Art in Evacuation
"The spiritual atmosphere of the pre-war years had a most immediate impact on the development of Soviet art. I believe that there is no national culture in the world where war has generated such an immense upsurge of creative energy on a national scale. the arts during the Great patriotic War are both an aesthetic and social phenomenon. it is without precedent!"
FROM APRIL 17 TO OCTOBER 11 2015, THE INTERNATIONAL"CHERESHNEVY LES" OPEN ART FESTIVAL PRESENTS AT THE INSTITUTE OF RUSSIAN REALIST ART A HISTORICAL EXHIBITION TO MARK THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREAT VICTORY IN THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR. 'ART IN EVACUATION" IS DEVOTED TO CULTURAL EVENTS IN THE USSR DURING THAT CONFLICT, FEATURING PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS, THEATRE COSTUMES AND NEWSREELS FROM STATE AND PRIVATE ARCHIVES, AS WELL AS UNIQUE DOCUMENTS AND VIDEOS OF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS WITH ARTISTS WHO EXPERIENCED EVACUATION. THE ITEMS ON DISPLAY ARE DRAWN FROM THE INSTITUTE OF RUSSIAN REALIST ART, THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY, RUSSIAN MUSEUM, PUSHKIN MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOLSHOI THEATRE MUSEUM, MOSCOW FILM MUSEUM, CENTRAL MUSEUM OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR, MUSEUM OF ORIENTAL ART, AND THE SURIKOV ART INSTITUTE AND MOSCOW ACADEMIC LYCEUM OF ART UNDER THE AEGIS OF THE RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS, AS WELL AS FROM PRIVATE COLLECTIONS.
The famous dictum, Inter arma silent musae ("When guns speak, the muses remain silent"), cannot be applied to the life of the arts during the Great Patriotic War: it proved a period of unprecedented creative energy and great cultural accomplishments, when composers produced great music, stage directors created theatrical productions that achieved lasting fame, filmmakers made some of the major works of Soviet cinema, and outstanding artists displayed their works. Though it interrupted the course of peacetime life, the war did not stop the development of Soviet art, rather in many cases generating new meanings for it. The rescue of the artistic intelligentsia and the preservation of the country's cultural heritage became a top priority for the Soviet government, and that mission was funded as generously as the relocation of military industrial facilities. In extreme circumstances, under bombardment from the air, the packed train carriages departed eastwards - to Asia and the Trans-Urals - carrying from Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Kharkiv art institutions, theatre companies, film studios and museum collections. Living as evacuees in Samarkand, Tashkent, Almaty, Tbilisi, Nalchik, Kuibyshev (now Samara) and Ufa, artists, composers and directors fully committed themselves to their creative endeavours, transforming these cities into dynamic and busy working spaces. These difficult, horrendous and at the same time productive years are the focus of the project "Art in Evacuation", the main objective of which is to bring into relief the incredible efforts that went into preserving the country's cultural legacy, and to show that the bloodiest and most destructive war in history was also a period of intense cultural activity. The exhibition traces developments in the areas of visual art, theatre, music and cinema, and also highlights the process of evacuation itself and the everyday experiences of those who undertook such journeys.
The first section of the exhibition is devoted to the first days of the war and the events that took place in Moscow when the city was on the front-line. the unique archive of the war photographer Naum Granovsky allows us to follow the succession of radical transformations that the soviet capital underwent in the weeks following the announcement that German troops had crossed the borders of the USSR. Moscow's strategic buildings were camouflaged, and during the endless enemy air raids local people kept vigil on the rooftops, handling the incendiary shells and putting out fires in the city at night. artists captured these activities in numerous graphic series: one such figure was Nina Simonovich-Yefimova, who created a well-known series of watercolours dedicated to the Moscow metro, which served as a bomb shelter at that time. Together with her husband, the sculptor Ivan simonovich-Yefimov, she refused the offer of evacuation and, despite her ripe old age, worked in a military hospital in Lefortovo, creating dozens of portraits of wounded soldiers. the impressions from the night airraids and shelling, the bursting of anti-aircraft projectiles, air-raid warnings and the skies streaked with the beams of projectors are captured in Alexander Labas's brilliant series of drawings "Moscow and its environs in the Days of War" and in Nikolai Sokolov's watercolours.
Mass evacuation from Moscow began in the first months of the war as writers, musicians, artists and actors were taken by train to the distant regions of the Soviet Union. The train-cars were stuffed with stage-sets, costumes, musical instruments, boxes with paints and bundles of books - in short, everything that could be of use for work in these new locations. The architectural design of the exhibition, created by Andrei Shelutto and Anton Fedorov, fully immerses viewers in the atmosphere of the evacuees' life. The pavilion where the film documentaries are screened is styled as a heated freight car, with showcases for exhibits resembling the wooden boxes in which paintings were shipped, while explanatory texts and captions appear in the form of telegrams.
In their preparation for the project, its curators collected a huge amount of unique material, including exclusive interviews with those who had taken direct part in these wartime events. In addition to the notes from private journals and other documentary evidence, the show features, for instance, excerpts from the unpublished diaries that Maria and Vladimir Favorsky kept while in Samarkand; visitors can listen to an archival recording of Dmitry Shostakovich's symphony No. 7, which the composer started in besieged Leningrad and finished in Kuibyshev. First performed in March 1942 by the Bolshoi theatre's orchestra conducted by Samuil Samosud, it was broadcast across the entire country.
While the Bolshoi Theatre worked in evacuation in Kuibyshev, it realized several productions on the stage of the Kuibyshev Theatre - "William Tell", "Cherevichki", "Ivan Susanin" and "Scarlet Sails". The exhibition features sketches of costumes and sets created by Pyotr Williams, the theatre's chief stage-designer. The filming of "Ivan the Terrible" became a central event for Almaty during the war, and photographs, costume sketches, and the correspondence and drawings of Sergei Eisenstein, as well as original costumes loaned by the Film Museum, tell the story of the film's production.
The show's geographic reach is extensive. Samarkand was home to the evacuated art institutes from Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Kharkiv, with evacuees there including Robert Falk, Nikolai Chernyshev, Viktor Tsyplakov, Klavdia Tutevol, Max Birshtein, Igor Radoman, Vasily Nechitailo and Yury Kugach. The artists often depicted the numerous architectural landmarks of the city, the buildings of its old town, centuries-old mosques, minarets and madrasahs. The artists also created portraits of local residents, and landscapes and genre compositions featuring camel caravans and oriental bazaars. They worked with energy, relishing such new impressions and images, as is shown by the work they produced in evacuation. This section of the show features the famed Samarkand series of linocuts and watercolours created by Vladimir Favorsky, as well as several graphic pieces from Sergei Gerasimov's album "Moscow-Samarkand", produced by the artist while he was travelling to Samarkand by train. The animation film studio Soyuzmultfilm was also evacuated to Samarkand, and the exhibition includes sketches for such cartoon films as "Sinbad the Sailor" and "Teremok" which were produced during the war. The storyboard of "The Evacuation of Tsar Saltan" produced by the studio artists is a notable example of their courage and self-irony.
A large section is devoted to works created in Voskresenskoe, the Bashkir village which became temporary home to the legendary Moscow secondary school for gifted children. Most of the works featured were created by teenagers whose artistic vision was just beginning to form itself at the time, as they began their artistic careers. Later many of them - like Gely Korzhev, Viktor Ivanov, Pyotr Ossovsky, Pavel Nikonov, Igor Popov, Ivan Sorokin and Vladimir Stozharov - became Soviet artists of great renown, and their art had an enormous impact on the nation's cultural life in the second half of the 20th century.
Voskresenskoe, or Voskresensk as it had previously been known, was an old Russian mining village. At the start of the Great Patriotic War the rhythm of life there was largely unchanged, with many of its aspects remaining the same as they had been in an 18th-century Russian village, with its typically unhurried and measured pace of existence. On the market square, among the wooden stalls and barns, one would encounter long-bearded peasants in old-fashioned coats of heavy cloth or wool. Girls embellished their braids with ribbons of many colours and walked in long skirts, woollen 'kerchiefs and knitted shawls, with bast shoes and puttees the most common footwear. According to Pyotr Ossovsky, all this "attracted the admiring attention of the school students, who eagerly responded to the allure of rural life". The young artists who had grown up in the capital came to discover the poetry of this provincial world, infinitely remote from the urban rhythms they knew but familiar from the works of their favourite masters of the 19th century, like Surikov, Repin and Levitan. It was in Voskresensk that many of these adolescents were introduced to the rural way of life and the august beauty of Russian nature and became aware of its vigour and might, and such reminiscences were forever etched in the minds of the future painters.
Since they experienced acute shortages of the usual painting materials like canvas and paper, the young artists often used the covers of textbooks, sackcloth or plywood instead. When paints were in short supply, gouache was mixed with oil, and when they ran short of pencils, the students used little pieces of coal soaked in oil. They manufactured brushes themselves from bristle, horse hair or goose quill. Despite the worries and hardships of war, the hunger and everyday difficulties, these evacuation years proved very prolific for these budding artists, and they looked back on them with fondness.
The exhibition introduces the period it covers in a linear narrative from the first days of the war and the evacuation of cultural institutions to the country's various cities and regions, through to their eventual return to their places of origin. Thus, the final rooms are themed as a graduation album of the students of the Moscow secondary school for young artists, with the display featuring drawings that they made on their last day in Voskresenskoe. It is an array of rapid sketches of dormitories and the school, the cathedral and the factory, rural dwellings, local residents and the nature of the Urals, displayed on wooden easels. The small graphic pieces convey the full range of feelings that overwhelmed these young artists: the sadness of parting, anticipation of return, their happy anticipation of reunion with their families, and impassioned hopes for an end to the war. These images are also valuable evidence of the incredible professional growth of their creators, who had matured as painters in the period and become true artists.
The evacuation of the artistic intelligentsia and cultural treasures proved important not only for the preservation of the national heritage, but also for the development of the cultures of the regions, which were invigorated through their contacts with such illustrious cultural figures from the country's main cities. After the war many such towns became home to affiliates of major museums and theatres, lyceums and institutions of higher learning, which became important landmarks on the country's cultural map.
The arts, their survival, preservation and development during the Great Patriotic War is a huge and complicated issue, which leaves many themes requiring further exploration. Today, more than 70 years later, we are only beginning to realize it to its full extent, and each new attempt reveals hidden and/or previously overlooked contexts. It is certainly necessary and important to explore these wartime cultural processes, which in many regards conditioned the development of soviet art for decades to come. it allows us not only to enrich our understanding of the cultural milieu in a critical period of our nation's history and to be introduced to some unique facts about the life of an entire generation, but also to chart the trajectories of the development of the artistic and moral aspirations followed by soviet art in the second half of the 20th century.