‘The Role of Printed Media in Forming National Identity in Russia and Britain’
P. G. Demidov Yaroslavl State University in collaboration with
The Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC)
and Moscow Lomonosov State University
Sunday 11th – Tuesday 13th September 2016
Generously supported by the In Artibus Foundation
and Yaroslavl State University
The conference ‘The Role of Printed Media in Forming National Identity in Russia and Britain’ took place over three days, with papers arranged thematically and in roughly chronological order. A complementary programme of events and excursions was kindly organised by colleagues from Yaroslavl State University and included a tour of many of Yaroslavl’s outstanding churches, a river trip to the Tolgsky Convent on the River Volga, and a visit to Yaroslavl Art Museum. Some attendees also visited the city’s icon museum and the recently opened Ars-Forum Center for Contemporary Arts. The final day featured a visit to an enameling museum and artist’s studio which involved a “hands-on” opportunity for the visiting speakers to try the art of enameling under the supervision of the famous enamelist and People’s Artist of Russia, Alexander Karikh. It was an honour to meet this renowned artist and explore the intricacies of his craft.
The conference was part of an ongoing initiative to increase collaboration and dialogue between CCRAC scholars and those at leading Russian universities working in the fields of Russian and Soviet art. It followed two earlier bilateral conferences organised by the two CCRAC institutions with the Department of History of Art (Faculty of History) at Moscow Lomonosov State University: ‘The Russian Avant- Garde in the European Cultural Context’, 22-23 March 2013, Moscow; and ‘EXHIBIT ‘A’. Russian art: Exhibitions, Collections and Archives’, 21-22 March 2014, London. This year’s event, as a more ambitious initiative involving two British and two Russian universities, has served to strengthen the ties between our respective institutions and is already generating further international collaboration. Nicola Kozicharow and Anna Uryadova, for example, first met at the conference and are now working on a joint article, demonstrating the productive outcomes of this exciting cultural exchange.
Day 1: Sunday 11th September
The first day was allocated for networking between the participants and included an excursion to the sights of Yaroslavl and a boat trip along the Volga. In the evening a welcome dinner was organised by the hosts from Yaroslavl State University.
Day 2: Monday 12th September
The conference proceedings began with two panels exploring the themes of, firstly, gothic influences in Russia, and, secondly, the reception of Russian art in Britain. The third panel was a longer session in which various types of printed media were discussed, with the linking theme of international contexts.
After a warm welcome from Vladimir Fediuk, Dean of the Faculty of History at Yaroslavl University, the proceedings were opened by Viktor Kulikov, co-organiser and host of the conference. In the first session, Mikhail Kerbikov (Yaroslavl State University) spoke engagingly on the interesting collection of Gothic books in the Yaroslavl Museum; and Sergey Khachaturov (Moscow State University) presented a paper comparing approaches to the interpretation of “Gothic” in British and Russian eighteenth-century literature and art.
In the second panel, Galina Mardilovich (Independent) gave a fascinating paper on journalistic discourse on Russian printmaking in British journals of the late Imperial and early Soviet periods, highlighting the work of the critic Pavel Ettinger. Natalia Sidlina (Tate) then spoke on the contents of the extensive Russian art collection of the late David King, donated to Tate. The collection includes many early twentiethcentury/ Revolutionary/Soviet ephemera and printed materials, some of which will feature in the Tate’s Autumn 2017 exhibition, Red Star over Russia. Sidlina’s talk gave a sense of the collection as a whole and a brief preview of the exhibition.
In the afternoon session, Rosalind Polly Blakesley (Cambridge University) focused on the disaster paintings initiated by Russian artists resident in Rome in the 1830s, exploring the way in which these revealed the shifting aspirations and anxieties that plagued Russian history painting in this period, and unsettled notions of Rome as the promised land of artistic fulfilment for Russian artists abroad. Anna Uryadova (Yaroslavl State University) gave an interesting account of the exhibition activity of Russian emigration in Europe in the interwar period; and Nicola Kozicharow (Cambridge University) looked at notions of Russian émigré identity through the prism of the cartoons of MAD (Mikhail Drizo) in the periodical Russia Illustrated. An 1884 British textbook on Russian art was then the centre of the paper by Louise Hardiman (Oxford University). The remarkable historical context for the book was discussed, including the six-month expedition undertaken by staff of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) to discover art objects to feature in the book, and make reproductions of Russian art works for teaching and display.
Day 3: Tuesday 13th September
The three sessions during the second day of official proceedings covered a broad array of topics, and many linked the theme of printed media with that of exhibitions. Viktor Kulikov (Yaroslavl State University) discussed the work of Aleksandra
Pogosskaia (1848-1921), an activist and businesswoman who promoted Russian art in the West during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and highlighted the exhibition of Vologda lace which she organised in London. Anna Moysinovich (Yaroslavl State University) gave a paper on the 1912 Exhibition in St Petersburg and the rise of specialized photography publications, such as the journal Photographic News. Denis Karpov (Yaroslavl State University) then explored the focus and idiosyncrasies of the Pushkin Festival in Yaroslavl in 1899.
In the second of the morning sessions, Artur Kharitonov (Moscow State University) gave a well-illustrated paper on Russian displays at international exhibitions in the nineteenth century, as seen through the eyes of Russian reporters. The second paper, by Tatiana Gavristova (Yaroslavl State University), looked at some intriguing exhibitions of African art in Great Britain. The specific iconography of the graphic cycles produced during World War I by the artist Mariia Siniakova was then beautifully analysed by Natalia Budanova (The Courtauld Institute of Art).
The final session concentrated on the Soviet period. Both Natalia Murray (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Aleksandra Salienko (Moscow State University) gave papers on Soviet periodicals and criticism of the 1920s. They were followed by Maria Mileeva (The Courtauld Institute of Art), who addressed the discourse surrounding Socialist Realism in the Soviet press in the 1930s. The last paper, given by Vladimir Sedov (Moscow State University), highlighted the endurance, or even surprising emergence of the neo-Russian style in architecture in the late Stalin period, with
reference to two Mordvinov houses in Moscow.
Day 3 ended with a special contribution from an invited audience member, Inna Loginovna Pyrina. Pyrina is a surviving descendant of Aleksandra Pogosskaia, whose life and work are the subject of research by two of the conference attendees. She provided an illuminating insight into her ancestor’s life and work and showed an example of Russian lace owned by her great-grandmother, as well as an embroidered, natural-dyed cap hand-made by Pogosskaia. Hearing testimony from the descendant of Pogosskaia – an artist and cross-cultural mediator who had tirelessly forged cultural links between Russia and Britain – was a moving and highly appropriate way in which to end this productive and inspirational international conference.
The CCRAC participants at the conference are greatly indebted to the In Artibus Foundation for enabling them to take part in this fruitful event.