Towards a Public Theatre. VASILY POLENOV AND THE HOUSE OF THEATRE EDUCATION

Darya Manucharova

Article: 
HERITAGE
Magazine issue: 
#3 2019 (64)

A renowned painter, who also tried his hand at architecture, music, theatre design and teaching, the range of Vasily Polenov’s artistic talents was rich and varied. All of those forms of art would come together in his work at the “Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres”, an involvement that, no less importantly, was closely linked to his concerns as a public figure for the development of Russian society.

During the last decades of his life, the cause of “theatre for the people" in Russia increasingly captured Polenov's imagination, and his efforts towards its advancement took up more and more of his time; according to his wife Natalya, he was never at home, always “occupied with something at his pet project", the House of Theatre Education that was being built for the Association.[1] Although today only theatre historians and Polenov scholars may know much about the Association, its achievements in its day were impressive.

When in 1910 Polenov joined the group of enthusiasts of “theatre for the people", it was not an entirely new pursuit for him. As the recipient of a stipend from the Academy of Arts in his early years, Polenov had lived and worked in Europe in 1872-1876 and took part in amateur theatre productions in Paris that were organized by the Russian artist Alexei Bogolyubov. Upon his return to Russia, Polenov immersed himself in the vibrant artistic atmosphere of Abramtsevo, whose owner, the wealthy patron of the arts Savva Mamontov, created a unique artistic colony there to support the development of Russian culture. When the Abramtsevo group put on amateur theatre productions, Polenov participated as an artist, actor and director, while he later also worked as a stage designer for various professional theatres, including the Russian Private Opera set up by Mamontov in 1885, the Bolshoi Theatre, and Zimin Opera (founded by the entrepreneur Sergei Zimin in 1903).

Polenov knew well the specific challenges of the work of the theatre artist and was excellent at combining its necessary generalization with the use of plein air techniques, such as the precise distribution of light and the interactions of colour. Polenov was the pioneer of the so-called “single picture" principle, an innovation in Russian art which he developed at Abramtsevo: it involved using one large painting as the backdrop set for a particular scene, rather than an overcrowded design involving many different elements. Decades later the artist successfully applied the same principle to the “theatre for the people" movement, where it was no less important, facilitating as it did economies in both budget and space, both of which were limited on the amateur stage.

Polenov saw theatre as a powerful educational and aesthetic tool: all the productions in which he participated stood out for their equally high values of artistry and educational content. “Theatre is one of the most accessible educational schools for the people," he wrote to Maria Shemshurina, an expert in stage costume, at the end of December 1917, “but it has to be a theatre that elevates the people, not the kind that demeans them."2 Working at the Association gave Polenov an outlet to realize his humanistic aspirations.

The leaders of the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres included prominent public figures involved in theatre such as the writer and lawyer Dmitry Tolbuzin, Maria and her husband Nikolai Shemshurin (a master of scenic effects and props),[3] Valentin Tikhonovich, the author of the manual “Democratization of the Theatre", and Nikolai Skorodumov, who was the head of an amateur theatre in the village of Burmakino in the Yaroslavl Governorate. It is generally considered that its work began in 1909, the year in which the Commission for Advancing the Establishment of Rural People's Theatres was established. Polenov officially joined the Commission in 1910, but five years before that he had written in his diary, in the section titled “The Armed Uprising of 1905", about a “meeting of the Association of Art Professionals, hosted by the architect [Osip] Shishkovsky",[4] which was chaired by Savva Mamontov and attended by Tolbuzin. In 1911, the Commission was reorganized as the “Bureau for the Support of Rural, Factory and School Theatres", part of the Moscow Branch of the Russian Imperial Technical Society; then in 1912, it became the Association of the same name, attached to the Moscow Society for People's Universities (in a letter of March 1913 Polenov pointed out that it had nothing to do with Alfons Shanyavsky's Moscow Public University;[5] however, the Association would later work in cooperation with that organization). Polenov became the head of the Association on December 19 1912, and from then on he would dedicate almost all of his time and energy to its development and activities.

Polenov duly invited his friends to join the Association, and his correspondence reveals what he thought its main purpose to be. As he wrote to the opera singer Feodor Chaliapin in May 1913, “Our... goal is, to the best of our ability, to help ordinary folk fulfill the loftiest desires that the individual can have, those of the mind and soul. It is our deepest-held belief that art is one of the most powerful means to achieve that."[6] Polenov strove to bring Russia's most eminent cultural figures into the Association, and many accepted his invitation, including the painters Viktor and Apollinary Vasnetsov, Ilya Repin, Konstantin Korovin, Chaliapin and the actress Zinaida Sokolova (the sister of Konstantin Stanislavski).

At the end of the 19th century, on a wave of increasing public interest in democratic change - both in society as a whole and in the world of art in particular - many cultural figures in Russia and Europe were attracted to the “theatre for the people" movement. Thus, in the 1890s, Valentina Serova, the mother of the famous artist Valentin Serov, began staging opera productions in villages, with local peasants as singers. In France, Romain Rolland published his essay “Le Theatre du people" in 1903. Ideas that were quite similar to those of the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres gained widespread popularity, but the work that the Association did was nevertheless unique. It was not merely a platform for productions staged for the working masses - its goals reached much further: Polenov called it “a theatre laboratory for all Russia".[7] The Association's main function was to help amateur theatres choose their repertoire, adapt literary works for the stage, and create stage designs within their financial means, something that was especially important for non-professional ventures.

The Association's endeavours included some significant background work, both practical and scholarly; for instance, in 1914 the organization published Nikolai Skorodumov's book “The New Method of Simplified Stage Productions. Scenic Design and Equipment", which included sketches of Polenov's designs and essays in which the artist explained the basic principles of perspective, providing detailed instructions on stage design, as well as on the choice of suitable paints and other materials.

At the time the Association occupied a basement in a private house on Malaya Dmitrovka Street in the centre of Moscow, and building dedicated new premises for it would become one of Polenov's main accomplishments as its chairman. Archival documents confirm that on February 10 1915s Polenov, with financial assistance from Sergei Morozov (brother of Savva Morozov),[9] purchased a plot measuring 723.45 square meters from Vasily Mironov, a peasant. The plot was located on the corner of Medynka Street and Kabanikhin Lane, in the Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya area (its current address is Zoological Street, 13). A few days after the purchase Polenov received a letter from the Association's board requesting permission to name the future building in his honour.[10]

The foundation stone was laid on May 7, with the newspapers reporting on the building's intended use, the cost of its construction, and those who attended the ceremony. “The construction is financed by charitable contributions of 15,000 rubles from Academician Vasily Polenov and 1,000 rubles from Mr. Morozov. Naturally, further funds will be needed to finish the building, but the Association is hoping to receive more contributions in the future," the “Iskry" (Sparks) weekly magazine stated.[11]

Vasily Polenov laying the foundation stone of the Polenov House, May 7 1915.
Vasily Polenov laying the foundation stone of the Polenov House, May 7 1915. Photograph
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow

Together with his financial support, Polenov drafted the architectural design for the new building, as he mentioned in a letter to his young friend, Leonid Kandaurov: “I came to Moscow and visited the construction site of the Association. To be quite honest, I was afraid that the building would not be what we had had in mind... But I was not disappointed at all - on the contrary, I found this small building much more interesting than I had anticipated. When we conceived of the construction plan, we had something like a competition: Shishkovsky submitted an Art Nouveau design and another fashionable one with columns, in the style of [the 19th century architect Vasily] Nikolaev; there was also another design in the Russian Revival style. I submitted two versions: one in the late 18th century style12 (I call it the “Beethoven style") and another, an English Gothic alternative. The judges were members of the Association, including many workers. My Gothic design was chosen unanimously."[13]

Osip Shishkovsky, the architect whose name Polenov mentioned in this letter, was also responsible for the realization of Polenov's design. A representative of the Moscow Art Nouveau, Shishkovsky was a graduate of the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and had designed several apartment buildings in the city. Kandaurov left a valuable commentary on how meticulously Shishkovsky realized Polenov's ideas in a letter he wrote to the artist on November 9 1915: “I liked the building. It was obviously put up with great care. There is much in the construction that is very representative of your work, with its thoughtful use of every corner. The result is a structure that is both convenient and original. It seems that the builder did his best to embrace your ideas. Here and there it seemed to me that you would have done things differently, but of course it would have been very difficult. More than one person, after all, was involved in the construction, so one can hardly expect that the result would reflect perfectly the architect's original intention. In short, I believe that, overall, you will be satisfied. The gardens in the front are wonderful; I hope that they will survive, and that those working in this building that bears your name can enjoy the beautiful view out of their windows, so unusual for a big city."[14]

The House of Theatre Education was Polenov's final architectural endeavour, bringing together all his previous discoveries in the field. The building's intended use was different from anything else that Polenov had designed before - he had built small churches, and his residence on his Borok estate, with its Big House, its artist's studio (the “Abbey"), and associated household structures. The House of Theatre Education was created on a different scale: on the ground floor were “the entry hall, ticket office, foyer, boardroom and costume storage space; the first floor was comprised of the auditorium, including the stage, and actors' dressing rooms; the costume workshop was on the second floor; and the stage design studio was on the top floor."[15]

Vasily POLENOV. The Polenov House of Theatre Education, Moscow, Medynka Street. Final architectural design. 1915
Vasily POLENOV. The Polenov House of Theatre Education, Moscow, Medynka Street. Final architectural design. 1915
Pencil on paper. 17.8 × 19.8 cm. Signed with initials: “VP”. Artist’s inscription at the bottom: “Breton style of the 15th century (Anna’s Childhood)”. At the top: “Building design for the Association, No. 3”.
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve

Architecturally, the building was similar to Polenov's estate at Borok near Tarusa with a creative rethinking of the traditions of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture of Western Europe, a laconic colour scheme (white walls and dark roofing), a sloping roof, and a minimum of sculptural decoration. There were common elements between the Big House on the artist's estate, his “Abbey" studio there, and the Medynka building, although the fapades of each building were different - Polenov made good use of this signature Art Nouveau style.

At least three sets of Polenov's design drawings for the House of Theatre Education, with renderings of the two fagades, survive. The most schematic of them shows a three-storey building with a tiled mansard, a sloping roof, a cylindrical corner tower with a cone-shaped roof, and smaller towers. Its windows are simple, rectangular in shape.

The same fagade, facing Medynka Street, is rendered in the second, much more detailed set of designs: a two-storey building with a mansard roof, a faceted corner tower, and asymmetrically placed windows (on the ground floor, the windows are small, almost square, and slightly elongated vertically; on the first floor there is a large Gothic triple window and a square window with an open balcony; there are two pairs of small square windows on the mansard floor). The building's decorative components are restrained, with dentils under the roof of the corner tower, brick cornices above the ground- and first-floor windows, and interlaced trefoils in the Gothic style adorning the tall triple window.

A comparison of Polenov's pencil drawings with archival photographs of the House of Theatre Education makes it clear that the building did indeed end up closely resembling the artist's original design. The difference was that the corner tower was cylindrical, not faceted; the small balcony was not openwork cast-iron, as it appears in the drawings, but made of solid stone, with a slight Art Nouveau curve. The uneven, “fur-like" texture of the second-floor tower window frame did not exist in the artist's original plans.

Polenov categorized the style of this three-storey building as “Breton-style of the 15th century", which is confirmed by his inscription on one of the design drawings (the inscription's additional mention of “Anne's Childhood" refers to the play “Anne of Brittany" that he would later stage there). The building did, indeed, look like a miniature medieval French castle, reminiscent of the magnificent chateaux and scenes from French history that Polenov drew in the 1860s. It also evokes German medieval architecture such as the Trifels and Wartburg castles, which Polenov had visited in 1910 (his pencil drawings and watercolours of them survive). Thus, the triple window in the House of Theatre Education, the one decorated with trefoils and appointed arches at the top, looks quite like the window of the house in Polenov's drawing “A Corner of Old Wartburg".

The House of Theatre Education fits the NeoGothic branch of the Russian Revival movement of the 1890s-1900s, and it was not accidental that Polenov chose this style. From the 1860s onwards, he had been fascinated with the medieval architecture of Europe: during his trips to Germany and France he sketched monasteries and timber-framed houses, and later created a number of historical paintings, landscapes and stage designs with Gothic castles and churches.

But how did the conception of the House of Theatre Education fit the Association's goal of bringing theatre to the working people? In a November 1915 letter to Kandaurov, Polenov explained why his Gothic design had won the competition: “What I had in mind was not the lavish Gothic of cathedrals and castles, but rather the rustic variant, those same kind of towers that you see on the farms and houses of well-off peasants... Gothic architecture in Russia is found in factories and manufacturing plants; it is a most democratic style."[16]

In reality, the building stood out from others in the neighbourhood (it was located on a street intersection, today the corner of Zoological Street). Its corner tower serves as a conceptual node that links together its two asymmetrical fagades, a common practice in Art Nouveau architecture. Today the three-storey structure looks modest in comparison to the tall buildings that surround it, but back in the early 20th century it was one of the most remarkable in the Presnya district of Moscow. As well as today's apartment blocks and the main building of the National Centre for Contemporary Art, the House of Theatre Education now stands next to the Moscow Zoo, the structures of which match both its colour scheme and, surprisingly, its architecture.

At the time of its construction, the House of Theatre Education was perceived as a something of a curiosity. The actor, director and playwright Vladimir Markov, who worked there in the 1920s, wrote about it: “A passer-by, standing where the new square is now in front of the Zoo, would stare in bewilderment at this likeness of a knight's castle in grey stone, with its tower above the entrance and lancet windows on the fagade. This medieval building, that had somehow found its way into this peaceful family of Old Moscow burgher houses and fences, was built in 1915."[17]

Markov also describes the interior design of the house. “Right at the entrance, in place of a staircase there was a smooth ramp, like a wide cement ascent that led upstairs, as if you were meant to go up it on horseback," he wrote. “On the right of that, a narrow passageway opened next to its stone railing, decorated with a heavy pattern. Before the passageway bent right, there was a barely visible door in the cold, unfinished stone wall. The museum, the most notable institution in the building, was located behind that door. The square room. had barred windows, like those in a prison or a church, which opened onto the [adjacent] lane at ground-floor level; all the walls in the house were made of grey stone cubes."[18] It is likely that Markov was describing the part of the building that can be seen in the photographs taken to commemorate its opening in 1915: those attending the celebration are standing against unfinished brick walls with small square windows above them.

Markov left an important description of the interior of the auditorium, which has not survived: “The interior of the auditorium (on the main, formal floor) was reminiscent of a Lutheran church... The high ceiling was decorated with wooden panelling, which was divided into squares; a heavy chandelier hung in the middle. In the wall overlooking the lane, there was a row of tall lancet windows. Ranks of dark oak benches crossed the hall, with passages in the middle and on the sides. Two raised boxes, like altar choirs, were located behind the solid oak barriers by the back wall. The stage was also framed in dark wood. The walls, as everywhere in the building, were of grey hewn stone. The windows, doors and mirror on the stage were covered with heavy folds of dark curtains."[19]

Today the House of Theatre Education looks quite different from its original appearance: during the Soviet era a single-storey annex was added to the ground floor, while two rows of six small rectangular windows replaced the three tall Gothic ones. The little balcony was taken down, and the roof radically altered; an extra floor was added to the corner tower, which changed its proportions. The arched opening on the first floor of the tower was filled in, but its outline can still be seen today.

In spite of such numerous later alterations, the exterior has not changed completely. According to Rustem Rakhmatullin of “Archnadzor", the “Architectural Watch" public organization that devotes itself to the preservation of Moscow's architectural heritage, at least “the corner tower with its vaulted base, the ground-floor fapade wall, and the vaulted space behind it, underneath the auditorium" remain in their original form.[20] As for the interior of the building, the layout of the entrance area under the former auditorium has also been preserved, with cylindrical vaulted spandrels, reminiscent of Gothic cross vaults, and the ramp with a 45-degree bend. This distribution of the interior space makes the small rooms feel spacious. It is almost impossible to evaluate other parts of the interior, so completely has it been changed over the years.

The opening of the House of Theatre Education took place on December 29 1915, in the middle of the First World War; the celebration was timed to coincide with the National Congress of the People's Theatre Association, at which Polenov was serving as chairman. Polenov spoke at the ceremony, and his notes for the speech are held at the Department of Manuscripts of the Tretyakov Gallery: “I... believe that people's theatre is destined to play an important role in the restoration and cultural progress that must come after the profound hardship that this war is bringing to us. As an artist, I strive to bring everything that I have to offer to the work of people's theatres, as well as actively encourage my partners at the Association to do its work. The forthcoming exhibition [Polenov refers to a concurrent theatre exhibition at the House of Theatre Education - D.M.] will show what we have already achieved to this end. I confess that children's and school theatres are especially dear to my heart. For 36 years now I have been working with children and observing the theatre's noble contribution to our efforts to educate and nurture new generations. Thirty-six years ago my friend Savva Mamontov and I put on our first play for his children at his house."[21]

The educational objectives that Polenov defined in his speech shaped the repertoire of the House of Theatre Education: some of the works by Russian and European writers that it included had been previously produced on the Abramtsevo amateur stage, among them “The Snow Maiden" by Alexander Ostrovsky, “Two Worlds" by Apollon Maykov, and Savva Mamontov's musi cal comedy “Camorra".

Two productions in the 1916-1917 season, performed by children, were particularly successful: “Snowdrop", a fairy tale by the stage designer and theatre educator Nikolai Denisov, and “Anne of Brittany", which was based on Polenov's re-telling of the story by the French writer Eugenie Foa, for which Polenov also composed the music and designed both costumes and set. “Anne of Brittany" was one of the first Russian operas for children. The renowned artist Igor Grabar, who brought his family to this performance, had warm words of gratitude when he wrote to Polenov about their delightful experience: “You are doing the most vital and relevant work I've ever seen. And the results are beyond wonderful, too."[22]

Polenov worked on “generic" stage sets in the House of Theatre Education workshop. According to different archive reckonings, he created some 30 to 70 such sets, specifically designed to fit various productions in similar “locations";[23] in addition, amateur painters would be able to use them for their own stage designs. Some of those design drawings were included in Skorodumov's “The New Method of Simplified Stage Productions", along with re-worked ones from the Abramtsevo theatre productions of the 1880s and 1890s. Young artists copied Polenov's designs for rural, factory and school theatres all over Russia. Most of those artists' names remain unknown: the numerous stage design drawings created at the House of Theatre Education through the period of its existence have never been studied and could become the object of valuable future research.

Polenov was not the only artist who worked on stage designs for the Association's productions - other accomplished, professional artists contributed, too. Apollinary Vasnetsov designed the sets for “The Merchant Kalashnikov", based on Lermontov's poem; “Bezhin Lea", based on the short story by Ivan Turgenev (both in the 1910s); and “The Judgment of Shemyaka" by Nikolai Popov (1914). Feodosy Lavdovsky served as stage designer for the production of “El alcalde de sfmismo (The Custodian of Himself)", a comedy by Calderon (the 1910s), while Klavdy Sapunov (brother of the symbolist artist Nikolai Sapunov) worked on “The Proposal" (c. 1915) and other productions. The fact that in these cases the goal was to create “generic" designs did not preclude the artists from revealing their individual gifts in such works.

As well as staging plays, the House of Theatre Education hosted many cultural events. Thus, Konstantin Paustovsky wrote in a letter dated February 12 1917: “On Wednesday the 15th I am going to the ‘Polenov House' on Medynka to listen to a lecture on ‘the Russian writer'. [Ivan] Bunin will be talking, with Shmelev, Serafimovich, Al[exei] Tolstoy, Teleshov, Sumbatov, and many others participating. In a word, all literary Moscow will be there.

There were only 300 tickets available; this will be an ‘intimate' evening."[24] This was testament to the fact that the House had already become a meeting place for Moscow's artistic circles.

The House of Theatre Education retained its cultural significance during the early years after the October Revolution of 1917. The Association was busy: it published numerous handbooks and brochures in which its employees provided methodological advice on best practices in various fields of the work of people's theatres; beginning in 1918, it also published “People's Theatre" magazine, which offered in-depth and diverse analysis of theatre as an art form. Four issues of the magazine were released in the first (and most likely, only) year of its existence; the first issue contained an essay by Polenov on the subject of school theatre.

In the 1920s the Association's work became more and more ideology-driven, attested to by the publication that it produced, “Rural Theatre". It was a time when “people's theatre" was drawing increasing interest as an instrument of state propaganda, with the result that several state-run organizations, pursuing many of the same goals as the Association, were established. In January 1921, the Association was nationalized and reorganized into the “Vasily Polenov House of Theatre Education", with its own performance venue, the Central Educational Theatre: the most important production staged there was “Macbeth" (1922), directed by Valentin Tikhonovich, complete with stage design by the young Sergei Eisenstein, working in cooperation with Sergei Yutkevich.

In late 1925 the House was re-named once again, as the “Central House of Art in the Vasily Polenov Village". In 1928, a year after the artist's death, a fire broke out in the building and destroyed the greater part of its property, including Polenov's set designs. More reorganization followed in 1930, when the House became the “Central House of Amateur Art in the Nadezhda Krupskaya Town and Village" - Krupskaya, the wife of Vladimir Lenin, had visited the building - and served as the central hub for all the Soviet institutions dealing with amateur performing arts of all kinds. Its name and organization continued to change throughout the 20th century, and its successor today, the “Polenov Russian National House of Folk Art", continues to function as a methodology centre for the amateur performing arts across Russia. It has long been located elsewhere, however, and the significantly altered Polenov House, as it is known today, has been a part of the National Centre for Contemporary Art since 2001. It houses artists' studios, the Centre's publishing department, and a 280-square meter exhibition hall on the mansard floor. The building's restoration and reconstruction is long overdue.

Polenov himself more or less retired from the Association in 1918, when he finally moved from Moscow to Borok, his estate on the Oka River, and put his theatrical and public service experience to use at the amateur theatres in the neighbouring village of Strakhovo and the local town, Tarusa. His daughter Yekaterina remembered: “He had poured all his earnings into the building of the Theatre House in Moscow, on Medynka [Street]... but in reality, the results did not match his ambitious vision. Now he is all excited about the idea of creating a People's House for the peasant youth - in the forest, by the Oka, surrounded by nature."[25]

Polenov's daughters shared their father's enthusiasm for amateur theatre and followed his initiatives by staging several plays together with local peasants. There is no doubt that in their work on these productions the artist and his children drew on his experience at the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres. Polenov's legacy endures today, both at the Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve, where the family tradition of amateur theatre remains strong, and at the Polenov Russian National House of Folk Art.

Naturally, the Association's achievements in developing amateur people's and children's theatre cannot be attributed only to Vasily Polenov: he worked alongside other true devotees and enthusiasts, who were as selflessly passionate about this endeavour as he was. Nevertheless, they would not have achieved the success that they did without Polenov's involvement and support, generously sharing as he did his rich experience as stage designer, director and architect, and as creator of the Association's “fairy tale castle", the House of Theatre Education.

The author expresses gratitude for materials provided by the staff of the Bakhrushin Theatre Museum (Department of Set Design and Visual Materials and Department of Photographic Documents) and the Polenov Russian National House of Folk Art.

 

  1. Minchenkov, Ya.D. “Remembering the ‘Peredvizhniki’”. Moscow, Berlin, 2016. P. 214.
  2. Vasily Polenov letter to Maria Shemshurina, December 26 1917, Borok. In Sakharova, Ye. “Vasily Polenov and Yelena Polenova. An Artists' Family Chronicle". Moscow, 1964. P. 686. Hereinafter - Sakharova.
  3. For more information on Tolbuzin and the Shemshurins, see: Kashtanova, Ye.; Okulov, S.V. ‘Polenov and the People's Theatre. Correspondence between Vasily Polenov and Dmitry Tolbuzin, 1913-1923' // “Russian Art". 2006. No. 1. Pp. 124-133.
  4. From Polenov's diary, “The Armed Uprising of 1905". December 1905. Sakharova. P. 656.
  5. Vasily Polenov letter to Konstantin Korovin, March 6 1913, Moscow. Sakharova. P. 674.
  6. Vasily Polenov letter to Feodor Chaliapin. March 16 1913, Moscow. Sakharova. P. 676.
  7. Sakharova. P. 43.
  8. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. F. 54. Item 1122. “Agreement to sell between V.D. Polenov and V.T. Mironov". February 10 1915.
  9. Written sources often mistakenly state that Savva Mamontov donated to the project. Although Mamontov was present at the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone, it is well documented that Sergei Morozov provided the funds.
  10. Letter from the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres to Vasily Polenov, February 15 1915, Moscow. Sakharova. P. 680.
  11. ‘The Polenov House'//“Iskry" (Sparks) Weekly Magazine. June 14 1915.
  12. It is clear that this building looks like the palace featured in Polenov's set design for the production of “The Red Rose" by Savva Mamontov: this suggestion is based on the fact that there is a rendering of the House of Theatre Education at the Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve (Item 1310, drawings).
  13. Vasily Polenov letter to Leonid Kandaurov, November 1915, Mos- cow//“Grany" (Facets) Quarterly. No. 198. 2001. Pp. 113-114.
  14. Leonid Kandaurov letter to Vasily Polenov, November 9 1915, Moscow//“Grany" (Facets) Quarterly. No. 198. 2001. Pp. 111-112.
  15. Sakharova. 1964. P. 43.
  16. Vasily Polenov letter to Leonid Kandaurov, November 1915, Mos- cow.// “Grany" (Facets) Quarterly. No. 198. 2001. Pp. 113-114.
  17. Markov, V.D. ‘Pages from My Life'//“Origins. A Collection of Essays". Moscow, 1960. P. 351.
  18. Ibid. Pp. 351-352.
  19. Ibid. P. 355.
  20. Rakhmatullin, R.E. ‘Do Not Stand Under the Rock'//“Izvestiya". July 25 2010. Digital source: https:// iz.ru/news/363111, last accessed April 14 2019.
  21. Polenov, Vasily. “On People's Theatre (Preliminary Notes)". Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. F. 54. Item 15 L. 2-2 reverse.
  22. Letter from Igor Grabar to Vasily Polenov, February 2 1917, Moscow // Sakharova. P. 684.
  23. The figure 30 is found in Sakharova's introduction to her book (Sakharova. P. 43), while the figure 70 is found in the short autobiography by Polenov in the biographical directory of public figures of the Tula Governorate. [1918]. Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. F. 702. List 1. Item 67. L. 8.
  24. Konstantin Paustovsky letter to Yekaterina Zagorskaya-Paustovskaya, February 12 1917, Moscow // Paustovsky, K.G. “Collected Works". In 9 vols. Moscow, 1981-1986. Vol. 9. P. 52.
  25. Sakharova, Ye.V. ‘The People's Theatre and the Polenov Family. The Artist's Daughter Remembers'//Tarusa Pages. Illustrated collection of writings and art. Kaluga, 1961. P. 243.

Illustrations

Service of prayer before the laying of the foundation stone for the Polenov House, May 7 1915
Service of prayer before the laying of the foundation stone for the Polenov House, May 7 1915
Photograph. Detail
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Vasily Polenov laying the foundation stone of the Polenov House, May 7 1915.
Vasily Polenov laying the foundation stone of the Polenov House, May 7 1915
Photograph. Detail
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Original drawings by Polenov for his essay “Basic Principles of Perspective”
Original drawings by Polenov for his essay “Basic Principles of Perspective”.
First published in: N.V. Skorodumov, “The New Method of Simplified Stage Productions. Scenic Design and Equipment. Including essays and scenic design sketches by Academician Polenov”. Moscow, 1914
The Prince’s Palace, stage design for a production of Dvořák’s opera “Rusalka”
The Prince’s Palace, stage design for a production of Dvořák’s opera “Rusalka”
First published in: N.V. Skorodumov, “The New Method of Simplified Stage Productions. Scenic Design and Equipment. Including essays and scenic design sketches by Academician Polenov”. Moscow, 1914
Night. Garden. Fountain, stage design for a production of Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov”
Night. Garden. Fountain, stage design for a production of Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov”
First published in: N.V. Skorodumov, “The New Method of Simplified Stage Productions. Scenic Design and Equipment. Including essays and scenic design sketches by Academician Polenov”. Moscow, 1914
Gathering of the Section for Assisting the Organization of Factory and Village Theatres, May 7 1915
Gathering of the Section for Assisting the Organization of Factory and Village Theatres, May 7 1915
Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Service of prayer before the laying of the foundation stone for the Polenov House, May 7 1915
Service of prayer before the laying of the foundation stone for the Polenov House, May 7 1915
Centre: Savva Mamontov; second to the right: Osip Shishkovsky; to the left of Mamontov: Maria Shemshurina, Natalya Polenova, Vasily Polenov, Dmitry Tolbuzin. Photograph
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Vasily POLENOV. People’s Theatre. Early 1910s
Vasily POLENOV. People’s Theatre. Early 1910s
Pencil on paper. 21.5 × 17.3 cm. Artist’s inscription at the top: “Architectural design for the People’s Theatre on Medynka [Street] (Section of Factory and Rural theatres)”
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Vasily POLENOV. The Polenov House of Theatre Education, Moscow. Alternative design. 1915
Vasily POLENOV. The Polenov House of Theatre Education, Moscow. Alternative design. 1915
Pencil on paper. 17.8 × 19.8 cm. Artist’s initials at the bottom: “VP”. Artist’s inscription at the top: “Building design for the Association, No. 2”. At the bottom: “Old Breton Style (14th-15th centuries) [19]15”.
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from the corner of Zoological Street. 1916–1928
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from the corner of Zoological Street. 1916-1928
Photograph
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from the Moscow Zoo pond. 1916–1928
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from the Moscow Zoo pond. 1916-1928
Photograph
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from Zoological Street. 1916–1928
The Polenov House of Theatre Education. View from Zoological Street. 1916-1928
Photograph
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Vasily POLENOV. By the Walls of a Castle. Sketch. 1916
Vasily POLENOV. By the Walls of a Castle. Sketch. 1916
Sketch of set design for the production of the play “Anne of Brittany” based on a short novel for children by the French whiter Eugénie Foa, translated and adapted by Vasily Polenov. The play was first staged at the Polenov House of Theatrical Education in Moscow in the season of 1916-1917. Pencil on paper. 13 × 17.2 cm. First publication
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Cover of “Narodny Teatr” (People’s Theatre) magazine. (No. 1, March 1918.)
Cover of “Narodny Teatr” (People’s Theatre) magazine. (No. 1, March 1918.)
In the centre: a reproduction of a drawing of the Polenov House by Vasily Polenov
Lunch at the Polenov House of Theatre Education on the occasion of its completion, December 29 1915
Lunch at the Polenov House of Theatre Education on the occasion of its completion, December 29 1915
Polenov is fourth from the right in the third row. Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
At the opening of the Polenov House, December 29 1915
At the opening of the Polenov House, December 29 1915
Polenov is the third, Savva Mamontov the seventh from the left in the second row. Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
At the opening of the Polenov House, December 29 1915
At the opening of the Polenov House, December 29 1915
Savva Mamontov sits in the centre of the first row, Polenov to his right. Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Executive committee, Congress of People’s Theatre Association
Executive committee, Congress of People’s Theatre Association
Alexandra Yablochkina sits in the centre, Polenov the right of her. 1916 Photograph
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Выставка эскизов декораций и костюмов
Exhibition of stage design and costume drawings.
Organized by Nikolai Popov, member of the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres, at the “Director’s Studio” in the rented school halls at No. 2 Rzhevsky Lane, Moscow. In the foreground: sketches by Anatoly Arapov for the production of the pantomime “Pieretta’s Veil”. From right to left: Feodosy Lavdovsky, unidentified person, Vasily Polenov, Dmitry Tolbuzin, Shcheplyaev (Sergeev), Mikhail Larionov, Pyotr Luchinin, Nikolai Popov, N. Oreshkov, Nikolai Skorodumov, N. Veldeman, S. Strenkovsky, V. Sorokhtin, unidentified person, L. Arefieva, unidentified person. 1914-1915. Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Stage design and costume drawings by Vasily Polenov Theatre exhibition at the Polenov House. 1915–1916
Stage design and costume drawings by Vasily Polenov Theatre exhibition at the Polenov House. 1915-1916
Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
A hall at the Theatre Exhibition at the Polenov House
A hall at the Theatre Exhibition at the Polenov House
The architect Osip Shishkovsky next to a model of the Townsfolks’ House, holding a photograph of the Polenov House. 1915-1916. Photograph by L. Leonidov
© Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow
Vasily POLENOV. A Room with Two Columns at a Landowner’s House. 1910s
Vasily POLENOV. A Room with Two Columns at a Landowner’s House. 1910s
Study for generic scenic design, executed for the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres, Society for People’s Universities in Moscow. Pencil and watercolour on paper. 13.5 × 22.3 cm. Subtle lines map out perspective.
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Vasily POLENOV. A Room with Two Columns at a Landowner’s House. 1910s
Vasily POLENOV. A Room with Two Columns at a Landowner’s House. 1910s
Study for generic scenic design, executed for the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres, Society for People’s Universities in Moscow. Pencil and watercolour on paper. 13.5 × 22.3 cm. Subtle lines map out perspective.
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Vasily POLENOV. A Provincial Town (Tarusa). 1910s
Vasily POLENOV. A Provincial Town (Tarusa). 1910s
Study for generic scenic design, executed for the Association for Furthering the Development of Rural, Factory and School Theatres, Society for People’s Universities in Moscow. Watercolour on paper. 11.5 × 17.5 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
The Polenov House of Theatre Education 13/1 Zoological Street. 2009
The Polenov House of Theatre Education 13/1 Zoological Street. 2009
Photograph

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