A recent addition to the Library’s online Revolution exhibition is a book about the controversial White General Lavr Kornilov who was killed in 1918. Having identified it in the catalogue by searching for Kornilov, I strangely couldn’t find the record when I later searched by its author. Our catalogue record, it transpired, was for the wrong book…
The six exhibits for the April 1918 part of the exhibition; the Kornilov book is top left.
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.
Front cover of the catalogue (CCB.54.143)
100 years ago, the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts held an exhibition of works by members of the famous Peredvizhniki (or Wanderers, Oxford Art Online‘s preferred translation). In the Catherine Cooke collection, the UL has a programme from the exhibition. What makes our copy such a delight is that it contains pencilled comments by a visitor to the exhibition.
The catalogue, a slight and entirely unillustrated 14-page publication, lists the members of the Peredvizhniki followed by the names of their paintings exhibited, and then lists eksponenty – exhibitors – and their paintings. The relationship between the first group and the second is not entirely clear to me. In G.B. Romanov’s 735-page Peredvizhniki encyclopedia (S950.b.200.4794), the entry for the exhibition – which opened in March 1918 – provides a list of artists and exhibits that contains some but not all of the artists and paintings from both lists, undifferentiated, in the catalogue.
Later this week, on 19 and 20 April, the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, will hold an international conference in Cambridge on The People’s Art School and Unovis in Vitebsk. Vitebsk, in present-day Belarus, was the home of an extraordinary avant-garde art school at which Marc Chagall (the town’s most famous son), Kazimir Malevich, and El Lissitsky taught. Many of the artists at the school joined the art union UNOVIS, set up by Malevich. Unovis stands for Utverditeli novogo iskusstva (Champions of the New Art).
Among the early Soviet treasures in Catherine Cooke’s collection in the University Library is a small and fragile Unovis publication dating from January 1921 and described as the union’s second publication or edition. On its cover is Malevich’s famous Black Square, with the words “Let the overthrow of the old world of arts be traced out on the palms of your hands” written above it. The booklet has four sections in it (NB the links below are to Russian Wikipedia entries for the authors):
Party membership in art / M. Kunin
Unovis in ateliers / L. Khidekel’
The Architecture Faculty / I. Chashnik
On still life / L. Iudin
On its back cover, the booklet ends with an exhortation: “Comrades! Get ready for the all-Russian spring exhibition of ‘Unovis’ in Moscow”.
Lithographed on poor-quality paper, the booklet is a rather miraculous survivor. According to the WorldCat and COPAC union catalogues, Cambridge is unique amongst major Western collections in having a copy. The title can be accessed through the Rare Books Reading Room. Its classmark is CCC.54.464.
A few spaces remain at the conference this week. For those interested in attending, please see this page for joining details.
Last month, the CamCREES Revolution lecture series audience enjoyed a beautifully illustrated talk on Soviet porcelain. Petr Aven spoke about the development of porcelain work in the Soviet Union, with examples from his own superlative collection. This blog post looks at the collection’s staggering 3-volume catalogue, generously presented by Mr Aven to the University Library after his talk. The subject of porcelain as a medium for Soviet propaganda is fascinating, and the catalogue is an exquisite and important addition to the Library on the topic.