Category Archives: Museum

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s Flight into Space

On this day in April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space. This event was one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century and is still remembered fifty years on.

Soon becoming a celebrity to the people of the Soviet Union and the rest of eastern Europe, Yuri Gagarin was then one of the great figures representing the Soviet Union at it’s height. In honor of the 50th anniversary of this momentous achievement, below is a postcard collection dating from 1969 showing photographs from various parts of the cosmonaut’s life.

The writing on the inside of the cover reads:

“We knew him in his modest daily form as a military pilot. He turned out to be worthy of his huge fame. Everywhere and anywhere he remained himself: friendly and fun-loving, with a charming smile, an eloquent testimony of the broadness and richness of his soul, and at the same time ready to instantly prepare and focus for the task ahead. These are exactly the qualities to possess for a hero who first opened the path to space for humanity.”

For a man who has attained such a groundbreaking achievement, the life and legacy of Yuri Gagarin will hopefully continue to be remembered for another fifty years. Furthermore, below are several articles of interest in relation to the 50th anniversary of the launch of Vostok 1.

See What Yuri Gagarin Saw in Stunning High-Definition Film

Vostok 3KA: Tribute To The Craft That Carried Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin’s Brave, Brilliant Leap Into the Dark

In Space, Nice Guys Finish First

New Russian Classics

New Russian Classics (www.realartist.ru) is a website which seeks to promote and sell works by modern Russian artists in the genre of realism. While the site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2009, the paintings available on it are worth a look, the majority of which are shown in this post.

Aleksandr Yurievich Averyanov is an artist famous for painting Russian battle scenes such as the Battle of 1812. Born in 1950 in the town of Lopasnya, Averyanov graduated from the M.I. Kalinin Moscow School of Art. Inspired by the works of his teacher, Sergey Prisekin, Averyanov is known for his paintings displaying Russian scenes of war, placing him at the forefront of traditionalist art revival during the 90’s. Averyanov’s simulataneous depiction of the chaos of war and nature of the lands in which they are set in have earned his works a place in several museums and private collections.

The site’s second artist is Aleksey Vitalievich Yevstigneyev, a landscape artist who depicts scenes of both the past and present. Born in Moscow on 1955, Yevstingneyev graduated from the Surikov Institute of Art and in 1984 became a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR and has been recognized by the American Biographic Society and the Russian Academy of Arts for his works. the majority of Yestigneyev’s works depict various places of Europe he has traveled to, although he has made a number of historic works as well.

Vasiliy Dmitrievich Yezdakov was born on 1929 and was a member of the Union of Artists of the Soviet Union. Vasiliy Yezdakov’s works are scenes of naval and fisherman life, possibly leading him to become an influence on his son, Oleg who is also featured on the New Russian Classics site.

Oleg Vasilievich Yezdakov, a painter who has created works ranging from landscapes to portraits of military officials. Born on 1959 to a family of artists in Moscow, Yezdakov also became a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR after graudating from the Surikov institute of Art. Yezdakov’s works are mostly comprised of nature paintings although his interest in the history of the Russian Military led to creation of several dioramas displayed in the Central Moscow Exhibition Center in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the USSR’s victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

Kira Sergeyevna Ivanova was born on 1928 in Samara. Graduating from the Moscow State Institute of Art, she too had become a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR and has participated in much of the union’s exhibitions. Her paintings, several of which have been created with her husband, Vasiliy Dmitrievich Yezdakov are mostly scenes of still life, historical battles, and the sea. Currently living in Moscow, she has since produced over 250 works, many of which have found places abroad in Western Europe.

Aleksandr Ivanovich Kurochkin was born in 1948 and attended the Oryol State Pedagogical Institute. In addition to teaching art he previously held a position as director for the Serpukhov Museum of History and Art. Kurochkin’s paintings which range from landscapes to still life, are found in various State museums in Russia as well as abroad in other countries.

Born in 1957, Aleksandr Sytov also attended the Surikov Institute of Art and been involved in various projects in art including the restoration of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which he was awarded the Order of Honour by President Dmitriy Medvedev. Several of Sytov’s works, which are primarily landscapes and portraits have been displayed at exhibitions in America as well as Russia.

Leonid Lvovich Shtrikman was born in 1968 in Moscow. Shtrikman attended the Moscow School of Art and later worked as a restorer of paintings for a state memorial in Kolomna. Like others here, Shtrikman’s works are mostly portraits and landscapes of various Russian figures and places.

Lastly is Sergei Nikolaevich Prisekin, arguably the most well-known of these artists. Born in 1959, Prisekin attended the Surikov Institute of Art and has since become an accomplished artists, today holding the position of Academician at the Moscow Academy of Arts. Prisekin’s travels to various parts of the Earth such as Latin America have added to his bright career as an artist, several of his works are even located within the Kremlin Palace itself. Primarily an artist of portraits, he has created several historical works dealing with periods such as the War of 1812 or the Great Patriotic War, possessing intricate detail, comparable to the likes of Ilya Glazunov.

The Paper Architecture of Brodsky and Utkin

Aleksandr Brodsky and Ilya Utkin have today become known in the Russian art world for their intriguing works of architecture, ranging from everything such as a sculpture to a artistically repurposed building or shed, but what they are probably most known for are several copper plate etchings they created displaying fantastical archictectural designs, a product of their lives and experiences as architects in a time when reform was present and ideas were ever-changing. Their story and the inspiration behind the drawings is probably best said in the book written on these drawings:

“In 1957 Kruschev declared socialist realist architecture the “over-decorated” style and abolished the Academy of Architecture. the notion of a critically assimilated cultural heritage (i.e. the reuse of classical forms to serve modern ideological ends) was replaced by a doctrine of unadorned utilitarianism. modern technology, especially prefabrication, was exploited to produce the urgently needed mass housing and aesthetic discourse of any kind was considered unnecessary and immoral. faceless functionalism continued to dominate throughout the Brezhnev years as economic constraints, a hopelessly tangled bureaucratic procedure, a dearth of building materials, and a shrinking body of skilled laborers exacerbated unimaginative planning. this scenario confronted Brodsky and Utkin and their classmates at the moscow institute of architecture in the mid-seventies.

many of the more creative young Soviet designers abandoned the exasperating professional situation they found themselves in while others like Brodsky and Utkin began using international competitions as a creative outlet.

as Brodsky and Utkin and a dozen or so other friends began to produce such projects in evenings and weekends over the next few years, the group assumed the title of “paper architects” – a derogatory epithet applied to avant-garde architects still producing radical work after the socialist realist clampdown of the thirties.

Brodsky, Utkin, and the others began producing visionary schemes in response to a bleak professional scene in which only artless and ill-conceived buildings, diluted through numerous bureaucratic strata and constructed out of poor materials by unskilled laborers, were being erected – if anything. as such their work constitutes a graphic form of architectural criticism, an escape into the realm of imagination that ended as a visual commentary on what was wrong with social and physical reality and how its ills might be remedied.”

If anything, these drawings had been originally made to criticize Soviet architecture at the time and no doubt a way to express frustration at the challenges architects and workers in other fields were forced to endure as a result of sudden reforms and decisions from the government.

Because of paper shortages and lack of proper materials, the Paper Architects created etchings on plates of copper, yet one may still notice the careful attention to detail in every drawing, probably one of the reasons for their popularity. The drawings themselves depict everything from bleak cityscapes to unwise decisions in design, and are most likely metaphors understandable only from the perspective of a Soviet architect or perhaps just someone who has lived in the USSR (as one does not need an education in design to understand the all-too-common flaws of industrialized Soviet construction).

Today, the two have pursued their own interests, choosing to split up in 1993 and while Brodsky is generally the more active of the two, their work among the Paper Architects is nonetheless a profound example of their ingenuity, which ultimately turned their misfortunes as architects into success as artists. Below are several of these famous etchings, presented in great size and detail (If I am correct, these are scans and had originally come from the book published on the Paper Architect’s etchings).

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Links

http://thenonist.com/index.php/weblog/permalink/the_paper_architecture_of_br%0Dodsky_utkin
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1568983999/002-3171449-2641632?v=glance
http://www.projectclassica.ru/newsmake/11_2004/11_2004_11.htm
http://magazines.russ.ru/vestnik/2001/3/art.html
http://articlejournal.net/2007/10/12/brodsky-utkin-etchings-from-the-projects-portfolio/
http://organon.cih.ru/blogs/oo/tag/aleksandr-brodskij/
http://www.guelman.ru/dva/para3.html
http://books.google.com/books?id=DPtf4AoARl8C&dq=Alexander+Brodsky+and+Ilya+Utkin&sitesec=reviews
http://oshepko.livejournal.com/4563.html

 

Russian Christmas Cards

A couple of weeks ago, I happened upon several Christmas cards at a local bookstore which I regularly visit, which were published and made here in the United States, mostly by the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. As you will see, the cards range from images of winter scenes to various symbols relating to the Russian celebration of Christmas, I’m particularly fond of the illustration of the Three Wise Men drawn with Slavic themes.

Knowing the rarity of finding such items on the internet, I bought several and would like to present these as a sort of gift to the readers in light of the Christmas season and especially to my Eastern Orthodox readers, who are today celebrating Christmas, myself included.

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Moscow in the 23rd Century

In 1914, prior to the Communist revolution, several postcards were made depicting how Moscow would have looked like in the future, still under monarchial rule. The postcards depict daily life in different parts of the city, with the addition of everything from subways to airborne public transportation, things probably seen as standard methods of transport for the future.

Several years ago, these postcards were apparently discovered after Eyinem, a chocolate company, included reprints of these in their products. Since then, the postcards have been featured on several Russian blogs. The entire set (or at least the only ones available on the internet) are below, albeit in low quality as I was not able to find the originals in any larger size. Accompanying captions originally included on the back of these cards have also been included here.

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The Slav Epic

Those who are familiar with Czech artist Alphonse Mucha know of the vivid works he created during his time abroad, but few know of what he considered his greatest work of all, the Slav Epic (or Slovanska Epopej).

Through the course of sixteen years, Mucha had created twenty large paintings displaying various moments in history of the Slavic people. Unfortunately this great collection of works had hardly been brought to the attention of the rest of the world as a number of unfortunate circumstances prevented Mucha from seeing his life’s greatest work receive the praise it deserved.

The Slav Epic had an ill-fated history. The series began in 1910 when Mucha had returned from Paris so that he may embark on the creation of what he saw would be his defining work. Before he began his work, Mucha had traveled across Russia, the Balkans, Poland, and the Orthodox  monasteries on Mount Athos, consulting historians along the way to ensure accurate depictions of events in his works. Two years later, he received funding from Charles Richard Crane, a wealthy businessman who had held an interest in Eastern Europe and Slavic nationalism in particular. Over the course of seven years, Mucha had completed eleven works, which he presented in Prague, receiving much interest public from the public. Unfortunately, critics were quick to label the work as an expression of an outdated, nationalistic style. His full work had later been displayed in America and Czechoslovakia, although it received similar reactions.

In 1935, the Slav Epic had it’s final exhibition before the death of Mucha, after he had gifted the works to the city of Prague. Because the city was not able to provide a permanent place to display the works, the paintings were rolled up and placed in storage, although some say this was done in order to prevent confiscation from invading German forces. Four years later, Mucha was captured by German troops during the beginning of World War II and interrogated. Shortly after being released, the artist succumbed to a lung infection and died, disappointed that his greatest work had seen such an unfortunate fate. Up until 1950, the government refused to put the works on display again, in fact it would only be until 1967 when the full set of paintings would be displayed again after being brought to the city of Moravsky Krumlov by a group of patriots.

Currently the works are on display in the village of Moravsky Krumlov. The Slav Epic itself is deeply symbolic. With the Slav Epic, Mucha had sought to promote Slav unity and nationalism, expressing this through religion and hardships and at the same time, he saw it as a celebration of the Slavs and their shared history and culture. But what some say is the underlying theme of this work is Mucha’s views on how a group of people must develop, displaying this through the idea of Slavic Unity. Perhaps this is better explained in the artist’s own words:

“I am convinced that the development of every nation may proceed with success only if it grows organically and continuously from the nation’s own roots and that for the preservation of this continuity, knowledge of it’s historical past is indispensable.”

Indeed this may be something some governments should take heed to today. Nevertheless, this work remains a great achievement (and a tribute to an even greater culture), which is sadly, devoid of much praise. But today, I hope to bring the readership of this site all twenty of these tremendous works so that a different audience will be able to see these works and possibly appreciate them more than the previous had. Currently, the Czech government hopes to accomplish the same by moving the works to the city of Prague so that it may be seen by a wider range of people, notably tourists.

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Links

http://www.pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/slav-epic/introduction.htm
http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovansk%C3%A1_epopej
http://epopej.cz/
http://goldenagecomicbookstores.blogspot.com/2009/05/alphonse-mucha-1860-1939-slav-epic.html

Slavic Mythology: Svarog | Сварог

The second Slavic god to be featured in this series of posts is Svarog, another great figure who was revered to the Slavs as the great god of blacksmithing, law and fire, similar to that of Hephaestus of the Greek pantheon.

The origin of Svarog’s name can be traced to the language of Indo-European people, that is to say Sanskrit. Although an exact link has yet to established, some theories suggest the name comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Svarga’ meaning the sky or heaven. Another theory suggests Svarog’s name came from the Indo-Aryan word ‘svar’ meaning the sun, although this theory is discounted by some as the Slavs had possessed a different word for the sun at the time.

As of this writing, the details of Svarog are few. although the Hypatian Codex (a chronicle which itself is a compilation of several documents from the Ipatiev monastery, regarded as one of the most important written accounts of Kievan Rus) makes a rare mention of him, specifically in a translated myth. The myth, which originally takes place in Egypt and mentions Greek dieties, had it’s setting and characters changed during translation in order to have more appeal to those reading it. Translated into English, parts of that myth read:

“(Then) began his reign Feosta (Hephaestus), whom the Egyptians called Svarog … during his rule, from the heavens fell the smith’s prongs and weapons were forged for the first time; before that, (people) fought with clubs and stones. Feosta also commanded the women that they should have only a single husband… and that is why Egyptians called him Svarog… After him ruled his son, his name was the Sun, and they called him Dažbog… Sun tzar, son of Svarog, this is Dazhbog.”

Since this is not an actual Slavic myth per se, historians are uncertain as to how much of the myth is indeed applicable to Slavic pagan beliefs, specifically the sons of Svarog. As mentioned above, Svarog had fathered Dazhbog as well as several other gods, these being Perun, Svarozivic, Stribog, Semargl, and Radogost. It is generally believed that Dazhbog and Svarozivic are the same god, as the book of Kolyada mentions Dazhbog’s birth during the striking of the Alatyr-stone, but Svarozivic, who has been attributed to nearly the same aspects as Dazhbog was not mentioned. This belief is furthered by the idea that ‘Svarozivic’, which was used to describe the sons of Svarog in the Book of Kolyada, may have just been a word meaning ‘of Svarog’.

The birth of Svarog’s sons is described in the Book of Kolyada’s myth of the creation of the mortal world, one of several myths involving Svarog. The myth states that a great rock, the Alatyr-stone, was brought from the depths of the ocean by a great duck. The rock possessed great magical powers and for this the duck had wanted to hide the stone in it’s beak. Upon finding the duck, Svarog uttered a phrase which caused the stone to grow in size and eventually become too large for the bird to carry.

Soon the stone had become a great mountain and later a center of knowledge of the tales of the gods (vedas) and a mediator between god and man. But upon seeing this, Svarog had decided that no man must know of the stone. With this, he struck the stone with his hammer, but he was only successful in creating sparks. With these sparks, the ratichi (celestial warriors, that is to say gods) were born, this included Semargl, the great god of fire. Because of this, the mighty winds rose, thus creating Stribog, the god of the wind.

After this, the duck who had previously carried the stone conceived a great black snake. The snake, sent to end the stone, crept up to it and struck it to the ground. the stone fell from the heavens and eventually came to be in the land of the mortals (The exact spot was said to be Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus mountains).

The impact of the drop had sent black sparks across the world, with this the dark forces of the world were born. Now Semargl had begun to fight with the snake and it’s troops, but he was outmatched and soon the sun had been blotted out by the snake and the world had been overrun by it’s minions. Defeated, Semargl ascended to the heavenly smithy, followed closely by the great snake. Seeing this, Svarog grabbed the snake’s tongue and tamed it so that it may plow the fields of the earth, whilst sending it’s minions to the underworld.

following this great victory, a half-horse by the name of Kitovras (Known to the Greeks as Chiron) constructed a temple around the stone with the most sacred area in the temple, an altar, being the place where Svarog spoke with man. The myth mentions it was here where Svarog taught man how to make food with milk and cheese curds, which is why the Slavs considered such a meal was a gift from the gods. Since then, this stone has been sometimes attributed to Svarog and in this way he is seen as the creator of the mortal world.

Meanwhile, Svarog had also created the blue Svarga, a land in the heavens where it was said the acnestors of the Slavs would live after death (which is contradictory considering the fact another myth states the souls of the dead would go to the land of Nav, an underworld of sorts. It is a possibility that these two concepts were influenced by separate mythologies, that is to say the Norse and Greek ones, respectively. It is not unlikely, as this conflict of mythologies had been seen before in other parts of Slavic mythology). It was believed the stars of the night sky were the eyes of the grandfathers, who look down from the Blue Svarga upon the Slavic people’s earthly affairs.

Svarog, unlike Veles, does not create the material world with words or magic, but rather his hands. He cared about the Slavs, giving them fire for the cold and to cook food as well as the Sun-Ra (sun) which later became the word for joy (Radost). He also came to the earth to plow the fields and gave the Slavs several gifts. The first, an axe of which to defend their native lands from enemies and the second being a bowl to prepare sacred drinks and the third being tongs of which to create forged weaponry. Finally, his last and possibly most important contribution was the creation of the two circles of time, one of the ground and one of space.

The Book of Kolyada makes one final large mention of Svarog, this being the tale of Svarog and Dy. As Svarog ate a feast, several badly-beaten warriors entered the hall and claimed that had been attacked by the Volot-giants of Dy, god of the sky and thunder under the command of his son, Churila. Angered by this, Svarog gathered the heavenly army and marched towards the kingdom of Dy in the Ural mountains. Upon arrival, Svarog’s army defeated the soldiers of Dy and sealed his royal subjects below the mountains. After this, Svarog and his sons decided to hold a victory feast within the palace of Dy.

Begging for forgiveness, Churila had offered expensive gold and jewels to Svarog, convincing him to take Churila into service. Like the rest of Dy’s children, Churila was very handsome, this caught the eye of Lada, who began to remark on his looks. To this Svarog replied “As Dy dims his eyes, so the night dims reason..get thee away from the table, Churila!”. After this, Churila began to serve Tarusa, wife to the god of prayer, Barmas.

Depiction-wise, it is hard to find a true and definite idea of what the Slavs imagined him to be. One source says Svarog was seen as a flying fire-breathing dragon, this idea was later set aside as pagan beliefs developed. Most commonly, Svarog was thought to be part of the trinity of creator gods, Triglav, among Dazhbog and Perun. Although besides this, the way in which Svarog was honored by the Slavs is not known, nor are any other details on his appearance or personality.

As Christianity began to take hold in Eastern Europe, the idea of Svarog was replaced by Saint Damian, Saint Cosmas and Michael the Archangel. Although paganism was being replaced by Christianity, many were reluctant to give up their old traditions which is why so many attributes of the pagan gods were given to Biblical characters or saints.

When assessed, it would seem that the concept of Svarog, and indeed his attribution of being a lawmaker and blacksmith came out of the Slavic people’s entrance into an iron age, which brought about advances in weaponry and agriculture. The various tribes scattered along the land had seen Svarog as the bringer of these advancements, which would explain why he was first mentioned when Slavic tribes developed agriculture around 800-600 BC.

Read more on Svarog at the links below:

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B3
http://myths.kulichki.ru/enc/item/f00/s30/a003051.shtml
http://godsbay.ru/slavs/svarog.html
http://www.yarclub.ru/svarog/
http://tnit.fr/book/bogi.htm
http://www.liveinternet.ru/showjournal.php?journalid=303070

Featured Artist: Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov | Михаил Васильевич Нестеров

Today’s featured artist is Mikhail Nesterov, another prominent Russian artist who is considered to be one of the most foremost figures of the Russian symbolism genre.

Like many other famous Russian artists, Nesterov was born in the 19th century, on the 31st of May in the city of Ufa. In 1874, his parents sent him to Moscow to study at a technical college. There his skills as an artist caught the eye of K. Trutovsky, an artist of some renown at the time. Nesterov, at the recommendation of Trutovsky, was sent to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and later in 1881, the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

From 1890 on to about 1910, Nesterov lived in Kiev and St. Petersburg where his talents led him to paint frescoes on local churches including the Cathedral of St. Vladimir. Prior to his work as a church painter, Nesterov had yet to find a suitable style of art that interested him. But his work as a painter convinced him to begin using Christian themes in his art. This interest in religious themes would eventually define Nesterov’s style as an artist.

But religion alone did not inspire him, the death of his wife Olga, whom he had married a year earlier in 1885, had given Nesterov a reason to add emotion into his works. From then on the artist spent the remainder of his life in Moscow, occasionally taking trips to Italy or France or with the Peredvizhniki, a renowned society of artists that he was a member of.

The October Revolution had brought great setbacks to his work. Being a devout Christian, Nesterov did not support the October Revolution. Because of the newly-established communist government, which was largely atheistic, Nesterov was not able to continue painting works containing Christian themes in fear of the consequences that would follow. During this time until his death on October 18, 1942, Nesterov made few works, with most of them being portraits of various individuals.

But among such artists as Repin, Vasnetsov and Vereschagin, one cannot deny that Nesterov’s art, where his visualization of folklore and poetry through traditional Russian/Christian imagery has a special place among the Russian art world, undoubtably making him one of the best examples the Russian symbolist idea had to offer.

Gallery

See more of the artist’s work at these links:

http://art-nesterov.ru/
http://smallbay.ru/nesterov.html
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Mikhail_Nesterov
http://www.abcgallery.com/N/nesterov/nesterovbio.html
http://www.all-art.org/art_20th_century/nesterov1.html

Paintings by Vasiliy Timm

Vasiliy Timm is a Russian painter and illustrator of German descent who, like many others, made several paintings of Imperial Russia. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts, Timm was the publisher of the Russian Art Sheet, an illustration-oriented publication published three times a week from 1851 to 1862. The publication usually contained reproductions of paintings, portraits of popular figures, and information on current events.

The artist had also made several ilustrations for books and lithographs of different figures and locations, one of those locations being Tbilisi, Georgia. But what was most interesting of all, were his paintings of early 19th century Russia, most notably of the Decembrist uprising in St. Petersburg, serving as one of the most recognizable images of the event.

In this post I wish to present these few, stunning works of art. The several paintings you see below are mostly depictions of royal ceremonies, but created in great detail, enough that one might actually get the feeling of being there. The works contain several interesting details, such as the Russian royalty’s two famous African servants dressed in Turkish attire, among other things.

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The paintings were found from the following links.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Paintings_by_Vasily_Timm
http://www.thecollection.org.uk/Vasili-Fedorovich-George-Wilhelm-Timm-Riga-1820-Berlin-1895-%D0%9F%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%8B-DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=6&tabindex=5&objectid=122659
http://www.liveinternet.ru/journalshowcomments.php?jpostid=135932152&journalid=3707322&go=next&categ=1