The Blue Rose Exhibition in 1907 was one of the first Russian avant-garde events. A departure from a naturalist style, a symbolist tendency and an interest in the spiritual characterised the exposition. Although Kazimir Malevich did not participate in the show, he clearly took an interest in symbolist aesthetics and the exhibited works. This can be seen in several studies for a fresco also known as the Yellow Series, shown at the exhibition "The Great Change" in the Bonnefantemuseum in Maastricht (Spring 2013) and the exhibition "Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde’’ in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (19.
In December 1909, a group
of artists around Goncharova launched neo-primitivist art at the third
exhibition of the ‘Golden Fleece’, in which they affirmed a national identity
in a similar vein to the artists of Abramtsevo. They explored Russian roots as
found in the country’s ‘primitive’ pagan, as well as medieval, Orthodox past
and continued to propagate the rural myth of ‘obshchina’, as well as the
spiritual notion of ‘sobornost’. In line with the Slavophiles and Abramtsevo
artists’ circle, the neo-primitivists cherished their peasants and saints,
their land and their religion as symbols of a national identity.
Breaking with the past
certainly was not the only country with a feudal system in 19th century Europe.
It is not a coincidence that a critical realist current in art emerged in mid
19th century in France also. Like Russian realists after the abolishment of
serfdom in 1861, French artists sympathised with the so-called 'lower' classes
after their 1848 revolution and the abolishment of slavery in French
colonies a year later. This can be demonstrated in Gustave Courbet's famous
painting of the 'Stone Breakers' (1849) and Francois Miller's 'Sower' (1950).
Various group and solo exhibitions of
early twentieth-century Russian avant-gardist art shown in the late 1980s and
1990s in Western Europe, following
Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of ‘glasnost’, aroused my professional interest in Russian art history. The renewed
acquaintance first led to research in preparation for the design of courses
about Russian art, secondly to a PhD-research project on the late
nineteenth-century Russian art practices of Abramtsevo artists’ circle, and the
hypothesis that this circle holds a key to a more profound understanding of
‘the Russian avant-garde’, and to Russian culture as a whole.
Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, 12 March - 11 August 2013
Modern European-Russian Pioneers
The modernist age can be characterized by the uncontrollable desire for freedom, equality and brotherhood. It stirred a revolutionary spirit within Europe and liberation movements in all spheres of life. Artists initiated a paradigm shift in art and articulated a respectively feudal, national and absolute identity in their art.