#2 2020 (67)
ART SCHOOLS OF RUSSIA
In 1901, artistic communities in Moscow and all over Russia celebrated the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Stroganov School of Drawing. A year earlier, at the Paris World Fair, the school had been awarded two Grand Prix for the advancement of applied-arts education and silver and bronze medals for projects and products, as well as for “the ornamentation of public buildings and dwellings”. The Stroganov School was also awarded “Imperial” status in 1901.
The Stroganov Academy Museum is one of the most fascinating and unique museums in Russia. Founded in 1864, during Viktor Butovsky’s tenure as director of the Stroganov School of Technical Drawing (later to be renamed “academy”), the museum served to “advance the development of original creative talent and skills among the working classes.” The museum, located in a separate building at 24 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, opened its doors on April 171868 and became Russia’s first museum to focus on the history of decorative and applied arts throughout the world, from antiquity to modern times. Still, the museum’s primary goal was to collect the works of Russian decorative art, in line with the Stroganov Academy’s original purpose to preserve and advance Russia’s rich artistic tradition.
Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art can see a surprising number of objects and works of art from Russia. Because the museum does not have a department dedicated to Russian culture, seeing these objects requires going on a “treasure hunt” through different departments: Musical Instruments, Medieval Art, Arms and Armor, European Paintings, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Drawings and Prints, Photography, Modern and Contemporary Art, and the Costume Institute. Some of the objects are quite rare and unusual, but others are quite humble and almost ordinary, except for the path that brought them to one of the largest museums in the world. This essay surveys donations of Russian art and design made to the Met by major and minor collectors, as well as objects that entered the museum as part of its regular acquisitions programme.
The Thomas J. Watson Library, the primary research library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, holds more than one million volumes on art, archaeology, architecture, ornament and design. Founded in 1870 under the same charter as that of the Museum itself, the scope of the Library collection is as encyclopaedic as the Museum’s. Offering a strong complement to Russian art and objects in the Museum’s curatorial collections, Watson’s holdings promote awareness, understanding and appreciation of an even wider field of Russian art and material culture.
POINT OF VIEW
In the history of art, the artist’s oeuvre outlives its creator. The year 2020 has a special symbolic meaning in regard to the creative fate of one of the leading masters of the Russian Art Nouveau, Viktor Elpidiforovich Borisov-Musatov (1870-1905), as it opens and closes the path of the artist’s life with landmark dates: the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 115th anniversary of his death. These anniversaries stimulate us to not only recall and clarify the documentary aspects of the master’s biography, but also to analyse on a new level the ways in which the poetic principles of his creative thinking were manifested in his work. Considered together, the iconographic structure of Borisov-Musatov's artworks and the individual qualities of his artistic language form an authentic artistic universum, which, in accordance with the laws of symbolism, possesses its own Time and Space characteristics.
The oldest cafe in Rome, the renowned Antico Caffè Greco on the city’s Via Condotti, has been welcoming its distinguished cultural clientele for more than 250 years. Russian cultural figures have been among its most eminent visitors: it was here that Nikolai Gogol worked on “Dead Souls” and here that he met with Karl Bryullov, Alexander Ivanov and others from the established Russian artistic community in Rome of the day. In the 20th century, it entered Soviet art history as a meeting place for masters of the “Severe Style”, memorably depicted in Viktor Ivanov’s 1974 painting “At the Caffè Greco”, in which the artist sits at a table with his contemporaries Gely Korzhev, Pyotr Ossovsky, Ephraim Zverkov and Dmitry Zhilinsky.