St Petersburg 1900

9 July – 23 October 2005
Special Exhibitions Gallery and Wesfarmers Gallery

‘St Petersburg 1900’ was one of the most exciting international exhibitions ever to come to Australia and was exclusive to the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

The turn of the century in Russia was one of the most dynamic and turbulent periods in Russian history. Much of the rich artistic activity that accompanied this political and social turmoil was centred on the city of St Petersburg.

‘St Petersburg 1900’ featured more than 230 works by major artists and movements of that time from the collections of the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg and the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. Most of the works have not previously been seen outside Russia.

The exhibition highlighted the period that led up to and immediately followed the turn of the century in St Petersburg, the imperial capital, and features significant examples of painting, works on paper, decorative arts, illustrated books and artefacts. The importance of theatre during this period is illustrated with costumes, set designs and photography.

‘St Petersburg 1900’ commenced with the work of the Russian realists and formation of the Peredvishniki (the Wanderers) - the group of artists whose paintings illustrated the literary concerns of Turgenev, Dostoyevksy, Tolstoy and others. The national consciousness of the Russian landscape is evident in the beautifully atmospheric paintings of Issaac Levitan, grand nature works by Ivan Shishkin, and the intimate paintings of Alexei Savrasov.

From there the exhibition entered the twentieth century showing how Russian realism gave way to European influences and the self-conscious attempt to celebrate “Russianness” through Russian folk art. The exhibition concluded with the avant-garde and the works of artists such as Kazimir Malevich, ending dramatically with Meyerhold’s production of Lermontov’s famous play Masquerade, which opened on the night of the February 1917 revolution and marked the end of the imperial theatres.

A highlight of the show was the magnificent $5.7 million Bonbonierre Egg by Fabergé, which was commissioned by Russian goldmining magnate Alexander Kelkh for his wife Varara in 1903. The egg is one of only 52 of the famed imperial Easter eggs ever made and has been loaned to the Art Gallery of Western Australia by a private collector.

‘St Petersburg 1900’ was the inspiration for and centrepiece of a Winter Arts Festival, hosted by the City of Perth, which featured a full program of Russian-inspired events including music, dance, theatre, public lectures and poetry.

 

Exhibition Themes

 

The land:

 

V Surikov, St Isaacs Cathederal and the Bronze horseman in the moonlight, 1870, Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Shishkin, Winter,1890, Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

The people:

 

 

N Yaroshenk, On a swing, 1888, Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

Famous Russians – composers, dancers, artists :

 

N Kuznetsov, Portrait of M Kuznetsova Benois, 1901, Collection of the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. ©

 

World of Art and its influence :

 

Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, The Summer Garden in Winter, 1902 Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

 

 

The avant-garde:

 

K Malevich, Red Square(painterly realism of a peasant woman in two dimensions), 1915, Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

 


SUB-THEMES

Elegant Russia:

 

Faberge, Bonbonière Egg, 1903, Faberge Workshops, private collection

 

 

Theatre productions:

 

Scene from Sleeping Beauty, 1890, Imperial Theatres Studio

 

 

Folk art:

 

Master Novinsky, Tyec container, c1950s , Collection of the State Russian Museum St Petersburg ©

 

 

Avant-garde v’s the Establishment:

 

K Malevich, costume design for the attentive worker (Vnimatelny Rabotchyi), c1913, Collection of the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. ©

 


 
 
        

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