Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Foreign Photographers In Soviet Odessa

Foreign Photographers In Soviet Odessa: These photographs were taken in Odessa of the 1970-80s by foreign photographers Ian Berry and Peter Marlow. In fact only one photo belongs to the second. Some of the shots seem to be gloomy, could it be because foreign photographers … Read more...

Victor Borisov-Musatov

Requiem. 1905. Watercolor. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

Victor Musatov (he appended the name Borisov later) was born on April 14, 1870 in Saratov, Russia, in the family of a minor railway official who had been a serf. In his early childhood he had suffered a bad fall, which left him humpbacked for the rest of his life. The tact and understanding of his parents, who encouraged his fondness for art, and the lessons of the young painter Konovalov contributed much to the formation of his artistic personality.

In 1890 Musatov left his native town to enroll in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Dissatisfied with the system of teaching at the school, which was then going through a severe crisis, he left for St. Petersburg a year later, hoping to receive better professional training at the capital's Academy of Fine Arts. But the conservative academic system of training did not appeal to him, and only in the private school of Tchistyakov, a well-known teacher of the Academy, could he work with real enthusiasm. The damp climate of St. Peterburg told on Musatov's health and made him return to Moscow in 1893, where he renewed his studies at the Moscow School. Musatov's earliest works, shown at a students' exhibition, were sharply criticized and labeled decadent. They brought the displeasure of the school authorities upon him, but at the same time evoked warm sympathy in his fellow students. Due to his energy and resolution he finally became the leader of a circle of young painters bent on discovering new methods in art.

In 1895 Musatov left the Moscow School and went to Paris, where he worked for three winters, perfecting his drawing skills in the school of Fernand Cormon, a mediocre painter of historical subjects who was, however, an excellent teacher. His contact with contemporary French painting had a decisive effect on his life and work. "My artistic possibilities widened," said Musatov later. "Much of what I had dreamt of I now saw achieved and this led to more ambitious dreams as I saw new horizons in my work." He got to know Impressionism in its pure, "classical" manifestation. He was fascinated by the works of Berthe Morisot, her sunny paintings – free and bold and at the same time full of feminine tenderness. He was already familiar with some features of Impressionism, but others, as, for example, the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist technique of the divided stroke, he studied with great attention. At the same time he was deeply interested in the works of Symbolists, who attracted him with their sincerely poetic vision of the world or, as he called it, their "dream of harmony." He especially admired the paintings of the father of Symbolism, Puvis de Chavannes, the idol of all young painters who yearned for "dreams, emotions and poetry." He regarded Puvis' murals as a revival of monumental decorative painting, an art form he was to aspire to all his life.

Musatov spent the summer months of 1896 and 1897 in Saratov, working tirelessly on his studies. In his little garden on a quiet street leading down to the Volga he painted small boys in the nude, attempting to convey the changes of color caused by the changing daylight. He also did many sketches and studies of his younger sister, who constantly sat for him. All this was preparatory work for the large canvases he was to paint later.

In 1898 Musatov finally returned to Russia. Almost immediately after his return, Musatov fell into depression, which is now termed "fin de siècle nostalgia." The reason for this was his painfully acute reaction to many aspects of the reality which surrounded him, the social contradictions of "the cruel, the truly iron age." Musatov's desire to escape from this "dirt and boredom," this "devil's bog," from the spirit of money-grabbing and the petty bourgeois life around him became more pressing. He found a way out, at least spiritually, in creating a unique pictorial world, half invented, half realistic. A similar escape into their personal world of feeling and images was the fate of many Russian and European artists, poets and composers at the turn of the century. These were also the years when Musatov abandoned the technique of oil painting. Tempera, along with watercolor and pastel, became his favorite medium. ...

Essays on Russian Novelists: Dostoevsky

File:Vasily Perov - Портрет Ф.М.Достоевского - Google Art Project.jpg

The life of Dostoevski contrasts harshly with the luxurious ease and steady level seen in the outward existence of his two great contemporaries, Turgenev and Tolstoi. From beginning to end he lived in the very heart of storms, in the midst of mortal coil. He was often as poor as a rat; he suffered from a horrible disease; he was sick and in prison, and no one visited him; he knew the bitterness of death. Such a man's testimony as to the value of life is worth attention; he was a faithful witness, and we know that his testimony is true.

Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born on the 30 October 1821, at Moscow. His father was a poor surgeon, and his mother the daughter of a mercantile man. He was acquainted with grief from the start, being born in a hospital. There were five children, and they very soon discovered the exact meaning of such words as hunger and cold. Poverty in early years sometimes makes men rather close and miserly in middle age, as it certainly did in the case of Ibsen, who seemed to think that charity began and ended at home. Not so Dostoevski: he was often victimised, he gave freely and impulsively, and was chronically in debt. He had about as much business instinct as a prize-fighter or an opera singer. As Merezhkovski puts it: "This victim of poverty dealt with money as if he held it not an evil, but utter rubbish. Dostoevski thinks he loves money, but money flees him. Tolstoi thinks he hates money, but money loves him, and accumulates about him. The one, dreaming all his life of wealth, lived, and but for his wife's business qualities would have died, a beggar. The other, all his life dreaming and preaching of poverty, not only has not given away, but has greatly multiplied his very substantial possessions." In order to make an impressive contrast, the Russian critic is here unfair to Tolstoi, but there is perhaps some truth in the Tolstoi paradox. No wonder Dostoevski loved children, for he was himself a great child.

He was brought up on the Bible and the Christian religion. The teachings of the New Testament were with him almost innate ideas. Thus, although his parents could not give him wealth, or ease, or comfort, or health, they gave him something better than all four put together.

When he was twenty-seven years old, having impulsively expressed revolutionary opinions at a Radical Club to which he belonged, he was arrested with a number of his mates, and after an imprisonment of some months, he was led out on the 22 December 1849, with twenty-one companions, to the scaffold. He passed through all the horror of dying, for visible preparations had been made for the execution, and he was certain that in a moment he would cease to live. Then came the news that the Tsar had commuted the sentence to hard labour; this saved their lives, but one of the sufferers had become insane.

Then came four years in the Siberian prison, followed by a few years of enforced military service. His health actually grew better under the cruel regime of the prison, which is not difficult to understand, for even a cruel regime is better than none at all, and Dostoevski never had the slightest notion of how to take care of himself. At what time his epilepsy began is obscure, but this dreadful disease faithfully and frequently visited him during his whole adult life. From a curious hint that he once let fall, reenforced by the manner in which the poor epileptic in "The Karamazov Brothers" acquired the falling sickness, we cannot help thinking that its origin came from a blow given in anger by his father.

Dostoevski was enormously interested in his disease, studied its symptoms carefully, one might say eagerly, and gave to his friends minute accounts of exactly how he felt before and after the convulsions, which tally precisely with the vivid descriptions written out in his novels. This illness coloured his whole life, profoundly affected his character, and gave a feverish and hysterical tone to his books. ...

William Lyon Phelps

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Marina Tsvetaeva: Bound for Hell





Hell, my ardent sisters, be assured,
Is where we’re bound; we’ll drink the pitch of hell—
We, who have sung the praises of the lord
With every fiber in us, every cell.

We, who did not manage to devote
Our nights to spinning, did not bend and sway
Above a cradle—in a flimsy boat,
Wrapped in a mantle, we’re now borne away.

Every morning, every day, we’d rise
And have the finest Chinese silks to wear;
And we’d strike up the songs of paradise
Around the campfire of a robbers’ lair,

We, careless seamstresses (our seams all ran,
Whether we sewed or not)—yet we have been
Such dancers, we have played the pipes of Pan:
The world was ours, each one of us a queen.

First, scarcely draped in tatters, and disheveled,
Then plaited with a starry diadem;
We’ve been in jails, at banquets we have reveled:
But the rewards of heaven, we’re lost to them,

Lost in nights of starlight, in the garden
Where apple trees from paradise are found.
No, be assured, my gentle girls, my ardent
And lovely sisters, hell is where we’re bound.

TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY STEPHEN EDGAR

Velimir Khlebnikov - Biography



Victor Khlebnikov (Velimir) was born on October 28th, 1885 (according to the Gregorian calendar used in Russia inXIX century, on November 9th according to European calendar). His birthplace was so-called ulus – administrative unit of Kalmykia in the Lower Volga where his father was a head of the local authorities. Khlebnikov’s mother belonged to the Russian nobility.
Victor had two brothers and two sisters. At first they had a good education at home. Then Victor attended a school and left it with a good certificate, in which it was written that he studied mathematics with great interest. In 1903 he entered the Kazan University on mathematics.
After taking part in a student demonstration he was arrested and spent a month in prison. Soon after he left the University. Nevertheless next year he entered it once again this time on biology.
But his passion for literature was so great that in 1908 he left for Petersburg (then the capital of Russia). There he frequented poetic meetings, bohemian cafes. The symbolists Vjacheslav Ivanov and Mikhail Kuzmin became his teachers of poetry. There he took as a pseudonym a South-Slavonic name Velimir.
But symbolist’s view of the poetry was different to Khlebnikov’s view. Soon he drew closer to young poets and artists who dreamed about changes in the art. Khlebnikov together with Vasilij Kamenskij, Burljuk brothers, Elena Guro and Mikhail Matjushin took part in composing the manifestos and collections of the new literary school called futurism. Then Aleksey Kruchenyh and Vladimir Majakovskiy joined the group. The first collection of theirs works A Trap for Judgeswas published in 1910 and the famous manifesto A Slap in the Face of Public Taste in 1912. They cultivated the shocking behavior, they used a great number of coinages in their poetry. They enriched the Russian poetry by the new subjects, they renewed the whole poetry technique.
But Khlebnikov had his special subjects too. He interested in the archaic world (poem I and E), in relation between nature and civilization (poems The CraneA Shaman and Venus), etc. Khlebnikov’s friends liked most of all his experiments with words such as famous The Incantation of the Laugh or Bobeobi.
After the beginning of the World War I the Futurist’s group activity reduced and after the Socialist Revolution in 1917 ceased at all. In 1916 Khlebnikov was conscripted into the army. He welcomed the Revolution as the realization of the idea of the World-wide Freedom.
At this time Khlebnikov discovered (as it seemed to him) the law that governed the whole events in human history. According to his theory the greatest battles on land and sea, downfall of empires, etc. took place in strict order with strict periodicity. And therefore if one could discover this periodicity it would be possible to predict the future and so there would be no need of wars in future. This idea can be retraced in all of his works including the last ones Zangeziand The Tables of the Destiny. The Revolution liberated him from the services.
After the Revolution the poet traveled a lot. He had “the hungry for space” – as he said. He visited many places in the country. His only trip abroad was the march with the Red Army to Persia in 1921 for helping the Gilan Republic. The impression of the march was reflected in his poem Goul-mullah’s trumpet and Iranian cycle of verses. In Persia he was called Russian dervish.
Living from hand to mouth, lack of his own home affected his health. At the beginning of 1922 Khlebnikov came to Moscow hoping of publishing his works. In spring 1922 Khlebnikov together with an artist Peter Miturich left for a village Santalovo near Novgorod. There he died on June 28th, 1922.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Kandalaskha: life beyond the Arctic Circle

What would it be like to live beyond the Arctic Circle?

Welcome to the town of Kandalaskha (Кандалакша) where 36,000 people live in an area that in many ways shares a sense of life perhaps in rural areas near you. A longtime friend from the Appalachians asked recently what it was like in Kandalaskha. Of course he’d discovered a lady of interest on the Internet there and was curious about life in her part of the world.


At first I was about to say that very few things represent the same between his little slice of the world and hers. But then after a moment to ponder, I began to realize how many things are much the same. Of course there is no seaport, no large body of water, no seals swimming up to people, and no large oil production in Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Tennessee. There is no passenger train service several times daily and Appalachian and Cumberland states are much warmer in winter.


But there are some striking similarities: In both regions there is coal, poverty, poorly maintained roads, the good character of most residents even in the face of chronic unemployment, the wide open outdoors, opportunities for camping-hunting-fishing, kids who take school seriously, parents who care about their children, families that go to church and pray together. folk who drink beer all Friday night, good drivers, bad drivers, movie theatres, love of sport, talented artists and musicians, and corrupt politicians.
Yes, life may very different in Kandalaskha when compared to a rural area near you. Yet if you look closely, I think you’ll see that in many ways life is pretty much the same.
That is a good thing. 

Thank you the mendeleyev journal

Soviet People And Collective Farms

Soviet People And Collective Farms: It was a whole epoch. The country was trying to come back to normal life after the war. Old and young people were spending their lives at the collective farms and it was as hard as hell. Women gave birth … Read more...

Mayakovsky Fever



It is no secret that Russians love to idolize their poets.

In recent weeks the city has seen a resurgence in events dedicated to the works and lives of Russia’s favorite poets and bards, such as Kino frontman Viktor Tsoi and Soviet legend Vladimir Vysotsky.

In a new festival that began Friday at Mod club, titled “Mayakovsky Takoi,” which can be roughly translated as “Mayakovsky As He Is,” the Silver-Age poet Vladimir Mayakovsky joins the list of venerated great lyricists, in a program of events that stretches over four weekends.

The poet, who shot himself in 1930, is a cult favorite among Russians of all generations, as was evident at the festival’s launch on Friday, at which hip youths, grunge rockers and elegant elderly women intermingled freely. The program of the night was dedicated to love lyricism, and included an opening lecture on constructivism as well as recitations of Mayakavosky’s poetry set to a musical accompaniment and a closing concert headlined by Jenia Lubich.

An exhibit of artworks has also been assembled for the festival. Created by students, amateurs and local artists, as well as award-winning contemporary artists such as Igor Cholariya, and disabled youth from the Osobiye Masterskiye organization, the exhibit will travel to Moscow and Riga after the festival ends.
According to the organizers, the festival is aimed at “proving Mayakovsky’s relevance to today by revitalizing the persona and ideas of the poet in various genres … reinterpreted by the young poets, actors, beginner artists and musicians of St. Petersburg.”

“Our main goal is to popularize the poetry of Mayakovsky among youth subcultures,” said Yulianna Matrosova, the festival’s main organizer.

It is this popularization that accounts for the diversity of genres and formats included in the program. Children’s poetry, a dance theater performance and a reggae ska concert will be held on Oct. 26 at Mod, while Nov. 2 will see a lecture on film posters during the day at Radio Baby bar and a program called “The Dark Side of Mayakovsky” in addition to a late-night dark electro concert with a ’20s dress code at Dada club that same night. The festival will close with readings of social and revolutionary poems back at Mod club on Nov. 10. Each day of the festival begins with a lecture on subjects such as the avant-garde and agitprop.

The last event of the festival is likely to be the most resonant, as the hallmark of Mayakovsky’s work was satirical and biting criticism of capitalism and bourgeois society. Alexia Kan, a local artist who contributed to the art exhibit with her work “Mayakovsky and Me Against the New Bourgeois” and helped to organize it, spoke to The St. Petersburg Times about the relevance of Mayakovsky today.

“The festival doesn’t dictate anything in terms of politics,” she said. “Everyone has their own view. But you can see the relationship between the works on show and such things as the revolution that the youth is waiting for, as well as recent events such as Pussy Riot.

“The artists used the groundwork of Mayakovsky to express their views about the current day and revolutionary ideas,” she said.

More here.

Gold of Silver Age - Osip Mandelstam



One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Osip Mandelstam, - a brilliant figure of Russia’s Silver Age, a prophet poet who fell out of favour, yet became a Russian classic, - would have turned 120 on January 15th. The fellow poets referred to him as whimsical, abrasive, soul-stirring and a man of genius.

The memorable date will be marked by literary soirees and conferences, a festival and a number of exhibitions in many Russian cities until the end of this month. But these will be basically held in the cities that have to do with the poet’s tragic life, such as St. Petersburg, where Mandelstam lived since early childhood and whence he left for Heidelberg University and the Sorbonne in Paris prior to 1917, to attend lectures. Another Mandelstam-related Russian city is Voronezh, in Central Russia, where he lived in exile under Stalin’s regime. Yet another such city is Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast, where Mandelstam died in a Stalin concentration camp at the age of 47.

Still, Moscow will account for the greater part of the celebration of Mandelstam’s 120th birth anniversary. It was in Moscow that Mandelstam fell in love with Marina Tsvetayeva, another Russian classical poet that introduced him into Moscow literary circles and made a critical analysis of his creative endeavour, says Vladimir Krizhevsky, a leading research fellow with the State Literary Museum in Moscow, in an interview with the Voice of Russia, and elaborates.

Tsvetayeva and Mandelstam had tender feelings for each other, says Vladimri Krizhevsky, and had a brief affair, but it was more about poetry, than about love. Mandelstam dedicated 8 poems to Tsvetayeva, and she dedicated to him about as many of her own poems. But in 1915 and 196 they grew aware of their differences. She was more of a futurist poet, while Mandelstam was closer to the 19th century poetry, namely to Gavriil Derzhavin, Fyodor Tyutchev, that is to poets of lofty style.

It is widely held that Osip Mandelstam was an unworldly person, had no house of his own, and was aloof from public and political life. But such claims are disproved by the fact that the punitive bodies of both the Imperial and Soviet Russia trumped up political charges against him. According to Vladimir Krizhevsky, Mandelstam did not engage in politics, he just acted in a dignified manner whenever coming across the manifestations of diktat by the authorities. Here’s more from Vladimir Krizhevsky.

Situations of this kind arose, Vladimir Krizhevsky says, whenever the authorities breached moral statutes that could never be violated by anything or anyone, or so he thought. Once Mandelstam saw in what was known as the Poets’ Café in Moscow a man at a table, filling in a written form with the surnames of people that were to be arrested or even executed by shooting. When Mandelstam realized what was going on, he grabbed the forms and tore them to pieces. The move was prompted by his moral sense, and it would be wrong to make a politician of him. But this was only true until 1934, when he realized that he ought to adopt a position of active citizenship.

In the early 1930 he assailed Stalin with an epigram and read it out loud on many occasions. He was arrested, exiled and deprived of his civil rights. But the second report to police in 1938 resulted in his death in a concentration camp under unclear circumstances.

Besides attacks against despotic rule, his creative effort has yet another “mutinous” quality, namely it was not clear to a majority of the population. According to the famous contemporary poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the larger part of Mandelstam’s poetry is meant for just as culturally educated people as Mandelstam himself. According to Yevtushenko, the Soviet ideological bureaucracy instinctively felt implicit danger in his poetry just because they could not understand it.

Small wonder that Mandelstam’s name was blue-pencilled from Russian literature, but decades later it resurfaced both in Russian, and in many languages of the East and the West. Some like Mandelstam as a classical poet, as “Pushkin’s echo”, - as the outstanding 20th century poet Iosif Brodsky put it. But others, Brodsky says, “like him for staring the world in the face, a look that’s comparable with an attempt to describe its molecular substance from within. This is something that no one else can boast of”…

Voice of Russia

Konstantin Makovsky: Kuzma Minin appeals to the people of Nizhny Novgorod to raise a volunteer army against the Poles



Konstantin Yegorovich Makovsky was an influential Russian painter, affiliated with the "Peredvizhniki (Wanderers)". Many of his historical paintings, such as The Russian Bride's Attire (1889), showed an idealized view of Russian life of prior centuries. He is often considered a representative of a Salon art.

Konstantin was born in Moscow as the older son of a Russian art figure and amateur painter, Yegor Ivanovich Makovsky. His mother was a music composer, and hoped his son would one day follow up.

In 1851 Konstantin entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture where he became the top student, easily getting all the available awards. His teachers were МM.I. Skotty, pupils of Karl Brullov. Makovsky's inclinations to Romanticism and decorative effects can be explained by the influence of Briullov. Although art was his passion, he also considered what his mother had wanted him to do. He set off to look for composers he could refer to, and first went to France. Before, he had always been a classical music lover, and listened to many pieces. He often wished he could change the tune, or style of some of them to make them more enjoyable. Later in his life, it came true.

After talking to various musicians, conductors, and composers of his day, he enjoyed France very much and set off to "fix" the pieces. He tried and succeeded in Cannon in D, Fur Elise, Cadimendia, Rhapsody in Blue, and many other famous pieces. He was a hit! Everyone liked his new style, and decided to make more. But then realized how much into art he was. He wanted to impress his father, so went back to art. In 1858 Makovsky entered the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. From 1860 he participated in the exhibitions of Academia with paintings such as Curing of the Blind (1860) and Agents of the False Dmitry kill the son of Boris Godunov (1862). In 1863 Makovsky, together with the other 13 students eligible to participate in the competition for the Large Gold Medal of Academia, refused to paint on the set topic in Scandinavian mythology and instead left Academia without a formal diploma. Makovsky became a member of a co-operative (artel) of artists led by Ivan Kramskoi, typically producing Wanderers paintings on everyday life (Widow 1865, Herring-seller 1867, etc.). From 1870 he was a founding member of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions and continued to work on paintings devoted to everyday life. He exhibited his works on both the Academia exhibitions and the Traveling Art Exhibitions of the Wanderers.

A significant change in his style occurred after traveling to Egypt and Serbia in the mid-1870s. His interests changed from social and psychological problems to the artistic problems of colors and shape.

In the 1880s he became a fashioned author of portraits and historical paintings. At the World's Fair of 1889 in Paris he received the Large Gold Medal for his paintings Death of Ivan the Terrible, The Judgement of Paris, and Demon and Tamara. He was one of the most highly appreciated and highly paid Russian artists of the time. Many democratic critics considered him as a renegade of the Wanderers' ideals, producing (like Henryk Siemiradzki) striking but shallow works, while others see him as a forerunner of Russian Impressionism.

Makovsky became a victim of a road accident (his horse-driven carriage was hit by an electric tram) and died in 1915 in Saint Petersburg.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Boris Pasternak: To Love Another is a Heavy Cross



To love another is a heavy cross;
you are beautiful, without guile,
to discern your secret
solves the riddle of life together.
Spring hears the sounds of dreams
and the rustling of truth and its message.
Your family gave you firm foundations.
Your essence is as unselfish as the wind.
It’s easy to wake and start to see,
and shake off the rubbish from one’s heart,
and, then, live, clearly, without confusion,
All of this… it’s not so hard.

1931

Moscow: Thirty Years Later

Moscow: Thirty Years Later: Moscow is rapidly changing, new high-rise buildings are growing and some people like it, others – don’t. Here’s a selection of photos to compare Moscow of the 80s with Moscow of the present days. Now there is a communication salon … Read more...

Nikolay Zabolotsky: Autumn



When day is done and nature doesn't choose
The light to her own taste,
The spacious halls of autumn woods
Stand open to the air like clean houses.
Hawks live in them, and crows pass the night,
The clouds above them drift like ghosts.

The substance of autumn leaves has dried
And blanketed the land, while in the distance
A large four-legged creature
Walks, lowing, towards a misty village
Bull, bull! Is it true you are no longer king?
A maple leaf reminds us all of amber.

O Autumn Spirit, give me strength to rule my pen!
In the air's structure there's diamond.
The bull retreates beyond the bend,
The sun's mass
Hangs like a misty ball above the land
And glittering, bloodies the land's edge.

Turning a round eye under its lid
A large bird flies low.
Its glide suggests a human being.
Or, at the very least he hides
In embryonic state between the wide wings.
A beetle opens up its little house amidst the leaves.

The architecture of autumn. Its arrangement
Of airy space, woods, river,
The arrangement of animals and people,
When through the air the rings and curls of leaves
Are flying and the light is of a certain cast,-
This, among other signs, is what we choose.

A beetle opens up its little house amidst the leaves
And poking out its horns, looks out,
The beetle digs up various roots
And puts them in a pile,
Then bugles through its tiny horn
And hides again, a tiny god.

But here comes the wind. All that was clean,
Spacious, shiny, dry,-
All has turned gray, unpleasant, hazy,
Indistinct. The wind dispels the smoke,
Tosses the leaves into piles, whirls the air,
And explodes the surface of the land like powder.

And all of nature starts to freeze.
A maple leaf, like copper,
Resounds against a tiny twig.
And we must understand this as a sign,
The nature sends to us
As she sets out on another season.

1932

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Vasily Perov: Pugachev's Judgement




Vasily Grigoryevich Perov is one of the most predominating figures in Russian painting of the 1860s. He lived at a time when an artist’s indifference to social problems was considered immoral in Russia. And it was Perov who took up a vital and most complicated task of establishing the principles of critical realism. His pictures carried strong social implication and thus became an important landmark in the history of Russian painting.

Vasily Perov was an illegitimate son of the baron G. K. Kridiner, an Arzamas prosecutor. In 1846, he entered the Art School of Stupin in Arzamas, where he got his nickname of Perov (from Russian pero, pen) for his good handwriting. Since 1853 till 1861, Perov studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.

For his Sermon in a Village, painted as a diploma work in 1861, the St. Petersburg Academy awarded Perov the Grand Gold medal and subsidized his trip abroad. The same year, 1861, Perov’s Easter Procession in a Village was removed from the exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of Artists for the insult to the clergy. In connection with this picture one of Perov’s contemporaries remarked, ‘Instead of Italy Perov might be exiled to the Solovetsky Islands.’ The work was the manifest of critical realism. Both the subject matter and the handling of it were new and unusual. Perov advisedly chose to paint the reality plain and even filthy. Perov’s Easter Procession in a Village marked the beginning of a new period leading to Repin’s Religious Procession in the Province of Kursk.

For his foreign studies Perov chose France. In Paris, Perov, in his own words, ‘made a considerable progress in the technique of painting’ though he did not create anything truly significant there, and even before his stipendiary period had been over, Perov returned to Russia.

In 1865, a year after he had returned from Paris, Perov completed the Last Journey, a painting with an intentionally uncomplicated subject matter clear to all and sundry. The Troika, Perov’s most expressive work produced in 1866, is especially typical of his style, the diagonal ground, sky, and houses. The motion of the little tuggers too agile to harmonize with the burden they carry only accentuates the symbolically excruciating tone of the picture. The ethic tonality of the Troika is similar to Dostoyevsky’s theme of the humiliated and insulted or the eternal reproach to the world of injustice and enmity expressed in his motif of ‘a child’s tear’. Perov’s style reached maturity in the Last Tavern at Town Gate (1868). More generally, the same holds for Russian realistic art with its focus on the conjunction of social predilection and artistic completeness.

In the 1870s, Perov made some historical paintings. He produced Pugachev’s Judgment (1870) and Nikita Pustosvyat. Dispute on the Confession of Faith (1880). At the same time, he was still prolific in the genre, which is exemplified by his elegiac Old Parents Visiting the Grave of Their Son (1874), widely famous Hunters Resting (1871), monumental Peasant in the Field (1876), sorrowful and disturbing Peasants Returning from a Funeral in Winter (1880?), and the Pigeon Fancier (1874). But having come a long way from the Easter procession in a Village to the Found Drowned and the Last Tavern, Perov had paid his tribute to the genre: its further development towards the truly national painting was to be connected with the name of Ilya Repin.

In 1871, Perov, together with Ivan Kramskoy, Nikolai Gay, and Grigory Miasoyedov became a founder of the Itinerants’ Society of Traveling Exhibitions. Also in 1871, Perov became a professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, he turned out to be an excellent teacher; among his students were such outstanding Russian painters as Sergey (?) Korovin, Andrey Riabushkin, Nikolai Kasatkin, Mikhail Nesterov and others.

At the end of the 1860s, Perov turned to portraiture in which he was equally pioneering. Exploring life, he discovered a variety of interesting characters and was able to convey their graphic individuality and profundity, e.g. Thomas the Owl (1868) or Wanderer (1870). These paintings were the beginning of a whole gallery of peasant portraits increased later by Kramskoy, Repin, and Maximov.

In the 1870s, Perov created a series of portraits of the Russian people of culture. Only an artist who fully understood the task and responsibility of portraiture could have achieved this characterization, passionate and devoid of everything vain and contingent. So, in the portraits of Anton Rubenstein (1870), Alexander Ostrovsky (1871), Feodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Dahl, Mikhail Pogodin, and Apollon Maikov (1872) we see a brilliant combination of a faithful and, at the same time, critical rendering and a profound delineation of character.

Life was changing, the art of painting was developing, and Perov saw and felt that he was falling behind, but he could not change his own manner. In the late 1870s the artist did not manage to create anything interesting. The painter died in 1882 from tuberculosis.

Sergei Rachmaninoff video and voice

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Underground Magic

Underground Magic: Ruskealsky gap is a place in Karelia. It’s a huge hole about ten meters (33 ft) deep with water on its bottom. As locals say it formed in the 1960s after strong explosions in the neighbouring quarry. The roof of … Read more...

Zinaida Gippius: Today on earth



That is a difficult,
Such a shameful,
Nearly impossible –
What a difficult task:

Raise eyelashes and look
Into the face of a mother
Whose son has been killed.

It is best not to say a thing.

Monday, 22 October 2012

In One of the Oldest Moscow Houses

In One of the Oldest Moscow Houses: There is a nice place in Moscow – a house of the Volkov-Yusupovs. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Moscow, it was built in the XVII century and was painted and decorated in the end of the XIX century … Read more...

Vladimir

It is not for nothing that Vladimir is called the gate of the Golden Ring of Russia: for over 250 years it fulfilled most important functions as the capital of the Old Russian State. Its outstanding ancient churches and cathedrals remain the true decoration of the city and attract tourists from all over the world here.

The city of Vladimir with the population of 350 thousand people stands on the left bank of the Klyasma River. Nowadays this historical city is a significant trade and transport center with numerous industries.

Points of interest

Assumption Cathedral (12th century)Crystal, Lacquer Miniatures and Embroidery exhibition featuring the crafts of Gus-Khrustalny and other nearby towns takes place by the Golden Gate, in the red-brick old Believer’s Trinity Church (1913-16). To the east of the St. Dmitry Cathedral one can see the white wall of the Nativity Monastery (1191-96). This was the most important monastery in Russia until the 16th century. Alexander Nevsky's body was buried here until moved to St. Petersburg by order of Peter I in 1724.

Vladimir offers several more noteworthy examples of Old Russian architecture, the most interesting of them being the Dormition Cathedral at the Princess' Convent.

Dormition Cathedral 
One of the foremost constructions of Vladimir architecture is the Protection Church on Nerl, built in 1165, in the epoch of Andrey Bogolyubsky. The church was dedicated to the holiday of Our Lady’s Protection.

RiC

Ivan Bunin: Rusia



He leaned to the window, and she leaned on his shoulder.

“Once I spent a vacation in this area,” he said, “I was a tutor in a summer cottage, about five miles away from hear. Boring place. Scarce woods, magpies, mosquitoes, and dragonflies. No decent landscape whatsoever. In the cottage, one could only enjoy the skyline from the attic. The house, of course, was very Russian-style and very unattended – it belonged to an impoverished family – with a strip of land behind it that bore some resemblance to the garden. Behind that garden was either a lake or a swamp, all plant-filled with pond lilies and with a usual boat by the boggy bank.

“And a languid provincial girl you gave rides across this swamp.”
“Of course, just the way it always is. The girl however, was far from being the languid kind. I gave her rides mostly at nights, and it had a certain poetry. In the west, the sky was greenish all night, and transparent; on the horizon, just like now, something was burning down… We found only one oar and it looked more like a spade. I was rowing like a savage, to the left and to the right sides. The opposite shore was dark from the woods, but behind it, the strange half-light stayed. Adding up to this landscape was the absolute silence, just mosquitoes and dragonflies. I have never thought they were active at night – but they are, for some strange reason. That’s eerie…

“So, what happened between you and the girl? A real romance? You’ve never told me about her. What was she like?”

“Lean, tall. She wore yellow cotton sleeveless dress and peasant boots on her bare feet, knitted out of bright wool.

“Russian-style also?”

“More poverty-style, I’d say. Nothing to wear, hence the sleeveless dress. Besides that, she was an artist, she studied fine arts at the Stroganov Academy. She herself looked like a painting, an icon even. Long black braid down her spine, dark face with little black moles, perfectly shaped lean nose, black eyes, black eyebrows… Her hair was dry and thick, with curls. All of it, against the yellow robe and the white sleeves of her shirt, stood out nicely. Her feet in the knitted boots – all lean, with bones sticking out under the dark skin.”

“I know this type. I had a friend at the courses, like her. Must be a hysterical type.”

“Possible. All the more, she bore resemblance to her mother, and her mother, some princess with eastern blood, had a sort of a black melancholy. She would only appear at the table. She came out, sat down, and kept quiet, only coughed without looking up and meddled with the flatware. If she did say something, always loud and unexpected, it made me startle.”

Translated by Ekaterina Shubnaya, RT

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Paying tribute to Shostakovich


Beyond the decades of controversy, political tumult, and suffering Dmitri Shostakovich endured, there is of course, his singular and arresting music.

However at the same time it’s impossible to ignore his chaotic life, which veered from the highest acclaim to the deepest despair more than once. Few composers are as closely associated with Stalin as Shostakovich.

Stalin was fascinated with the composer, as he was with other artists such as the poet Boris Pasternak. Yet Shostakovich came very close to being purged, first during the Terror of the 1930s, and then again a dozen years later.

Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich's biography


Dmitri Shostakovich was born in 1906 in St. Petersburg and studied piano and composition at the conservatory. In 1934 Shostakovich collaborated with Aleksei Dikij on the legendary opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.” During the first months of the siege of Leningrad in 1941 Shostakovich was in the city. He survived the first bombardments and joined the “night watch” patrol, helping to put out fires during air bombardments. He was awarded the International Peace Prize (1954), State Prize five times (in 1941-1952) and was designated People’s Artist of the USSR. Shostakovich wrote 15 symphonies, of which the Fifth (1937), the Seventh “Leningrad” (1942) and the Thirteenth “Baba Yar” (1968) are the best known. Shostakovich died in 1975 in Moscow.
His music endures nonetheless, and it is emotionally resonant for music lovers today. Shostakovich wrote for people who suffer. “People today feel very powerless, that there are forces beyond their control,” said the Russian journalist and musicologist Solomon Volkov, who is well known for his books, the controversial “Testimony,” and the more recent “Shostakovich and Stalin.”

“Shostakovich expresses the voice of the individual,” Volkov added. “He always had sympathy for the powerless, oppressed by circumstances.”

Shostakovich was a populist composer, unlike Stravinsky, who believed in music for music’s sake. And unlike Prokofiev, who allegedly turned up his nose at gypsy music, Shostakovich used their tunes as well as Jewish themes.

In his opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District,” he portrays the murderous and adulterous Katerina sympathetically as a victim of a dysfunctional marriage and a tyrannical father-in-law.

Stalin famously walked out of a performance of this opera in Moscow in 1936, outraged by Shostakovich’s portrayal of figures of authority (the police as well as the father-in-law) as brutes. The tyrant being murdered by his victim was not acceptable, either.

The near-end of the composer’s career came in the form of an article in Pravda two days later. The piece called his work, “muddle instead of music,” attacking Shostakovich as being formalistic, coarse and vulgar. From that day, he lived in fear of arrest and execution.


 
It is often said that Shostakovich wrote film music for money or to appease the authorities (he wrote music for blatantly propagandistic films such as “Great Citizen” (1945) and “The Fall of Berlin” (1949), one of the major representations of Stalin’s cult of personality.
However Peter Rollberg, director of European and Euarasian studies at George Washington University, points out that the composer wrote for film even when his status in the Soviet Union was assured and he had no particular need to do so. ... 
More here.


Nikolay Nekrasov: Russia's Lament



Dost thou know, my native country,
Any house or corner lone
Where thy Tiller and thy Sower,
Russia's peasant, does not moan?

In the fields, along the highways,
In the cells and dungeons black,
In the mines in iron fetters,
By the side of barn and stack;

'Neath the carts, his nightly shelter
On the steppes so wide and bare,
All the air is filled with groaning
Every hour and everywhere.

Groans in huts, in town and village —
E'en the sunlight's self he hates—
Groans before the halls of justice,
Buffetings at mansion-gates.

On the Volga, hark, what wailing
O'er the mighty river floats?
'Tis a song, they say—the chanting
Of the men who haul the boats.

Thou dost not in spring, vast Volga,
Flood the fields along thy strand
As our nation's flood of sorrow,
Swelling, overflows the land.

O my heart, what is the meaning
Of this endless anguish deep?
Wilt thou ever, O my country,
Waken, full of strength, from sleep?

Or, by heaven's mystic mandate,
Is thy fate fulfilled to-day,
Singing thus thy dirge, thy death-song,
Falling then asleep for aye?

Abramtsevo: refuge of Slavophiles and cradle of Neo-Russian style

The famous Abramtsevo estate is situated 50 kilometres to the north of Moscow, in a dark forest of spruces, on a bank of the river Voria.It has been mentioned in Russian chronicles since the 18th century. In the 19th century, Abramtsevo became one of the most famous places associated with Russian culture. 90 years ago the estate was given the status of a state historical and literary museum.
An alley of old lime-trees leads to a wide yard and a wooden house. It is a small building with an attic and two porches, nothing grand. But still, the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov wanted the house in his play “The Cherry Orchard” to look exactly like the one in Abramtsevo. Another Russian literary classic, Turgenev , gave a detailed description of the house in his novel “The Noblemen’s Nest”. In an interview for “The Voice of Russia” Anna Kuznetsova from the museum’s staff said:
“It all began in 1843, when the estate was bought by the famous writer Sergey Aksakov. He was delighted with Abramtsevo’s surroundings. Actually, he became a writer here. He spent long hours on the river with a fishing-rod and suddenly had an idea to describe his many years of experience as a fisherman. It was then and there that he wrote his first book about fishing. The book was written in such a beautiful Russian language and with such enthusiasm that even people who had no idea about fishing enjoyed reading the book immensely and sent the writer presents. People representing the flower of Russian culture gathered in Aksakov’s house. Slavophilism as an important trend of Russian philosophy sprang up and developed here. Slavophiles advocated the unique character of Russia and sharply criticized noblemen for not knowing their native language."
"The special aura of Abramtsevo attracted its next owner, industrialist Savva Mamontov. He left a deep trace in Russian industry and Russian culture as well. Mamontov was a man of many talents. He had such a wonderful singing voice that he was even invited to sing in the famous La Scala in Milan, he was also a sculptor. But his main and very rare talent was seeing talent in other people. In Italy Mamontov met graduates of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts on a scholarship there. He had an idea to invite them to Abramtsevo. This was how the famous community was born, the Abramtsevo, or Mamontov’s circle. Its participants were united by their love of Russian nature, history and art. They were eager to paint Russian and not Italian landscapes.
Voice of Russia

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Vladimir Solovyov: Below the Sultry Storm



BELOW the sultry storm that seemed to lower,
An alien force, again I heard the call
Of my mysterious mate: the prisoned power
Of old dreams flared and flickered in its fall.

And with a cry of horror and of dolor—
As of an eagle in an iron vise—
My spirit shook its cage in quivering choler,
And tore the net, and issued to the skies.

And up behind the clouds, unswerving, bearing,—
Before the miracles—a flaming sea—
Within the shining sanctum briefly flaring,
It vanished into white infinity.

Deutsch and Yarmolinsky, comps. Modern Russian Poetry. 1921.

Ilya Repin, Moonlight, 1896

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Alina Ibragimova: 'The more I feel, the more I can express'


The violinist Alina Ibragimova doesn't do things the easy way. As a result, her playing possesses both terrifying rawness and electrifying energy.

There are some performers who don't so much interpret music as become it, as if it possesses them so completely that there is no difference in the moment of performance between the player, the music, the composer and their audience. And of all the brilliant young violinists around today, it's 27-year-old Alina Ibragimova who embodies this most completely. Her performances of repertoire from Bach – her radical, incendiary recordings of the solo sonatas and partitas were hailed as a classic – to Huw Watkins, from Beethoven to Karl Amadeus Hartmann, have an intensity and a commitment that makes her an utterly compelling musician.

I ask her where it comes from. "I've no idea," she says, "but I do think it's important that music should speak as directly as possible. We should always be trying to achieve something further in the music, something that's almost impossible."

Despite spending most of her life in the UK, Ibragimova still speaks with a heavy Russian accent. She weighs each word carefully, deliberately, as if language itself is somehow foreign for her, which all adds to the otherworldly impression that it's really in her music-making that she is most articulate, as if she requires her violin to communicate with the world. I ask her if she ever gets nervous when she plays. "No, never." For her, playing is as natural as breathing. "If I don't play for a while then I start to feel that something's wrong."
Her childhood, in Russia and the UK, was saturated with music. Her father, Rinat Ibragimov, is principal double-bass with the London Symphony Orchestra; he moved his family to Britain when he got the job. Alina was 10 at the time. Her mother is a violinist and teaches at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the super-musical hothouse in Surrey, alma mater of Nigel Kennedy and hundreds of others, where Alina herself studied. Was there a kind of violinist she wanted to be as a child, someone she wanted to emulate? "My mum, of course! And she made me listen to a lot of violinists. I remember listening to Menuhin's recording of the Beethoven concerto on a cassette, and Jascha Heifetz, and Vadim Repin, all of those. And I guess being a girl, I wanted to be Anne-Sophie Mutter." Mutter may have been an important role model, but Ibragimova's trademark wildly imaginative playing, with its combination of unleashed energy and historical awareness, is now in a different universe from the steely German superstar. ...

Read more here.
Tom Service guardian.co.uk © 2012

Vedomosti - Russian printed newspaper



On January 2, 1703, Vedomosti, the first Russian printed newspaper came out on order of Peter the Great.

Peter the Great found it essential to have printed media to lobby for his reforms among the population and saw it as an effective tool of asserting his power throughout the Russian state. In his decree, he ordered that all news coming from throughout the country and abroad be collected and published to be accessible to a wide audience for a modest fee. The Vedomosti was an official medium and Peter took an active part in selecting materials for publication, checking the quality of the translations and making corrections.

Vedomosti became the first printed newspaper in Russia, though the Courants, its hand-written predecessor, had been regularly issued since 1621, while separate single issues had been distributed even earlier, in 1600.

The hand-written Courants was published with only enough copies being written for the specific customers. Such a system significantly assisted the work of journalists as they, knowing their target-readers practically by sight, could easily select the appropriate news to report on. However, the advent of the printing press placed journalism on a different level: writers were now forced to investigate the preferences of their target-audience and select the content for their newspaper accordingly. If before the major circulation was distributed between the crème-de la-crème of the society and high state officials, now the paper was accessible to any literate citizen.

Emperor Peter, a notorious fan of all foreign innovations, had originally planned for the new edition to basically repeat a similarly published German print newspaper. However, setting aside structural semblance, Vedomosti had its individual character from the beginning, as, unlike the somewhat dry German copy, the Russian version was a lot more relaxed and reader-friendly.

Vedomosti normally contained articles about the military, industry, science and technology along with a special section featuring Russia’s valor displayed in the Northern war of 1700-1721, in the battles at Poltava, Cape Gangut, and the Baltic region. Aside from the purely military issues, the newspaper also covered a lot of social news, such as the construction of St. Petersburg, other cities and fortresses, as well as trade development. The major sources of information were official documents and reports from ambassadors. Also, the news was gathered from regional and foreign reports, coming into the so-called Ambassador’s Office, the predecessor of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Office also provided translators for articles from foreign media. ...

Russiapedia

Osip Mandelstam: The Falling Is the Constant...



The falling is the constant mate of fear,
And feel of emptiness is the feel of fright.
Who throws us the stones from the height --
And stones here refuse the dust to bear?

Once, striding in a monk’s unbending mode,
You pierced the yard from rim to other rim;
The cobble-stones and the coarse dream --
Have thirst for death and sadness of the broad-

Let Gothic shelter be in ruins turned
Where ceiling serves as a deceptive fable,
And in the heath the gaily logs don’t burn!

A few here for eternity were born;
But if your mind has only instant label
Your lot is awful and your home unstable!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Zinaida Serebriakova: Short Biography






At the 7th Exhibition of Russian Artists in Moscow in 1910, the Tretyakov Gallery purchased Serebryakova’s self-portrait “At the Dressing Table” and the gouache “Autumnal Greenery”. Critics noted the magnificence of her landscapes: the clear, bright tones, technical expertise, and unparalleled natural beauty. \ At the Dressing Table, 1909
 Self-portrait “At the Dressing Table”

Zinaida Serebryakova was born on the estate of Neskuchnoye near Kharkov. Her father, Yevgeny Lansere, was a well-known sculptor, and her mother, who was related to Alexander Benois, was good at drawing. One of Zinaida's brothers, Nikolai, was a talented architect, and her other brother, Yevgeny Lansere, had an important place in Russian and Soviet art as a master of monumental painting and graphic art.

Zinaida's childhood and youth were spent in St. Petersburg, where her grandfather the architect N. L. Benois lived, and at Neskuchnoye. The family was so artistic that no one was surprised by the girl's talent and desire to become an artist.

Her years of study did not last long. In 1901 she studied at the art school headed by IIya Repin, and later she was taught by Osip Braz. Zinaida's early works, which appeared at an exhibition in 1909, already showed her own style and field of interests. While studying classical art in the Hermitage and in the museums of France and Italy, she was drawn to the works of Tintoretto, Poussin, Jordaens and Rubens by their powerful plastic forms and national characters. But most of all she was captivated by the purity and chastity of Venetsianov's images. She could feel the importance of the simplicity and inner harmony inherent in Venetsianov's peasants and saw the inseparable link between these traits and Russian nature. 'I cannot see enough of this wonderful artist,' she wrote afterwards.

Another influence on the artist's work was her life at Neskuchnoye: she was delighted by the pure colours of the local countryside, by the leisureness of country life and by the freedom and plasticity of the movements of the peasants at work.

Ever since her youth Zinaida Serebryakova strove to express her love of the world and to show its beauty. Her earliest works—*Country Girl* (1906. RM) and *Orchard in Bloom* (1908, private collection)—speak eloquently of this search, and of her acute awareness of the beauty of the Russian land and its people. These works are etudes done from nature, and though she was young at the time, her extraordinary talent, confidence and boldness were apparent.

Broad public recognition came with Serebryakova's self-portrait *At the Dressing-Table* (1909, TG); first shown at a large exhibition mounted by the Union of Russian Artists in 1910.

Alexander Benois wrote about the portrait: 'A young woman lives in a remote country area ... and has no other pleasure, no other aesthetic enjoyment on winter days that seclude her from the whole world, than to see her gay young face in the mirror and to watch the play of her bare arms and hands with a comb ... Her face and everything else in the picture is young and fresh. There is not a trace of modernistic refinement. But the simple, real-life atmosphere, illuminated by youth, is joyous and lovely.'

The self-portrait was followed by *Girl Bathing* (1911, RM), a portrait of *Ye. K, Lansere* (1911, private collection) and a portrait of the artist's mother *Yekaterina Lansere* (1912, RM)—mature works, strict in composition.

In 1914-17 Zinaida Serebryakova was in her prime. During these years she produced a series of pictures on the theme of Russian rural life, the work of the peasants and the Russian countryside which was so dear to her heart: *Peasants* (1914-15, RM), *Sleeping Peasant Woman* (private collection).

The most important of these works was *Bleaching Cloth* (1917, TG) which revealed Zinaida Serebryakova's striking talent as a monumental artist. The figures of the peasant women, portrayed against the background of the sky, gain majesty and power by virtue of the low horizon.

The colour composition, built around a combination of large areas of red, green and brown, lends the smallish picture the character of a monumental-decorative canvas, or part of a large frieze. This magnificent work is like a hymn to peasant labour. Serebryakova joined the 'World of Art' Society, but stood out from the other members of the group because of her preference for popular themes and because of the harmony, plasticity and generalized nature of her paintings. When in 1916 Alexander Benois was commissioned to decorate the Kazan Station in Moscow, he invited Yevgeny Lansere, Boris Kustodiev, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Zinaida Serebryakova to help him. Serebryakova took on the theme of the Orient: India, Japan, Turkey and Siam are represented allegorically in the form of beautiful women. At the same time she began compositions on subjects from classical mythology, but these remained unfinished.

The deeply personal feminine element in Zinaida Serebryakova's work continued to develop, and this came to the fore particularly in her self-portraits: in them the naive coquetry of a girl alternated now with an expression of maternal joy, now with tender, lyrical sadness.

Many of the artist's plans were not to be realized. Her husband (Boris Serebryakov, a railway engineer) died suddenly of typhus, and Zinaida was left with her mother and four children on her hands. In 1920 the family moved to Petrograd. The elder daughter went in for ballet, and from then on the theme of the theatre ran through Serebryakova's work. The range of her work narrowed: most often she depicted ballerinas before a performance, and for all the merits and beauty of these pictures they cannot have statisfied her.

In the autumn of 1924 Serebrvakova went to Paris, having received a commission for a large decorative mural. On finishing this work she intended to return to Russia, where her mother and two children remained. But life turned out differently and she slaved in France. Serebryakova's long years away from Russia were full of nostalgia and brought her neither joy nor creative satisfaction. The works she produced after 1924 indicate that even in a strange land she still stuck to her favourite theme of popular life, remaining faithful to the art of realism.

Zinaida Serebryakova travelled a great deal. And everywhere, be it in Brittany, Algeria or Morocco, it was the common folk that appealed to her artist's mind. Among the best works she produced as a result of these travels are her portraits of peasants and fishermen in Brittany.

The salient feature of her later landscapes and portraits is the artist's own personality—her love of beauty, whether in nature or in man. And yet, the most important thing was missing—the connection with what was near and dear to her.

In 1966 a large exhibition of Zinaida Serebryakova's works was mounted in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev.

On 19 September 1967, at the age of eighty-two, Zinaida Serebryakova died in Paris.

Chagall Etchings for Dead Souls

La soirée chez le gouveneur / Evening fête at the Governor's house (Sorlier 5, Hannover 43). Original etching with drypoint, 1923-27. 335 unsigned impressions + 33 HC. No pencil-signed impressions exist. Inclulded in the 1970 BN show. Image size: 223x287mm.
Chagall (1887-1985) did not begin making etchings until 1921. After his return from Russia, he first tried his hand at etching in the prints he executed for his autobiography, My Life (Berlin, 1922-23). Moving to Paris, Chagall was approached by Ambroise Vollard, who wished to commission him to produce a set of etchings for a deluxe "livre de peintre" like the ones Vollard had already commissioned from Bonnard and Rouault. Chagall rejected Vollard’s choice of texts and instead suggested Gogol’s Dead Souls. The result is one of the masterpieces of modern art.Jean Adehmar’s brief summary in his Twentieth Century Graphics gives us some keys for entry into the work: "the numerous figures in profile show astonishing types; the Expressionist influence is very noticeable and the Russian atmosphere is admirably rendered." The characterizations of the people whom Chagall presents us are so striking that we instantly recognize them not simply as portaits of individuals but as representatives of the human comedy that so much of Chagall’s art illustrates for us. Nor is this effect diminished upon further viewing; rather it is strenghtened the more familiarity we gain with the images. As Franz Meyer has observed in Marc Chagall: His Graphic Work, the etchings paint a much larger mental canvas than mere individual types, showing Chagall’s "native Russia with its wind-swept vastness and, for all its bitter misery born of unreason and inertia . . . its inexhaustible, wholesome, joyous vitality as well." While there is satire and mockery in these plates, there is also acceptance and even love of the whole of human experience. As Meyer notes, "This entire world of stupidity, malice, and selfishness is rendered transparent through humor. . . . The basic incongruence of reality and appearance is so pointedly brought into relief that magnificently comical figures result. But this comedy is not a hostile satire or a pitiless record of these characters, with their weaknesses and their baseness. It is a liberating force which discloses the deep stream of exuberant life behind all the figures in the novel. Everywhere, running through all the comical elements, and borne along by a sort of inner joyfulness, there appears the fantastic, rich, inexhaustible reality of Russian life." ...