The Bowlt-Misler Collection : Russian and Soviet art history

Professor Nicoletta Misler and Professor John Bowlt in the University Librarian’s offices.

Professor John Bowlt, a highly distinguished art historian of late Imperial and early Soviet visual culture, and the 2015-16 Cambridge Slade Professor of Fine Art, has announced that he will donate his library to the University Library as the Bowlt-Misler Collection.  This is an extremely exciting development.  Professor Bowlt has built his library into an astounding resource over the course of his career, and it now numbers many thousands of books, periodicals and catalogues.

Professor Bowlt and his wife Professor Nicoletta Misler, also an eminent art historian, came to the University Library in April to discuss their plans for the Bowlt-Misler Collection with University Librarian Dr Jess Gardner.  Professor Bowlt explained that his interest in donating his library to Cambridge was inspired by the strength of the academic work in the University on Russian visual culture, through the efforts of Dr Rosalind Polly Blakesley of the Department of History of Art and others, and confirmed by the dedication he found in the University Library to the conservation and celebration of printed collections.

The University Librarian presents a memento of their recent visit.

Acknowledging Professors Bowlt and Misler’s great generosity, Dr Jess Gardner said:

“The Bowlt-Misler Collection will make Cambridge and its University Library one of the leading centres in the world for the study of late Imperial and early Soviet art and design. The brilliance of the research done by Professors Bowlt and Misler over the course of their careers is reflected in the richness of the collection. Moreover, its numerous volumes will join the Catherine Cooke Collection of Soviet architecture and design to provide future students of Russian art and design with a superb combined resource.

“The formal announcement of the donation allows the University Library to start work with academic and development colleagues across Cambridge to prepare for the future receipt of this wonderful gift. We look forward to welcoming the collection here and to celebrating and promoting it through further collaborations between the Library and the academic community.”

Bakst exhibition poster. (c)NMNM

Professors Bowlt and Misler intend to continue using his library for some years to come, based in California, before passing it to the University Library.

The UL holds dozens of books written and edited by Professor Bowlt and Professor Misler.  The latest arrival is a beautifully illustrated catalogue, to which both contributed, of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco’s recent exhibition Designing Dreams, A Celebration of Leon Bakst (2017.12.100).

Mel Bach

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