Mid-century Ukrainian book covers : the June 2018 Slavonic item(s) of the month

In the past few years, the University Library has been very fortunate in receiving the private libraries of two late British Ukrainians – Peter Yakimiuk and Teodor Kolassa.  Together, these donations have added hundreds of chiefly diaspora publications to the Library’s 20th-century Ukrainian collection.  This blog post celebrates a few of the many eye-catching book covers to be found amongst them.  All but the last of the six items detailed here were produced in Europe within a few years of the end of World War 2.  Please click on each image to see a larger version.

Continue reading

Which book and whose uncle? : the May 2018 Slavonic item of the month

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

“Not bad” : 100-year-old comments on an exhibition in Petrograd : the April 2018 Slavonic item of the month

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.

Continue reading

UNOVIS, Vitebsk’s avant-garde Union of the New Art

Front cover

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):

Back cover

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.

Mel Bach