed in the Hermitage as examples of superb contemporary Russian craftsmanship. The House of Fabergé with its range of jewels was now within the focus of Russia’s Imperial Court.

When Peter Carl took over the House, there was a move from producing jewellery in the then fashionable French 18th century style, to becoming artist-jewellers. Having acquired the title of Supplier to the Court from Tsar Alexander III on May 1, 1885, Fabergé had full access to the important Hermitage Collection, where he was able not only to study but also to find inspiration for developing his unique style. Influenced by the jewelled bouquets created by the eighteenth century goldsmiths, Jean-Jacques Duval and Jérémie Pauzié, Fabergé re-worked their ideas, combining them with his accurate observations and fascination for Japanese art. This resulted in reviving the lost art of enamelling and concentrating on setting every single stone in a piece to its best advantage. Indeed, it was not unusual for Agathon to make ten or more wax models so that all possibilities could be exhausted before deciding on a final design. Shortly after Agathon joined the firm, the House introduced objects deluxe: gold bejewelled items embellished with enamel ranging from electric bell pushes to cigarette cases, including objects de fantaisie.

In 1885, Tsar Alexander III gave the House of Fabergé the title; ‘Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Elephant Box' (detail) before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Elephant Box (detail)
before 1899
Nephrite, ivory, gold, rubies, diamonds
3.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (9.53 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Monumental Kovsh' 1899–1908

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Monumental Kovsh
1899-1908
Silver, chrysoprase, amethyst
15 x 27.5 x 12.25 in. (38.10 x 69.85 x 31.12 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Monumental Kovsh' (detail) 1899-1908

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Monumental Kovsh (detail)
1899-1908
Silver, chrysoprase, amethyst
15 x 27.5 x 12.25 in. (38.10 x 69.85 x 31.12 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

The Kovsh is a traditional drinking vessel or ladle from Russia. It was oval-shaped like a boat with a single handle and may be shaped like a water bird or a norse longship. Originally the Kovsh made from wood and used to serve and drink mead, with specimens excavated from as early as the tenth century. Metal Kovsh began to appear around the 14th century, although it also continued to be carved out of wood and was frequently brightly painted in peasant motifs. By the 17th century, the Kovsh was often an ornament rather than a practical vessel, and in the 19th century it was elaborately cast in precious metals for presentation as an official gift of the tsarist government.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Star Frame' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Star Frame
before 1899
Gold, enamel, pearls, glass, ivory
3 x 2.625 x 3.5625 (diameter) in (7.62 x 6.67 x 9.05 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Star Frame' (detail) before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Star Frame (detail)
before 1899
Gold, enamel, pearls, glass, ivory
3 x 2.625 x 3.5625 (diameter) in (7.62 x 6.67 x 9.05 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Plate' 1899–1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Plate
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Feodor Ivanovich Rückert, Russian silver- and goldsmith of German origin, Fabergé workmaster. Born in Moscow in 1840. Worked with Carl Fabergé from 1887. His mark Ф.Р. (F.R. in Russian Cyrillic) can be found on cloisonné enamel objects made in Moscow, sold independently or by Fabergé.

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Plate' (detail) 1899–1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Plate (detail)
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

“More than 230 rare and storied treasures created by the House of Fabergé will be celebrated in a new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars will be on view from June 20 through September 27, 2015. The exhibition, drawn from the Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, will showcase Karl Fabergé’s fine craftsmanship in pieces of jewelry and adornments once belonging to the Russian Imperial family.

“This exhibition represents a double honor for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art – the opportunity to collaborate with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and to showcase the largest Fabergé collection outside of Russia,” said E. Michael Whittington, OKCMOA President and CEO. “The technical and artistic virtuosity of the Fabergé workshop is without parallel. Individually, these objects are breathtaking. Collectively, they represent a unique window into an empire and subsequent revolution that dramatically altered 20th century history. We are proud to present such an extraordinary collection of treasures to our community.”

From dazzling Imperial Easter eggs to delicate flower ornaments and from enchanting animal sculptures to cigarette cases, photograph frames and desk clocks, Fabergé often turned the most mundane objects into miniature works of art. The vast majority of his designs were never repeated, and most pieces were made entirely by hand. The success of his business was inextricably linked to the patronage of the Romanov dynasty and the close ties among the British, Danish and Russian royal families, who often exchanged works by Fabergé as personal gifts.

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912, which will be on view at OKCMOA, was a gift to Empress Alexandra from her husband, Emperor Nicholas II. The egg commemorates their son, Alexsei, who nearly died the previous year of hemophilia. For the shell, craftsmen joined six wedges of highly prized lapis lazuli and hid the seams with an elaborate gold filigree encasement. Inside the egg, a diamond encrusted Romanov family crest frames a two-sided portrait of the young child.

These objects were associated with refinement and luxury because the House of Fabergé was known for accepting nothing less than perfection as well as for being business savvy. Beyond the elegant showrooms in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, hundreds of the country’s finest goldsmiths, enamellers, stone carvers, gem cutters and jewelers were at work creating innovative and complex designs that could not be readily imitated.

The presence of the Romanov family – Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children – is most intimately felt in the exhibition through the display of more than 40 family photographs held in enameled Fabergé frames. These family photographs and jewels were some of the only possessions the Romanovs took with them when they were forced out of St. Petersburg during the Revolution. In an effort to preserve their wealth, the Romanov daughters are said to have sewn Fabergé jewels into their undergarments. In the end, their diamond-lined corsets managed to prolong their execution and sealed the fate for the inevitable fall of the dynasty.”

Press release from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Christ Pantocrator,' 1914–17

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Christ Pantocrator
1914-17
Oil on panel, silver gilt, filigree silver, precious and semiprecious stones, seed pearls
11.875 x 10.125 in. (30.16 x 25.72 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantocrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator (Greek: Παντοκράτωρ) is, used in this context, a translation of one of many names of God in Judaism. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Sabaoth “Lord of Hosts” and for El Shaddai “God Almighty”. In the New Testament, Pantokrator is used once by Paul (2 Cor 6:18). Aside from that one occurrence, the author of the Book of Revelation is the only New Testament author to use the word Pantokrator. The author of Revelation uses the word nine times, and while the references to God and Christ in Revelation are at times interchangeable, Pantokrator appears to be reserved for God alone.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846–1920). 'Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg' 1903

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Vasilii Zuiev, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1870-unknown
Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg
1903
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Peter, the Great Egg, is a jewelled Easter egg made under the supervision of the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé in 1903, for the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. Tsar Nicholas presented the egg to his wife, the Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. Made in the Rococo style, the Peter the Great Egg celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703.

Executed in gold, the curves are set with diamonds and rubies. The body of the egg is covered in laurel leaves and bulrushes that are chased in 14-carat green gold. These symbolize the source of the “living waters”. The spikyheads are set with square rubies. White enamel ribbons inscribed with historical details encircle the egg. On the top of the egg is an enameled wreath which encircles Nicholas II’s monogram. The bottom of the egg is adorned with the double-headed imperial eagle, made of black enamel and crowned with two diamonds.

The paintings representing the “before” and “after” of St. Petersburg in 1703 and 1903. The front painting features the extravagant Winter Palace, the official residence of Nicholas II two hundred years after the founding of St. Petersburg. Opposite this, on the back of the egg, is a painting of the log cabin believed to be built by Peter the Great himself, representative of the founding of St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva River. On the sides of the egg are portraits of Peter the Great in 1703 and Nicholas II in 1903. Each of the miniatures is covered by rock crystal. The dates 1703 and 1903, worked in diamonds, appear on either side of the lid above the paintings of the log cabin and Winter Palace, respectively.

Below each painting are fluttering enamel ribbons with inscriptions in black Cyrillic letters. The inscriptions include: “The Emperor Peter the Great, born in 1672, founding St. Petersburg in 1703”, “The first little house of the Emperor Peter the Great in 1703”, “The Emperor Nicholas II born in the 1868 ascended the throne in 1894” and “The Winter Palace of His Imperial Majesty in 1903.”

The surprise is that when the egg is opened, a mechanism within raises a miniature gold model of Peter the Great’s monument on the Neva, resting on a base of sapphire. The model was made by Gerogii Malychevin. The reason for this choice of surprise is the story of a legend from the 19th century that says enemy forces will never take St. Petersburg while the “Bronze Horseman” stands in the middle of the city.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg' (detail) 1903

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Vasilii Zuiev, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1870-unknown
Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg (detail)
1903
Gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, enamel, bronze, sapphire, watercolor on ivory, rock crystal
4.25 x 3.125 (diameter) in. (10.80 x 7.94 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg' 1912

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg
1912
Lapis lazuli, gold, diamonds, platinum or silver
5.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (on stand) (14.61 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg, created by workmaster Henrik Wigström, has six lapis lazuli segments with doubleheaded eagles, winged caryatids, hanging canopies, scrolls, flower baskets, and sprays that conceal the joints. It is set with a large solitaire diamond at the base, and a table diamond (a thin, flat diamond) on top over the Cyrillic monogram AF (for Alexandra Feodorovna) and the date 1912. The surprise found inside is a portrait painted on ivory, front and back, of the tsesarevich in a diamond-set, double-headed eagle standing on a lapis lazuli pedestal. In addition to assisting Perkhin with 26 imperial eggs, Henrik Wigström produced 20 to 21 additional eggs between 1906 and 1916, including this masterpiece.

Henrik Immanuel Wigström (1862-1923) was one of the most important Fabergé workmasters along with Michael Perchin. Perchin was the head workmaster from 1886 until his death in 1903, when he was succeeded by his chief assistant Henrik Wigstrom. These two workmasters were responsible for almost all the imperial Easter eggs.

Once in Madsén’s employment, his master’s trade with Russia, as well as his numerous business contacts here, brought him to work in St. Petersburg. It is unknown who employed Wigström on his arrival in the capital, but Wigström became assistant in 1884, at the age of 22, to Perchin, whose shop at that time was already working exclusively for Fabergé. Wigström became head workmaster at Fabergé after Perchin’s death in 1903. The number of craftsmen in Wigström’s workshop diminished drastically with the outbreak of World War I. By 1918, the Revolution forced the complete closing of the House of Fabergé. Aged 56, Wigström retreated almost empty-handed to his summer house, on Finnish territory, and died there in 1923.

His art is similar to Perchin’s but tends to be in the Louis XVI, Empire, or neo-classical style. Nearly all the Fabergé hardstone animals, figures and flowers from that time period were produced under his supervision.

 

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Pelican Easter Egg' 1897

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Johannes Zehngraf, Painter of miniatures Russian, 1857-1908
Imperial Pelican Easter Egg
1897
Gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls, watercolor on ivory
4 x 2.125 (diameter) in. (10.16 x 5.40 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Michael Evlampievich Perchin (Russian: Михаил Евлампьевич Перхин) (1860-1903) was born in Okulovskaya in Olonets Governorate (now Republic of Karelia) and died in St. Petersburg. He was one of the most important Fabergé workmasters along with Henrik Wigström. Perchin became the leading workmaster in the House of Fabergé in 1886 and supervised production of the eggs until his death in 1903. The eggs he was responsible for were marked with his initials.

He worked initially as a journeyman in the workshop of Erik August Kollin. In 1884 he qualified as a master craftsman and his artistic potential must have been obvious to Fabergé who appointed him head workmaster in 1886. His workshop produced all types of objets de fantasie in gold, enamel and hard stones. All the important commissions of the time, including some of the Imperial Easter Eggs, the renowned “Fabergé eggs”, were made in his workshop. His period as head Fabergé workmaster is generally acknowledged to be the most artistically innovative, with a huge range of styles from neo-Rococo to Renaissance.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Pelican Easter Egg' (detail) 1897

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Johannes Zehngraf, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1857-1908
Imperial Pelican Easter Egg (detail)
1897
Gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls, watercolor on ivory
4 x 2.125 (diameter) in. (10.16 x 5.40 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Johannes Zehngraf (born April 18, 1857 in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark; † February 7, 1908 in Berlin) was a Danish painter of miniatures and chief miniaturist in the house of Carl Peter Fabergé in St. Petersburg. He was the son of painter and photographer Christian Antoni Zehngraf  and Rebecca de Lemos and married on January 27, 1880 in Aalborg Caroline Ludovica Lund (* June 30, 1856; † after 1908), the daughter of Carl Ludvig Lund and Pouline Elisabeth Poulsen.

Zehngraf  learned in Aalborg with his father the art of photography and worked at first as a photographer, later in Aarhus, Odense and Malmö (1886-1889). The small-scale retouching his photographs led him then to miniature painting. As a miniaturist he settled down in 1889 in Berlin and counted the European royal houses to its customers. He led the photographic realism with their richness of detail in his painting. Portraits of the Russian Emperor Alexander III., His wife, the Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Danish Princess Thyra and a series of portraits of eleven miniature effigies of the Danish King Christian IX family testify to his skill. He painted, among others, the thumbnails on the Lily of the Valley Faberge Egg (1898)

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits' 1915

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström, Workmaster Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits
1915
Silver, enamel, gold, mother-of-pearl, watercolor on ivory, velvet lining
3 x 2.375 (diameter) in. (7.62 x 6.03 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits' (detail) 1915

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström, Workmaster Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits (detail)
1915
Silver, enamel, gold, mother-of-pearl, watercolor on ivory, velvet lining
3 x 2.375 (diameter) in. (7.62 x 6.03 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Ring Box' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Ring Box
before 1899
Gold, ruby, silk
1 (height) in. (2.54 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Rooster' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Rooster
c. 1900
Carnelian, diamonds, gold
1.5 x 0.5 x 1.25 in. (3.81 x 1.27 x 3.18 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Rooster' (detail) c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Rooster (detail)
c. 1900
Carnelian, diamonds, gold
1.5 x 0.5 x 1.25 in. (3.81 x 1.27 x 3.18 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Miniature Easter Egg Pendant' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Miniature Easter Egg Pendant
c. 1900
Gold, enamel, diamonds, sapphires
0.75 (height) x 0.5 (diameter) in. (1.91 x 1.27 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Miniature Easter Egg Pendant' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Miniature Easter Egg Pendant
c. 1900
Chalcedony, gold, diamonds
1.35 x 0.875 (diameter) in. (3.18 x 2.22 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Cane Handle' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Parasol Handle
before 1899
Bowenite, gold, diamonds, pearls, enamel
3¼ H x 1½ W (8.26 cm x 3.81 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Cane Handle' (detail) before 1899

 

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Parasol Handle (detail)
before 1899
Bowenite, gold, diamonds, pearls, enamel
3¼ H x 1½ W (8.26 cm x 3.81 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

The tapering, pentagonal parasol handle has panels of pink guilloché enamel painted with dendritic motifs within opaque-white enamel borders. A diamond is centered on each panel and Louis XVI-style floral decorations are set between the panels. Atop the handle is a brilliant-cut diamond finial in a rose-cut diamond surround with diamond-set fillets.

Marks : Early initials of workmaster Mikhail Perkhin, assay mark of St. Petersburg before 1899, 56 zolotnik

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Statuette of a Sailor' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Statuette of a Sailor
c. 1900
Agate, obsidian, aventurine quartz, lapis lazuli, sapphire
4.625 x 2.5 in. (11.75 x 6.35 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Loving Cup' 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917) 'Loving Cup' 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917) 'Loving Cup' (detail) 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup (detail)
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm
Closed: Monday and Major Holidays

Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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22
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Rodchenko: 
Revolution in Photography’ at WestLicht Gallery, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 11th June – 25th August 2013

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“The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.”

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“Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view
 […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.”

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“We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

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“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting. Foreshortenings with a strong distortion of the objects, with a crude handling of matter. Moments altogether new, never seen before… compositions whose boldness outstrips the imagination of painters… Then the creation of those instants which do not exist, contrived by means of photomontage. The negative transmits altogether new stimuli to the sentient mind and eye.”

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Alexander Rodchenko

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What an impression (on the sentient mind) this artist makes!

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Many thankx to the WestLicht Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club' 1932

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Alexander Rodchenko
Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club
1932
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Levels' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Levels
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sportsmen on Red Square' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sportsmen on Red Square
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Horse racing' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Horse racing
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sports parade. Girl with towels' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sports parade. Girl with towels
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Radio listeners' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Radio listeners
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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“Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a driving force in the Russian avant-garde and is considered one of the great innovators of photography in the first half of the 20th century. In 1924, already well-known as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist, he conquered traditional photography with the slogan “Our duty is to experiment!” Dynamic compositions, stark contrasts, unconventional angles and the use of photomontage are the defining characteristics of his photographic language.

Rodchenko’s visual compositions and constructivist manifestos have been highly influential in the development of modern photography. With more than 200 photographs on display, the exhibition explores Rodchenko’s dynamic vision and the extraordinary range of his work. Alongside renowned, iconic images like Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1924), Steps (1929) or Girl with a Leica (1934) WestLicht presents many rare vintage prints, which are complemented by a selection of Rodchenko’s posters, publications and typographic works.

As a prominent figure of constructivism, Rodchenko significantly shaped the development of Russian art in the early years of the Revolution. He was also a catalyst of a photography movement, similar to the New Objectivity pioneered by Albert Renger-Patzsch in Germany and the Group f/64 in the USA. “New, unexpected foreshortenings, unusual perspectives, bold light and shadow combinations reproduce fragments of the social reality that are as sharp and clear as possible” (Catalogue for Film and Photo Exhibition, Stuttgart, 1929).

The development of this new reality involved a radical departure from traditional perspectives. As Rodchenko pointed out in an essay on Ways of Contemporary Photography, in 1928: “The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.” Central to Rodenchko’s argumentation was the belief that the camera could act as an active eye of contemporaries, destroying the primacy of the normal view – the navel perspective – established by painting. For Rodchenko the camera lens was “the pupil of the educated person in socialist society.”

Just as the revolution created the new socialist man and swept away the old order, photography should overcome the outdated perception and allow a modern outlook. “Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.” According to Rodchenko’s significant and much-quoted claim: “We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

Curated by Olga Sviblova, Director of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.”

Press release from the WestLicht Gallery website

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

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Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with Leica
1934
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Balconies. Corner of the house' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Balconies. Corner of the house
1925
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Guard at the Shukhov Tower' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Guard at the Shukhov Tower
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pines. Puschkino' 1927

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pines. Puschkino
1927
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Fire escape' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Fire escape
1925
Deduction on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Trumpeting pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Trumpeting pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'They gathered for the demonstration' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
They gathered for the demonstration
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Varvara Stepanova on a balcony' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
Varvara Stepanova on a balcony
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky's poem "Pro eto" (Darüber)' 1923

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Alexander Rodchenko
Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem “Pro eto” (Darüber)
1923
Reprint
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster "Knigi"' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster “Knigi”
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper, cut out and glued on pink paper.
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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WestLicht Gallery
Westbahnstraße 40,
1070 Vienna
T: +43 (0)1 522 66 36 -60

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun and public holidays 11 am – 7 pm

WestLicht Gallery website

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25
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th January – 5th May 2013

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“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master.”

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ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton

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Rediscovered! Rediscovered? Surely, such a splendid artist as Vishniac has never been away…

Revealing “a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range” – in other words traces of Josef Sudek, Walker Evans, Rodchenko and New Photography – Vishniac’s best work is a record of its troubled time: a photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. What the viewing public must be made aware of is the curatorial reinterpretation of his work, seeking as it does to solidify his place “among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.”

While some of the work on view may be new, the claims of curator Maya Benton (above) must be observed with a good deal of scepticism. What we need to understand is how his photographs are being interpreted across a range of frames of reference – from photojournalism, to social documentary photography and art – in order, as Maya Benton says, to “reposition” his iconic photographs within the broader tradition of social documentary photography. This repositioning is a form of re/visioning of an artist’s work to place it in a different context or frame of reference in order to increase its significance; or, by exclusion (as in the case of the S/M photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that have been occluded by the Mapplethorpe Foundation), another context, make the work of an artist more socially palatable than would otherwise be the case.

The interpretation of Vishniac’s photographs becomes problematic depending on what frame of reference one applies to them and how their interpretation is negotiated between multiple, fluid points of view. Repositioning an artist’s work within a broader context changes the nature of the interpretation of that artist’s work and raises the pertinent question: who is repositioning this work and for what reason(s); who is pushing that agenda and curatorial barrow (in Benton’s case it is because she wants Vishniac’s work to be seen as that of a modern master, to make the credibility of the exhibition and the artist more than it possibly is). What we must be fully aware of is the time and place in which Vishniac made the work and the conditions for its initial reception, not some stake in the ground claim of modern mastership.

Vishniac’s photographs frame the historical discourse of the end of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and the rise of Fascism in Germany with erudition – for the past, present and future. Any other claims to eclecticism, applying different “repositioning” in particular cases, seems inelegant and shows a lack of consistency in clear thinking. When you really look at his work there is a sensitivity to the human condition in his work that is outstanding, coupled with a clear compositional structure and use of chiaroscuro. He was an excellent visual artist who had strong previsualisation that is evidenced in the prints. These photographs make insightful comment on the surrounding culture at the time of their production. Nothing more grandiose need be said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the ICP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for another version of the image.

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Roman Vishniac. 'Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo' 1937-38

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Roman Vishniac
Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo
1937-38
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Cross section of a pine needle' date unknown

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Roman Vishniac
Cross section of a pine needle
date unknown
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) January 18 – May 5, 2013, brings together four decades of work by a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. The exhibition includes recently discovered vintage prints, moving film footage, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from Vishniac’s recently digitized negatives. His complex and visionary work, much of which is shown here for the first time, reveals a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range that solidifies his place among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.

Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Yet only a fraction of his work was published during his lifetime, most notably in A Vanished World (1983). Over the course of his career, Vishniac witnessed the sweeping artistic and photographic innovation of Weimar Berlin, the ominous rise to Nazi power in Germany, the final years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and immigrant life in America during and after the war.

“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master,” said ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton, who organized the exhibition.

Born in 1897 to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. As an amateur photographer, he took to the streets with his camera throughout the 1920s and ’30s, offering astute, often humorous visual commentary on his adopted city and experimented with new and modern approaches to framing and composition. Documenting the rise of Nazi power, he focused his lens on the signs of oppression and doom that soon formed the backdrop of his Berlin street photography. From 1935 to 1938, while living in Berlin and working as a biologist and science photographer, he was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), then the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. On New Year’s Day, 1941, he arrived in New York and soon opened a portrait studio. At the same time, he began documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life and established himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe and documented Jewish displaced persons camps and the ruins of Berlin. During this time, he also recorded the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, and the work of the JDC and other Jewish relief organizations in providing them with aid and emigration assistance.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from the early years in Berlin through the postwar period. The exhibition also includes a slideshow of 100 color science transparencies – digitized for the first time – of Vishniac’s microphotoscopy, taken from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. In addition to the exhibition, a primary task of the archive is to make this work available for research, in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

Press release from the ICP website

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]' c. 1935-36

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]
c. 1935-36
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]' c. 1935

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]
c. 1935
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' early 1930s

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Roman Vishniac
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac, 'Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance' Berlin, 1926

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Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance
Berlin, 1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York NY 10036
T: 212 857 0045

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Thursday – Friday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Closed: Mondays

International Center of Photography website

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27
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Primrose – Russian Colour Photography’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 25th January – 3rd April 2013

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A bumper posting on a fascinating subject. The portrait of Tolstoy is incredible; more poignant are the photographs pre-World War I (the last days of the Tsarist dynasty), and pre-World War 2 (Portrait of Yury Rypalov, below). People stare into the camera with no idea of the maelstrom about to descend…

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Many thankx to Foam for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Varvara Stepanova. 'Red Army Men' 1930

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Varvara Stepanova
Red Army Men
1930
Photomontage for Abroad magazine

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Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

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Boris Mikhailov
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

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Vasily Ulitin. 'Flame of Paris' 1932

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Vasily Ulitin
Flame of Paris
1932
Bromoil
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Men's talk' 1950s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Men’s talk
1950s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Rain' 1960s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Rain
1960s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Yakov Khalip. 'Sea cadets' End of 1940s

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Yakov Khalip
Sea cadets
End of 1940s
Artist’s colour print
On the reverse side text of congratulation to Alexander Rodchenko
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/ Moscow House of Photography Museum

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“The exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography takes place as part of Netherlands-Russia 2013. The title refers to the primrose flower, used metaphorically here to represent the many colours in which it appears during early spring. Primrose – Russian Colour Photography presents a retrospective of the various attempts in Russia to produce coloured photographic images. This process began in the early 1850s, almost simultaneously with the discovery of the new medium itself. The colouring technique, based on the traditional methods of craftsmen who added colour into a certain contour design, has determined a whole independent trend in the history of photography in Russia, from ‘postcard’ landscapes and portraits to Soviet propaganda and reportage photography.

The use of colour in Russia stems from the early 1850s and practically coincides with the invention of the medium itself. The term colour photography is slightly disingenuous, since at first it referred to a toning technique in which black and white photographs were painted by hand. Traditionally this technique was used by specialized tradesmen who added colour to the photographs according to certain methods and within the contours of the image. This technique became so popular that it started a trend in and of itself and to a large extent determined the appearance and aesthetics of colour photography in Russia. Initially used especially for portraits, pictorialist landscapes and nudes, it later also found favour with avant-garde artists. Interestingly enough these aesthetics also formed the starting point for Soviet propaganda and for portraits, political leaders and reportage.

Primrose – Russian Colour Photography can be viewed as a journey through various techniques and genres, meanings and messages, mass practices and individual experiments. The exhibition contains works by renowned photographers and artists such as Sergey Produkin-Gorsky, Ivan Shagin, Dmitry Baltermants and Robert Diament. But is also shows unique photos of Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stephanova, and recent works from the famous Luriki series by Boris Mikhailov, in which he mocked the visual culture of the Soviet propaganda.”

Press release from the Foam website

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Pyotr_Pavlov-WEB

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Pyotr Pavlov
Moscow. Lubianka
1910s
Offprint
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta' 1910-1911

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Piotr Vedenisov
Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta
1910-1911
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Nikolskoye Simbirsk province' 1910

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Piotr Vedenisov
Nikolskoye Simbirsk province
1910

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Alexander Rodchenko.' Race. "Dynamo" Stadium' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Race. “Dynamo” Stadium
1935
Artist’s gelatine silver print, gouache
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Meeting in the tundra' 1972

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Dmitry Baltermants
Meeting in the tundra
1972
From the Meetings with Chukotka series
Colour print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography at Foam, Amsterdam

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Primrose

“This exhibition with the metaphorical title Primrose demonstrates the appearance and development of colour in Russian photography from the 1860s to 1970s, and at the same time reveals the history of Russia in photography. With examples of works from classics of Russian photography such as P. Pavlov, K. Bergamasko, A. Eikhenvald, A. Rodchenko, V. Mikoshi, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants and B. Mikhailov, as well as unknown photographers, we can see how life in Russia changed in the course of a century as it endured historical and socio-political catastrophes, also the diverse roles that photography played during this period.

Colour became widespread in Russian photography at approximately the same time as in Europe – in the 1860s. This was dependent on the manual tinting of photographic prints with watercolour and oil paints, either by the photographers themselves or by artists working with them. Above all this applies to solo or family portraits commissioned as a keepsake. The photographic studios of Nechayev, Ushakov & Eriks and Eikhenvald produced thousands of tinted portraits that became an important part of the domestic interior.

People were eager to see their own image in colour, and moreover in a picturesque form. The colouring of early photographic shots could also hide imperfections in the prints, including those introduced on albumenised paper. With time this paper turned yellow. To conceal this, the paper was tinted green, pink and other colours and coloured with watercolours, gouache, oils, or later aniline dyes. Sometimes the photograph was partially redrawn during the process of tinting, and foliate embellishments or different items of interior decoration appeared in the background.

By the end of the 19th century, by the 1880s and 1890s, colour photography was extended to architectural, landscape and industrial subject matter. For instance, the photographic studio of the Trinity and St. Sergius Monastery (photographic studios attached to Russian monasteries became a very common phenomenon) produced numerous coloured architectural images of Orthodox churches.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russia was on the one hand undergoing active europeanisation, as reflected in the style of architectural structures, interiors, costume and way of life, but meanwhile there was also a search for national identity, and new interest in the national particularities of inhabitants in the Russian Empire. Entire series of tinted photographs appeared, depicting people in national costumes – Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Ukrainian, and so on.

With the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries people began to decorate their walls not only with tinted landscapes, but also photographs of industrial structures (eg Dmitri Yezuchevsky’s photograph Building the Bridge). In the early 20th century, in the 1910s, coloured photographs of Russian military officers, an important social class before the outbreak of the First World War, were particularly popular.

The photographic documentation of life in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century acquired the status of a State objective, largely because Tsar Nicholas II and his family were enthusiastic amateur photographers. In May 1909 Emperor Nicholas II gave an audience to the photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky. In 1902 Prokudin-Gorsky had first announced a technique for creating colour photographs, and in 1903 he published a brochure entitled ’Isochromatic Photography with Manual Cameras’. Prokudin-Gorsky used black-and-white plates sensitised according to his own formulae, and a camera of his own construction. Three rapid shots were taken successively through light filters coloured blue, green and red (the photographer managed to reduce the exposure time to an absolute minimum). From this triple negative a triple positive was prepared. A projector with three lenses in front of three frames on the photographic plate was used to view the shots. Each frame was projected through a colour filter of the same colour as that through which it had been photographed. A full-colour image appeared on the screen as the three images combined. Prokudin-Gorsky succeeded in making polygraphic reproductions of his shots, printed in the form of photo cards, and also as inserts for illustrated magazines.

Delighted with this invention, Emperor Nicholas II asked the photographer to take colour photographs of every aspect of life in the various regions that then constituted the Russian Empire. For this the photographer was issued with a specially equipped railway car. The government provided him with a small manned steamship able to traverse the shallows for his work on waterways, and a motorboat for the River Chusova. A Ford automobile was dispatched to Yekaterinburg for his shots of the Urals and the Ural mountain range. Prokudin-Gorsky was presented with official imperial documents that gave him access to all parts of the Empire, and government officials were ordered to assist Prokudin-Gorsky on his travels.

Meanwhile autochrome pictures by the Lumière brothers, with whom Prokudin-Gorsky worked after emigrating from Soviet Russia, became very popular in early 20th-century Russia. Autochromes, colour transparencies on a glass backing, were first produced on an industrial scale in 1907. Granules of potato starch tinted red, yellow and blue were applied to a glass plate. The granules worked as colour filters. Addition of a second layer of granules provided orange, violet and green hues. After that a light-sensitive emulsion was applied. The plate was exposed and developed. Autochromes could be viewed against the light, or projected with the aid of special apparatus, which at that time was manufactured by the Lumière brothers’ own company (diascopes, chromodiascopes, mirrored stereoscopes, etc.). The Lumière brothers’ autochromes were used, for example, by Pyotr Vedenisov, a prosperous nobleman and graduate of the Moscow Conservatoire, who settled in Yalta, in the Crimea, in the late 1880s. As was the case with the Lumière brothers’ autochromes, Vedenisov’s favoured subject matter was the photographer’s own family life. However, what was at first sight very private and personal photography later provided an excellent description of the typical lifestyle enjoyed by educated Russian noblemen in the early 20th century.

The onset of the First World War in 1914 and October Revolution in 1917 annihilated the Russia whose memory is preserved in the tinted photographs and autochromes of the second half of the 19th to early 20th centuries.

Vladimir Lenin and the new Soviet government actively supported photography in the early post-revolutionary years, seeing it as an important propaganda weapon for a country where 70% of the population were unable to read or write. At first there was emphasis on photo reportage, but very soon it became clear real change in a country where hunger and devastation ruled after the Revolution and Civil War was as insubstantial as the utopian dreams of ardent revolutionaries. From the mid-1920s photomontage was widespread in the Soviet Union, enthusiastically encouraged by the Bolsheviks. Photomontage allowed for a combination of documentary veracity and the new Soviet myths. In the 1920s it was practised by such highly talented modernists as A. Rodchenko, G. Klutsis, El Lissitzky, V. Stepanova and others. Photomontage embraced colour and became an ideological ‘visual weapon’.

From the mid-1920s A. Rodchenko regenerated the forgotten technique of hand colouring his own photographs. His use of tinting profited from his experience with photomontage (Mosselprom House Advertising Wall, Dynamo Running Stadium, etc.), and he also applied it to develop experiments with positive-negative printing (scenes from the film Albidum) and for very personal and even intimate portraits of his muse Regina Lemberg – Girl with Watering Can. In 1937, at the height of Stalin’s repression, A. Rodchenko began photographing classical ballet and opera, using the arsenal of his aesthetic opponents, the Russian pictorialists, who by that time were subject to even harsher repression in the Soviet Union than modernist photographers. For Alexander Rodchenko soft focus, classical subject matter and toning typical of pictorial photography were a mediated way of expressing his internal escapism and tragic disillusionment with the Soviet utopia.

In 1932 general rules for socialist realism were published in the USSR, as the only creative method for all forms of art, including photographic. Soviet art had to reflect Soviet myths about the happiest people in the happiest country, not real life and real people. On this Procrustean bed it was hard not only for modernism with its constructivist aesthetics, but even pictorialism, to fit into the aesthetics of Socialist realism.

Pictorialism was one of the most important tendencies of early 20th-century Russian photography, and Russian pictorialist photographers were awarded gold and silver medals at international exhibitions. Pictorial photography differed not only by the method of shooting and complex printing techniques intended to bring photography closer to painting, but also by the selection of traditional themes. Romantic landscapes and architectural ruins or nude studies were from the point of view of socialist realism dangerous remnants from the past. Some of the pictorialist photographers ended up in Stalin’s prison camps, and were forbidden from practising their profession or settling in the capital or other large cities. Those who remained at liberty – for example, Vasily Ulitin, a participant in major international photo exhibitions and recipient of medals and diplomas in Paris, London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo and Rome – tried with difficulty to adapt to the new reality and attempted to depict revolutionary subjects (Flames of Paris, Red Army Soldier), thereby gaining indulgence and the right to work from the Bolsheviks.

Almost simultaneously, in 1936 the German company Agfa and American company Kodak introduced colour film. Broad distribution and introduction to the amateur photography market were delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War. In the USSR colour photography only appeared at the end of the war. Production of Soviet-made colour film in the USSR was facilitated by German trophy equipment in 1946. From that year onwards Ivan Shagin and several other photographers began to relay their colour news chronicle to the country.

Before 1946 colour photographs of Soviet Russia were made only in isolated cases, on German or American film. Until the mid-1970s, in the USSR negative film for printing colour photographs was a luxury only available to a few official photographers who worked for major Soviet publications. It was used by such classics of Soviet photography as V. Mikosha, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants, V. Tarasevich, and others. All of them were in one way or another obliged to follow the canons of socialist realism and practise staged reportage. In those days even still life studies of fruit bore an ideological message, being photographed for cookery books in which the Soviet people could see produce that remained absent in a hungry postwar country, where the ration-card system of food distribution was still functioning (Ivan Shagin, Lemons and Fruit, 1949).

From the late 1950s, in the Khrushchev Thaw after the debunking of Stalin’s cult of personality, the canons of socialist realism softened and permitted a certain freedom in aesthetics, allowing photography to move closer to reality (Dmitri Baltermants’ series Arbat Square). In the postwar period, during the 1950s to 1960s life gradually improved and coloured souvenir photo portraits again appeared on the mass market. They were usually produced by unknown and ‘unofficial’ photographers, since private photo studios that had carried out such commissions since the mid-19th century were now forbidden, and the State exercised a total monopoly on photography by the 1930s. Boris Mikhailov copied and enlarged such kitsch colour photographs as souvenirs to supplement his income at his photo laboratory in Kharkov in the early 1970s. He began collecting them. They form the basis for a new aesthetics he developed in the Lyrics series from the early 1980s. By tinting these naïve photographs he revealed and deconstructed the nature of Soviet myths.

Colour transparency film appeared on the Soviet mass market in the 1960s and 1970s. As opposed to colour negative film that requires a complicated and expensive development process for subsequent printing, colour slide film could be developed even in domestic surroundings. Above all it was widely used by amateurs, who created transparencies that could be viewed at home with a slide projector. An unofficial art form emerging in the USSR at this time developed the aesthetics and means for a new artistic conceptualisation of reality, quite different from the socialist realism that still prevailed, although somewhat modified. Photography took a significant role in this unofficial art. It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Boris Mikhailov began photographing his series Suzi Et Cetera on colour slide film.

More than half a century of Soviet power after the 1917 Revolution radically altered Russia. The surrounding reality has fallen into decline, and people brought up on Soviet slogans never thought to pay attention. But this was the only reality offered by our perception, and Boris Mikhailov tries to develop its colour, humanise it with his attention and give it the right of existence. Photography textbooks of that period were made up of one-third technical formulae and two-thirds description of what to photograph, and how. The photographer was certainly not required or even allowed to take nude studies. Corporeality and sexuality are inherent signs of an independent individual, of selfhood. The Soviet system specifically tried to level out any sense of selfhood, smothering it and challenging such ideas with the collective community and the impersonal ‘we’ of the Soviet nation. In photographing Suzi Et Cetera Boris Mikhailov disrupts the norms and reveals characters, his own and that of his subjects. It was impossible to show these shots in public, but slides could be projected at home, in the workshops of his artist friends or the small, often semi-underground clubs of the scientific and technical intelligentsia, who began to revive during Khrushchev’s Thaw after the Stalinist repression. Boris Mikhailov’s slide projections are now analogous to the apartment exhibitions of unofficial art. By means of colour he displayed the dismal standardisation and squalor of surrounding life, and his slide performances helped to unite people whose consciousness and life in those years began to escape from the dogmatic network of Soviet ideology, which permitted only one colour – red.”

Curator Olga Sviblova
Director, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

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Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

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Boris Mikhailov
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

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Vladislav Mikosha. 'Portrait of Yury Rypalov' 1938-1939

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Vladislav Mikosha
Portrait of Yury Rypalov
1938-1939

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V. Yankovsky. '"In memory of my military service". Saint Petersburg' Beginning of 1910s

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V. Yankovsky
“In memory of my military service”. Saint Petersburg
Beginning of 1910s
Collodion, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Yelena Mrozovskaya. 'Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg' 1900s

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Yelena Mrozovskaya
Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg
1900s
Gelatine silver print, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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A. Nechayev. 'Portrait of girl' 1860s

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A. Nechayev
Portrait of girl
1860s
Salted paper, covered by albumen, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. 'Portrait of Lev Tolstoy' 23rd of May 1908

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Portrait of Lev Tolstoy
23rd of May 1908
Offprint
Collection Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta' 1914

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Piotr Vedenisov
Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta
1914

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta' 1911-1912

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Piotr Vedenisov
Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta
1911-1912
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress' 1914

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Piotr Vedenisov
Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress
1914
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta' 1910-1911

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Piotr Vedenisov
Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta
1910-1911
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Vasily Ulitin. 'Red Army man' 1932

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Vasily Ulitin
Red Army man
1932

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Show window' Beginning of 1960s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Show window
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Ivan Shagin. 'Fruits' 1949

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Ivan Shagin
Fruits
1949
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Robert Diament. 'He has turned her head' Beginning of 1960s

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Robert Diament
He has turned her head
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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06
Jul
12

Exhibition: ‘Building the Revolution: 
Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 with photographs by Richard Pare
’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 5th April to 9th July 2012

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Ooh, ooh, ooh, I’m in love with the design and the photograph of the Gosplan Garage! The garage survived the Second World War but, like the Cathedral Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, it is now hemmed in and surrounded by cars and apartments (see the YouTube video). Looking at early photographs of both buildings – in the basement of the Sagrada Familia if you go, the Cathedral surrounded by green fields and cows –  you realise what wonderful space they had to breathe, to exist in the world. Unfortunately, no more!

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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El Lissitzky
Sketch for Proun 6B
1919 – 1921
Pencil and gouache on paper
34.6 x 44.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Photographer unknown
Gosplan Garage: general view
c. 1936
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
13.6 x 20 cm
Architects: Konstantin Melnikov with V. I. Kurochkin, 1936
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Melnikov, Konstantin Stepanovich (1890-1974)

Born on the outskirts of Moscow into a poor family of peasant origin, Melnikov served a short apprenticeship as an icon painter and was then apprenticed to an engineering firm, one of whose owners noticed his talent for drawing and sent him to the Moscow Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He graduated initially in painting and then in 1917 in architecture. From 1918 he worked in a Mossovet architectural studio under Aleksei Schusev and Ivan Zholtovskii but his early projects for housing schemes show him abandoning the Classicism of his teachers. In his pavilion for the Makhorka tobacco firm at the 1923 All-Union Agricultural Exhibition Melnikov developed this exuberant angularity by giving different parts of the pavilion different heights and setting the sloping roofs at right angles to each other. Irregular fenestration and an external staircase – crowded with visitors in some photographs – add to the sense of animation. The construction is entirely of timber, the first evidence of Melnikov’s abiding interest in combining traditional materials with avant-garde design. His Soviet Pavilion for the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris would also feature timber construction, an animated roofscape and an external staircase. However, it achieved a more logical design by simplifying the plan into a rectangle bisected by stairs rising and descending across its centre. During the second half of the 1920s Melnikov completed five workers’ clubs in the Moscow region for the Rusakov (1927), Frunze, Kauchuk, Pravda and Burevestnik trades unions. He favoured interiors with large flexible spaces, sometimes using movable panels, and opposed the Functionalist tendency to create a large number of highly specialised areas. This gave him the freedom to mould bold internal volumes and create dramatic exteriors. His own house, consisting of two interlocking cylinders, was designed on the same principles (1927-31). His garages – Bahkmetevskaia, Novo Ryanskaia and Gosplan (1936) – on the other hand, though still characterised by dramatic exteriors, are based on a careful analysis of vehicular movement. Despite being briefly associated with ASNOVA, Melnikov appears a rather solitary figure, his beliefs about the design process differing from the main groupings of 1920s architects. Heavily criticised in the 1930s for his ‘Formalism’, he was largely excluded from employment and teaching and no significant buildings were constructed to his design during the last 40 years of his life.

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Photographer unkown
Bakery: exterior showing the four production levels
1938
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
9.3 x 14.6 cm
Engineer: Georgii Marsakov, 1931
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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In 1931 the engineer Georgii Marsakov designed a mass-production bakery in Moscow and the Narvskii Factory Kitchen opened in St Petersburg to provide communal eating facilities for local residents. Rapid expansion of motorised transport called for a significant reappraisal of the garage, for which Konstantin Melnikov produced four highly innovative designs in Moscow.

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Photographer unknown
Havsko-Shabolovskii residential block and Shabolovska Radio tower viewed from the walls of the Donskoy Monastery
1929
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.5 x 16.9 cm
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Liubov Popova
Spatial Force Construction
1921
Oil and marble dust on plywood
71 x 63.9 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Photographer unknown
DneproGES: dam under construction
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
12.3 x 17.3 cm
Aleksandr Vesnin, Nikolai Kolli, Georgii Orlov, Sergei Andrievskii, 1927-32
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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The DneproGES Dam and Hydroelectric Power Station (designed with Nikolai Kolli, Georgii Orlov and Sergei Andrievskii, 1927-32) represents not only Vesnin’s first important industrial project but also a major achievement of Stalin’s First Five Year Plan.

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The exhibition Building the Revolution sheds light on an area of the Soviet avant-garde that has remained relatively unknown in Europe and beyond: architecture. Even in Russia and the other successor states of the former Soviet Union the names of most of the architects have been largely forgotten. Their structures have not become part of the collective cultural memory to the extent that the “New Building” movement in the West has.

The exhibition presents this impressive chapter in the history of the avant-garde in an unusual way in that it binds together three thematic strands. Selected works of the early avant-garde, such as those of El Lissitzky, Gustav Klutsis, Liubov Popova, Alexander Rodchenko or Vladimir Tatlin, show the artists’ intense preoccupation from 1915 onwards with questions of form, space and texture. After the Revolution they were active in the various bodies concerned with the implementation of these ideals, such as the Commission for the Synthesis of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1919-20). It was there that the architects Nikolai Ladovskii, Vladimir Krinsky and the painter Rodchenko created the first designs for town planning and communal housing. In 1919 Tatlin produced his famous design for a “Monument to the Third International” – a complex engineering structure with moving spaces. Although never built, its visionary potential, and dynamic formal language influenced the later architecture of Constructivism. Whereas the impressive pictures and drawings of the Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki make clear what a role was played by architectural themes in the early artistic designs, vintage prints from the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow give an idea of the unleashing of architectural energies which took place a few years later. The historical photographs show that the new structures embodied a new age, not only in a typological sense, but in terms of scale. They towered above the old urban buildings and acted as a torch signalling the coming industrialization and transformation of the country. The photographs of the renowned British architectural photographer, Richard Pare, on the other hand, lead the viewer back to the present. Pare had begun to rediscover this lost avant-garde in 1993. In the course of several trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as to the former Soviet republics, he documented what remained of the buildings. His shots bring out their beauty and the inventiveness of their creators while at the same time tracing the course of their decay. In that sense they draw a picture of a post-Soviet society that is unaware of its extraordinary heritage.

What was new about this architecture was not only the formal idiom, but also the tasks it was supposed to perform. With the building of the new society workers’ clubs, trade union houses, communal apartments, sanatoria for the workers, state-owned department stores, party and administrative buildings, as well as power stations and industrial plants to modernize the country.

The first important structure to be erected after the Revolution was Vladimir Shukhov’s Shabolovka Radio Tower, built in the years 1919-22 and consisting of six hyperboloids mounted on top of one another. At 150 metres it was the tallest tower in the world of its kind at the time. Its elegant filigree structure became a symbol of how all that was old and ponderous could be surmounted. Rodchenko’s well-known photos of the radio tower – today seen as icons of avant-garde photography – stress the dynamics from above and below. Pare’s shots of the tower focus more on details, thus emphasizing the construction techniques of the time.

The achievements of Russian engineers like Shukhov, with their novel technical designs, influenced the development of an architecture that used clear, geometrical forms that were in keeping with its functions. In the course of the 1920s there arose two clearly defined tendencies in architecture: Rationalism and Constructivism. In 1923 representatives of the first founded the Association of New Architects (ASNOVA), whose leading light was Ladovskii. Among the Constructivists Alexander Vesnin and Moisei Ginzburg played major roles. In 1925 the Constructivist architects of Moscow joined together to form the Society of Contemporary Architects (OSA). There were also other tendencies as well as outstanding individualists, such as Konstantin Melnikov. Despite polemical squabbles among the tendencies a modern style of building had consolidated itself by the end of the 1920s.

In the course of the industrialization of the country under the first Five-Year Plan (1928-32) the building of new towns proceeded apace. This gave rise to questions concerning the concept of the city, for which various solutions were proposed, such as the “horizontal skyscrapers” for Moscow or Ladovskii’s “parabola” as the basic pattern of urban development. Quite a few of the buildings photographed by Pare were developed for communal living. The Narkomfin (People’s Commissariat for Finance) residential block built in Moscow in 1930 by Ginzburg and Ignati Milinis was one of the most experimental projects of that era. In addition to two floors of apartments it contained a communal canteen, a crèche, a gymnasium and a scullery. Other types of construction designed to promote the collectivist way of life were canteen kitchens, three of which were built in what was then Leningrad by a group associated with Iosif Meerzon and representing Rationalism. Workers’ clubs and palaces of culture offered numerous educational opportunities, symbolizing with their dynamic forms the role of the new class in the urban environment.

When in the mid-1930s the political climate in the Soviet Union underwent a fundamental change, and a monumental style of architecture based on Classical models found favour with the powers that be, this exciting chapter of avant-gardism came to an end and sank into oblivion.

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El Lissitzky
Monument to Rosa Luxemburg
1919 – 21
Pencil, ink and gouache on paper
9.7 x 9.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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M.A. Ilyin
Narkomfin Communal House: corner detail of residential block
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.6 x 8.0 cm
Architects: Moisei Ginzburg, Ignatii Milinis, 1930
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Moisei Ginzburg

There was also the exchange with the Europeans. Le Corbusier came to Moscow and met and shared ideas with a number of architects including Moisei Ginzburg, the founder of the Constructivist movement and its chief theoretician. His 1924 treatise Style and Epoch was the most influential document of the Constructivist movement. Because he was Jewish, he was prevented from undertaking his architectural training in Russia and went to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan. Aleksandr Rodchenko travelled to Paris with Melnikov, who built the Soviet Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. They were all very well versed in European culture of the time. Ginzburg’s Style and Epoch responds to Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture of the previous year, but Ginzburg takes the warship and the communal house rather than the luxury liner and the private villa as his examples.

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Gustav Klutsis
Design for Loudspeaker No.7
1922
Pencil, ink and gouache on paper
26.9 x 17.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Alexander Rodchenko
Linearism
1920
Oil on canvas
110.5 x 78 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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M.A. Ilyin
Melnikov House: entrance façade
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.7 x 9.0 cm
Konstantin Melnikov, 1927-31
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
T: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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