#4 2008 (21)
Flowers accompany us throughout our lives. They have long been a focus of scholarly interest: botanists describe and collect them to form herbariums, while medical researchers study the useful and salutary properties of these exceptionally diverse plants. Nearly all nations of the world have traditions, dating back over history, to greet guests and see them off on special occasions with flowers, and to use flowers for decoration. But apart from their aesthetic properties and practical use, flowers also became symbols and tokens of sentiments; their meaning often varies from one nation or period to another.
2009 will mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Mikhailovich Tretyakov. He was born on January 19 1834 (January 31, by the old calendar), the second child in a Zamoskvorechye District merchant’s family. Sergei Tretyakov was the younger brother of the founder of the Russian National Art Gallery, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. He was his elder brother’s close friend, a reliable partner, and assistant. Sergei Tretyakov was widely known in Moscow as a public figure and art collector. His fine, noble face is captured in photographic portraits, many of which are kept in the department of manuscripts of the Tretyakov Gallery.
The year 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Russian writer Nestor Vasilievich Kukolnik. Eclipsed by the great Gogol’s anniversary, Kukolnik’s will most likely go unnoticed. The writer once seriously viewed as Pushkin’s literary rival is forgotten today - as undeservedly as he was once extravagantly extolled. Nestor Kukolnik, who was not only Gogol’s contemporary but also his classmate at the Nezhinsky school, today is probably remembered only as a friend of Karl Briullov and Mikhail Glinka. We owe to this friendship above all two masterpieces of Russian art: Karl Briullov made a superb portrait of Kukolnik, while the composer Glinka composed a series of romances to his poems “A Farewell to St. Petersburg”.
The Igor Grabar All-Russian Research and Restoration Centre (“Grabar’s workshops” or “the Centre”) has marked its 90th anniversary. For art restoration in Russia, 90 years represent a whole era, an epoch. Reviewing the history of the development of the workshop one can trace the entire history of Russian art restoration and renovation. The celebration of this milestone anniversary provides a good reason for taking stock and summarizing what has been done, and how over these years the field of art renovation in Russia has developed. Better known as “Grabar’s workshops”, this institution since its inception until today has been the site of major state-sponsored restoration projects. The Centre is named after the famous artist, art historian and public figure Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar, the trail-blazer and founder of scholarship-based methods of art restoration in Russia. He introduced such methods as pre-restoration examination of the artefact, photo recording and documenting of all restoration procedures, and group decision-making in the process of cleaning works from later additions. Grabar was the driving force behind the creation, in the 1920s, of the Russian art restoration school, that comprises a set of techniques and practices that are unique and have no match in Europe, and continuously develop using research findings from different areas of culture.
The 125th anniversary of Vasily Alexeevich Vatagin’s birth was marked in 2008, and proved a good reason to present the master’s work more extensively. The spectrum of his work is broad - illustrations for academic as well as art books, painting, graphic art, lithography, and sculpture. Vatagin (1884-1969) was the author of books about animals for children and adults, a museum space designer, and a teacher. He created a whole gallery of portraits of renowned men of arts and science. It is hard to believe that one person achieved all of this. He made wall-paintings on themes of zoology, paleontology and zoogeography. The State Darwin Museum collaborated with Vatagin since 1908. The museum’s galleries include more than 50 of Vatagin’s paintings and sculptures, and one may say that Vatagin’s works are exhibited in the Museum every day. But the Darwin Museum’s collections hold many more works that have not yet been shown to a mainstream audience. The Darwin Museum, together with the Tretyakov Gallery, has prepared two major exhibitions of more than 150 paintings, sculptures, and works of graphic art. Many visitors, who know Vatagin as a sculptor, will see his large-scale paintings.
The anniversary exhibition of Valentin Mikhailovich Sidorov — People’s Artist of the USSR, full member of the Russian Academy of Arts, and Chairman of the Artists’ Union of Russia — ran in the Engineering Wing of the Tretyakov Gallery from November 13 through December 14. The retrospective continues the series of personal exhibitions of the masters of the generation of the 1960s, the “shestidesyatniki”.
In Autumn 2008 the Tretyakov Gallery held an anniversary solo exhibition of Oscar Rabin, as one of a series of shows titled “The return of the master”, highlighting the work of artists who were born, educated and came to fame in the USSR but later left the country for different reasons.
Few artists in the history of art have been able to create their own universe. The art of Mikhail Schwartzman is a distinctive and outstanding phenomenon; its place in the history of 20th century art is still to be determined. The name of Schwartzman was well known in artistic circles. He graduated from the Moscow State University of Applied Arts (formerly the Stroganov Institute) in 1956, and he began his creative activity in the time of the Khrushchev “Thaw”. A society of artists and writers, who took up a position of unofficial art, appeared at that time in Moscow. As a rule, Schwartzman’s name is mentioned among such artists because of his deep influence on the artists, poets and philosophers of the underground.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST
For many Zurab Tsereteli is a unique individual, and the only such one among the people I know - at least among those who play an important role in modern art and modern life. We are living now through a time of anxiety. The world has lost its sure footing, people have lost faith in the old values and, as it seems, in themselves as well - they can no longer get along without technical “crutches”. Lack of confidence in the future, and a panicked anticipation of forthcoming cataclysms dominate, coupled with a fear of failing to keep up with fashions, missing something, receiving less than one is due... The older generation is afraid of being labeled as retrograde. Life - what a frightening thing...
Sometimes it seems that the terrain of modern art fans out in so many directions that it is almost impossible to have a dialogue on the subject. The capacity to listen and the possibility of being heard have become quite rare.
The great Italian artist of the 20th century Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) received major renown in New York in Autumn 2008, with a landmark exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accompanied by a range of other shows at other galleries in the city. The largest retrospective in North America for the artist to date, it will move back, in a slightly adjusted format, to the artist’s hometown, Bologna, to be displayed at that city’s Museo d’Arte Moderna from January 22. It was in Bologna that the artist spent the greater part of his life, and where a museum dedicated to his memory occupies an honoured place in one of the city’s central town square buildings.
The exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti. Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings" is the latest in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts' series of large-scale international projects, which in themselves reflect much more than ideas brought about by the long examination of its own collections. The museum researchers' inquiring minds and painstaking efforts have always been aimed at projects illustrating different stages of arts history that fill in the gaps of the museum's existing displays. Such projects introducing Modernist artists and classics of 20th-century avant-garde art have included exhibitions devoted to Pablo Picasso (the first in Russia), Amedeo Modigliani, Raoul Dufy, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Piet Mondrian, and Andy Warhol. 40 years ago such shows were a veritable cultural shock, a bold display of a different art language against the background of the 'aestheti-cized mythology" of the totalitarian state.
Like previous years, 2008 saw a number of fascinating visual art exhibitions - both solo and group shows - at the Russian Academy of Arts on Prechistenka Street in Moscow. This magazine has already covered some that took place during the first half of the year, and in this issue - the final issue for the year 2008 - we review exhibitions that took place between September and December.