Special issue. GREAT BRITAIN–RUSSIA: ON THE CROSSROADS OF CULTURES
Both the UK and Russia have widely-spoken languages and rich literary traditions. We share a deeply held respect for each other’s culture and literature. Because of this, I am delighted that the UK has an opportunity to build on the success of the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014 in the form of the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature and this unprecedented loan between the National Portrait Gallery and the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Russia and Great Britain have a rich history of cultural ties extending back far in time. Our two nations have enhanced each other’s cultural traditions through their respective distinctive, unique and transcendent cultural heritages that have for centuries been shaping our civilization.
While the British school of painting has always been appreciated in Russia, it is, unfortunately, far from fully represented in the collections of the country’s museums. Such an omission has been significantly remedied in recent years with a series of shows from various British museums held in Russia, many in the framework of the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014, which included the exhibitions “Francis Bacon and the Legacy of the Past”, at the Hermitage; “Unrivalled Wedgwood”, held at Moscow’s Museum of the Applied and Folk Arts; “Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Manifesto of the New Style” presented at the Moscow Kremlin Museums; “Oscar Wilde. Aubrey Beardsley. The View from Russia” at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts; and the “‘English Breakfast’ in Russia. Late 18th-19th Century” exhibitionat the Historical Museum.
The epochal exhibition “Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky” runs at London’s National Portrait Gallery until June 26, bringing the pride of Russia’s 19th-century cultural pantheon to the UK. Its British curator Rosalind P. Blakesley recalls the origins, development and ambitions of this major Anglo-Russian cultural collaboration.
We owe this characterization, “Poets of the Human Visage”, of these two portrait-painters to the art historian Alexei Lebedev: it dates from 1945, when the Soviet researcher’s enthusiasm was encouraged by the rapid progress in building ties with the UK. His comparison of the Russian and English painters caught on, although Rokotov was never called “the Russian Gainsborough” in his lifetime. Nor had the fame that each artist enjoyed in his own land spread to the other country. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London Russian portraiture was represented by Levitsky and Borovikovsky: Rokotov was then simply forgotten in his homeland. Nor did Russians have any knowledge of the British artist: the remarkable “Portrait of a Lady in Blue” now at the Hermitage - Gainsborough’s only masterpiece in a Russian collection - was acquired as late as 1912. So what do the great Russian and British artists, so apparently different from one another, have in common?
English literature was discovered by Russia’s educated circles in the 18th century, although mainly in German and French translation; soon after the Patriotic War of 1812 there emerged a keen interest not only in British writers, but in the English language as well.
“They have an eye for beautiful and expensive things in Russia”: proof of that was provided by the interest expressed by Russian business and high society individuals in the recent British Antiques Mission in the Moscow Expo that took place in the British Ambassador’s private residence in Moscow in March 2011.
"GRANY" FOUNDATION PRESENTS
THE GENIUS OF JOSIAH WEDGWOOD, THE 18TH-CENTURY BRITISH CERAMICIST WHOSE TASTES, AND TECHNICAL INNOVATIONS, CAME TO DEFINE THE ART OF HIS GENERATION, IS THE SUBJECT OF THE EXHIBITION "UNRIVALLED WEDGWOOD" AT MOSCOW'S MUSEUM OF THE APPLIED AND FOLK ARTS RUNNING THROUGH NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2014, PART OF THE ONGOING UK-RUSSIA YEAR OF CULTURE. IT BRINGS TOGETHER WORKS FROM THE LADY LEVER ART GALLERY IN LIVERPOOL WITH PIECES FROM THE HERMITAGE AND OTHER RUSSIAN COLLECTIONS - CATHERINE THE GREAT WAS AMONG WEDGWOOD'S FIRST INTERNATIONAL COLLECTORS.
The reign of Catherine the Great saw English faience in all its diversity take the Russian market by storm. Its attractive price, compared to porcelain, and superior artistic design made English faience extremely popular with the Russian nobility: indeed, as the natural scientist and diarist Andrei Bolotov wrote, by 1796 many had started “buying, and filling their homes with English faience crockery”. It was accepted as perfect for everyday purposes, combining quality, practicality and elegance, and by the 1830s faience was commonly found in many households. Unlike porcelain, which was reserved for special occasions, “Faience dinnerware is not a luxury: it is used every day,” the writer Yevdokim Ziablovsky wrote in his work “Russian Statistics”.
ON THE 250 ANNIVERSARY OF CHRISTIE'S
Christie’s was honoured and felt privileged to be able to hold a second exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery - a Treasury of Russian Art and one of the leading museums of the world. In 2007, Christie’s exhibited Vasily Vereshchagin’s “Solomon’s Wall” for the first time in Russia at the Tretyakov Gallery. 2016 marks Christie’s 250th anniversary and will be celebrated with a series of events and exhibitions throughout this historic year for the company. Within our 250th year, Christie’s also celebrates 10 Years in Dubai in March and 30 Years in Asia in May, two landmark anniversaries for these geographies. As the world’s leading art business, Christie’s has continued to be recognised as tastemakers in the art market, continually innovating its sales and works on offer to best suit collectors globally, all this since over two centuries. Christie’s was the first international auction house to bring Pre-Raphaelite art to Russia, and this has been the result of the good and longstanding relationship with the Tretyakov Gallery, and we are grateful for all their support in the past, and, hopefully, in the future.
Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) was a key figure of the English modernist movement in both art and literature, acquainted with - as friend or enemy - almost all the key figures of British culture in the first half of the 20th century. Best known from 1914 as the founder and leading proponent of the pioneering British modernist movement Vorticism, his considerable legacy in another field, portraiture, was the subject of a retrospective at London’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG).
Of the many informal locations that have come to be a joint meeting point for artistic groups in their time, few have been more distinctive than London’s Colony Room, which closed its doors after 60 years in 2008. Novelist and broadcaster Zinovy Zinik recalls the times and personalities of one of Soho’s most remarkable meeting places, one that provided a creative home to Francis Bacon, the centenary of whose birth was marked in October 2009, and many other artists of the School of London.
Ritualistic, spontaneous, improvisatory, disciplined, anarchic, unfashionable, indifferent, insatiable, obsessed, risk-taking yet curiously wedded to routines: Lucian Freud’s life (1922-2011) was a mass of self-imposed contradictions, while his art was almost alarmingly focused, intense and unremitting, and the product of unvarying determination. He never, from his hallucinatory early drawings, prints and paintings on a relatively small scale to the paintings of his last decades, with rich thick impasto, and occasionally crowded with figures, deviated from his obsession not only with the observed world, but his observed world. The exhibition “Lucian Freud Portraits” at London’s National Portrait Gallery collected more than 100 works from museums and private collections - the first major show since the artist died on 20 July 2011, but in which he was involved until his death. It will perhaps be the culmination of his lifetime’s preoccupation with private faces in public places, and public faces in private places - for many of those he painted were never identified by name.
For five months in summer 2012 London’s Tate Modern staged a major retrospective of Damien Hirst’s work; despite mixed reviews, the show became a star attraction, on a par with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics. To get in people would queue for hours: perhaps they wanted to inhale the sweet smell of success, or find out what makes the work quite so valuable. Either way, it provided an opportunity to reappraise the achievements of an artist who is (in)famous in his own right, but who also masterminded the early success of the graduates who came to be known as the Young British Artists (YBAs) and who dramatically changed the London art scene in the early 1990s.
“GRANY” FOUNDATION PRESENTS
The work of Antony Gormley, a classic of contemporary British art, has long enjoyed worldwide recognition - today he is one of the most sought-after modern artists in the world. Every year, different countries host from five to ten new exhibitions of his sculptures, including large-scale open-air projects. Several of his works are permanently exhibited in the UK: among them the piece that brought fame to Gormley - “Angel of the North” (1998) with wings measuring 54 meters, in Gateshead in the North East of England, as well as “Quantum Cloud”, mounted in Greenwich by the Thames, and “Another Place”, sited in 2005 on Crosby Beach in Merseyside.