The Wheel of Russian Art

By Post in Local People

MEMBERS of Grayshott Decorative and Fine Arts Society heard a lecture on Russian Art: The Avant-Garde and Visual Russia.

Theodora Clarke gave a fascinating insight into the major movements and artists of the early C20th in Russia.

Before the late C19th, artists in Russia relied on the sponsorship of the Tsars and the Church but by the turn of the century there were wealthy individual collectors and patrons. Two traditions had emerged. One group of artists sought to rediscover their Slavonic culture and roots and thus rejected the Western and, in particular French, influence favoured by the other group. The late C19th saw a revival of specific Russian subject material in art, sculpture and music.

Before Diaghilev founded the Ballets Russes he had started a new art magazine – ‘World of Art’. Roerich, a popular painter of Russia’s past, was a member of the magazine’s society and was commissioned to design the costumes and set for ‘The Rites of Spring’. Interested in architecture, he painted many churches, castle and monasteries but the events of 1917 saw him move from Finland to London and then America where he had successful exhibitions and set designs.

Larionov, one of the leading avant-Garde artists, worked on several Diaghilev productions but his wife, Goncherova, became the most famous for her Futurist work. She turned away from the West believing they had merely learned from the East and Slav culture was supreme. They were founding members of the ‘Jack of Diamonds’, the Russian equivalent of the Cezannists .The founder of Abstraction, Kandinsky, believed objects could dissolve from his paintings and after 1910 moved from the realistic to total abstraction. In 1921 he went to work in Germany.

Marc Chagall, with his motif of the parachutist and his images of flying people, was at the crossroads between East and West. He saw himself as an artist of different identities like Janus gazing both ways. Malevich, a modernist painter, always investigating different styles moved away from the representative world to Suprematist works such as his ‘Black Square’ although after 1917 Social Realism became the Communist path and under Stalin many of his works were banned as a form of Abstraction.

A 1949 painting of Stalin exemplified the state aim of art combining socialist content and national roots alongside party character. The Stalin era saw many Russian artists move to the freer atmospheres of Germany and France. However, in the later C20th Russian Art slowly emerged from repression and being propaganda driven while in the C21st the wheel appears to be turning once more.

At the group’s next meeting on Thursday March 3, at 2pm in Grayshott Village Hall, Mary Alexander will investigate the Fusion of Art, Design and Pleasure on the Cote d’Azur.

For more information, contact Caroline Young on 01428 714276.

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